ELT Experiences

Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Christmas in the Classroom: Lesson and Classroom Ideas

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Christmas Tree, Seoul © 2006

It is that festive period again when the artificial Christmas tree is brought out of the small cupboard at your school and dusted down.  And what better way to start this month off on my website with a few Christmas lesson and classroom ideas for my readers.  Obviously, you have to be sensitive where you are teaching and whether Christmas is celebrated in the host country.  Nevertheless, I would like to thank my followers on Twitter and other teachers for their contribution for this blog post as well.  So, let’s start with the first lesson idea.

Preparing the Classroom

What is the first thing that students see when they attend a lesson?  That’s right, the classroom.  The classroom will reflect the mood of the day so you will have to prepare a few things to get learners into the Christmas spirit.  You don’t need to spend a fortune and if you are teaching young learners, you could get the students to decorate the classroom.  Get some coloured pieces of paper, some glue, some scissors, coloured pencils/crayons and some glitter.  Hand these out to the young learners and tell them they have an hour to decorate the classroom and just let them be as creative as possible.  You will be amazed at what young learners can achieve if you let them have a little control over what they want to do.  For more older young learners, you could get them to colour in some artwork or draw things related to Christmas.  Once they have finished their artwork, you could pin them up around the room.

Christmas Cards

One thing that some nationalities do (if not most) is hand out Christmas cards to each other.  You could combine one relatively international tradition with language learning.  Ask learners what they write in Christmas cards in their own language and get them to translate.  Board some of these ideas up on the whiteboard or IWB and scaffold language where appropriate.  Once you have learner language boarded and scaffolded, you could get learners into pairs to write a Christmas card to their parents or guardians.  This activity would be great for young learners or teenagers alike.  With regards to their Christmas cards, you could either supply Christmas cards, pictures about Christmas (which could be cut and glued on supplied card) or hand out blank pieces of card (A4 size) which could folded in half then used as a template for Christmas cards.

Christmas Songs

There are some wonderful Christmas songs which could be played and used in the classroom to generate interest or motivate learners for the festive period.  If you have experienced a dip in motivation during this period of the year, it is a good time to get the jukebox out and get some songs blasting (especially when learners are doing some sort of art and craft activity).  I remember a few years ago, I bought a compilation album of Christmas songs on iTunes and use these songs in the classroom.  All learners respond well to the songs and they are familiar to them as they are played in their home country also.  Typical Christmas music activities could include gap-fills, reordering music lyrics or students learning the lyrics of a song and having a type of karaoke competition in class.  In my first year of teaching in South Korea, the non-native teachers prepared young learners to sing a Christmas Carol in front of their parents and their parents were really proud.  This is something which could also be incorporated in the classroom.

Christmas Quiz

A good activity which adult students could learn more about the culture of Christmas could be with the use of a quiz.  I have created a quiz and it is available to download below.  It could either be used as a web-quest or as a team quiz.
You could either use the quiz as a dictation exercise or you could do a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” style of quiz.

Christmas Wordsearch

Wordsearches were the very first vocabulary activity that I used in the classroom with young learners.  I thought they enjoyed them and it was something that they could add to their learning portfolio.  Nevertheless, there is a place for wordsearch activities and I have embedded a Christmas wordsearch below which could be used in the classroom.
If you have an IWB and are keen to get learners up and out of their seats, you could use the electronic wordsearch as well. The link for the IWB version is available here.
Again, the Teachers Direct website is a wonderful source of information and you could create your very own wordsearch puzzle.  Just a quick note: the IWB version for wordsearch puzzles can only be created with a 15 by 15 wordsearch dimension.  So what are you waiting for?  Go to this website to create your own puzzles.

Christmas Nativity

For many children, the nativity play is a wonderful opportunity for them to work towards.  There is a lot of effort by many teachers across the country to organise the plays and it is a great chance for children to shine.  So why not have your very own nativity play in your language school?  You could get learners to dress up, make their own costumes or act in front of peers or parents.  It is incredibly motivating being recognised when acting in a foreign language and parents are very proud with their little kids when they are able to act a play in their L2.  Naturally, the teacher will have to be aware of the local culture in order not to upset local culture or religion.

