Fact: Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas – whatever we call him, many countries around the world have a tradition that naughty children will only receive coal, twigs or even onions. But do children always know how to be good?
Classroom tip: Catch students being good
Watch out for good behavior and praise it when you see it - much more effective than dealing with problems as they arise.
Fact: Advent calendars count down the days to Christmas, and for children that usually means gifts! But is the festive period all about presents?
Classroom tip: Kindness calendar
Challenge students to carry out one act of kindness every day in December. They can plan this on a blank calendar and tick the kind acts as they complete them.
Fact: Did you know that greeting students individually at the door improves learning and engagement?
Classroom tip: Holiday password
Have a holiday-themed password for children to give as they enter the classroom. Students choose a new password every lesson.
Frosty the Snowman
Fact: The largest snowman in the world was actually a snowwoman. Olympia was over 37 meters tall and had trees for arms.
Classroom tip: Concrete poems
A concrete poem written in a shape that reflects the topic of the poem, for example a poem about a snowman written in the shape of a snowman. Challenge your students to write their own concrete poems about Christmas (or a current holiday for them).
Fact: Chinese New Year is the most important winter festival in China. Like Christmas, one of the main activities is putting up paper decorations.
Classroom tip: Collaborative tree
Each child draws around their hand, cuts it out and either draws a picture or writes a sentence about themselves. The whole class makes a display out of the handprints.
Fact: Stars feature in many Christmas traditions. For example, in Poland, the Christmas eve feast only starts when the first star appears in the night sky.
Classroom tip: 2 stars and a wish
Give focused feedback on written tasks by identifying two positive aspects of work and one area to work on. Works great for peer assessment too.
Fact: Everyone loves getting presents. In Liberia, instead of Santa bringing toys, you’ll find Old Man Bayka, who walks the streets asking for gifts!
Classroom tip: My gift to the world
Brainstorm things students can do to help make the world a better place, such as volunteering at a local charity or planting a tree. Challenge them to do one thing as a holiday gift to the world.
Fact: Famous fried chicken in Japan, caterpillars in South Africa, hot tamales in Venezuela and oysters in France. Christmas dinners vary greatly as you move around the world.
Classroom tip: Recipe for success
Students can make their own Recipe for Success by thinking about what they need to be successful in the new year.
Example (to be designed to look like a child wrote it):
- 1 cup of doing my best
- ½ cup of ideas
- ¼ cup of smiles
- 2 tablespoons of teamwork
- 3 teaspoons of listening to the teacher
Holiday traditions around the world
Fact: Festive saunas in Finland, roller skating in Venezuela and Christmas cobwebs in Ukraine, no two countries celebrate Christmas in exactly the same way.
Classroom tip: Venn Diagrams
Students choose 2 countries and research how they celebrate during wintertime. They record their findings as Venn Diagrams. They record the different traditions of the two countries in the sections on the left and right. Anything they have in common goes in the middle.
The excitement of Christmas
Fact: Anticipation plays a big part in the excitement of Christmas. Will Santa come? What presents I get? Who will win the annual family game of charades?
Classroom tip: Big questions
Start lessons by posing big questions to engage students’ natural curiosity and motivate them to find answers. Open questions work great, such as How do animals communicate? or What makes someone a hero?
Fact: Forget the Grinch, the festive season is a time for feeling good and spreading happiness.
Classroom tip: Compliment corner
Allocate a space in the classroom as the compliment corner – a notice board or a big piece of paper. Students can write compliments to each other on sticky notes and put them on the board. Such as ‘I love the pictures you drew of your favorite hobby’, or ‘You’re so good at singing’.
New Year’s resolutions
Fact: The start of a new year is a great time to focus on self-improvement, but only 8% of people are successful in sticking to their resolutions.
Classroom tip: Self and peer reflection
At the end of each lesson, ask students to reflect on their learning. Support students by providing sentence stems such as I learnt…I enjoyed …I’m good at…To improve I will…I didn’t understand…
Make these activities your own and adapt them to your class. They should help you turn the lead-up to the holidays in the classroom into an exciting one for your students and almost make them forget they're learning at the same time.
For more inspiration and general activities for your primary learners, try reading 5 quick and easy ESL games for teaching young learners. If you're looking for inspiring and engaging English courses for young learners check out our range: