It’s that time of year again, and whilst many children’s priorities may not be those of computational thinking skills and creative ICT, there are plenty of fun, seasonal computing activities we can run in class. In this post we will make 6 suggestions for activities, from foundation stage to upper KS2.
Of course, all of these activities could be adapted for other celebrations / festivals or for different themes altogether.
1. Program a drawing of a Christmas decoration. [ KS2 ]
Drawing shapes by writing code is a popular activity, and is often used for developing skills in and understanding of the power of repetition in a program. Why not have the children draw a Christmas decoration? This could be as simple or complex as needed to challenge the pupils, but in this example we have drawn a basic Christmas tree using a triangle and a square.
We used J2Code Logo [ https://www.j2e.com/logo.html ] for this example, but you could also use Scratch or MSW Logo, or any programming environment that supports drawing or pens (such as using the PU / PD commands in Logo.) Remember to ensure the children plan their program first, perhaps away from the computer, and write an algorithm from which they will create their programs to put into your chosen programming environment.
To use pen blocks in Scratch 3, first enable them as an extension from the very bottom left of the Scratch create screen.
2. Program a Christmas tune. [ KS2 ]
Scratch 3 has a set of ‘Music’ blocks, which enable us to easily select from a set of instruments, and choose to play specific notes for a specified length of time. Better still, as most of us are not blessed with perfect pitch, when selecting the note we want to play, a small piano keyboard appears allowing us to hear and choose the notes by ear.
Creating a complete tune in this way might be a lengthy challenge, but the first line of a well-known seasonal song is more achievable.
In this example we used Scratch 3 to program the first line of ‘Jingle Bells’. You can hear it, here: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/343256917
To use music blocks, first enable them as an extension from the very bottom left of the Scratch create screen.
3. Christmas pixel art. [ KS1 and 2 ]
Pixel art can help children learn about how digital images are commonly made up of millions of tiny dots - pixels. They could create a Christmas decoration as pixel art on squared paper, by colouring in each square in different colours, to make up a larger picture.
Using a spreadsheet allows us to ‘go digital’ with this activity. Resize the cells first, so that they are square instead of rectangular (select all cells from the very top/left of the sheet and then drag a column border left so that all the cells in that column are square. All the other cells in the sheet will follow.) Then, use the Fill Colour tool to colour-in each cell or group of cells to create the artwork.
Thank you to Rachel Coultart for inspiring this idea!
4. Make a Christmas character talk. [ FS and KS1 ]
There are some great apps, especially for iPad, that enable the user to take a still image and make it talk by recording the user’s voice and adding an animated mouth (and even eyes and nose) to the image. In this way children could bring a Christmas bauble to life, make a gingerbread man read out a self-penned poem, animate a present that is sitting under a tree and much more!
We used the iPad app Morfo 3D Face Booth to make this example. Younger children might try Chatterpix Kids app instead.
5. Augmented Christmas reality! [ FS and KS1 ]
As we discussed in our blog post 'Augmented reality for the rest of us' it is easy to explore augmented reality (AR) through ready-made materials from Quivervision. It won’t surprise you that there are some suitable Christmas colouring sheets available which can be downloaded, coloured in and then brought to life using the Quiver 3D Colouring app, available for iPad and Android or Amazon devices. Just go to www.quivervision.com and download the ‘Holidays’ colouring pack, which includes the AR experience below.
6. Christmas content in JIT5 [ FS and KS1 ]
JIT5 is the collection of infant tools from the Just2Easy (J2e) suite of online software. The tools include writing, painting, drawing, animation, basic coding and more and can be accessed from www.j2e.com/jit5
The J2e team have recently added Christmas backgrounds, clipart and a word bank to the suite, opening up a huge amount of possibilities for creative, festive activities. Why not animate a reindeer running across a snow-covered background or create a digital painting of Santa and his helpers?