The science of attraction – C1 listening

February is such a cold month associated with such a warm day! In this class, let’s talk about the truth behind physical attraction to another person while following the audio version of a TED-Ed video. The video talks about the science of attraction and explains all the fuzzy, gooey feelings we may get when meeting someone new.

So it happened. I fell into a rabbit hole of TED-Ed videos! After basing an A2+ lesson plan on the Chinese Zodiac, I started wondering if I can find something to show to my students on Valentine’s Day. Initially, I wanted to do a scientific class explaining how the heart works – a young learners lesson plan. But then I found a video called The science of attraction and got hooked almost right away.

This year my main focus is on C1 Cambridge exam preparation. That’s why I thought I should turn this TED-Ed video into a CAE listening part 2 task. Scroll to the end of this post to get the lesson plan and the presentation (with answers) for free!

Start the class by writing in the middle of the board – Why are we attracted to certain people and not others? Give a minute to think about different reasons and take five answers from different students. Write them around the question, so that it resembles the speaking part 3 exam task. Divide students into pairs and give them 2 minutes to discuss and decide which of these options is the most probable and why. If you teach 1:1 or have a bit weaker group, you can present them with the diagram below to discuss. Collect answers and provide feedback.

Divide students into groups or pairs and ask them to think about the five main components of attraction. If you want to make it a bit easier or ensure that the answers don’t repeat from the lead-in, you can say that they are all related to the human body. Once everyone has their predicted answers, play the audio of the TED-Ed video. I would recommend NOT showing the video, as it contains a lot of visuals that will give away the answers right away and may be more distracting rather than useful. Play the whole video and check the answers. The answers are eyes (sight), nose (smell), ears (hearing), touch and taste.

Now would be the best time to go over any new words that students heard while listening for gist. If you think that none of the words should impede the understanding of listening for detail, you can move on to the next part.

If it’s the first time doing this type of exercise, you can explain that it is based on CAE – listening part 2, in which students need to listen to a longer recording and fill out the gaps with the missing words. Tell them that they should write between one to three words, and any misspelt words will not count to their point count. They should write what they hear – not synonyms!

Proceed by reading a short text with nine gaps. Give students about 40 seconds to read the text and then play the recording one more time. Students write down the answer and compare them with each other. In case of any issues, play the recording one last time, just like in the exam. Alternatively, you can show the video with the transcript for better understanding.

Follow up the video/recording with a short discussion. Do your students agree with the notion that attraction is purely biological? What about people falling in love over the internet? What does love mean to them?

Click the links below to download the files for free.

Valentine’s Day-themed C1 speaking

There are only a few days left until Valentine’s Day. Why not take a breather from exam preparation, and talk about something that all teens and young adults love – love. If you want to talk about romance and everything related, have a look at this no preparation Cambridge C1 exam speaking practice.

One of my favourite things to do is themed speaking exams. In my continuously growing series, you can find Halloween – B2 and Christmas – B1Finally, the time has come to give some fun to advanced students.

Just like any other Cambridge speaking exam, the one for CAE students is made of four parts – talking about personal details, picture comparison, discussion on a random topic and opinion-based questions. This lesson consists of the examiner’s speaking guide (I followed the steps given in the C1 Sample Papers 1) and a presentation that can be used in online and hybrid lessons.

I like to follow the steps of the speaking exam, but at the same time, keep it quite relaxed. If you want to keep it more formal, you can start this exam by asking students about their names and where they live. Even though in the actual exam students don’t need to spell anything, I normally start this task by giving them eight new advanced words. It’s a good way to introduce topic related words while refreshing the alphabet. The new words are: betrothed, courtship, devotion, embrace, heartthrob, smitten, yearning and woo. Students should be familiar with some of them. Finish this part by asking about Valentine’s Day experience and how people normally celebrate this day in their countries.

In part 2, candidates need to compare two out of three pictures and answer two questions in one minute. Of course, since it’s a special day, you may want to allow them to practise their fluency and natural speaking, instead of focusing on the time limit. The first set of pictures shows people celebrating Valentine’s Day in three different ways, having a romantic dinner, going hiking and going to a couple’s massage (a SPA day). Candidate A discusses why the people might be celebrating Valentine’s Day in these ways and how they might be feeling. The second set of pictures shows people receiving Valentine’s Day gifts, an engagement ring, flowers and chocolates, and breakfast in bed. Candidate B talks about why the people might choose to give such presents and how they may bring happiness to the gift receivers.

Now it’s time for students to talk to each other. Ask a question why do people may choose to decide not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, surrounded by five prompt answers: public display of affection (PDA), celebrating love every day, religion, consumerism, too expensive. Give two minutes to discuss the option and then ask students to decide which of these reasons is the most significant to them.

Finish speaking exam with opinion-based questions on Valentine’s Day. I tried to keep the questions as light-hearted as possible. After all, you want to have fun and not stress your students or create any conflict!

Since the topic of love and relationships can be quite controversial and intrusive, I think that choosing to do this class will depend on the country and its culture. I teach in Spain where discussing relationships isn’t problematic. Another thing is to keep it age-appropriate. I would suggest this lesson for teenagers and young adults – minimum 15 years old. Younger students may find it annoying, not relevant and intrusive. Remember that the main objective of this class is for students to have a day off, so if they choose not to answer a question (especially from Part 1), should be understood.

Click below to download the examiner’s notes and the C1 speaking presentation.

What fills your heart?

The day of love is swiftly coming our way and there’s no way but celebrate it – especially with the young students! The trick is that young learners don’t think about love romantically, and I think that there is no better day to show them that there are so many different types of love. All need to be celebrated equally.

A year ago, I entered my Movers class and asked them if they were excited about the upcoming Valentine’s Day. To my surprise, they couldn’t care less and were almost disgusted by it. That’s because they thought about it as a holiday you celebrate with your boyfriend/girlfriend. I couldn’t disagree more! I started researching activities that we could do to celebrate this occasion and take some rest from the coursebook. Let me show you a few of the activities that we did that day, and let’s hope that they’ll serve as inspiration for your classes this year.

The mystery sentence

This activity can be done in person, online, or hybrid. Show students a mystery picture covered by fifteen numbered boxes. Each box has a Valentine’s Day vocabulary definition attached to it. If students answer correctly, click on the box to remove it. You can make it into a game by dividing students into pairs or small groups. The first group to decipher the mystery sentence hiding behind the picture wins!

If you want to make this game a bit more random, you can put the numbers on a wheel of fortune (Wheel of names is an excellent and free online tool to do that), or cut them out and put the numbers in a box, so the students have no way of choosing the number they want! You can also keep a tally of correct answers and determine the winner in this way.

You can follow up this activity with a short discussion on Valentine’s Day. Ask about the date when we celebrate this day and what we normally do (give presents or flowers, say I love you to people we love, spend this day with people we care about). Ensure that students understand that this is the day to show our appreciation for everyone and everything we love.

Match the halves of broken hearts

You can do this activity after the first one, or it can be a stand-alone exercise. Print out the worksheet with pictures of broken hearts on it. Each piece has a part of a word that needs to be matched with the other half. Cut them out and give them to each student or pair. Students put the words together and glue them in an appropriate order. If they love arts and crafts, they can also colour and decorate their hearts. Additionally, you can ask them to put them in alphabetical order before sticking them onto the paper.

Reinforce the meanings of the words by filling the gaps in the sentences with these words. Students work individually and write down the words. Practise reading and pronunciation while checking the answers. Optionally, ask your students to write two or three other sentences if you feel that they need some more writing practice.

What fills your heart?

As I said before, I wanted to prove to my students that Valentine’s Day isn’t only about a romantic type of love. After endless research for the perfect activity, I found a Heart Map Writing Activity by Elisabeth Montgomery. Click the link to download the worksheet for free! You can approach this activity in a few ways, depending on how much time you’ve got on your hands.

  1. Print out My Heart Maps and in each piece write things that they love (people, things, animals, activities, places, etc.) Anything that comes to their minds! Students draw the things and decorate the hearts.
  2. Print out My Heart Maps and cut out the pieces. Each student receives nine pieces of the heart and writes down in each one the things they love. Once everyone completes the writing part, ask them to put the puzzle together in the shape of the heart. Students put the puzzle and glue it onto a separate piece of paper. Complete the project by drawing the things they love and decorating their hearts.
  3. If you work online, you can create a google drive document, or a jamboard and put the name of each student on top of each slide. Students write the things they love and decorate their hearts by drawing them or finding appropriate pictures on the internet and pasting them onto their hearts.

The PDF by Elisabeth Montgomery also gives a short follow-up idea for a writing activity. Students write a few sentences describing people, things, places and activities they drew in their Heart Maps. Monitor the activity and help with any grammar problems. You can finish the class by displaying their Map Hearts and writings.

Last year, I was teaching a hybrid class, so I had to approach it a bit differently. Firstly, I drew a big heart on the board and asked students what fills their hearts. I collected their answers and wrote them inside of the heart. Then I asked them to personalize their projects. My in-class students got a printed out version of the heart, pencils, crayons and markers to write down their words and decorate the hearts. My online students (I had two at the time), were shown a presentation split into two parts. Each part had a heart on one side and their names on top to avoid confusion. They used an annotation tool on Zoom to write the things and then drew and coloured each part.

All the activities can be downloaded directly from this post or the Teachers pay teachers store – Valentine’s Day – a set of three activities and Valentine’s Day – A mystery sentence PPT.

Here are some ideas that you can use in your young learners class! Your kids will definitely appreciate a much-needed break from using their textbooks and thinking about what they truly love and enjoy in their lives. How are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in your class?

2022 – The year of the Tiger

I’m not one to obsess over zodiac signs and how accurately they can define our personalities. However, I enjoy reading my horoscope from time to time and seeing how accurate it is. I think that everyone is quite familiar with the Western zodiac, and believe it or not, zodiac signs tend to come up in conversations every now and then! What about the Chinese zodiac, though? The Chinese New Year is approaching, so why not take this opportunity and learn something about this beautiful culture?

Last year I had a chance to prepare a class on the Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. In that A2+ class, we watched a TED-Ed video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac, learnt the origin of the zodiac signs and based on our personality traits, we tried to predict which sign best suits us. The class was a success! It brought a lot of laughter as we found out what animal best defines each one of us. We also referred to each other by the animal until the end of the class!

You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post!

Start the class by writing – Happy New Year! Since it’s already late January / early February, your students will be confused and have questions about it. Say that you know of celebrations happening on the 31st December and the year starting on the 1st January. You can talk about different celebratory traditions that you have in your country and how your students celebrated this year. Proceed by saying that the new year is celebrated differently in other parts of the world. If your students haven’t guessed that you’re referring to the Chinese New Year, you may give some clues. Write that the Chinese New Year is celebrated in February. Write _____ February 2022 and elicit the correct date (answer: 1st February 2022).

Ask about students’ dates of birth and elicit their Western zodiacs. Say that in the Asian culture, the zodiacs are a bit different. Show pictures of the Chinese zodiac (out of order) and ask to write the English names of the animals. Check the answers. Say that, unlike in the Western culture, the zodiac signs change once a year. This year we are celebrating The year of the ______. Students guess the animal (answer: Tiger).

Zodiac signs appear in a specific order that was decided based on the race. Put students into pairs/small groups and ask them to predict the order in which the animals came in. Check the answers and ask to justify their orders. Watch the video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac (0:00 – 2:15) and see if their predictions were correct (answer: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig).

Before watching the video again, this time in its entirety, go over the multiple-choice questions from the TED-Ed website – The myth behind the Chinese zodiac by Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen. Explain any new words if necessary. Students watch the video and answer the questions. Check and explain the answers.

Look at the animals one more time and ask students to think about the personality traits that come to mind. Do students believe zodiac signs define our personalities? Show vocabulary describing character traits and ask students to choose two that best describe them. Reveal the signs associated with each trait. Check students dates of birth and together discover their Chinese zodiac. Look at the personality traits one more time, this time looking at the ones associated with their zodiacs. Do they agree with these descriptions? Why (not)?

