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The Christmas tree

Average: 4.3 (10 votes)

This is a seasonal information-gap activity to practise listening and speaking with young learners. The activity requires children to describe and organise objects in a picture according to their partner's instructions.

Simon Smith

The finished product provides both them and you with good feedback on their ability to communicate. It also gives children the chance to practise simple vocabulary, cardinal numbers and to give simple instructions. The activity requires some preparation before you use it in class, but the materials can be used again in other classes.

Before the lesson, print one worksheet per learner and cut out the tree and either the presents or decorations. You may find it helpful to keep the sets in separate envelopes. Alternatively, the learners could cut them up themselves.


  • Show pictures of the presents or decorations and make sure that everyone knows how to say them. Explain that now they are going to put them on a Christmas tree. Pre-teach the word 'branch'. Write the frame 'Put the … on branch …'
  • Place two chairs at the front of the class. They should be side by side, but facing different directions. Choose a child and ask him or her to sit on one chair, while you sit on the other. This means that you can see each other if you look sideways, but that you cannot see each other's tree. Also make sure you are both sitting sideways on to the class, so that everyone can see and hear you. Explain that you are going to work together to give an example of how to do the activity to the rest of the class.
  • Take two sets of the Christmas tree and the presents/decorations. Give the child one set, and keep one for yourself. You might also find it useful to use a book to balance the tree and presents/decorations on. 
  • Choose a present/decoration and put it on a branch. For example, if you put the jigsaw puzzle on branch 7, tell your partner 'Put the jigsaw puzzle on branch 7'. Your partner can ask for clarification if they need it, but they cannot look at your tree. Then your partner chooses an item, puts it on a branch, and gives you their instruction. You and your partner continue to take turns until all eight branches are filled.
  • Now show each other your trees to check that they look the same.
  • After this demonstration, ask children to work in pairs and do the same. Give them the sets of trees and presents or decorations, and monitor. If some children finish very quickly, they can start the activity again. There are eight branches and only six presents/decorations to add an element of choice to the activity.
  • Provide feedback on children's work, highlighting anything they did well as a class as well as any areas they need to work on for next time.


  • Fewer branches on the tree, or fewer presents/decorations.
  • Children decide on their own presents as a class. They draw or bring pictures of these for you to copy.
  • At a higher level, you can remove the numbers, and ask learners to practise phrases such as 'first branch on the left', 'third branch on the right', etc. This can be especially challenging, as pairs may need to establish the perspective they are talking from in order to agree on left and right, first and second, and so on.
  • Use different topics, for example people in a street scene, school objects on a desk, clothes on a washing line, etc. 
Language level
Language Level: 
Primary level 2