This post is good for your elf... (bug-free update!)

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There are 34 days to go until Christmas. That’s less than five weeks! That means it must be time for the second of my three Christmas Fair blog posts!

To recap, last week I posted how to create delicious no-bake melted snowmen tiffin treats, and also how to frame the learning around them so as to not waste any precious teaching time. If you missed it, it is right below this week’s post, so please do check it out.

Also, last week I promised to be brief and got a little carried away. So, starting this week (following my brilliant wife’s advice), I shall include a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) summary to each of my blog posts. I’ll also go back and retroactively update all previous posts.

And finally, before getting into this week’s post, a plea. For those of you living in the UK, if you haven't already registered to vote, and are aged 18 or over, please go to and sign up. I’m not going to get political here, but it is so important that your voice is heard on December 11th. Thanks.


Have the class design, create, and come up with 
an advertising campaign for a brand new Christmas companion!

#English #MFL #Music #RE #Computing

Last week was quite a sweet treat and I know many schools have a healthy-eating policy. Some schools also have a health-and-safety policy that forbids and food that has been made by people without a valid health and hygiene certificate. So this week I offer something different.


Not just for reception, salt dough ornaments are surprisingly forgiving, relatively easy to make and the profit mark-up is ridiculous. Since the seasonal sculptures themselves can be made in an afternoon, they’re perfect for an end of week activity if you need to just get something. 

But why not go a little bit deeper with this…

I’m not going to post a recipe for salt dough here, and I don’t recommend that you provide one for your children either. Instead, as part of a digital literacy lesson, have them research it and give you a list of required ingredients. You might get a whole host of different methods (the recipes are largely the same), which is fine. Let the children use the technology they are being taught to use. I would put them in groups and, like last week, encourage competition.

Similarly to last week, the maths aspects creep in with scaling measurements and calculating cost margins etc. So I won’t go into that here (again, details are in last week’s post). However, I had an idea the other night. An idea that I quite liked…

I was thinking about the Elf on the Shelf. For those of you who might know about this (My analytics tell me I’m being read all around the world now, which is amazing and humbling - a big welcome to everyone who is reading my blog in China!), it was a bit of a child-bribe where parents would buy a very creepy looking toy ‘elf’ and sit said elf on a shelf in the child’s bedroom. This elf would then spy on the child and report back to Santa. 

I find this concept deeply disturbing but I don’t have children, so maybe I just don’t understand.

Anyway, this elf was sold with a little book that explained its back-story and created a whole world for the child to buy into (philosophically, not financially). So I figured, let’s do that!

Show the children an advert for the Elf on the Shelf (I can only find one of the spin-off Elf Pets. It’s here) and have them, in their teams, design, create, brand and come up with an advertising campaign for their new (creepy) Christmas companion. A curriculum breakdown follows…


There is the obvious advertising angle here (writing to persuade), but go beyond it. There is the back-story that will need creating. Challenge the children further by introducing a target age-range (writing for a specific audience). You could also have them write and present a pitch for the adults in the room (writing for performance, persuasion and for a specific audience). I won’t go into too many details here because I’m really trying to keep this brief, but you get the idea!


Sell this product in a different country. This is not a throw-away suggestion. Again, using their digital literacy skills, they can research the country in question (your MFL target country of choice, perhaps). They can use Google Earth to look around the country and see if they can incorporate local traditions in their tale and design. They can use Google Translate to create a country-specific poster (make sure they translate it back to English to check that it still makes sense!). They could design a poster for their family if their family speaks another language. 

Come to that, they could design the whole concept around a holiday tradition from their country. What a great way to get the parents involved!


This is tricky because the creation of the sculpture is art, but we are designing it to be produced and using it for a specific purpose (to be a toy and rto raise money) for a specific person (a child of a given age). So the process as a whole would fall under DT. You could argue that the decoration of the piece is art, but again, that would have been designed and agreed upon. Even the poster would be to serve a purpose.

As discussed last week, Art should be a creation for its own purpose. To get around this, I would argue that the story the children create has to have illustrations. These can be made digitally or traditionally. I would look at illustrations of classic Christmas tales or poems like A Visit from Saint Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore (‘Twas the night before Christmas…) for inspiration.


Again, I would say create a jingle. The children could adapt the annoying one from the advert. If you have the facilities, you could even record this digitally. 


Why not just play some music? How often do we allow children to explore music for its inherent musicality? Go to YouTube or Spotify or whatever music service you prefer (or are allowed to use in your school) and play a Christmas / seasonal playlist. While it is playing, display musical terms such as pitch, tempo, dynamics and invite the children to discuss their opinions using those musical terms. They can like or dislike the songs, but they have to state their case through the correct vocabulary.


I’m not going to mention Christianity here. I’m going to talk about Judaism. Now, I am not a particularly religious person, so what I am about to suggest is for educational purposes only; I am not talking about faith nor am I questioning anybody’s religious beliefs. 

Dreidels are associated with Hanukkah and are a traditional (gambling) toy that was made out of wood or clay. Salt dough is a bit like clay. Could there be a link there? Again, I’m treading lightly because I don’t want to upset anyone. But there is the opportunity to discuss religions beyond Christianity at this time of year. 


I’m not going to dwell on this because I’m keeping my computing bombshell for next week. But you could have your children work collaboratively on their pitch. I would use Google Docs (actually, I would use Google Slides if we’re being pedantic) but you can use whatever you are comfortable with. Tell the children that they must create a presentation with only 3 slides. Each slide must be presented by a different member of the group. There should be no animations. Presentation software is not about animations! The slides should feature no more than 5 bullet-pointed concepts, but could simply be a picture. 

The idea behind this is to encourage the children to use presentation software as a tool, not a learning outcome. Be strict. They will surprise you. You can always direct them to a YouTube video about Death by Powerpoint - there are plenty of Ted talks about it. And it means that you don’t have to explicitly teach it.

In fact, this whole project can be a self-driven process. If you create instructions on the board (assign points values to certain elements if you like) for each process, or have print-outs for each step of the project, you can let the teams manage themselves. They might decide to delegate. They might decide to do things in a different order.

This approach can be very scary because it involves you stepping away from the controls. It is also very freeing because you get to visit each group and ask formative assessment questions along the way. You can glean a lot from a group of children when they don’t know they’re being assessed! At the end of the day, they will learn a lot and you will have something to sell at the Christmas fair.

I hope that was useful. Next week I will post my final idea (I am very excited about it) and I will also include a link to a free resource that you can use straight away (and make money from). 

As always, thanks for reading this far. My little blog is growing slowly and I am so grateful to all of you who give me your time. If there is anything you want me to post about, or any ideas you think I should look into, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Coming up through December, I will be posting about how to reduce marking pressure on extended pieces of written work, and definitely, before the end of term, I will post something about assessment. As some of you may know, I am currently working through an MA in educational assessment and I have learned so much about the design process of tests, how the data they produce are used, and how we can best approach them in the classroom. I am so keen to share that with all of you!

If you create any salt-dough masterpieces, please take a photo and share it with me on Twitter (@Mr_M-Musings), where you can follow me and say hi - I do reply. Beyond that, you can reach me at the usual places listed below. Thanks again, wrap up warm and remember, you are awesome.

Carl Headley-Morris