Christmas Videos

A few months ago, I shared a video lesson plan with some ideas of using “Love Actually” in the classroom.  Feel free to use this with your adult language learners.  You should note that there is strong language in the video and make sure that learners are happy to watch the video.  Some extracts from a previous blog post is available below:

Love Actually – Intro Scenes

The second task that I set for learners was for them to complete a character matching exercise: match the character and their job/occupation.  Before watching the movie, we studied up on various occupations (housekeeper, housemaid, etc) and then I handed out a matching worksheet after the initial activity for learners to complete (which is below).  As there were a number of different characters/names, it was difficult work for students to learn about them and their occupations.  The learners were listening intensively to the dialogue and for any clues.  To check that they were listening with the first activity, I elicited the name of the Rock & Roll Legend (Billy Mack) and then told learners that they had to complete the rest of the matching activity whilst they watched the rest of the movie.

Love Actually – Characters

At one scene in the movie, where Mark and Juliet meet to discuss about a video from a wedding (about the first two minutes of the scene with the YouTube video below), I paused the movie and elicited their names.  I then went on to say that they are going to watch the next scene with Mark and Juliet with no sound and they have to predict/guess what they are saying.  I handed out a blank script and the learners will have to complete the script to the best of their ability.  It was mentioned that it made no difference whether they attempted to complete it and was wrong as it was all good practice.  I played the video and I was acting as a human remote control and learners were telling me: “pause”, “rewind”, “fast forward”, etc.  The scene was played a number of times until learners were happy to complete the activity and then act the scene out.  There was a lot of laughing and the students really got into the scene.

Love Actually – Script Juliet and Mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVAda1ZF-3s?wmode=opaque

Next, I played the scene with the sound off and then just the subtitles so that they could see what things were similar or different to their script.  We then played the video with the sound on and the subtitles off.  It was a wonderful activity and were quite responsive.  In the second lesson of the week, we continued with the movie and watched the ending.  I handed out a worksheet for learners to complete and it was a character summarisation.  Learners had to choose one character from the movie and write about him/her.  Luckily, all learners chose someone different and they had a look on Wikipedia or other websites to learn a bit more about their chosen character.  Fortunately, they decided not to plagiarise from Wikipedia and their writing was commendable.

Love Actually – About a Character

Christmas Links

There are some wonderful resources available on the internet and I hope that you really make some use of these and share your own experiences.

ESOL Courses: Christmas English Exercises
ESL Flow: Christmas Lesson Plans
Michelle Henry: Christmas Activities
Anglomaniacy: Christmas Worksheets

Don’t be a grinch and share your ideas of Christmas from the classroom.

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Author: Martin Sketchley

I have been an English language teacher for over 10 years both abroad and now currently in the UK. I am highly interested in teaching to young learners, professional development and curriculum development.

2 thoughts on “Christmas in the Classroom: Lesson and Classroom Ideas

  1. Nice ideas! Thanks very much.

    Christmas cards are great to make with young learners. You can use them to teach some basic shapes by cutting them out of paper and gluing them on:

    Three overlapping green triangles make a Christmas tree, with a brown rectangle for the trunk and a square for the pot, a star on top and some circles for baubles. Squares for presents around the bottom.

    Two overlapping white circles make a snowman's body, an orange triangle for his carrot nose, circles for buttons and eyes, and a rectangle and a square for his top hat.

    Two brown circles make a robin's body, with another red circle for his red breast. A yellow triangle can be his beak.

    You can show them your own cards as a model or make it into a game by giving them the shapes and getting them to figure out how to make a snowman, Christmas tree or robin.

    An anagram race is great too, where you prepare 10 pictures of Christmas vocab each with an anagram underneath of one of the other pieces of vocab (e.g. the picture of the elf has an anagram of 'stocking' underneath, then the picture of the stocking has an anagram of 'sleigh' underneath, the picture of the sleigh has an anagram of 'presents' underneath and so on). Put them up around the school and get the students to solve each anagram to find the next picture in the sequence. It's a race to get back to the picture they started on (if you've prepared it right!).

    Hope these are clear and helpful! Merry Christmas everyone.

  2. Thank you Tom for sharing some wonderful ideas. These are great. I like the anagram race and the art activity (snowman) which you mentioned. It is always a good opportunity for young learners to get into the spirit of Christmas. Happy Christmas Tom and I wish you all the best for the New Year.

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