If you are used to spending Christmas with your family and friends, it can be strange to be millions of miles away teaching English abroad. Even if you get to fly home for the big day itself, December can be extraordinary if you aren’t able to do the Christmas things you would typically do. So why not incorporate your Christmas joy into your classroom? We have some great ideas to get you started, and let’s look at a few countries that you may not realise do you celebrate Christmas.

Korea

Korea has one of the fastest-growing and most significant populations of Christians in the Asian continent. Even those who don’t have faith generally take part in Christmas festivities. So, if you teach English in Korea, you can swap stories with your pupils and learn about how they celebrate Christmas. Ice skating is a viral Christmas pursuit, and they also have extensive displays of Christmas lights, seasonal concerts, and plenty of social gatherings. It’s not that dissimilar to what you will be used to, but it’s always fun to experience Christmas in a new country.

Germany

Germany is known for its Christmas markets. They are worth a visit, so if you find yourself in the country for Christmas. There are plenty of ways to turn a Christmas market theme into a lesson in your classroom. With lots of verbal and written practice for your students. For example, they could make lists of the things they want to buy for their families, but the list must be in English. If you are teaching adults, you may even be able to coordinate a visit to a Christmas market. See if they can find everything on the list with no native translation on hand.

Brazil 

Those living and working in Brazil around Christmas are in for a real treat. A robust Brazilian myth forms the basis of celebrations each year. According to the legend, animals discuss the birth of Christ. The rooster crows to announce that Christ is born, saying, “Christo nasceu!” And he is answered by the ox who asks where “Onde?” the sheep are the responders who answer in chorus, in Bethlehem of Judea, “Em Belem de Juda”. This legend gives you plenty of material to work within the classroom, including animal discussions, and if you’re working with younger children, a chance to draw and label the activities as they happen. 

Russia

If you teach English in Russia, you may find the season a little disrupted as they don’t hold Christmas Day until January 7. This might mean you take an extended break or go home slightly late. Most families get together on January 6 for a traditional Christmas meal. When it comes to presents, Father Frost brings the children gifts, which happens on New Year’s Day.

Bringing Christmas to the TEFL Classroom 

We have put together a selection of ideas for lesson plans that relate to the festive season and can help bring Christmas to your TEFL classroom.

Decorations

Setting the scene is a great place to start, so why not try decorating the classroom? You can get the students to make decorations but ensure you have plenty of conversation to let them practice their oral English skills while you are doing it. You could also get them to incorporate phrases like Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Noel and other seasonally appropriate words in their decorations, so they are also practising some writing.

Advent Calendar

If your class meets regularly in the run-up to Christmas, consider creating a class advent calendar. Behind each door, you can place a relevant Christmas topic that can be an eye-opener for each lesson; where you talk about the case, for example, Christmas cards, turkey, or stockings, and explain why they are part of Christmas, how they fit in and more. You can get your students chatting in groups about what they think of these traditions. Whether they would like to participate if they don’t have a western Christmas.

A Gingerbread House

Depending on your set-up, you could also look into building a gingerbread house and the story behind the tradition. Indeed, this could be quickly done if you can access kitchen facilities at a language school with adult learners. You can also obtain ready-to-assemble gingerbread houses if you do not have the facilities to cook. Younger children could draw gingerbread houses and practice speaking and writing skills by discussing the tradition.

A Christmas Carol

Depending on the age group you are teaching, A Christmas Carol is available in many different interpretations. For young children, you have Mickey’s Christmas Carol (conveniently only 20 minutes long) or the Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Adults may enjoy these versions too. But there are also more classic dramatised versions where you can teach them about the story of the Christmas Carol and why it is essential at this time of year. Depending on your class’s age group, you could also read the story or one of the more condensed books aimed at children.

Secret Santa

Even in a developing country, you can still organise a secret Santa that doesn’t cost the students any money. Explain to them the traditions of Christmas. Just so that they understand why we give presents to those we love and consider friends. Then put each student’s name onto a piece of paper and let them draw a secret Santa each. When they receive the student’s name, they can think and write, in English, what they would buy this person and why. Once everyone has completed the secret Santa mission, you can hand the piece of paper back to the student it belongs to and see who can guess which of their classmates is their secret Santa. If you are in a more developed country or teaching adults, you could have a real secret Santa. But limit the spending to just a few dollars or pounds. If you go down this route, the students can still guess who their secret Santa was. The person who bought the gift can explain why they chose it.

