Christmas, as we know, is one of the most beloved holidays around the world. People are excited and busy hence having classes close to the holiday season can sometimes be challenging as students already have the holiday spirit, want to relax and have fun. However, we can still make use of this period to practice their language skills in a more interactive and gamified way.
Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with having a little fun during the class, do some different activities in contrast to the regular language sessions provided that the language of communication is English. It cheers both the students and the teacher up, is a good way to create some memories and bond as a team.
Here are some activities that I have used with my classes and all of them have been really fun and engaging.
In order to boost students’ fluency and create a context using discussion/conversation questions can be really useful.
I normally prepare several questions for the students to talk about. The way I choose to deliver the questions depends on the peculiarities of the group (sociable, easy-going, reluctant to move, etc.). I can post the questions on the walls on pieces of paper and ask the students to walk around the room with a partner and comment on them by giving details and asking follow up questions. Once the students are done, I choose a couple of questions for open class discussion and invite the students to comment on them. Alternatively, we can choose to handout the questions to the students and ask them to comment on them without moving around the room. Another option is to show the questions on PPT to save paper. 🙂
This normally creates a nice and friendly atmosphere as people like sharing their opinion (in most cases) and the topic is quite actual. Below there are several questions I am going to use this year:
- What’s the best present you have ever received for Christmas?
- How do you like spending Christmas?
- What are some traditions you keep for Christmas?
- What’s your favourite Christmas movie? Why do you like it?
- What are some traditional dishes that you like to have at Christmas?
- What do you think about the mystery of the Santa? Should we keep“lying” to kids? Why yes/no?
New Year brings new changes, new wishes and goals. People make some resolutions that they want to achieve during the coming year. So, why not to do this in class?
On the last day of the course/school I bring about a small board and ask the students to think of what resolutions they want to make for the coming year. Next, they receive some post-it notes, write their resolutions and post them on the board. They can do it anonymously or write their names if they wish so. The board stays with me (in the teachers’ room) till next Christmas. The fun part here is to bring the board back next year and ask the students to find their resolutions to check which ones have come true. This creates a nice atmosphere where students reflect on their plans and achievements.
In case you are not going to teach the same group next year, a good idea is to pass the board to the teacher who is going to take over the group, to keep your promise of bringing the board back.
Christmas Wish Tree
Similar to the resolution board is the Christmas Tree wishes. It has quite the same concept with a different packaging. Personally, I love this one more.
You can bring a Christmas tree cut up from paper or from a harder material, some cut up circles from colored paper as toys and distribute the circles to the students. They will need to write their wishes/dreams/desires to achieve by the end of the year and post it on the Christmas tree. This one also can be anonymous if students want to remain so. Just be careful to glue the circles face down, so that the text is not visible.
Keeping the tradition and bringing the Wish Tree back next year is also a must, as it will create some reflection time.
Another fun thing to do is to get together and watch a movie. There are some old favourite movies and quite nice new ones. I normally choose a couple of movies, send the trailers to the students and vote on which one we want to watch. Here of course, it is important to make sure that students also learn some new phrases and have a fluency practice rather than just bluntly watching the movie. The reason for this is that movie watching should be educational. If not, students can do the same in the cinemas or at home.
Once the movie is chosen I go ahead and prepare some materials I want to turn to. They normally include;
- Eliciting the plot of the movie (if that is a new one). I do this by taking some phrases from the movie, pictures and asking the students to predict the story line.
- Pre-teaching some key words (through flashcards, personalized examples, situational context). You can find more on vocabulary presentation here
- Preparing follow up questions students will need to answer to while/after watching the movie (T/F, open ended)
- Prepare some opinion questions as a follow-up task to see what students thought of the movie, what they liked/disliked about it, what they would change in the movie if they could, etc.
New Year Pictionary
Well, this is an old favourite. It is a very fun and competitive game. All you need is a list of phrases related to Christmas and New Year, a board or flip-chart and markers. Divide the students into 2/3 teams, let the students choose a person who will start the game. Once they are chosen, show the representatives of all the groups a word/phrase you have prepared in advance. They will need to draw it on board for their group mates to guess. The rules are that they cannot speak, write words or show/point to the things mentioned in the phrase.
This game gets a round of good laughter as not everyone can draw well. 🙂 It also gives a chance to practice some common words and phrases related to the holiday season. The language chosen completely depends on the level of the students.
If we want to get more serious and teach some history to the students as well, we can prepare a more informative class on different ways of celebrating Christmas and New Year throughout the world. The Internet is full of information like this. The ones I use are these. Moreover, here is Skyteach lesson plan on Christmas values and traditions.
This can be done in the following way:
- prepare the information you want the students to cover during the session. I normally choose a couple of different countries,
- split the students into respective teams and ask each team to read one of the texts.
