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Home / Christmas teaching ideas for your TEFL classroom

Around this time of year is the time where things start winding down for the Christmas break. End of term exams might be taking place and both children and teachers are counting down to a well-deserved break! During the last week of term, it’s nice to incorporate Christmas teaching ideas for your TEFL classroom. A lot of students (and teachers) appreciate the lighter-hearted lessons. As a teacher, you might also have to consider that some students might miss class, if they have plans for the holiday or other activities (think kids’ school parties!)

General tips for ESL Christmas lessons:

    • An important thing to remember is that you are still delivering English language lessons so no matter what Christmas activity you decide to do, you should always make sure your students are using some language and learning something.Otherwise they may feel frustrated or their parents might feel that the lesson was a waste of time.
    • Think about whether your teenage or adult learners will benefit from a Christmas themed lesson. It might be the easier option for the teacher but it might not be as interesting for your older students.
    • There are endless Christmas resources out there online for you to download! Once you find ones you like, make sure you save them for next year – this will save time searching again. If you do end up making your own resources, then make sure you save these too for future Christmas lessons.
    • Remember that not all students celebrate Christmas or get lots of presents from their parents. It’s a good idea with younger students to not focus on how much stuff they get given.

Young learners

Christmas can be a great time to do something creative with your young learners and they will almost expect it! Reward them after a busy term and do something fun in English. Here are some top ideas for young learners’ Christman lessons:

1. Christmas cards

One of the best activities you can do with your young learners! It’s a chance to be creative and for them to produce something fun in English to take home to their parents.

Start the lesson off by teaching some key vocabulary (Santa, snow, angel, Christmas tree are just some ideas) and play some games to practise this. Then, you can spend some time making Christmas cards. Make sure the students write them in English! For young learners, try to minimise their use of things like glue, glitter etc or your class will be an explosion of Christmas sparkle!

2. Letter to Santa

For students who have a good grasp of writing, this is a nice idea to practise their English writing skills. It can be done with a range of ages (think 8-13). If your students are younger, then you can provide them with a template to fill in. If your students are older, then give them more freedom to write and use what they have learnt throughout the term.For young learners, you can also let them decorate the letter and have them “post” it in a Christmas box you keep in your classroom.

3. Christmas word search

After practising and learning new Christmas vocabulary, you can have students create their own word searches. The complexity and size of the word search depends on the age and capabilities of your students. The older they are, the more challenging they can make the word search. Once they finish, have students exchange and find the words. You can even put the students in groups to complete the word searches and make it into a competition. If you are teaching online, there are interactive word searches you can use that students can complete on the screen.

4. Reading comprehensions

This is a good way to keep the material challenging for your students and, at the same time, they can learn about other cultures. Producing a reading comprehension about Christmas in other countries is a nice way for students to learn vocabulary and also lightens the tone of the lessons. Of course it’s a nice idea to explain your own traditions but it can be fun for students to learn some unusual Christmas traditions from other countries too. If you don’t want to prepare your own Christmas reading comprehension, then you can also find these ready-made online! After the students complete the questions, you can have them discuss what they think of the traditions or what they do during the holidays.

Adult learners

If you decide to do something related to Christmas with your adult or teen learners, make it worth their while and keep them speaking in English. You can assess whether you think this will go down well based on your students’ interests and needs. With your adult learners, you could do half a lesson of “normal teaching” and then half Christmas/ holiday themed. This way, you don’t spend too much of the lesson on the latter.

1. Conversation questions about Christmas traditions 

It’s important that your students keep practising and learning but that doesn’t mean that you can’t change the topic to something lighter! Get your students talking about their own traditions and what they usually do around the holidays. You can even get them talking about deeper ideas such as “Is Christmas too commercialised?” and organise debates around this, which is good for higher level learners. Try to get your more advanced learners talking about issues such as this, which is good practice for their speaking skills.

2. Exam style speaking activities about Christmas

If your students are preparing for an exam such as IELTS or Cambridge, then keep them on track with some Christmas exam questions! For example, they can still practise talking about photos but using Christmas-themed photos. If they have been practising for a decision-making task, they can do a task where they decide on the best Christmas present for someone. All parts of the exams can be adapted with a Christmas theme, so the students feel that they are still getting valuable practice! This is important for exam students. If they make an effort to show up during the last week or term, they still want to make progress so ensure that this happens!

3. Listening gap-fills

If you know your adults would love a good Christmas song then why not do a gap-fill activity? Take a well-known Christmas song and print out the lyrics after deleting some of the words. Bear in mind that songs can be difficult for students, especially if they don’t have a high level of English. Popular Christmas songs in general can be very quick and upbeat, making it more difficult for students to understand. If you think the song might be more difficult for your learners, then give the students the options to choose from when they fill in the gaps.

4. A Christmas quiz!

This can be done with teenage learners  and it is a great activity for adding in a competitive element which learners of this age love! At this age, the students have probably done a lot of Christmas ESL lessons and will start to get bored of the same activities. Create your own Christmas quiz and keep them engaged in the lesson! Typical questions could include “how many days are on an advent calendar?” or “Complete the song: we wish you a ____Christmas”. You can do this as a pub quiz style activity and even include prizes for the winners! Lower level adult learners would also enjoy these simple questions and a competitive edge!

5. Find someone who…

You have probably come across this mingling activity in your TEFL studies. Now we’ll see it with a TEFL twist! Students can move around the room asking questions about Christmas traditions or habits. You can prepare some questions and then have students add one or two of their own. Examples include “find someone who celebrates Christmas in a different city” or “find someone who started their Christmas shopping in November”. After finishing the activity, students can talk about what they found out about their classmates in pairs.

6. Christmas idioms

As we’ve said, it’s important for adults to continue their learning so you can use this opportunity to introduce some more difficult language with Christmas expressions! You can teach words such as “overindulge”, “all the trimmings” and “it’s the thought that counts.” This way, adults learn some new vocabulary and leave the lesson feeling that they have progressed. You can make some conversation questions based on these expressions that get students practising them.

Whatever you choose to do with your classes in the runup to the holidays, you can make your lessons both fun and educational for your learners. Try to personalise the lessons as much as possible by having students share their own experiences and traditions where they can. This will keep them more interested in the lessons.

For very young learners, have some fun and be creative with cards and letters but don’t forget that the parents will still expect some learning to take place. Ensure that you do some vocabulary work with them and plan the lesson around this so that they leave the lesson with new knowledge! Remember that a lot of learners will have previously done Christmas ESL lessons so try to think outside the box in terms of vocabulary and gauge this correctly for the age and level that you are teaching.

If you want to check out some commonly used TEFL Christmas resources try:

ISL Collective for young learners’ worksheets and word searches 

Teach this for speaking activities based on Christmas 

Tim’s Free English lessons for Christmas themed lesson plans for all levels 

British Council for lesson plans and Christmas quizzes!

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