Find or write a simple text about Christmas.
- For lower levels, give them multiple choice questions to answer, such as Where does the custom of Christmas trees come from? What is another name for Father Christmas? How many days are there on an advent calendar?
- For stronger learners, ask them to read the text and work in pairs to write their own questions, which they then swap with another pair to answer.
Food and drink
Describe the Christmas meal and traditional food eaten in the UK or another English-speaking country, using pictures or even the real thing if possible! Compare it with the students' own traditional Christmas food or the traditional food eaten at an important festival if Christmas is not celebrated there.
- Lower levels can then draw their favourite Christmas or other festival meal and write words to label their picture.
- Higher levels can write a Christmas or other festival recipe in groups for a local dish, or plan their perfect celebration in groups.
Songs and carols
Your students might enjoy singing along to English versions of carols they already sing in their own language (e.g. Silent Night) or well-known Christmas pop songs.
- Very low levels can try the first verse of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, singing it in rounds. Divide the class into small groups. The first group starts singing the verse, then the second group starts singing the verse, starting when the first group have finished the first line. Then the third group starts singing the verse, starting when the second group have finished the first line, and so on.
- Intermediate levels can try activities based on The 12 Days of Christmas, for example matching pictures to the correct numbers, illustrating the song or singing it as a class with one pair of students for each line. Students could also make their own version with presents they would like to get over the 12 days.
- Higher levels can pick a very simple Christmas pop song. Jumble the couplets or miss out key words which students would understand, and ask students to order them or write the missing words as they listen.
Christmas stories and cards
Christmas stories and making Christmas cards often appeal to all ages and levels.
- The very funny nativity story Jesus's Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen is brilliant for acting out and retelling through the pictures. The events are seen through the eyes of an angry innkeeper who is disturbed all night by the goings on in his stable.
- Raymond Brigg's The Snowman is good for exploitation at any level as it has no dialogue, so conversations or commentary can be invented by students according to their level.
- Lower levels can make a Christmas card while following your instructions, by folding a piece of card, drawing or colouring in a picture and writing a greeting inside.
- Higher levels can make a Christmas card and write a Christmas poem inside. An acrostic poem based on the word 'Christmas' lends itself well to this as learners can be creative writing sentences for each line.
If the students or teacher don't celebrate Christmas, choose an important celebration from their/your culture to discuss instead.
- My earliest Christmas memory or My best Christmas ever
Put the headings Where? When? Who with? What happened? on the board and then start by telling the students about your own earliest Christmas memory or best Christmas ever, e.g. describe the place where you were, what the weather was like, what year it was, how old you were, who you were spending Christmas with, the things you saw or did, etc. Then give students time to collect their own ideas before they talk to each other in pairs. With lower levels, one student can ask questions to the other student as prompts, e.g. Where were you? or When was it? Higher levels can have more freedom but encourage and practise the language needed for showing interest (e.g. Really?) and/or the language needed to encourage the speaker to expand on what they are saying, such as That's amazing/interesting. Do you always do that at Christmas?
- My ideal Christmas Day
On the board, write the questions Where are you? Who are you with? What do you do? or Where would you like to be? Who would you like to be with? What would you like to do? depending on the level of your students. Brainstorm some ideas, both realistic or unusual! Then get students to interview other students about their ideal Christmas Day or give them a Find someone who questionnaire, e.g. Find someone who would spend Christmas ... abroad / alone / in a strange place / with lots of people / in a very traditional way. Students can then feedback to the whole class about what they found out.
- The best card/gift
Groups have a selection of cards and gifts (a list or pictures) and a list of people to give gifts to, e.g. their teacher, boyfriend, grandmother ... Ask them to discuss and agree on which card/gift is most suitable for each person and why. An alternative is to choose a card/gift for yourself and say why you like it, then choose a card/gift for someone else in the class and say why you think it is a good choice. That student can say whether it was actually a good choice! Students can then continue in groups. This can be shorter and more controlled so could be used with lower levels.
- Christmas TV
In the UK, there is usually a wide variety of TV programmes on over Christmas, including special episodes of popular series or big blockbuster films, with lots of competition between the TV stations. If this is the case where you are, find the previous/upcoming Christmas Day TV listings for the different channels. It doesn't need to be in English and using the listings for the country where you are helps ensure students know what all the programmes are. Tell students they are all spending Christmas together but they have only have one TV in the house, and no video recorder! In groups they discuss and agree on which programmes they are going to watch and why. Students will need language for agreeing/disagreeing and making compromises! For lower levels, individually they can rank the five programmes they most want to watch, then they can compare their lists with each other and say why they chose each programme. They will need language for types of programmes (film, drama, soap opera, comedy, thriller, animation, etc.) and for describing programmes, e.g. characters, storyline, episode, etc.
- Does Santa exist?
Is it a good idea to encourage children to believe in Santa Claus? How do students feel about this? Is it harmless fun or a cruel hoax to get kids to be good? Did learners believe in Santa when they were younger? If so, when did they discover he didn't exist? If not, do they have something similar in their culture?
- Does Christmas start too early?
In the UK, Christmas shopping starts earlier and earlier each year, and with more and more commercialism. Is it too commercialised? What is Christmas shopping like where your students are from? Has it changed a lot in the past 20 years?
First published 2007; since updated