Friday, 18 November 2016

When does 'Christmas time' begin?

I don’t know about you, but I feel like ‘Christmas’ is getting earlier and earlier each year. When I was younger, it seemed like the festivities didn’t start until December 1st - as soon as that first little chocolate (gift or reindeer shaped) was gobbled up from my Barbie advent calendar. Now, we start hearing whispers about it in October. In-between Halloween and Bonfire Night, those whispers get louder, then as soon as the fireworks are over, it’s CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS!

Now, with that in mind, I thought it was a good time to think about the ways in which schools can help children learn about the ‘Christmas story’. There is, of course, the traditional nativity story, which a lot of schools act out for parents. A less well-known variant of the story is ‘Baboushka’, which has origins in Russia.

A while ago, we asked a local teacher to create an activity for us about it. We wanted it to be suitable for children age 6-11. When we had the structure of the task complete, we then asked a brilliant designer to bring it to life. Now, that has been transformed into a FREE activity for iPads. Download it instantly and keep it forever!

If you’re familiar with the popular tool Thinking Kit (or Digital Mysteries), you’ll know the general format. An activity consists of:

  • one main question or objective
  • snippets of information that tell a story or form the bulk of a task (these may have images on them)
  • various tools to help students answer the question/achieve the objective (e.g. the ability to make digital notes, stick related slips together or form a named group)

The activity is then downloaded within the FREE Thinking Kit App - which presents the information to students in the form of an engaging, easy-to-use iPad activity. It's actually designed to be worked on in pairs or small groups, which means it is excellent at helping children develop key skills of collaboration, communication, speaking and listening. It can also be used independently if preferred (or for example, at home).

The Baboushka task comes in three difficulty levels: Basic has 8 slips, Medium has 16 and Advanced has 24. The question students must answer is ‘Why didn't Baboushka follow the kings to Bethlehem?’ It’s a great task for achieving lots of learning objectives in English and Religious Education, and could be used alongside study of the nativity story or Baboushka.

Here’s some of the slips:

To get this FREE activity, please go to When you use it in class, please do include our Twitter handle @refthinking, we love to see students’ faces when they get hooked into the story!

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