Christmas is an exciting time for students all over the world. It’s a time of cheer, friendship and many, many, cultural and traditional staples. So it simply has to be a major topic in our English classes.

In this article, I’ll share with you some of my favourite Christmas activities which you can do in your classes.

Of course, not everywhere celebrates Christmas. In many countries, it does not enter the cultural sphere, but that shouldn’t put you off! While respecting local traditions, you can teach your students about the joy of Christmas and the different ways that people celebrate it across the globe.

  1. Paper snowflakes
  2. Christmas wishes
  3. 12 Days of Christmas song
  4. Christmas jokes
  5. Word Tree

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1. Paper snowflakes

As a fun, creative activity right before Christmas, I love making origami snowflakes. They’re easy enough for kids to make without much issue, and look great!

All you need are scissors and white paper, although if you can get square construction paper, that would be best. If not, you can cut some A4 sheets to size. Find out how to make the snowflakes in the video below – maybe show this same video to your students while you explain verbally.

For younger kids, the step of folding into thirds can be quite tricky (I find it hard to get exactly right), so you may have to help them with it.

Oh, and be warned – there will be thousands of little bits of paper all over the place at the end, so leave time to clean up at the end of class!

What I love most about this activity is the different creative designs students can make. They can share the patterns they cut. Just be aware that once students have learned the technique, there’s not much need for English any more.

2. Christmas wishes

At Christmas, it’s typical to make wishes, either for a particular present or more general hopes and dreams about your life and the world around you. And they’re a great for practicing a bit of gentle writing in class.

Get students to write a Christmas wish on a small piece of paper. What the wish is depends on your students: kids will certainly wish for different things to adults!

Then you have a couple of options. First, send the wishes out into the world by burning them (be careful!) or placing them in a mystery wish box (works best with young kids). Second, read out the wishes anonymously. This involves students folding their wishes up and putting them in a shared box. Mix them up, then get everyone to draw one and read it out.

Obviously, the most important part is the writing itself. Capable students will be able to write several wishes in a short amount of time – let them! Teach them the structure of sentences starting with “I wish”, which could even include wishes about the past that require the subjunctive.

3. 12 Days of Christmas song

You know the song: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree!” It repeats 12 times, every time adding something extra on the end. It’s a classic, and ripe for use in English classes.

For lower level and younger students, just teaching them the song, what the words mean and getting them to sing it is enough.

But for more advanced students who can handle it, get them to write their own version of the song. They can do it about a particular theme, or just use general vocab. It’s quite a challenge to get certain lines to rhyme. Like the first day has to rhyme with tree, and the fifth day (five gold rings) has to fit the rhythm so you can sing it the right way.

In writing this song, students practise language skills they don’t normally exercise, and they can be creative. When it’s all put together, enjoy singing their silly twist on a classic!

4. Christmas jokes

In several anglophone countries, including the UK, Christmas dinner isn’t complete without the pulling of a cracker, the donning of a flimsy paper hat and the reading of some of the worst jokes known to humanity.

I’ve heard the jokes inside the crackers are designed to be so basic and cringeworthy so that everyone understands them and nobody feels left out. A noble aim, and ideal for us because we can use them in ESL classes.

Think along the lines of “Who is Santa’s favourite singer?… Elf-is Presley!” or “Why didn’t the ghost go to the party? He had nobody to go with!”

Awful, I know, but they highlight little quirks and puns within the English language. Sharing them with English students helps them create connections between the different meanings of words and spellings. And who knows, you might get a few laughs!

5. Word tree

This is a vocab elicitation or review activity in which students write lots of words and put them on a communal tree. The tree itself can be an actual Christmas tree, if you can get hold of one, but it’s also fine just to have a big picture of one. The words are going to be the decorations on the tree.

Pick a vocab category. This could quite simply be Christmas things, or something you’re studying in class. Students write a bunch of words from the category on little slips of paper, then stick or hang those slips on the tree.

For extra artistic enjoyment, students can cut out the shapes of little baubles and tinsel strips, write the words on them, then decorate them with colours. In the end, you’ll have a lovely tree adorned with dozens, or even hundreds, of learned words.

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Wherever you celebrate Christmas, you can make it an enjoyable and memorable part of your English teaching. While a lot of activities are meant for children, you can certainly adapt them for adults.

Use your imagination and creativity to come up with variations of these ideas that are specifically tailored for your students. And enjoy yourself! After all, that’s what Christmas is all about – spending a lovely time with lovely people.

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