The Christmas Countdown

If you live and teach in one of the European countries, it’s almost impossible to avoid Christmas-themed lessons. A year ago, when I worked at an academy in Alicante, I was asked to prepare a short Christmas video or project with some of my younger groups. With my Movers group (ages 7-9), we spent about 5 or 6 hours talking about Christmas and preparing for the big video.

Children love Christmas, and no matter how much you try to avoid it, you will have to devote some time to it. What’s a better joy than counting down the days to Christmas? I thought that maybe it’s possible to keep this holiday excitement while learning English. Why don’t you try using an advent calendar that helps you focus on different exercises in each class?

In this free to download version, there are four classroom activities, each one of them written down on a festive card. You can either print out the numbers and glue them to the back of the cards, or you can put them in festive envelopes! If you have a Christmas tree in your classroom, you can hang them and remove one card daily! Ask your students to uncover the task at the beginning of the class and follow this Christmas activity.

As mentioned before, there are four different festive tasks. Let me present them to you and give you my idea of how to use them in class.

Write a letter to Santa

There is no better way of starting December than thinking about the presents! You can ask the kids whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year. If they believe that they’ve been nice, elicit what kind of good things they’ve done. Think of a list of good deeds and move on to the fun part – the presents. You can then put the letters in the envelopes and send them to the North Pole!

Read a Christmas story

Ask your students to read this Christmas classic written by Clement Clark Moore. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is an interesting choice, but fit it to your kids’ needs and abilities. If you find it to be too long, use only one page and move on! Another way of using this poem is asking your students to work in groups and fill in the gaps with the missing words. You can also try choral reading to keep everyone engaged in the activity. The poem is well-known, so you may also want to use a recording to listen to someone else reading it while filling out the missing words.

Make a Christmas ornament

Your classes shouldn’t be only about learning. Aim to bring the students closer together and build a good classroom community. It’s as necessary as studying! Let each of your students choose one out of six available patterns and give them the freedom to decorate them. If you bring markers and glitter, then you can count on having a great time. In the end, decorate your Christmas tree or a classroom. Students love seeing their projects on display.

Listen to Christmas carols

I chose my all-time favourite kids Christmas carol – Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. First, ask the students to match the vocabulary with the pictures to make sure that everyone knows what words we are looking for. Once everyone is clear, use these words to fill in the gaps while listening to the song. Play this Christmas carol, write the missing words and if you have some more time or need to record a video – why don’t you learn it and perform it for the parents?

Here are some of my ideas for an ESL Christmas advent calendar for kids. It’s easy, low-prep, and most importantly, your YL will love choosing the numbers and seeing what kind of fun surprise they’ve got ahead of them. If you are an after-school ESL teacher with two hours a week, this should give you content for two weeks of classes! If you are looking for something longer and more engaging, head to my TpT store to download the full version with eight more activities and over 60 pages of PDF. The activities include the four previously explained and additionally, the Christmas alphabet, solve and create a Christmas jigsaw, design your perfect gingerbread house, write and design a Christmas card, write a Christmas cookie recipe, roll and colour the ornaments, watch and answer questions about Frosty the Snowman and design and hang your own Christmas stocking!

How are you going to celebrate ESL Christmas this year? Click below to download four activities for free!

2 thoughts on “The Christmas Countdown

  1. Hi Joanna

    Thank you for this warm post: yes, brings the winter festive season closer! Here in Lviv, Ukraine we had our first snow today.

    Your activities reminded me of the times at an international language school, where winter festive season was a bit difficult in terms of logistics (teachers going on a break home, and some students leaving for vacation/time off, but some others staying till the New Year, etc.) We invented (or borrowed?) a format for Christmas lesson called ‘stations’: in each room, there is a teacher with a 20-25 min activity, and every 20-25 min the group of students moves a room, and you repeat the same thing with new students. What needs to be coordinated is the time (so that no-one had to wait in the hallway) and the exact activities (so that you did not have 2 songs and 3 crafts, for example). Other than that, lots of fun, and less prep 🙂

    (I have always wanted to write a post about it, but never managed to, so decided to leave this idea if your readers may use it in the coming season).

    Warmly,
    Zhenya

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Zhenya! Thank you for your comment 😀

      I’m quite jealous that you’re getting to experience snow right now. Here in Altea, Spain, there are no chances of seeing that happen. I’m seeing my family in Poland soon, so I hope that it won’t melt before then!

      You know what? It has never crossed my mind that you can organise this activity in this way! 🤦 That sounds so exciting to do in the form of stations, and for sure, time flies when you do it.

      Thank you so much for this inspiration. I need to explore the topic of stations a bit more. I would love to read about your experience. I hope you’ll find some time and motivation to write about it one day.

      Liked by 1 person

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