Christmas classroom ideas for ESL teachers

by Craig Martin /
Craig Martin's picture
Dec 05, 2008 / 4 comments

With term time winding down, English teachers are rightly beginning to look towards Christmas for classroom plans and inspiration. Here are some starting points for creating solid lesson plans this Christmas.

Christmas Classroom ideas for ESL Teachers

Decoration vocabulary

With streamers and lights; baubles and ribbons; snowmen and Santa; nativity scenes and Christmas trees, there's plenty of specialist vocabulary that can help your students navigate the holiday season. This will come in especially useful for students spending their Christmas period away from home.

Nothing beats realia, so before you decorate your tree at home, bring that box of "stuff" into the classroom. With a little bit of pre-teaching you're ready for a holiday round of "What's in my box"

This can be followed up with a "design your own Christmas tree" where students work in groups to draw a decorated tree. After judging the "best" tree (most original, most traditional, etc)  award bonus points for every item they can correctly label. Check and revise these vocab items.
If your school has coughed up for a decoration budget, you're now able to put this plan into use. The group should designate one person as head decorator and that person comes to the front of the class to be given a box of supplies. Team members take turns to come and ask for each item and — with your diligent monitoring — only releases each item when it's correctly requested.

The Bible Stories and Christmas myths

We can work with the Bible Stories and Christmas myths in the same way we deal with most narrative: reading activities, vocabulary, comprehension, role plays…the list goes on. Here's an idea that can be scaled for various levels:
Find a cartoon or manga version of the Bible and photocopy the section about Jesus's birth. You might want to alter the speech bubbles to level-appropriate language. Cut the story up into suitable narrative chunks and write one or two sentence synopsis of each chunk. This information-matching exercise can lead to writing questions for other students or groups. If your class is creative they can prepare and perform role plays based on the text. Of course, you don't have to use the Biblical text: try other Christmas stories like St Nicholas or Good King Wenceslas.

Working with carols

Retail outlets will be playing them, students will be humming them...why not try to understand them! Work with carols like any other music-based text:

      Gap fills
      Ordering mixed sentences
      Vocabulary and comprehension exercises
      Genre play: reworking the song into a rap, rock opera, etc.
      Transformation: re-writing the text into a novel or poem.
      IPA awareness: Write the carol in phonetic script and give each student a line to decode. They should stand up when they hear their line.

       Multimedia: creating a music video.

Working with video

Thinking of video there are several Christmas movies released each year. You must be able to find one to work with! A favourite tool of mine is the Mr Bean Christmas special. Love him or hate him, he's a useful resource!
There's a scene were Mr Bean is playing around with the Christmas decorations in a large shopping centre. After doing decoration vocabulary and watching some of the show, line up enough chairs for half the class facing away from the TV. The rest of the class should stand opposite their partners and looking towards the TV. Play the sequence with the volume muted and the standing students should describe what is happening to their partners. This can be scaled from elementary ("He has a...") to fluency levels.


Community time

We'd love to hear your ideas for Christmas resources and lesson plans. Please share...


Read more here on Wandering Educators

Celebrating Christmas in the ESL Classroom




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