Shining a light in the winter months

    Published: 03 November 2020
    Village in the mountains at night


    It’s that time of year where we find ourselves digging out the winter woollies, taking the extra vitamins and, perhaps wondering, yet again whether it’s worth investing in a light box and dosing up on the vitamin D to counteract SAD (seasonal affective disorder). 

    It’s no wonder then that the major festivals of the world, taking place in the winter months, Diwali, Christmas and Hanukah among them, focus on light. Light is so important to us. When we are happy we feel light on our feet; we might spread some light into others’ lives and add joy; a person can light up the room with a smile; they may light the spark within us and where there is darkness we can shine the light of hope. Light is one of those words that can be used in so many different contexts. Light is also symbolic of knowledge and wisdom.

    It’s a strange and tragic time right now but we are all adapting. One of our adaptations in school this year will be how we celebrate at the end of term. Many school productions have been cancelled and perhaps even the parties. There certainly won’t be whole school discos. However, we don’t need to cancel the festivities altogether, we will just work around the circumstances. Adapt. Perhaps your school is producing an online end of term celebration with class-by-class contributions stitched together for parents to watch online. Whatever you’re doing, it will bring a little light into the lives of the community. This blog offers a few ideas for winter festivities in school this year.




    Let’s begin with the obvious. Lanterns. Who didn’t love making those when they were little and covering them with glitter and tissue paper? These days we also have the wonderful practical addition of battery operated tea lights. As the winter days dim the light through our classroom windows, why not light them every afternoon and set a cosy atmosphere to listen to the class story?

    You might decorate the windows with stained glass creations created from black sugar paper and tissue paper. Perhaps bring some spring and summer colour by creating flowers, butterflies, birds and sunrays or just colourful mosaics.

    Thinking of the classroom windows takes me back to a title I remember from a book I read in university. It was Chapter 12 in Eve Bearne’s ‘Use of Language Across the Primary Curriculum’ and it was entitled ‘Don’t look out of the window, you’ll only have to write about it’. It is in fact a chapter on creative writing and worth a read. However, let’s look out of the window. We could even look out of others’ windows. You might begin a ‘window’ exploration with Jeannie Baker’s marvellous thought provoking picture book Window. Why not gather some views from windows across the world? The children could ask their parents to reach out to friends and family in different areas of the country or even different countries of the world. These could be used to discuss – ‘What’s the same? What’s different?’ What lies beyond this view? The children might be able to tell the class a little about the family behind the window and what it’s like to live there. For example, the first picture is from a friend’s apartment in Melbourne. She lives in the middle of the city and hardly anyone has a garden but she lives near the river and a beautiful park. The second is the window belonging to a children’s nurse in Guernsey. She often has to take boats and even planes to visit her patients and doesn’t spend much time in her garden because she loves walking on the nearby beach. The third photograph is from Oman and showing us the minarets visible from an office window and the fourth a reflection of a country garden in Sweden (which was recently visited by a moose!!!). We could ask ourselves ‘What’s the same? What’s different?’ The children could draw their ideal view from a window.


    View from window


    View from window


    View from window


    View from window


    As part of the Herts for Learning science and English project (to develop standards of writing and science across the school), we exemplified some Y3 lessons with a focus on light through some well-known books and poems. See the blog Charlotte Jackson wrote and access the free plan within. Keep an eye out for webinar dates for this project in the spring term.

    Back to our winter theme. Why not begin a Winter Poem Snowball. Y1/2 could be filmed reciting a poem. Giving it their best prosodic read. They would send it to Y3/4 to watch. Y3/4 would watch, enjoy and comment upon the poem. They would then be filmed reciting the same poem and another of their own choice and send these two to Y5/6. The procedure repeats with 5/6 listening to both poems, appreciating and commenting upon before recording both with an added one of their own. These could then be placed on the school website or learning platform for the wider school community to enjoy. EYFS should not be left out of this poetry bonanza. They could add to it by being filmed reciting favourite parts of winter books or poems.

    If we’re bringing a little light into the darker winter months, how about a shadow puppet show? Children of any age can do this and it’s especially lovely for the younger ones to use shadow puppets to retell their favourite books. Older children could create a whole show based on picture books they have enjoyed and send films of their productions to the younger children. They might like to make some more scary shows for their own age group.

    Finally, winter books. There are so many to enjoy and a couple of my favourites are:

    Dream Snow by Eric Carle;

    The Snowman by Raymond Briggs;

    Waiting for Wolf by Sandra Dieckmann;

    The Storm Whale in Winter, and more recently The Snowflake by Benji Davies;

    The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg;

    Winter’s Child by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith;

    Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell; ;

    Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (for adults, I can highly recommend Tove Jansson’s book Winter);

    The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

    Odd and The Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman.

    I’m sure you have plenty more winter reads to cosy up to with your class which will add some light relief to their day.

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