Take a look at some of Jim Scrivener's exciting ideas for using advent calendars in the classroom.
In the run-up to Christmas many children enjoy opening an advent calendar. This is a large picture with one small window for each day of December; children open a window each morning to find a small picture or surprise inside. Here are some ideas for using advent calendars in classroom activities.
Calendar picture dictation
Buy one traditional advent calendar with pictures behind the windows. Ask each student to take a new sheet of paper and draw 24 numbered boxes. One by one, in turn around the class, invite students to choose a number between 1 and 24, come up to the front and open the corresponding window on your advent calendar. They should then look at the picture inside and, without showing it to anyone else, carefully describe what they can see; if they don’t know some vocabulary they must do the best they can. The other students must try to draw the picture they hear described in the appropriately numbered box. At the end, let students compare their pictures with each other and then with your original (e.g. in photocopies). Go through the pictures, eliciting good descriptions and teaching items that students don’t know.
Buy an advent calendar filled with small pieces of chocolate and carefully open the windows. Add a folded piece of paper with a short, appropriate language revision question into each slot. Each morning in class a student can open a window, read out the question and try to answer it. If they succeed, they win the chocolate! If not, someone else can try.
Cut out 24 attractive large pictures of luxurious presents (e.g. perfume, MP3 players, cars etc.) from a colour magazine. Add four or five “booby prize” pictures too (e.g. a dirty sock, a tube of toothpaste etc). Put each picture inside a sealed envelope numbered from 1 to 24. Choose a dull wall in your classroom and attach the envelopes randomly to the wall. Whoever does best in class each day (or answers a special question you set) gets to open the day’s envelope and win their “present”. Encourage speculation before the envelope is opened … and descriptions and responses afterwards.
Student calendar stories
Buy a few traditional advent calendars and rip off the back sheets with the pictures. Stick blank sheets of paper there instead. In class, distribute one calendar to each group. They should think of some pictures they could draw in the first four windows so that the sequence of images starts to tell a simple short story (e.g. (1) woman wakes up (2) … makes coffee (3) … goes out of front door etc.). Students should discuss and agree what to draw and practise drawing before marking the calendar itself. When finished, collect in the calendars and close the windows. Next lesson, redistribute them so groups get different calendars. They should open the windows one at a time and tell the unfolding story they see – then discuss and draw the next part – and so on, lesson by lesson until the stories are finished.
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Imaginative materials: ideas for using advent calendars