Here are some games which we associate with parties and Christmas celebrations in UK schools. These games can be adapted for language learners of all ages and levels.
Pass the parcel (Whole class/mixed-ability groups)
Prepare 5-6 boxes or envelopes decorated or wrapped with Christmas paper. In each parcel put a group activity with a Xmas theme for students to try e.g. a word search, a dialogue to practise, a questionnaire to ask each other, a poem to read aloud. Spread the boxes around the class and students can work through each parcel, passing them around. Good for two lessons or a double period as well.
Suggestions for parcel activities at different levels:
- Younger learners
- A Christmas card to colour in (by numbers, following the instructions) or a kit to make one with the words Happy Christmas from… inside.
- A dialogue with very simple words missing e.g. Santa talking to a child (complete the dialogue and practise) or a silly quiz e.g. Christmas colours: What colour is Santa’s beard - White, brown or black What colour are Christmas trees? Etc.
- A simple questionnaire: What would you like for Christmas? Where do you spend Xmas? What’s your favourite Christmas food?
- Pictures of food, drink and other words to match to word cards
- Lower levels (teens):
- A Christmas word search with a list of Christmas words to find in the grid
- A jumbled dialogue (between the innkeeper and Mary and Joseph? Or in a shop buying Xmas presents)
- Jumbled interview between famous person/pop star on Xmas habits/likes/dislikes which can be reordered and acted out.
- Higher levels (teens and older)
- Discussion cards to work through as a group (see suggestions of topics in the Essential UK Christmas special)
- A gap-fill Christmas pop song (give the words to match to the gaps to make this easier)
- Role cards to act out improvised conversations e.g You are given an awful/strange present by a relative/boyfriend. Student B is the relative who is watching you open the gift. Act out your conversation.
Santa’s sack (whole class)
Prepare everyday objects of varying sizes and shapes. Wrap them up in Xmas paper and put in a sack (a pillow case will do!). Students take turns to fish out an object then win points if they can guess the object. “It could be a mobile phone….It might be a calculator …etc.” Lower levels can say “I think it’s a..” or ask “Is it a/an..?”
Mystery pictures (whole class or small groups)
Another guessing game is to cover Christmas pictures with a black card and leave a slim keyhole or peep hole in the centre of the card. Can they guess the object that is half hidden? You can get your pictures from magazines, free leaflets and catalogues from supermarkets or printed up from the net. Make a keyhole template with one blank sheet of paper. Cover each picture and photocopy. You will then have a series of pictures half hidden by black. Students can also play this in small groups if you have enough pictures photocopied. For groups write the solution in pencil on the back of each hidden picture.
- For lower levels (and kids): concentrate on 8 key items which they know well (this can be Christmas presents hidden i.e. a Harry Potter book, a game boy, a favourite video).
- For higher levels: pick objects associated with Christmas but still stick to vocabulary they know e.g. a bottle of Champagne, a Christmas cake, a parcel or gift, a ski slope, a reindeer, an angel, or cover Christmas presents.
Pin the nose on the reindeer (whole class or small groups)
Prepare a picture of a reindeer with a small piece of Velcro glued to the place where the nose should be. Prepare a nose backed with Velcro. Blindfold a student from each team and their team have to shout directions to help them get the nose on the reindeer e.g. “Up a bit, down a bit, left, right etc.” All ages play this but beware of self-conscious adolescents as it may cramp their style!
Xmas find someone who… (whole class, small groups)
Prepare 8 festive sounding challenges suited to the language level of your class and get them talking to find someone who …went skiing / will be going skiing, wrote a letter to Santa when they were small, has got a Xmas tree at home, has done some Xmas shopping, can tell you how to cook a traditional meal/dish.
- Lower levels: Find someone who is.. going to the mountains for Christmas / Going to stay with cousins for Christmas / Staying at home for Christmas.
- Higher levels (use language they have studied this term): Find someone who … has never been away from home / has eaten pizza on Christmas day / Would go to a hot country for Christmas (if they could/had the opportunity) / Has already bought some Christmas presents / a Christmas CD / Can suggest an original dish/activity for Xmas day / can tell you a special Xmas memory from childhood (this is a very open conversation starter for a fairly fluent class).
Xmas colouring (whole class or pairs)
Make multiple copies of the same colouring picture (print up one from the sites suggested in the Essential UK Xmas Special). Tell the whole class how to colour it (best with lower levels and kids) or in pairs give each students a half coloured picture (different parts coloured for each) and they ask questions to finish the picture e.g. “What colour is the present? fairy on the tree? Santa’s sleigh?”
- Higher levels can have different pictures but do not give them guidance on which objects are coloured in or not. Students therefore have to ask and find out what needs colouring in. In some cases the pictures have a few objects coloured in but the choice is more random than half and half.
- Make sure students know all the words for the objects. Put a glossary down the side of their pictures and/or use one copy to review the words before they start the activity.
These activities originally appeared on the British Council Language Assistant website.
Clare Lavery, British Council
- Teaching resources
- Teacher development
- Teacher training