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  • Writer's pictureNicky

12 Days of Christmas Computing Activities

The start of December often leads teachers to count down the lessons with their worst groups and mumble to themselves phrases like “Only 2 more wet Friday afternoons with 9F before I can open the Baileys” or “3 more staff meetings until I can have a lie in”.

It can be difficult to keep motivated when the holidays are within touching distance and you can almost smell the Terry’s Chocolate Orange in your stocking. But it is still term time, you have a mountain of homework from your eager year 7’s to mark, you still have that display to arrange for the corridor outside your room and of course those mock exams will not grade themselves.

As soon as you dig out an age appropriate DVD for your classes, SLT make it very clear that every lesson until the final bell goes has to be worthwhile and you know they will patrolling the corridors and popping their heads around your door at any moment.

But your students are restless and are nagging you to do something fun. They are bored of watching videos of 'A Christmas Carol' in English while their teacher snoozes at the back of the classroom in the semi-darkness, they have had enough of making paper decorations out of various shapes in maths and they are looking to you to provide something exciting.

Fear not, exhausted teachers, there is a solution. Not for the mock paper grades or the year 7 homework and I am afraid 9F will still be as difficult as ever but there is a solution to keep SLT and your Christmas crazy classes happy.

I have compiled a list which I am calling the “12 Days of Christmas Computing Activities”. It includes a variety of Christmas activities for the busy computer science teacher that are suitable for KS3 computing and GCSE computer science classes.

I am not for a moment suggesting you should work your way through all of them but there is enough variety you can pick something that is not too wildly obscure from what you have already been doing with your classes. This way SLT are happy the lesson is educational, but the lesson is also festive enough, so your classes feel they are doing something fun.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

1) A Scratch game involving a Christmas theme

Hmmmm, okay I know it doesn’t quite fit the song but you get the idea. If your year 7 classes have been learning Scratch why not set them the challenge of creating a maze game where one of Santa’s elves is looking for lost presents in the workshop.

You can make it is intricate or as easy as you like. Challenge your more able students to add a score for every present their elf gathers, set a timer, make the presents move randomly around the stage. There are so many things your students can do with this game. Let them come up with original ideas and then allow your class time to play each other’s games and give some peer feedback.

2) Elf Debugging

This is another Elf based lesson. This needs a little preparation from you and you need to create several programs that contain a few errors in each. Your class take on the role of Santa’s little helpers who need to go through Santa’s code and fix it.

This should help them learn debugging and may even persuade them to have a go at debugging their own programs in the future rather than putting their hands up to ask you to help them, so it’s really a Christmas present to yourself. You can use this rubber duck debugging lesson as a basis if you are looking for inspiration of how to teach debugging techniques.

3) Naughty or Nice list

The next activity in our 12 Days of Computing Christmas Activity list is another programming challenge. As the famous song tells us “He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town”.

This computer science Christmas activity is more suitable for GCSE classes as it involves writing a program that will store data to an external text file. For this scenario let’s assume every good deed a child does, they get a positive score added to their overall total and for every naughty action they get a negative score.

The program should allow Santa to enter the name, address, postcode and total score of a child and the program should automatically decide if the child is classed as naughty or nice. If the total score is under 0, the child’s details should be saved to a text file called “Naughty” and if it is 0 or more, they are saved in the “Nice” text file. An example of one possible solution in Python is shown below.

4) Excel Christmas Shopping List

You may want to focus away from computer science and more into the digital literacy part of the computing national curriculum. We have you covered too. Why not challenge your pupils to create a spreadsheet that calculates the cost of Christmas for a household?

They can work out the cost of a Christmas dinner, research the cost of the various items from a supermarket, work out how much each portion would cost and the total cost to feed everybody. They could also look at the cost of presents identifying each person and the presents they would get and the cost of the items.

They may be surprised by just how much Christmas costs. If students don’t want to make it realistic they could write the list for an imaginary family or even a famous celebrity’s family.

5) Mail Merge a Christmas Card List