Many of us think of Christmas as the happiest and favourite season of the year. In many countries, this is the time of the year when we can let loose our creativeness, our imagination and that little child in all of us.
Today we are talking about Christmas holiday lessons not just for young learners but also for adults. This is a real challenge because a successful TEYL lesson plan will not necessarily get a big “WOW!” from adult learners. However, do not despair, sit tight, read on and see how we can help you discover the wonderful world of EFL teaching for one and all at Christmas time.
EFL teachers working in schools follow a standard curriculum and use tried and tested material and textbooks for the students’ grade. You could be teaching EFL to a class of first graders or a class of buyers at a retail chain. During Christmas, we can bring in something different. We can bring in themes from our own country and use them as our class topics. We can talk about our Santa Claus.
Santa Claus has many different names but only one purpose
Santa has one purpose, to bring presents to well-behaved children but he is known by many names around the world. Here are a few examples:
|China||Dun Che Lao Ren|
|India||Santa Claus, Baba|
|Ireland||Santa, Santee, Daidi Na Nollaig|
|Kenya||Father Christmas, Santa Claus|
|Korea||Santa Kullosu, Santa Grandfather|
|New Zealand||Santa Claus|
|South Africa||Vader Kersfees|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Santa Claus|
|United Kingdom||Santa Claus, Father Christmas|
|USA||Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Saint Nick|
Getting started with your Christmas theme lesson
Teaching our ELLs something different and something new is good. However, as EFL / ESL teachers, we must always be respectful of cultural differences. For example: if you are teaching in a Middle Eastern country, you should ask the school if it is OK to have a Christmas themed class.
In some countries, Christmas is viewed as yet another commercial opportunity. This means you need to teach with the aim of improving the 4 language skills using a Christmas theme but not look like a commercial promoter.
To start, use well established Christmas characters and elements from your Christmas. There are a few ideas below shared by EBC’s experienced Trinity College CertTESOL qualified teachers. They are ideas about how to use a Christmas theme class to help learners with their language skills.
Write a letter to Santa exercise
How about writing a Christmas card, making a Christmas list or writing your special Christmas wish letter to Santa telling Santa how good you were during the year?
Now this is what I call an all-inclusive writing exercise. Not only does it teach you to write in English, but it also teaches assertiveness and standing up for what you believe is right. Way to go!
Some teachers use this fun technique with more advanced learners.
Another great exercise is to let your students practice their writing skills using Christmas cards. You can start with a pre-task exercise by introducing Christmas-related vocabulary and terminology. Lower levels will find this exercise stimulating. If you find yourself with advanced learners, simply increase the difficulty. Explain to them that this type of writing at Christmas is a much-loved tradition in Western countries.
Reading, speaking and singing Christmas carols
Let’s start reading!
Use crosswords, word searches, fill in the blanks and matching up exercises. These can really fire-up your learners to want to read. Your Christmas themed worksheets and material will engage your learners. Turn your Christmas themed reading exercises into a competition. The students with the most accurate tasks or the ones who finish first win the competition. You can use this technique to engage your learners, to increase their interest in reading and to make it an enjoyable exercise. Always make sure you pitch your teaching to the level of your learners.
Listen, I think I’m hearing Christmas carols!
If you asked your students to read a Christmas carol, why not get them to sing it?
There are so many Christmas videos or films on YouTube with well-known characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse or even Mariah Carey!
Let them watch the video and listen to the words. Use a transcript if you think it will help. Experienced teachers usually follow the video with a discussion, a short quiz or even better, get the class to sing the Christmas carol. If you or your class is not that keen on singing, read your class a Christmas story and ask them questions.
Another popular activity you can use to test listening skills is “How to Make my Christmas Village”. Introduce your class to Christmas favourites like reindeers, Santa’s elves / helpers, snowmen and Santa’s sleigh which he uses to bring presents to good boys and girls around the world. Organise a Christmas village competition where the children build their Christmas village based on ideas or themes they have been talking about in class. Give them instructions about how to decorate their village. Give them a few tips about what would be in Santa’s village.
Put them in groups. Then let them work in groups to build their Christmas village with reindeers, elves, snowmen and of course Santa making toys. Encourage them to use their imagination and use material that they normally discard. Tell them to use magazines, crayons, scrap paper, cardboard boxes etc. You will be surprised at what your students will come up with. You are after all not only encouraging them to listen, learn and think in English, but you are also encouraging them to bring their imagination, ingenuity, and creativity into their learning.
Speaking about Christmas is fun and magical
Younger learners enjoy games like charades and Pictionary. You need to have a pre-task vocabulary introduction so they can use their newly learned vocabulary when they speak. Engage your more advanced learners through role plays.
