What’s that I see under the tree?
It’s not very big.
It doesn’t make noise when you shake it.
Go on—unwrap it! What is it?
A pre-made, all-in-one ESL Christmas lesson plan for your classroom?
You must’ve been very nice this year.
For English teachers, holiday lessons that bring cheer to the classroom while boosting students’ language skills are just a part of the season.
But creating a great one is easier said than done.
If you’ve been racking your brain trying to come up with Christmas lessons and activities for your ESL students, stress no more.
The lesson plan below requires minimal prep and will have your students speaking and writing about Christmas—while confidently using essential verbs—faster than you can say “run, run, Rudolph!”
Unwrap This Ready-to-use ESL Christmas Lesson Plan
1. Objectives of This ESL Christmas Lesson
Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in the English-speaking world. It’s a time when friends and family come together, exchange gifts and celebrate the season with food and entertainment. Regardless of whether your students come from countries that celebrate Christmas or not, chances are they don’t celebrate the winter holidays exactly like you do.
The overall aim of this lesson is to teach students about Christmas in your culture, while also giving them the opportunity to practice their speaking and writing skills in a relaxed environment.
To do that, we’re going to cover the following components:
- Vocabulary related to Christmas traditions, symbols and decorations.
- Vocabulary related to Christmas shopping. Because a big part of Christmas is buying and exchanging gifts, it’s a good idea to use this time to teach or review shopping-related vocabulary.
- Key expressions like “I want/don’t want,” “I have/don’t have” and “he or she has/doesn’t have.”
Students will use the key expressions when talking about what they want for Christmas, and then will write a wish list of gifts they’d like to receive on Christmas Day. If you’re teaching this lesson to kids, you could have them write a letter to Santa instead of coming up with a wish list.
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2. Materials You’ll Need to Get Started
One of the best things about this lesson is the minimal prep required. The only materials that you should need for this lesson are flashcards for vocabulary and maybe paper for students to write their letters or wish lists on.
To make things even easier, the British Council has a set of Christmas vocabulary flashcards you can download. While the material is designed specifically for kids, you shouldn’t have any issues using it with adults as well.
With shopping vocabulary, you can make your own flashcards using real-world toys, gear and gifts that are hot at the moment. This can easily be done by making flashcards or hand-outs using Christmas retail advertisements.
Alternatively, you can use pre-made flashcards if you want to save time. The ESL website BusyTeacher has a number of flashcards that can be used to teach shopping vocabulary, including clothing flashcards and toys flashcards.
3. Warm Up with a Christmas Culture Discussion
The best way to ensure that your ESL Christmas lesson succeeds is to get students thinking and talking about Christmas before jumping into the activities below.
For example, you can get started by talking to your students about the tradition of Santa Claus. Tell the story about how Santa lives in the North Pole and delivers Christmas presents to boys and girls around the world.
Introduce your students to some popular Christmas traditions from English-speaking countries, like Christmas songs and caroling, seasonal foods and decorating Christmas trees.
You can show this video about American Christmas traditions and then have students ask questions or compare what they learned to their native country’s winter celebrations. (The video is created specifically for English learners and includes some great vocabulary.)
The benefit of showing Christmas-themed videos is that the visuals and interesting traditions (think holiday light extravaganzas on American homes) tend to grab students’ attention. This makes it easy to start conversations about how countries celebrate Christmas differently, which is perfect for breaking the ice and preparing the class for the next activity.
If you want to take this to the next level, try assigning some videos on FluentU as well. FluentU is an innovative language teaching tool where students can watch authentic English videos, including Christmas-themed clips as well as movie trailers, news reports, music videos and much more.
But the best part is that each video comes with interactive captions and flashcards to make sure students are actively building their vocabularies while they watch. Meanwhile, you can assign work and track student progress all from the FluentU platform. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!
As you’re closing the warm-up, talk about how Christmas is a time of year where friends and family exchange gifts, then talk a little bit about some things you’d like to get for Christmas.
4. Introduce Vocabulary
After you’ve warmed the classroom up with some Christmas discussions, it’s time to introduce the vocabulary and target expressions.
You should start with your Christmas-themed flashcards. Show each card to the students, say the name of the vocabulary word and then have them repeat the term aloud as a class. Along with your usual vocabulary protocol, you could draw on the board to define the new words since Christmas vocabulary tends to be highly visual.
Next, introduce the shopping flashcards. As you introduce each card, ask questions like:
- What is this?
- When/why do you use it?
- Do you have it?
- Do you want it?
Then, have your students practice speaking using the vocabulary you taught along with the following expressions: “I have/I don’t have” and “I want ___ for Christmas/I don’t want ___ for Christmas.”
If you’re teaching a class that’s longer than 50 minutes and need an additional speaking activity, try showing this video of two siblings opening presents on Christmas. Make sure to pause as they open gifts and ask your class questions like “What does he/she have?”
5. Activity Time: Christmas List
For this portion of the lesson, we’re going to be testing our students’ writing skills by having students write about gifts they’d like to receive for Christmas.
The purpose of this activity is to have students practice writing with the target expressions they learned in the speaking exercises, so you want to have them write in full sentences rather than simply listing items.
For younger students, this can be done by having them write a letter to Santa. For teens and adults, it can be a letter to a friend or family member.
Just make sure that they use both of the target expressions: “I have/don’t have” and “I want/don’t want.”
6. Activity Time: Christmas Card
For the final activity, students will write a Christmas card to a friend or family member. The aim of this exercise is to let students freely practice their written English and Christmas vocabulary without having to focus on specific phrases.
The best part about this activity is that it’s pretty unrestrictive, meaning that your students have a bit more leeway with choosing what they want to write about. You’ll still want to give them some general guidelines to follow so that they understand that the activity needs to be Christmas related.
Some helpful ideas include:
- Writing a thank you card for their Christmas presents
- Comparing and contrasting Christmas traditions in their country and yours
- Writing to a loved one about their Christmas plans
Christmas is meant to be one of the happiest times of the year and your ESL Christmas lesson should reflect that. For this reason, the best holiday-themed lessons are the ones that move away from the traditional classroom learning experience and allow students to learn in a relaxed environment.
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you’re looking for entertaining videos for your Christmas lesson, then you’re going to absolutely love FluentU.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. These are videos that your students already love watching, so they’ll be beyond excited to interact with them in the classroom.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
Worried that students might be stumped by some of the harder videos? No way. FluentU brings authentic content within reach by providing interactive captions and in-context definitions right on-screen. For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.