14 December 2021

Why can’t reindeer fly? And other festive lesson ideas

One of the benefits of being a tutor is that you get to personalise your lessons for your pupils, focusing on their interests and hobbies. Themed lessons are a great way to keep your sessions engaging, while helping them have fun along the way!

As we approach the holidays, why not try including some festive activities in your tutoring session?


Beyond classic festive literature like A Christmas Carol, there are lots of way make your tutoring sessions festive:

  • A discussion is a great way to encourage critical thinking. Giving and justifying opinions can bring a great sense of accomplishment as pupils are able to use their language skills to express complex ideas. Try out these discussion points:
    • Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?
    • A real Christmas tree or an artificial tree?
    • The angel or star as the treetop?
    • Which is better, giving or getting? Why?
  • Or try out writing a concrete poem


Add a sprinkling of festive spirit to your Maths problems:

  • The formula for the volume of a snowball is 4/3 πr^3. Estimate the volume of a snowball with a radius of 12.8cm
  • A present under the tree is a cuboid of length 15cm, width 12cm and height 13cm. What is the minimum area of wrapping paper needed to cover the present?
  • In the song, The 12 days of Christmas, by the end of the last verse, how many presents has my true love given to me?

Think of examples of how maths can be used to explain the festive season:

  • Have a look at and explain the Koch Snowflake – one of the earliest fractals to have been described.


Encourage your pupil to answer these festive questions with their prior knowledge. Show them that their knowledge can be applied beyond the curriculum!  

  • Why is Rudolph’s nose red? Look at this study and at the thermal images to help your discussion.
  • Why do Christmas trees have narrow needles instead of flat leaves? 
  • Why are holly leaves spiky?
  • What are the biological mechanisms involved with ‘Christmas spirit’? Have a look at this study to find out more.


Get creative with this easy and fun activity:

  • How about making paper chains? To help students’ understanding of the polymerisation process cut out an alkene molecule and fold it to show C=C. Demonstrate how you can ‘break’ these bonds and connect them to another molecule to make a polymer paper chain.

Check out these brilliant compound chemistry resources that will help give your lesson a festive feel:


Physics and Christmas aren’t poles apart. Why not try discussing some of these questions?

  • Are Christmas tree lights in a series or parallel circuit?
  • According to Newton’s laws of motion, why can’t reindeer fly? Is there a theory that could provide a counter argument for this?

Introduce some Christmas cheer to your physics problems:

  • A 0.3kg star sits on the top of a tree. The star has a gravitational potential energy store of 5.3802J and the gravitational field strength on Earth is 9.8N/kg. Calculate the height of the tree.


Check out The National Archive’s excellent resource pack including lots of sources on:


Why not explore Christmas around the world this year in your geography lessons?

  • Listen to the lyrics of Bandaid’s Do They Know It’s Christmastime? and chat about whether all the descriptions of Africa are true.
  • Discuss festive maps and their implications. For example, how does this map about Christmas tree harvesting in the USA link to population, climate and deforestation?
  • Pick a country and explore how Christmas is celebrated around the world.


  • Have some fun and recommend some Christmas jingles. There are some great playlists on Spotify and YouTube!
  • Write some festive vocabulary lists and use these to inspire crosswords, a game of charades or try and incorporate them into your conversations.

Adding a little festive cheer is a great way to make your lessons more engaging at the end of term. We’ve only listed a small selection of questions and activities you could incorporate into your lessons. Themed lessons are a great way to add some creative flair throughout the year but also a chance to encourage problem solving and critical thinking. If you have found any other tasks or discussion topics that have worked for you, we’d love to hear them!

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