Happy December, everyone! What a great (and busy) time for both staff and students. In the secondary realm we are approaching the end of the semester (yikes!) in January so everyone is in a bit of a panic. Throw in some extra late nights at the shopping mall and holiday parties and, well……teaching can get a little lax and frenzied at this time of year (i.e. as I’m writing this blog on my lunch hour I just scarfed 4 mini chocolate bars from Halloween stashed in my desk).
With all the chaos, planning special December teaching activities to celebrate the season can seem overwhelming. Fear not, my friends. I’ve compiled a succinct list of 10 fantastic Christmas activities to try in your intermediate or senior English classrooms this semester. Each activity has been chosen based on the 4 strands of the English curriculum in Ontario: reading, writing, media and oral communication.
Write a letter to Santa
Yes, that’s what I said. Who doesn’t want to do this activity at this time of year? You can also add in a little twist: have students write Santa what they don’t want for Christmas or give them parameters that they can only list non-material items or request gifts for others. See how fun this is getting? There are a ton of Santa letter templates online to help you with this activity. Also, you can throw in some great instruction on letter writing and addressing – why not have your students mail their letters? There’s no age limit to writing Santa.
Analyze Christmas/Holiday Symbolism
Christmas/holiday symbolism is ubiquitous in December, from homes to businesses and everything in between. But what do these symbols actually represent? Have your students do some detective work regarding holiday symbols and share it with the class. You can pre-select symbols, or allow them to select their own. A lesson on ‘symbolism’ may also be required if your students aren’t familiar with the concept.
Information Paragraph about Christmas Around the World
A staple in English classrooms, the information paragraph gets a bit of a Christmas twist in this activity. To start the lesson, you can have your students view the History Channel’s short clip on the topic: Christmas History and Traditions Worldwide. Then ask them to do a bit of supplementary research if required. Review the basics of an information paragraph (if required), then ask them to draft their own about either the history of Christmas or Christmas traditions in another country of their choice. They could even write about a winter holiday other than Christmas!
Christmas Articles of the Week
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I love using articles of the week in my classroom. Essentially, any articles can be converted into a ‘article of the week’ by adding some pre and post reading questions, and asking students to actively read the text. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, check out my slide show on it: here. Simply select an article that suits your students interest and reading level and off you go.
Debating the use of the Greeting ‘Merry Christmas’
My students love a good debate, and this one is sure to engage any teenager with an opinion. Actually, I have a lot to say about it too! Introduce the nature of the ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ greeting debate via a newscast, article or discussion, then ask students to pick a side of the issue. Next, allow them to work in groups to prepare debate points and mediate the chaos. You may also want to check out the debate.org page about this hot topic.
Christmas/Holiday Movie Review
I don’t think I can count how many times my students ask me to watch a Christmas movie in December. So, why not create an assignment out of it? There are many generic film review activities out there, or you can make your own. Allow students to select a Christmas movie and work alone or in groups to analyze it. You can even get them to present their work (and sneak in a couple great clips).
Analyzing or Creating Christmas Advertisements
We’re all bombarded by advertisements throughout the holiday season. Why not have some fun with this communication medium? Have students analyze various kinds of Christmas advertisements (radio, television, print, etc.), or even better get them to create their own using an existing or imagined product. There are many options teachers can select within this topic, and they are all great.
Christmas/Holiday Narrative Writing Activity
We all have that favourite Christmas memory. You know, the one you can still see, smell and taste. Challenge students to document their favourite Christmas memory using the narrative writing genre. If your students aren’t familiar with this writing genre you may need to do some front loading, but my guess is that you’ll get some great writing out of them.
Christmas Carol Analysis
Starting November 12th, our ears are awash with the sounds of the season; most specifically Christmas Carols. Many of these poetic works are quite old and carry some pretty hefty hidden meaning. Ask your students to select a Christmas carol of their choice and complete an analysis of it. This can include: researching its history, defining vocabulary, explaining figurative language, identifying symbols and hypothesizing a theme. Students can submit their work or share it in a presentation format.
The Night Before Christmas Performance
Probably the most iconic Christmas poem of all time, Twas the Night Before Christmas has found its way into text, radio, film, poetic readings and now…..your classroom. Have your students work in groups to create their own performance rendition of this text. They’ll need to do some close reading first to gather all the necessary physical and emotional cues required for their performance. Also, adding props and costumes will make their performances all that more entertaining.
Whatever you do, celebrate the season with your students
These are but 10 of many possible Christmas/holiday activities intermediate and senior English teachers can adapt to their classrooms this December. As usual, if you like my ideas and don’t have time to create your own resources, you can purchase mine! I’ve complied a unit of all the aforementioned activities with teaching steps, handouts and evaluations. It is available for sale on my Teachers pay Teachers store, Teacherevolution. Check it out here: 10 Christmas Activities for Intermediate and Senior English Classrooms.