Finish the class by doing the craft. Students draw their Chinese zodiac and write a maximum of five sentences talking about their actual personality traits with explanations.

Happy New Year! I hope that your students will enjoy this class as much as mine did!

Your year in preview

Let’s forget about the past and start looking into the future! In my time teaching, I’ve taught the New Year’s resolutions class one too many times! That’s why I decided to switch it up just a notch. This year I dove into 2022 predictions about the world. I mean, the world is so unstable right now that it’s so interesting seeing what your students think may happen in 2022.

My last post was a short B1 lesson plan on happiness vs months fluctuation – Your year in review. This post is about the world predictions for 2022. Due to the difficult nature of this topic, this class is designed for older C1+ students.

Since most of my classes are done online, I decided to prepare lessons in this format. At the end of the blog post, you can download the lesson plan, the presentation (with the answers) and the jigsaw reading (divided into Student A, Student B, Student C and Student D).

In a true ESL teacher fashion, I scoured the internet to find the perfect and, of course, reputable article on 2022 predictions. That’s when I found The ideas and arguments that will define the next 12 months by the Washington Post. What drew my attention was that the article is divided into a bunch of shorter extracts, each centred around a different topic. Out of so many of them, I picked out four:

  • Climate change will keep getting worse. Our response won’t cut it.
  • The art world will learn to love the blockchain.
  • Fancy restaurants and casual chains will thrive. The places in between won’t.
  • The economy will see uncomfortable – but not crisis-level – inflation.

I decided to go with those because they had one thing in common – a title in Future Simple. I don’t think it’s necessary to revise Future Simple with a group of advanced students, but there are times when it may be useful to briefly go over the tense for uncertain future and predictions.

The class starts by discussing our 2021 predictions (personal or global) and checking if they came true. Since the lesson deals with rather impersonal topics, I wanted to allow the students to talk about themselves first. It’s also a good way of checking their mental state at the end of this tough year and whether they think that 2022 will be better (or worse!) in any way.

After the initial discussion, look at the four pictures associated with the four reading topics and predict their themes or headlines! Once you finish this part, show the actual headlines and quickly match them with the pictures. If you notice that students had some problems using Future Simple in the initial discussion, now would be a good time to analyse the titles and go over the uses and structure of this tense. However, since it is a class for advanced learners, this most likely will be optional.

That is when the fun starts! The texts are quite complex, long and with many complicated words that it is essential to divide the students into smaller groups or pairs. In this way, students can read texts together, analyse any vocabulary and answer eight questions. Don’t forget to mention that all students need to write their short answers as they will be needed in the next part! Mix the students, so that Students A are with Students B, and Students C are with Students D. Students use their notes to tell each other about their texts. Make sure that they don’t just read the answers and actually try to tell a story.

Here’s the twist. It has always bothered me that learners want to do their tasks as quickly as possible and then get into hibernation mode (= look at each other and stop listening). That’s why once everyone is done telling each other about their texts, put them one more time in their original pairs. Give each pair a set of questions about the texts they were just told about and ask them to answer them from memory! I guarantee that students will feel immediately awake, but will have fun by inventing the answers.

The last part of this reading and listening task is to retell other students the story they were told about by going over the answers. The students who originally read the predictions, correct any misunderstandings and errors. Finish with a general discussion on said topics and elicit their opinions. Do they agree or disagree with the headlines? What will happen in 2022? Do they have any predictions for their countries?

As always, click the links below to download the files!

Your year in review

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a lovely winter break and enjoyed your time off work. When everyone else is planning their resolutions and different ways of achieving them, why don’t we look back at 2021 and analyse it month by month. I present you with a lesson plan for adults, levels A2/B1, which not only helps us think about the last year but should also put things into perspective.

While I was thinking of different ways of approaching this topic, when I stumbled upon Lesson idea: Using graphs to tell a story, a blog post by Emily Bryson ELT. I decided to plot the level of happiness vs the months of the year. And let me tell you, this was probably one of the most challenging years of my life.

This lesson consists of a plan and a worksheet that can be downloaded for free at the end of the post. Obviously, our years are so distinct that you need to make a personalized version of it. That’s why I included the editable worksheet that allows you to put your graph and events accordingly.

Start the class by drawing the graph without explaining the meaning of axes. If you teach online, you can either prepare your graphs beforehand (just like I did!), or quickly draw them on a digital whiteboard, such as Web Whiteboard. Keep in mind that drawing freehand on a digital whiteboard isn’t going to be as smooth as you would like!

Ask students to guess what the graph represents and predict the meaning of each axis. Since it is almost impossible to guess this correctly, give your student a hint and point out that the X-axis is divided into 12 parts.

The twelve points should give your students some idea that they indicate the months of the year. Now all they need to do is predict the meaning of the Y-axis. Let students brainstorm for a while and collect their ideas. Elicit that the Y-axis represents the happiness level / how good or bad the month was.

Show students 12 events that happened to you last year. Students match the events with the months. Tell them a short story about your year and check the answers. As I mentioned before, my year was not all that perfect. Here is a list of my events:

  • I went to visit my family for the first time in 1.5 years.
  • I recovered and came back to work.
  • I finished my one year contract and started my blog!
  • I had a serious accident and couldn’t walk for three weeks.
  • I decided to start working on my own.
  • I visited my family again and took a break from work and problems.
  • I was informed that I couldn’t return to the academy I’d worked a year before.
  • I rested, got a haircut and felt motivated to come back to work.
  • I started planning my website.
  • I earned money from my website and worksheets!
  • It was a lot harder to work on my own and find students than I’d anticipated.
  • Spring increased my productivity and creativity. I felt motivated to work and think.

I decided to focus my year in review on professional development and mental health. These two topics are quite hard to deal with, so I wouldn’t have this class with younger students. You can easily change your perspective depending on the level and age of your students! The sky is the limit!

After sharing your story, you may want to refresh the memory and go over the use and forms of Past Simple and Past Perfect.

It’s time for your students to work on their own. Students think about their 2021 and plot their graphs. Ask them to write 12 events associated with each month in random order. Students exchange their work and put the events in chronological order. Then everyone shares their 2021 with the rest of the group. It’s that easy!

Thank you, Emily, for the inspiration. It was so much fun playing around with the graphs. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which we will deal with the future and the upcoming year 2022!

Christmas themed B1 speaking

The stress of the exam preparation doesn’t take any days off. That’s why when you want to take a breather and spend some fun and quality time with your B1 students, you may want to kill two birds with one stone. Have a chat about Christmas time, while practising all parts of the PET speaking exam.

Following one of my most popular posts on exam preparation, Halloween themed B2 speaking, I decided to go with the flow and prepare something quite similar – this time focusing on future PET candidates. This class will hopefully reduce the stress of the exam preparation and at the same time, will help your students get into the Christmas mood! However, keep in mind that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so if you teach in an international environment with many mixed religions, maybe it’s best to skip this one for the sake of the students who can’t relate to this holiday.

This class is made of two files: the examiner’s guide notes with the examiner’s speaking script, four Christmassy pictures for speaking part 2 and two scenarios for the discussion in part 3. You can also get all the prompts for speaking part 2 and part 3 as a PDF presentation for those of you who teach online or want to save some paper! All the files are available to download for free at the end of the post!

Just like in the previous festive speaking activity, this class requires no preparation time. All you need to do is download and/or print the files! That easy. I would still encourage you to keep this class under a little bit less strict exam conditions, just because it’s Christmas. You want to make this class educational while keeping it light and fun!

B1 students often struggle with basic spelling. That’s why in speaking part 1, students are asked to spell out some of the trickier Christmas related words, such as a wreath, myrrh or a bauble. The purpose of this part is not only to practise spelling, as some of the words may be new and useful in the following speaking parts. All the pictures supporting vocabulary are included in the PDF presentation. This part is followed by a set of personal questions about Christmas. The questions were inspired by an authentic speaking script and range from asking about family celebrations and traditions to talking about the best Christmas presents.