Make Christmas Cards

They are teaching younger children to make Christmas cards can be another fun activity. Again you have the chance to explain the tradition. Let them create a Christmas card and write a message for their family inside. It’s a great way to get them doing more writing, and if you have any particularly star pupils, they could take the task one step further and write their Christmas letter to Santa telling him what they would like for Christmas.

Christmas Songs

An impromptu music lesson always goes down well, so why not teach your students some of your favourite Christmas songs? One of the simplest ones is Merry Christmas, everyone, and you can play a recording while they read the lyrics alongside it. You can then talk about the lyrics and ensure they understand their meaning. Rudolph the red nose reindeer is also a great comedy song that younger students will find hilarious if they are not used to Christmas traditions. You could finish the lesson with a five-minute disco to some of your favourite Christmas Classics.

Food

A Christmas party is a great way to finish the term, including introducing your students to some of the most traditional western Christmas foods. In some cultures, you will struggle to find ingredients. For example, it won’t be easy in Asia to find sausages or bacon, and in the Middle East, pork is not allowed. However, there are plenty of other things. If you are organised, you could always have some mince pies and other delicacies sent over by friends and family. You can talk or write about the traditions of the food and why it is eaten at Christmas.

Family traditions

Christmas is a time when family traditions are created. Of course, there are other times of the year when families have unique rules. So talking about family traditions they might have and how they associate them with a festival, for example, Chinese New Year or Thanksgiving, offers a great lesson point. Your students can be encouraged to take turns explaining their family traditions and how they came about. And then, you could ask them to write about their family traditions or create posters demonstrating what they do as a family at Christmas, Chinese New Year, winter solace, Channukah or Kwanzaa.

Christmas Field Trip

If you teach English as a foreign language in a country that celebrates Christmas, you can probably find some impressive local Christmas displays. There may also be other events like choirs singing carols or Christmas markets. If you are in a country that does not have Christmas celebrations but you have access to the Internet, you could have a virtual Christmas field trip. Plenty of videos online show off Christmas decorations in big cities like New York. You could create a list of things for your students to spot and see who can correctly identify them. And of course, you can talk about what you saw afterwards.

Word Search

For younger learners, why not create festive word searches? You can add different words, from simple things like Santa to more complex ones like Christmas. If you have an advanced learner class, you could get them to create word searches for each other and then swap around and try and solve them.

Build In Local Customs 

You can also teach students about other countries’ Christmas traditions. For example, in Italy, instead of leaving a mince pie and sherry out for Santa. The children will light a candle and place it in the window so that baby Jesus can find his way as they believe he delivers the gifts. Mexico has some of the most colourful and elaborate Christmas festivals, especially nine days before Christmas. They hold street parades where they re-enact Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find shelter in Bethlehem. Every night this tradition, known as posadas, ends in a different house, and everyone stays for a fiesta. Finally, on Christmas Eve, known as Nochebuena, families will attend mass and head home to have a special family meal.

New Years Resolutions

As it is likely the last time you see your class until the New Year. You could also have a lesson on New Year’s resolutions. You can explain the concept of taking up a new hobby or cutting a habit that isn’t good for you. Then come up with ideas before breaking out into small groups and getting students to create their New Year’s resolution list. They can then share them with the class and explain how they think they can make their resolutions a reality.

In Conclusion

You must keep focusing on your English language skills. So try and make sure you incorporate learning into every activity. You could find that parents are disappointed with the lessons they are paying for if you do not offer English skills. You’ll find plenty of resources online for younger children; you can download them rather than make them from scratch. Please beware of the economic climate you are working in. Don’t focus on the amount or value of gifts given but rather the sentiment behind it. So that you do not risk upsetting any children who may not receive that match for Christmas.

Hopefully, this has given you some great ideas for your TEFL classroom. Bringing the Christmas magic into your life no matter where you teach. If you are looking at heading abroad in the New Year, these ideas are perfect. When it is your turn to be an English teacher abroad during Christmas. Most of these ideas are also easily adapted for anyone teaching English online.

 

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