If you are an English Language Teacher looking for something Christmas-related for your lessons, we thought we’d share some activity ideas that you can use with different class types. So get your bells jingling, grab a candy cane and read some of our suggestions for Christmas classroom fun…
Advent calendars are a gift when it comes to introducing or reviewing new lexis where the pictures behind each window provide an immediate visual for Christmas vocabulary. The prediction of what is coming tomorrow is a great way to activate your students’ prior knowledge of vocabulary and recycle it even as often as every day.
Here are some ideas for using Advent calendars creatively:
- There are several free websites which allow you, or your students, to create online advent calendars where text and media can be uploaded behind each window, and the link shared with classmates or friends.
- If you prefer a non-digital version, young students might like making a class advent calendar, where each student draws one or more pictures to put behind a window on a calendar you have either made, or recycled from last year, sticking the children’s pictures over the original ones (just make sure they’re the right size first!) and then reclosing the windows.
- Make a language calendar, asking the class to choose 24 words or phrases they’ve recently learned which can then be put behind each window. Each window opened is the chance to practise and remember new language!
- Create a “story” advent calendar for your class, where one line of a story is behind each window of the calendar. When you open a window and read the line, you can ask students to predict what will happen next in the story (e.g. “The little elf was feeling sad and he made a decision..” – ask the students why the elf was sad, and what decision they think he made). Maybe you can even encourage the students to memorise the story as you go along so, on the 25th, they can recite the whole thing!
Google’s Santa Tracker
If you’ve never seen it, Google has a “Santa Tracker” which allows you to track Santa’s progress around the world as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve.
The best thing about santatracker.google.com however, is the variety of little games they add in the run-up to Christmas. These are some of our favourites:
Santa Search If you know “Where’s Wally?”, this is like a Christmas version of that – you have to find the Santa (or other Christmas character) in pictures. You can ask the students to say where Santa is, using prepositions of place, or you can ask them questions about other things in the pictures (e.g. “how many elves are wearing yellow?” or (pointing to an elf) “What is this elf doing?”)
Elf maker This allows children to design their own elf, choosing its hair, skin, height, clothes and accessories. This can generate a lot of vocabulary if one student is at the computer / IWB and the other students are suggesting how to create the elf. At the end, students can write a short description of the elf they designed.
Out like a light / A day at the Museum / Penguin Proof / Where's Santa? These are animations with no audio, so they can tell you what is happening as they watch it, or you could assign one of the stories to each student, and at the end they are put in a group with three students who watched the other three stories and they have to tell them what happened.
Holiday traditions Students click on places on a world map to learn more about how Christmas is celebrated around the world. You could give students 5 minutes to look around the places and then test them, or assign a continent to each student/group of students who then read about the traditions of places in that continent. They then team up with students from the other continents and share what they learnt.
It’s not Christmas Everywhere
If you grew up in a country where the majority of people celebrated Christmas, you may have thought at the time that the whole world celebrated Christmas too. This can be the perfect opportunity for students to gain understanding about other people and ideas. For example, you (or your students) can find out which countries don’t celebrate Christmas and why and, in groups, students can make fact-files about the countries and the festivals they do celebrate, seeing if there are any similarities between those festivals and Christmas. To develop empathy, you could also ask students to imagine they are a child or young person in one of the countries where they don’t celebrate Christmas. Ask them to think of five questions that child might have about Christmas. What might they find strange about Christmas?
Invent your own festival
In groups, students can invent a new festival, thinking about how it would be celebrated, who would celebrate it, where and why. They can also think about the food that might be eaten during the festival and any other traditions. They can then present their new festival to the class, and the students can decide which new festival they would most like to celebrate and why. Maybe they’ll invent a more environmentally friendly festival. Talking of which…
I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas
As we know, Christmas doesn’t just come at a financial cost, it also has an environmental cost so it’s always good if we can try to bring a sustainability thread into our lessons. Perhaps we could ask students to categorise traditional Christmas objects into “environmentally friendly” or “harmful to the environment”, or to rank them depending on the negative impact they have on the environment.
Maybe they could calculate the carbon footprint of their Christmas dinner, and create a more sustainable menu? How will Santa suffer as a result of climate change (melting ice in North Pole, fall in the numbers of reindeer etc.) These are all ways to review Christmas lexis whilst simultaneously becoming more aware of sustainability issues. For other ideas, check out eltfootprint.org, eltsustainable.org and renewableenglish.com
Poems at Christmas
There are some fantastic Christmas poems you can use in class, and two of our favourite poets are Kenn Nesbitt (https://www.poetry4kids.com/topic/christmas/) for younger learners, and Brian Bilston (https://brianbilston.com/tag/christmas/) for older learners (including adults), with the former having audio to accompany many of the poems too).
In class, you could blank words out of rhyming poems to see if the students can guess them. They could also write their own poems – perhaps following a particular style of poem (acrostic, haiku etc.) or they could create a concrete poem following the example of Brian Bilston’s “Needles”. At the end, all the poems can be gathered into a Christmas (digital or paper) book.
Thank you for the Terrible Gift
This activity works particularly well with teenagers. If you google “terrible Christmas gifts”, you will find a range of pictures and articles of some truly awful Christmas presents. Choose some of them to show the students, and ask them to pick one of them (but don’t tell them why). Once they’ve all picked a gift, tell them that they now have to imagine they have been given this as a present by a close friend or relative and they must write a thank you letter to them, detailing how they have used the gift.
They will need to use their words carefully in order to avoid offence, and they’ll also need to think of some creative uses for the terrible gift. It’s great practise for writing for exams and aiming to have a positive effect on the reader.
New Year’s Resolutions
You’ve probably asked your students to write New Year’s resolutions in the past – it is, after all, a great way to practise ways of talking about future intentions. A twist on this is for students to think of a famous person and then write 3-5 resolutions, imagining that they are that famous person. At the end, they read the resolutions to the class who have to guess who the famous person is.
Now we’ve emptied our sack of activities, and handed you a selection box of lesson ideas, it’s time for us to hop back on our sleigh. We hope your lessons, Christmas-themed or otherwise, will be full of cheer!