In speaking part 2, each student is asked to describe a photograph for about a minute. Under normal circumstances, there are two pictures included in this part. I put four different photographs to keep this part more engaging and versatile. All you need to do is read the script, show the pictures and time your students. The photos show a family eating Christmas dinner, a family dressing the Christmas tree, a family exchanging gifts and people walking around the Christmas market. It will ensure that you get to cover a whole range of festive vocabulary!

Speaking part 3 consists of two tasks, so the students will get a chance to listen to two completely different discussions. The first one asks students to think about the most nutritious snack for Santa Claus. The second task asks students to discuss the best Christmas present for Santa Claus. Both are light-hearted and will surely spark some interesting and creative discussions. So read out the script, put two minutes on the clock and enjoy the creativity.

In the last part of speaking, students are asked to discuss their opinions regarding Christmas time. I tried making them interesting and thought-provoking. Students need to express their opinions on topics such as Is it important for children to believe in Santa Claus? Is Christmas too commercialised? or What is your opinion of changing Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays? Even though some of the questions may seem to be quite invasive and controversial, try to keep them easy and light. Christmas is the time of uniting, not dividing!

If you haven’t thought of a good lesson for your future PET candidates, feel free to download all the files below! Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a sustainable little Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year once again. The time to be jolly, spend time with your loved ones, and of course, give presents. It’s so wonderful that most of the time we forget about the dark side of it – increased waste production. In this Christmas oriented lesson, we look at the negative impact of the holiday on the environment and think of different ways of preventing it.

I always struggled when preparing a Christmas themed lesson. I stay away from doing the same things students do at school. I don’t come anywhere near anything religious. Last year I learnt my lesson. I prepared a festive class, all about traditions and gift-giving. There was a tiny problem, though. One of my students didn’t celebrate Christmas, and she couldn’t care less about it. It got me thinking about Christmassy lessons. Lessons that would be inclusive and engaging for everyone.

My inner environmental engineer got all excited when one specific topic had crossed my mind – the wastefulness of Christmas and how it can be prevented. It’s not only thought-provoking but will also give some room to speak for those who don’t celebrate Christmas but can relate to any other occasion with presents.

In this lesson plan, we explore solid waste production and how to prevent it during the merriest holiday of the year. Go to the end of the post and get your files for free.

The class starts by discussing students annual waste production and when they think their waste production is the highest. Ask about their % increase in waste production during the holiday season. Share the answers and ask if they were surprised. Another way of doing this lead-in is by splitting the class into smaller groups and asking them to predict the weight of waste produced annually and the percentage increase. You can get the answers by saying more or less. According to Eurostat, on average in the EU people produce 502 kg of waste per capita. The average monthly consumption is increased by 30% during the festive season, as reported by Biffa.

Proceed by asking another Christmas oriented question – why do we produce more rubbish at Christmas time? Students work in pairs and think of possible reasons and culprits of higher waste production. Once everyone is done and shares their answers with the rest of the class, read part 1 of the text by phs Wastekit and check if the predictions were correct. Continue with reading for detail. Students read sentences 1-5 and decide whether they are true (T), false (F), or the answers aren’t given in the text (NG).

Moving onto the second part of the text. Students look at six pictures and quickly read Part 2 of the text to find the words that best describe them. Explain any other additional words that may interfere with the reading experience. Look at the Christmas tree and decorations and brainstorm the answers as a group. Collecting ideas about reducing waste caused by Christmas trees and decorations will set an example and will give an idea of how to end this task in groups. Any appropriate and logical answers can be accepted. The answers can range from reusing artificial Christmas trees, buying local natural Christmas trees, recycling Christmas ornaments, and so on. Afterwards, divide everyone into pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss ways in which these problems can be solved. Finish by going over additional solutions and dividing them into Christmas trees and decorations, Shopping and gifts and food and beverages.

Finish the class by discussing if students agree with any of the solutions and if they’re going to implement them this year. Ask if they believe that making such small changes have any significant impact on their surroundings.

