Teacher’s top tips to add learning to your Christmas movies

Some of the old familiar Christmas movie favourites can be educational, according to former primary school teacher LAURA STEELE, who shows how to turn passive screen time into an active learning experience

Father Christmas: Based on the book by Raymond Briggs, this short animated film takes a look at what Father Christmas does on the other 364 days of the year.

Ask your child to choose one of the destinations Father Christmas visits on his holidays and put themselves into his shoes (or boots!) and write a postcard home, explaining everything he saw and got up to there.

Father Christmas doesn’t enjoy all the visits he makes. Encourage your child to write him a letter, suggesting where he should go next year, and why he might like it better than his holiday this year.

Father Christmas spends time organising presents for us, but what present would like to receive? Ask your youngster to draw a picture of the gift they would get for him, and write a short explanation of their choice. Download free Father Christmas activity sheets here.

The Snowman: Also based on a Raymond Briggs book, in this film a young boy’s snowman magically comes to life and takes him on an adventure to meet Father Christmas.

The boy and the Snowman never speak to each other, but if they did what would they say? Children could write an imagined conversation between them, or even act it out.

We see the boy building the Snowman step-by-step. Encourage your child to draw pictures and write instructions for each of the different stages of construction.

Ask them to design their own snowman. Ask them to label what they would use for his eyes, nose, mouth, buttons and so on.

If you watch the film carefully, you will see many different animals. Can your child spot them? As an extra challenge, they could choose an animal to research and perhaps make a poster or write a report about it. Download free Snowman activity sheets here

Elf: Hollywood movie Elf focuses on the character of Buddy, a human who has been raised by elves at the North Pole. On discovering that he is not actually an elf, Buddy travels to New York in search of his father

Buddy is given a snow globe of New York City. Children could design and draw their own snow globe, showing where they live.

Challenge them to describe and draw the film’s funniest, happiest and saddest moments.

Download free Elf activity sheets here.

The Grinch: Based on the 1957 book by Dr Seuss, a creature named the Grinch hates Christmas and everything to do with it. He devises a wicked plan to ruin the festive season for the town of Whoville.

Children could write a character description of the Grinch, detailing his appearance, his personality, what he does, and how he changes by the end of the film.

Ask children to draw a picture of, or describe, Whoville at Christmas. Would they like to live there? Can they explain why?

Ask your child to step into Grinch’s shoes, and describe or act out their thoughts about Christmas both at the beginning of the film, and then at the end, and discuss how they differ. Download free Grinch activity sheets here.

The Polar Express: A young boy who is beginning to lose his belief in Father Christmas boards a to the North Pole and has amazing adventures, makes some special new friends, and regains his belief in the magic of Christmas.

Ask your child to design a ticket for the Polar Express. Who would they give it to, and why?

Which two letters do they think The Conductor would cut out on it, and why? Which full word would be created on reboarding the train?

In the film, the symbol of Christmas spirit for the boy is the bell he receives from “Mr C”. Ask children to draw and explain what represents the Christmas spirit for them.

At one point, the train passes the Northern Lights. Encourage children to research exactly what this phenomenon is. They could also create their own artwork depicting the scene.

Download free Polar Express activity sheets here.

There are also activities which can be fun with any film: Challenge your child to write a review of the film. How many stars out of five would they give it? What was the best bit? Who was their favourite character?

Or you might even buy any of the books associated with the films here and encourage your child to read them for themselves, or use them for telling bed-time stories in the evenings up to Christmas and into the New Year. Independent book shops like Bookseller Crow in Upper Norwood can help source most titles (they even take orders online).

  • Laura Steele works with education resources experts PlanBee 


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