Ideas for holidays themed lessons - for teachers; Best Christmas movies to watch (in English of course) - for students; Personal experience - Lisa Alexakhina.
HOLIDAY LESSON IDEAS
Christmas and New Year are about to come and everybody is running around like crazy either making final preparations or trying to meet the deadlines. Students are starting to slack and nobody seems to be able to focus. We suggest you embrace the spirit and bring the miracle into your classroom - Christmas and New Year themed lessons of course!
One of the most important aspects of holidays is food - everything baked, roasted, glazed and caramelised. People eat with abandon and then can’t move a limb, if only to grab another bite. We warn you - this lesson should not be taught on an empty stomach!
We based the materials on a Christmas ad for Waitrose supermarket. The students first discuss what the most important part of Christmas is and then watch the commercial, which claims it’s food. This leads to learning about traditional dishes and foods in the USA and Great Britain and comparing them to the students’ own ones.
Finally, there is a group project task to plan out a holiday dinner with the menu, ingredients, and budget.
It seems that Christmas ads are coming earlier each year, but we surely can’t complain about the lack thereof. Using commercials as lesson materials is one of our favourite ways of bringing authentic realia into the classroom and varying the lessons.
You can discuss what the holidays associate with and what themed commercials students remember. Show a few examples, like a coca-cola ad, and discuss what the recurring themes are - family, togetherness, giving and sharing. Try to identify the key words and phrases that come up in the ads. Finally divide the students into pairs or groups of three and ask them to write a scenario for a Christmas ad for some product, which they will then present to the class.
The Time Off
For many Americans and Europeans, holidays will already start on Christmas Eve on 24th and last all the way until the New Year. Russians, however, will enjoy the festivities all the way until the 10th of January. And what meaningful activities will they fill that time with?
Usually, when it comes to themed lessons, teachers introduce vocabulary related to the target country - ride a sled, kiss under a mistletoe, gather around the fireplace. But we suggest you think about phrases your students would like to use instead. Discuss what some typical holiday activities are, what they would like to do and so on - vegging out in front of the TV, wrapping and unwrapping presents, making a last-minute shopping spree for presents, putting up the tree and of course stuffing yourself with holiday leftovers.
This topic is perfect for practicing future tenses for plans and promises. Discuss some typical promises people usually make on the New Year and whether they keep them. Have your students ever made resolutions? You can ask them to write a list and hold onto it until the next year, when you will discuss the results!
On the other hand, you can focus on the results of the past year - what were the news highlights, what important things have happened in their lives, what achievements have they had. Every year Google makes a video about a “year in search” where they draw conclusions on what topics people found important, events that changed the world and will be remembered in history. Here is this year’s video.
The Scary tales
Santa Claus and his elves are not the only characters people remember during this season. In other countries, people tell less jolly tales, some of which will make your blood curdle and hair rise. Austrian Krampus and Icelandic Yule Cat were made up to scare children into obedience and serve as a stick where Santa is the carrot. If your students love scary tales, introduce these texts to them along with the pictures that can be found online.
What are your favourite Christmas and New Year lesson ideas? Please, share in the comments!
BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES TO WATCH IN ENGLISH
Love Hard (2021)
Another name for this movie could be: A Christmas Catfish. As Glamour’s editor Emily Tannenbaum wrote, “The plot of Love Hard, frankly, sounds like a nightmare. Natalie (Nina Dobrev), a Los Angeles dating columnist, attempts to pull herself out of an endless cycle of dating horror stories by flying across the country to surprise the dreamy guy she’s been talking to online…. However, when she reaches New York, she finds ‘Josh’ is not at all who he said he was.” Hijinks ensue.
The Holiday (2006)
This rom-com is a holiday classic at this point. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play women living on opposite sides of the world who trade houses for the holiday season. Along the way they find love, discover themselves, and say “Scroodley-doo!” with Jack Black—well, at least one of them does.
Netflix jumped into the animated movie game in 2019 with this story of a spoiled man who is shipped off to work as a postman in the Arctic Circle. Once there, he discovers a very Santa Claus–like man named Klaus hiding out.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
It's Christmas time and the Griswolds are preparing for a family seasonal celebration, but things never run smoothly for Clark, his wife Ellen and their two kids. Clark's continual bad luck is worsened by his obnoxious family guests, but he manages to keep going knowing that his Christmas bonus is due soon.
Just like sisters, the 1994 and 2019 adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s novel were conceived from the same source and have transformed into their own unique interpretations. And, just like the March sisters, every Little Women fan usually has already picked their favorite interpretation. Still, these two films both feature star-studded casts with a heart-warming tale of sisterhood at its core. And, as far as Christmas movies go, they both feature picturesque vignettes of white Christmases in New England filled with feasts, fires, frolicking, and family.
There's far more naughtiness than niceness on display in Joe Dante's terrific 1984 horror comedy in which a cute, mystical Chinese creature known as a "mogwai" named Gizmo—when fed after midnight, or touched by water—gives bubbling birth to mischievous monsters.
Do you have a favourite Christmas classic we forgot to mention? Tell us!
What are your favourite Christmas and New Year lesson activities?
My name is Lisa, I have been teaching English to adults and children for about 7-8 years already and I really like it. I feel great when I can share some knowledge of it with other people and help them start speaking the language and communicate in a new environment. By the way, I also enjoy photography and doing yoga.
New Year’s week is always fun to teach English classes. For the reason that this time of the year is not just fun as a holiday, but a period when you can introduce some cool activities in the lesson without fear to confuse the students.
Adults are always stressed at work, especially during the last quarter of the year, and for some English classes in December are a relief and a time to unwind.
Getting closer to the New Year’s Eve people are getting joyful and cheerful, being in a relaxed mood, and it is easier to receive new information and learn new vocabulary for them. Of course, a few fun activities make it easier. They can include playing board games, having conversations about favourite Christmas movies, writing resolution lists, etc…
One of my favourite activities is the «Definition game» when students are supposed to explain the word without saying it or using the words from the same family. It helps to loosen the tongue for some and to be more expressive for others, anyway it always causes laughter and jokes as a result.
The other activity that I found interesting (especially if your audience consists of mostly women) is — asking to share (or write and then explain) favourite New Year’s recipes. It is a good way to revitalize some words that could be forgotten by students and at the same time - to touch upon the food theme, accumulating ideas for everybody's holiday meals...
A speaking activity like "Snowball" could be adapted for a topic "What I did last New Year..." or "I wish I spent my New Year in a hot country" or any other, depending on what kind of grammar topic you would like to discuss. One student starts a sentence, then the next one has to repeat the previous sentence and at the same time creates their own. You also can give students a task to make a story as funny as possible.
In any event, it is always fun to celebrate with students the upcoming holidays, creating a carefree atmosphere in a class.
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