- Distribute some follow up questions to comment after reading the text thus making sure that all students feel comfortable with the text.
As for the unknown words, I either hand them out with definitions/pictures/translations, or pre teach before the students start the reading.
- Once the students are done, shuffle them up in pairs, making sure that they share the info in their texts with students from different groups. This works the best when you nominate the first pairs first so they don’t get confused in finding a pair.
- Alternatively, you can choose a random pairing technique (cards, numbers, colors, etc.) It is important to time the students up to 5 minutes to share the gist of their stories and then move on to another pair.
- Once all the students had the chance to share all the texts, go ahead with an open class discussion (OCFB) on some general findings they had.
If your group is creative enough, this is the activity for them. Before the class print out the horoscope of the passing year and bring it to class together with the names of the zodiac signs on separate pieces of paper.
In class, ask the students to share what zodiac signs they are and whether they believe in horoscopes. Next, hand out the names of the zodiac signs, ask the students to work in pairs/groups and come up with the general characteristics these signs normally have.
Once the students are done, hand the horoscopes to them and ask them to read and comment on how much of what was written was true.
Now students will need to come up with their own horoscopes. Ask them to write a horoscope for the next year by choosing 3 signs from the list. Make sure that all the students write at least 2 horoscopes and receive at least 1.
Normally students come up with nice predictions and motivational texts which can be a good closure of the year. Alternatively, you can ask them to take the quiz “ What is your zodiac animal in the Chinese calendar?”
Needless to say, that this activity can work depending on the cultural, religious and emotional background of the students.
Another summarizing activity is asking the students to reflect on their past year. This works best as a warmer or a closure of the class and can last up to 15 minutes.
Ask the students to take a minute and write down the top 3 events they would like to highlight in the passing year. It’s better to choose events which have some importance for the students.
Next, ask the students to mingle and find a partner they want to work with. Once the students are set, time them for 5 minutes and ask them to share their events with each other and ask questions to each other about why the events were important, what was so special about them, etc. As soon as the time is up, ask the students to move to a different pair and do the same. This can go on for 3 pairs not to bore the students.
To make sure this activity succeeds, let the students know that they will need to share the events they choose with their peers. Sometimes they can be reluctant to share personal information which is completely fine. Setting the task clearly from the very start saves a lot of trouble.
Wishes and Thank You Notes
To end the year on a positive note, we can use this activity with almost any class.
You will need colored papers and envelopes (3 for each student). By the end of the class, distribute the colored papers and ask the students to write wishes for their classmates. Each student should write 3 different wishes for 3 different people. Wishes should not be anonymous as it makes it more personal and can be a very nice team building activity.
It is important here to monitor and check that all the students receive at least one wish. In case there is a student who is not going to receive a wish, I normally write it myself.
A similar activity is the Thank You Notes. I learnt this one from my CELTA course and have been using it ever since. You will need A4 papers (preferably colored to make it more fun) and you will need to write the names of the students on the top of the papers.
The rest of the students will need to write Thank You notes for their peers starting with “Thank you for…”. In the end, each student will take their Thank You list with them and have something to remember.
Till today I sometimes look at mine and smile. 🙂
In case you have covered the topic of food, this will be the activity you are looking for.
Elicit some food names to begin with, some verbs associated with cooking and some appliances.
Set the students into pairs/groups. Ask them to choose a traditional Christmas or New Year dish and write down the recipe for it (roast chicken, Christmas pudding, gingerbread in Christmas shapes, cold ham and cold turkey). Students will need to describe all the process in details.
Alternatively, you can choose the dishes you want them to write about in advance and distribute to the students during the class.
This activity will work much better with multicultural classes as they will have different experiences to share.
As a follow up task, you can ask the students to share their recipes with each other.
This one works great with adult learners, those who work and have corporate parties.
I have used this with all my groups and they have come up with very creative and interesting ideas.
You will need posters and markers.
- Ask the students what they like doing on their corporate events, what they think is fun and what is not.
- Set them in pairs/groups of 3 to prepare a poster presentation about a “Dream Team Building Event”. (where to hold the party, what activities to do, what will the budget be, etc.)
- Clarify, that they should not write long texts on the poster, they will only need to include some key phrases, pictures and hints.
- Once the students are done, ask each team to present it to the rest of the group. The role of the audience is to act as the HR team/management of the company, ask questions about the presentation, criticize, agree/disagree with the ideas.
To make this activity more structure oriented, you can conduct a session of How to give good presentations in advance, introduce some functional language of agreeing/disagreeing/asking questions, etc.
Well, these were just some of the activities that can be used to Celebrate Christmas and New Year in class. Anyways, when choosing which one to use we should really consider the interests, likes and dislikes and the background of our learners.