It’s that merry month now when many TEFL teachers abroad start to miss their loved ones back home. If you’re lucky, your school even have a long enough holiday for you to pop back to visit them. However, in my experience, this is not usually the case.
In Asia especially, there is a very odd relationship to Christmas. It’s not uncommon to see lights and even Christmas trees, but it’s largely just a commercial holiday (even more so than in the west). That said, students are often very curious about this mysterious holiday. They often want to know what you do and, probably, celebrate it with you a bit.
Now I’d like to put a few disclaimers out before I move on with Christmas activities for the TEFL classroom. Firstly, that not all TEFL teachers come from a country that widely celebrates Christmas. That, or perhaps you’ve never celebrated Christmas due to your religious beliefs or other reasons. Do you have to do TEFL Christmas activities?
I would never tell any of the teachers who work for me that they have to do any Christmas activities in class. That said, students are having their midterm exams just before the holiday season and many TEFL courses either wrap up or reach their midpoint at around this time. Why not celebrate the holidays in some way – Christmas or other?
If you’d like some Christmas ideas and activities to bring into your classroom, read on. If not, I support you one hundred percent.
Ideas for Young Learners
No matter the students level or age, there are lots of fun Christmas activities that can either supplement a lesson or replace it while still meeting lesson aims. One easy way to add a little Christmas cheer is to sing songs as warmer activities. Most Christmas songs are fairly simple, but of course, you’ll need to choose one that is level appropriate.
As with most songs used in the classroom, I would advise you to think of some fun actions to go with the song and to keep in mind what you want the students to produce. For example, I wouldn’t expect a low-level young learner class to be able to sing the entirety of Jingle Bells, but I would definitely want them to sing the chorus. That’s the part I would rehearse before playing the song.
For a list of Christmas songs that I use with young learners, download the pdf by clicking on the button below.
Another idea is to do craft lessons with Christmas themes. All too often I hear stories of teachers bringing in coloring worksheets or other items with no real language value. I suspect that this is sometimes due to a teacher wanting a bit of a break themselves and not really caring if the students learn anything. It may be fun, but why not, with a little tweaking, make the activity fun and worthwhile?
Here are just a few ideas that relate to common TEFL target language. Let’s say that I’ve been teaching shapes to the children. Why not have them create a Christmas tree using cut-out shapes? Perhaps we have been learning about colors. How about having the students make ornaments and color them either doing a dictation exercise, reading color words? When they are finished maybe I’ll turn it into a mingle activity where they tell each other the color of their ornaments.
I could go on forever, but I’ll just share a few more ideas. If they’ve been learning basic adjectives for describing people (e.g. tall, short, fat, thin, etc.), have them make strange looking elves. This could be set up as a back to back drawing activity (one student describes the elf and the other draws). If they are a slightly higher level than that, have them write letters to Santa Claus describing who they are and what they want for Christmas. The ideas are limitless.
Ideas for Teens
Trying to get a teen class to sing carols or to write a letter to Santa Claus may be met with a bit of skepticism and not be that successful (not always though…). Instead, you might get more out of them by having them make Christmas cards for real people. Last year, I found another TEFL class that was about the same level as my teens. That teacher and I assigned a “Christmas friend” to each of the students. They had to make a card for the student and write them a letter using the target language from recently finished units.
Another thing that goes down well with teens is video. I don’t mean putting on A Christmas Story and leaving the room, I mean showing clips of Christmas films and using them in the lesson. For example, if I’m teaching “going to” for predictions, I might use a Youtube clip of a Friends Christmas special. After a minute or so, I would stop the clip and ask what’s going to happen next. They could work in teams and make predictions, then I’d play the next segment so they could see if their predictions were correct.
Christmas is also a good time to give them some interesting stories to read. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find a story that is the right level for your students and that they’ll be interested in. DON’T WORRY! TEFL Express has got you covered.
Next week I will be posting part 1 of 3 of a short story aimed at teen students. I’ll also be including resources and activities that can accompany the story. I don’t want to give away too much just now, but the story will be called “Christmas Bully”. It’s going to have a number of twists and turns that I think your teens will enjoy. I know my teens will.
Ideas for Adults or Mature Teen Students
Adults are sometimes the most curious about the Christmas holiday, and how their teacher might traditionally celebrate with their loved ones. I’ve had a lot of success using it as a time to share holiday recipes with students and having them share some as well (target language: showing a sequence or describing food).
The last few years I’ve also had a tradition of challenging my adult students, and often my teens, to a Christmas quiz. I make it a gameshow-style event that usually lasts for about one hour. I dress up a little bit more than I usually do in the classroom, dawn a red Christmas cap and let the good times roll.
I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t usually fit into the target language that might be on the curriculum, but it’s a good culture exchange and does load them up with a lot of Christmas vocabulary. If you want the Christmas quiz that I’m going to use this year, click on the button above. There are 25 questions included and the format that I use for the quiz.
If you download the above, I’ve basically planned an entire lesson for you that I am confident your students, and you, will enjoy.
I hope that the above ideas have started to get you in the mood for the holidays. If you have some other ideas that you’d like to share, please do so in the comment section below or on the TEFL Express Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.