Last Minute Christmas Ideas For Your ESL Classroom!

The countdown is on! 18 days left before Christmas ^^

You can feel the chill in the air….a light dusting of snow here and there….you can see Christmas decorations and Christmas tree….you can feel the holiday spirit all around you… have made plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day……you can’t wait….and just as you are imagining how you want to get a head start on Christmas Eve and beat the holiday crowd you realize you have arrived at your hagwon… soon as you enter you are told that the boss would like to see you…you walk into the bosses office where you are given a list of things you are expected to do for the special Christmas event on Christmas Eve……you are sure you heard your boss wrong….your boss did not say ‘Christmas Eve’….you politely inquire about the day and are shocked to learn that it is INDEED on Christmas Eve….apart from the fact that you are disappointed and feel miserable…what with the fact that you have to work on Christmas Eve…you are stuck as to what to do in your classes that day….you don’t have a special lesson plan for Christmas!

Unbelievable as this may sound to westerners, this is a reality in Korea. If you are teaching English at a hagwon, you probably will have to work on Christmas Eve if it falls on a weekday.  Many new English teachers don’t know this and are angry and frustrated when they have to change their plans at the last minute or come up with special Christmas lessons that they did not prepare for. If you are in such a predicament, Don’t worry! The cavalry is here!

In this post, I will talk about a few ideas and Christmas lessons that I’ve tried over the years and they work fabulously! Since many institutes teach multiple age groups, I will talk about ideas and activities for each age group separately.

Ok here it goes:

Christmas ideas for kiddy classes:

Christmas cards: This is a very easy and fun activity. You will need construction paper (I used red and green), color pencils, glitter glue, scissors and glue. I printed some Christmas coloring pages from the Internet. I had students choose their favorite, color it and then cut and paste it on the construction paper. Once that was done I let the kids decorate it using the glitter glue however they wanted. Once it was dried out we wrote Christmas messages and the kids could bring their cards home. This activity works especially well for a class with female students. In my experience little girls loved this activity and were very creative. The boys had fun but it was not due to the fact that they made the cards it was because they got to throw the supplies at each other and play with the glue! Lol..

Pin the nose on Rudolph: you guessed it right! This is a take on ‘pin the tail on the cat’. Since ‘pin the tail’ was such a huge hit with my kiddies (boys included) I decided to change it up a bit and use Rudolph instead. Put a picture of a nose-less Rudolf on the wall, blindfold the students, spin them around and see if they can pin a red nose in the right place. The student or team that pins it correctly or the closest wins a prize or points.

Christmas word search: This is another good filler activity. Make a Christmas word search using or if you are not feeling up to it you can use the web to search for an already prepared worksheet. I like making my own since I find that it is a good way to review the vocabulary we learned in class.

Decorate the Christmas tree: Cut out a large Christmas tree shape from construction paper and pin to a wall in the classroom. Students create decorations, ornaments and wrapped presents from craft paper, and then glue them to the tree. You can get the template for Christmas tree, decorations and ornaments online.

Christmas ideas for middle and high schoolers:

This is the most challenging group to please. We have all been there and know that when you are a teenager you don’t want to do anything, you just want to be left alone. So in my personal experience I’ve found that with this age group more interactive activities work the best.

Story telling: Give the students prompts to begin a Christmas story: “Sally took the last batch of gingerbread cookies from the oven. Suddenly,…” etc.

Debate/ Discussion: This is similar to storytelling activity. Give the students a topic for example:  “Is Christmas more about shopping than the birth of Jesus these days?; Describe a Christmas memory from your childhood; What is Christmas really about? “ etc. and discuss. Or give them a debate topic. For example: ‘Christmas should not be a national holiday’ or ‘Children on the naughty list should not get presents’. Divide the students in groups. One group ‘for’ and another ‘against’. Once that’s done give them 10 minutes to prepare their arguments and then let the good times roll!

Christmas carols: This is a Listening activity. Have the students listen to a Christmas carol and talk about the words or sentences they can hear. Next give them the lyrics printout and have them sing along. Another variation is, instead of giving them all the lyrics make it like a ‘fill in the blanks’ worksheet. Have the students listen to the carol several times until they fill all the blanks, then have them sing the carol.

Christmas crossword: This is a good speaking activity. Divide the students in pairs of two. Give each pair of students 2 Handouts. A and B. Explain that Handout A has the clues and answers for the words that are going across, and Handout B has the clues and answers for the words that are going down. Ask the students to keep their paper a secret and to not show their partner.The students’ task is to explain one word at a time to their partner without saying the word. Their partner must guess the correct word.Students take it in turns to explain the words to each other until both students have finished the crossword.After the students have finished, they can give their papers to the teacher to check their answers. The team that get all the answers correct wins.

Christmas quiz: Have a Christmas trivia quiz. You can make your own questions or get them online. You can divide the students in teams. You can adjust the difficulty level based on the level of the students. Winning team can get a small present or candies.

Christmas activities for adult ESL learners:

We all know it’s a fun and exciting time for kids but don’t leave your adult ESL learners out! They maybe old but remember:

‘there’s a child in all of us no matter what the numbers may say’ (Angie Karan Krezos)

Adults may not have coloring pages or crosswords but they will enjoy a fun Christmas lesson just the same :)

Christmas celebrations and customs around the world: We all know that learning about cultural traditions is an important aspect of learning a language. Get a printout about Christmas traditions around the world. Read about the various customs in the class. Ask students what they usually do during the holiday season, how they prepare for Christmas, and what they do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Do they know about Christmas celebrations in other countries? Which countries? Are they very different from American or European customs? Have they ever been to any country where it was hot, and there was no snow for Christmas? Also remember to go over the key vocabulary words.

Christmas video: watch a Christmas video with your students. The video can be about Christmas traditions or you can even watch a clip from a movie or tv program about Christmas. After watching the video, talk about the video clip and go over the key vocabulary words and expressions.

Secret Santa: This is a perfect game for your ESL Christmas party. Write each student’s name on a slip of paper, then have students draw a name. They can’t get their own name. Students must buy a present for the person whose name they chose. I usually set a low price limit for example 5,000 won. Students bring the wrapped present, with the recipient’s name on it. I usually have my students bring the presents in 3 or 4 days before the party. During the party, everyone gets their presents. The students can open up their presents and guess who their secret Santa was.

The magic of Christmas: What makes Christmas magical for you? Talk about things that are most fun or meaningful with your students. Here are some categories: food, presents, family, lights, shopping, alcohol, church, no work, no school etc.

Christmas Potluck : Have a fun Christmas potluck party with your adult students. This is not only a great way to introduce your culture but also a great way to built rapport. We all know that food is a great way to bring people together. You can do a lesson about traditional holiday food before the potluck. This can help students with proper vocabulary and phrases. Have everyone bring some food for the potluck and have a great time mingling culture and food.

Christmas Party: If you are not into potluck, why not go out and have a Christmas celebratory party with your students. Korea offers a plethora of restaurants and bars. Take your pick, go out and have fun.

The time leading up to Christmas is exciting. These ESL based Christmas activities can help you bring some of that Christmas excitement and holiday spirit into your classroom. Remember Christmas is a time for cheer and wonder. Enjoy it! Even though some of you (me included) maybe working on Christmas Eve, be sure to have fun!

Merry Christmas!

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