So this is my idea of dealing with the Christmas topic. I know that talking about the environment and ways of protecting it, especially during such a magical time, may not be the happiest one to do. However, it’s important to talk about it and bring awareness, so we can all have a sustainable Christmas this year. How are you going to celebrate Christmas in your classroom this year?

Get your lesson plan and worksheet for free by clicking the files below! Merry Christmas!

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!

The problem with Halloween

It is my last post of October, and even though I had fun with all my themed lessons, a few questions stood out to me. What if I don’t like teaching themed classes? What if I don’t like teaching Halloween? To all those questions I say – fair enough. You shouldn’t teach anything that doesn’t bring you joy. If you are not excited about the topic, neither are your students.

If you work on your own, you have a choice to avoid any type of themed lessons. You don’t need to celebrate any local or British/American holiday. However, if you work at an academy, then from time to time, you’ll be asked to prepare a themed class (whether you like it or not!). Remember that you are still in charge of lesson preparation, so be creative and spin the topic in your favour! PS. This class was heavily inspired by the Teaching with Tracey’s IG post.

This is a B2+ lesson plan that focuses on reading supported with expressing and responding to opinions. You can download all the files at the end of the post for free. I hope it will spark some creativity and not much controversy in your classroom!

Start the class by asking about students’ experience with Halloween. In some countries, it has become popular recently. The chances are that some of your adult students don’t have any memories or sentiment on this holiday (I’m one of them!). You can ask them to share their opinions on this holiday, and if they have children, ask if they allow them to go trick-or-treating. Maybe they have been to some Halloween parties and got dressed up. If yes, what were their costumes?

While you are on the topic of Halloween costumes, show some outfits taken from the Insider – 15 offensive Halloween costumes that you shouldn’t wear. Just yet, don’t mention the problem behind those outfits. Instead, casually chat about them and ask if the students like them, which one is their (least) favourite and if they would ever wear any of those costumes. Once you finish the first part of this discussion, you can mention that these outfits may be a bit problematic. If your students haven’t mentioned the way, in which the costumes are controversial, you may play a snippet of a Bo Burnham song – Problematic (0:52-1:10). I wouldn’t focus on the whole song, as it talks about the cancel culture, which is a whole other class. Instead, focus on the following lyrics:

I'm problematic (He's a problem)
When I was 17, on Halloween, I dressed up as Aladdin (He's a problem)
I did not darken my skin
But still, it feels weird in hindsight

If your students haven’t guessed the theme of the outfits, this verse should help them figure it out. That would be a good moment to explain the meaning of in hindsight and introduce the phrase cultural appropriation.

Move on to the main part of the class – the reading of an article by Alessandra Malito A lot of really bad things are more likely to happen on Halloween. I divided this article into two parts – the problems and the solutions. Firstly, divide the students into pairs or groups and ask them to discuss any other problems that may occur on Halloween. If they struggle with thinking of any other issues, you can help by giving main topics, such as crime, theft, accident, etc. Then let your students read the first part and check if any of their ideas are mentioned in the text. Ask them to read the text again, this time paying attention to the details and answering multiple-choice questions. Proceed with the vocabulary task – matching the words with their definitions, for example, perilous and deductible.

Go to the reading part 2. Before you ask your students to read the text, ask them to work in groups and discuss different ways in which they can stay safe or protect others on Halloween. Read part two and check if your ideas are similar to the ones mentioned in the text. Explain any new words and move to the last part of the class.

Since the class is hand-picking problems in a relatively harmless holiday, ask the students to complain about other topics related to Halloween. You can illustrate it by giving an example.

Put one minute on the clock and start by saying: Don’t get me started on…candy. Proceed by complaining about it in the most ridiculous way, for example, Who needs it? You get so much of it, and all it does is damage your teeth! Pointless! Hand out topics to your students. With weaker groups, you may want to give them some time to prepare their answers. Other topic suggestions are candy, Halloween, costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, parties, etc.

That’s my idea of going against the typical Halloween lesson! Click and download all the files below.

You can do it before or right after Halloween to check on your students and their non-problematic costumes. Did you celebrate Halloween in your class? If yes, what did you do?