Show them a Christmas film. Stop the film and ask them how they think it would end. The appropriate vocabulary must be introduced prior to you asking them to predict how the film will end.
Group them in teams. Give them enough time to plan and practice. Get them to perform and speak to the class about the ending. Your ELLs love seeing their peers perform!
Many of these activities are great teaching activities during the Christmas holidays. They are great ways to teach your students about Christmas traditions in Western countries. It also is a holiday season that should make us all feel happy and give us the sense of mystery and magic that Christmas is all about.
Happy Holidays to all our adult learners!
One of our EBC Trinity CertTESOL graduates from a couple of years ago had this to share. On her first try at teaching adults in Asia, she made the mistake of using Christmas themed lessons she had made for kids with her class of adult learners. As to be expected, the lesson flopped.
Her class was composed of administrative assistants from a chain of public schools in Beijing. Singing Christmas carols and reading Christmas stories were not for them. It was clear from the start that they found the lesson unproductive and did not engage.
As they were adult learners, they had set objectives and goals. They wanted an English language learning approach that would make them meet their specific goals. Of course, they also enjoyed Christmas related lessons, but it had to be targeted to their goals with speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English. In this group of adult learners, they wanted to improve the English language skills that related to their jobs as administrative personnel. The following is based on our EBC graduate’s experience teaching with this class after she redesigned it.
Christmas Food – always a big hit
One thing that is universal and one that cuts across all cultures is food. We all love to eat, especially at Christmas time. A Christmas food lesson is interesting because it gives your students an insight into what Western countries eat at Christmas and how the food is prepared. They also learn about food that they may not have heard of before. Use videos (there are loads on YouTube) to show the food and how it is prepared.
Here are some interesting holiday food topics on YouTube:
- Lovely, delicious mince pies! Funnily, not many of my learners knew about mince pies. However, some of the advanced ones came to their teacher later and told her that they came across “mince pies” when they read novels, books, literature related to Christmas.
- Christmas Eve (Dec 24) versus Christmas Day (Dec 25). Some video clips show that Dec 25, Christmas Day, is the most important day for the Christmas meal. Other videos insist that Christmas Eve, Dec 24, is the most important Christmas meal. This cultural difference between countries is also interesting and will get your students engaged. In some countries, food is abundant on Christmas Eve and they sleep late on Christmas Day while in others, Christmas Day is when you have all that glorious food. Regardless of the choice of day, it is a time for friends, family and relatives to get together over a good meal and great conversation.
Make sure that you introduce food-related vocabulary beforehand. Explain the names of Christmas foods as well as their flavours like sweet, salty, savoury, etc.
If the country you are in celebrates Christmas, get your class to write about their Christmas Day foods and explain how they are made. This helps them practice their written and spoken English. Be prepared for a lot of questions about what an ingredient that is only found in their country is called in English.
Throwing a Christmas party
Sometimes your students want a break from the usual classroom-based learning. There is no better time to chill out than the days leading up to their Christmas holiday.
Give them the chance to practice their social English and throw a potluck Christmas party in the classroom.
Each student is asked to bring a Christmas themed food or drink. They can do this individually or in pairs. They should give a short presentation about how the food is prepared and why it is a popular dish at Christmas time. In China and many other Asian countries, noodles (for long life), round fruits (represents money), grains (wealth and prosperity) are popular during the Christmas holiday meals.
You can also turn this into a Q&A activity where the more talkative learners can ask questions at the end of each presentation. Of course, after everyone has done their presentation, you and your class can enjoy your party, eat the delicious food and your students can practice their social English.
Christmas shopping - "Shop until you drop!"
Shopping is a central Christmas theme. It can be exhausting looking for that perfect gift.
Organise your class for an “Operation Christmas Shopping” role play class where they must go and shop for Christmas presents. Do not forget to introduce shopping-related vocabulary like cash, credit card, debit card, overdraft, layaway, 50% off, 3 for 2, etc.
Explain to your class that in Western countries, exchanging gifts is a tradition at Christmas time. Ask each student to come up with a list of presents they are going to buy for friends and family. Let them role play the shopping scenario in pairs.
When they finish the group activity, get them to recount their travels, how many different places they had to go to, what they bought, etc.
Teaching English to adults is not difficult if your lessons cover learning and improving the 4 skills. During the holiday season, you can teach speaking, writing, reading, and listening using Christmas themed material to boost their learning while getting them into the festive spirit as well.
From all of us at EBC, have a happy (and safe) Christmas
To all our visitors and friends, we wish you a safe and Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays y Feliz Navidad a todos.