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Share the Christmas Spirit with These 5 ESL Christmas Video Lessons

Christmas isn’t just a holiday—it’s a lifestyle.

It is the time of the year when people decorate their homes, cook holiday treats and listen to Christmas music.

And best of all, Christmas is the time of year we get to watch our favorite holiday-themed videos videos.

I mean, who didn’t grow up watching those claymation videos about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus?

What if I told you that it is possible to share the joy of Christmas videos with your English students, while teaching? And I mean really teaching, not those chilled days when you end the class with a video.

Bring on the Holiday Cheer: 5 ESL Christmas Video Ideas for Your Next Lesson

Want to know why Christmas is one of my favorite holidays? Obviously, because of family and presents. But I particularly enjoy all of the Christmas movies as well! There is something about a wholesome holiday-themed story that really puts you in the Christmas spirit.

And in my experiences as a teacher, I’ve found that most students feel the same way. Christmas videos are perfect for creating a relaxing environment where students can practice English while learning how Christmas is celebrated around the world. Also, your videos will let your students practice their listening comprehension skills, learn new vocabulary words and colloquialisms, as well as provide them with the opportunity to exercise their speaking capabilities.

What’s more, Christmas videos are a great starting point for discussing all sorts of traditions and winter celebrations around the world. Your students are guaranteed to learn a lot and you might even learn something new too!

There are a bunch of holiday episodes and movies to choose from, where do you begin?

Here are some of my personal favorite Christmas videos for teaching English.

Learn a foreign language with videos

1. “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas”

Available on YouTube

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This short movie is ideal for younger or lower-level ESL students. In addition to Christmas vocabulary, the video introduces some of the other widely practiced winter season holidays, such as Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

Before class, prepare a list of key vocabulary words that may be new for your students. At the beginning of the lesson, introduce the new words. Then, watch the film.

Suggested Key Vocabulary

  • Kwanzaa
  • Hanukkah
  • Pajamas
  • Fireplace
  • Reindeer
  • Clumsy
  • Garnish

Suggested Discussion Questions

After the film, you can either divide students into small groups to have a conversation or conduct a discussion as a whole class. Questions you can use to promote discussion include:

  • What holidays do the characters celebrate? How do they celebrate differently?
  • Why were Muffy and Francine fighting?
  • What is the best present you have ever received?
  • What do you think the moral of the film is?

Activity: Create Your Own Holiday

In the movie, Buster wishes he could create his own holiday—one completely different from Christmas. Ask students to work individually or in small groups to come up with their own holiday. Make sure they think about when it would occur, what it would be acknowledging and how it would be celebrated. Save time at the end of the lesson for students to share their holidays with the class.

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Want to make your lessons really authentic? Bring FluentU into your classroom. Teaching English with FluentU allows you to turn movies, television shows, songs and other real-world material into ESL curriculum. That way, students learn more about the culture of English speaking countries around the world as they work towards proficiency.

It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities. You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.

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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.

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For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:

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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.”

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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!

2. “Modern Family: Undeck the Halls”

Available on Google Play and iTunes

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Great for intermediate students, “Modern Family” is a popular show that some of your learners may already be familiar with. It showcases a typical American family and how they go about celebrating Christmas.

Prepare a list of key vocabulary words and discussion questions in preparation for the lesson. At the beginning of class, teach the new words and pass out the discussion questions for students to reference as they watch the episode.

Suggested Key Vocabulary

  • Ugly sweater
  • Confess
  • Follow through
  • Eggnog
  • Sacrifice
  • Paradoxically
  • Noble
  • Stockings

Suggested Discussion Questions

Once the show ends, take some time to engage with the class, testing their listening comprehension with the help of discussion questions. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • Do you think Phil overreacted by taking down the Christmas tree?
  • Where does Manny usually spend Christmas?
  • What are the differences between Christmas traditions in Colombia and in the United States?
  • Are there any Christmas traditions in this episode that you would like to try?

Post-video Activities:

After the video is over and you have finished your classroom discussions, have your students complete one (or both!) of these tasks as a follow-up activity. This will give them a chance to practice some of the new words they have learned, as well as think about their own Christmas traditions.

  • Write About Your Favorite Holiday Activities: Instruct students to write a short paragraph about their own favorite holiday tradition. Save time at the end of class for them to share their traditions with the class—you might want to even allow a Q&A session, if possible.
  • Learn About Another Culture’s Traditions: Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a country or culture, then ask your students to research that country’s winter holiday traditions. They should prepare a short presentation to share with their classmates.

3. “Friends: The One with the Holiday Armadillo”

Available on Netflix and iTunes

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Believe it or not, “Friends” is a great show for fostering English language learning. In this Christmas episode, students are exposed to both Christmas and Hanukkah and can see the different ways the holidays are celebrated.

At the beginning of your lesson, introduce words that students may be unfamiliar with, then settle in and watch the video.

Suggested Key Vocabulary

  • Reservation
  • Betrothed
  • Landlord
  • To hang one’s hopes on
  • Miracle

Suggested Discussion Questions

These are just some of the questions you might include in your discussion after the viewing of the show. Again, you can encourage small group discussions or have a conversation as a whole class.

  • What is the Christmas skull?
  • Why does Ross dress up like an armadillo?
  • What are Joey and Rachel afraid of?
  • What did Phoebe get Joey for Christmas? Why?
  • Why can’t Phoebe and Rachel live together?

Activity: Decorate the Christmas Tree!

This episode is full of Christmas decorations, from Monica’s beautiful tree to the garland that adorns Central Perk. Print out this Christmas tree and make as many copies as you need. Ask students to cut out the ornaments and decorate their trees as they like. In addition to making a beautiful tree, ask them to label the different items, such as “present,” “snowman” and “reindeer.” Check their labeling and make corrections as needed. Then, hang the trees around the room for some festive cheer!

4. “The Simpsons: Roasting on an Open Fire”

Available on SimpsonsWorld

Another iconic American show is “The Simpsons.” This particular holiday special examines one of the main recent concerns with Christmas: consumerism and the obsession with material goods. It is a great conversation starter and gives students the chance to see another side of the holiday. 

At home, prepare a list of key vocabulary words and phrases you will need to pre-teach to your ESL learners.

Suggested Key Vocabulary

  • Charity concert
  • North Pole
  • Sleigh
  • Showoff
  • Christmas bonus
  • To get mushy
  • Payday
  • Sleazy
  • Pathetic

Suggested Discussion Questions

After watching the episode, ask students to consider the following or similar discussion questions. They can work in small groups or as a whole class.

  • According to the episode, how is Christmas celebrated in Germany, Japan and in the South Seas?
  • What happened to Snowball, the cat?
  • What do Lisa and Bart want for Christmas?
  • What does Homer do in order to give his family Christmas?

Activity: Writing Letters to Santa

At the beginning of the episode, Lisa and Bart write letters to Santa. Ask your students to compose their own letters stating what they would want for Christmas. This is a nice exercise in vocabulary practice. You can even take it a step further and have them outline why they deserve presents. Have they been good enough this year?

5. “Christmas in America ESL Lesson”

Available on YouTube

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If you are looking for something a bit more educational to show your students, try this 28-minute educational clip. It is designed to help you easily present some of the main components of Christmas.

Students will be exposed to a number of words and phrases related to the holiday. You may wish to pre-teach some vocabulary, but the video is set up so that you can teach and give explanations as you watch.

Key Vocabulary Words

  • Wreath
  • Ornament
  • Garland
  • Dreidel
  • Menorah
  • Manger

Discussion

Ideally, as you watch the video, you should encourage students to ask questions as needed. At the end of the presentation, you can use these questions or ones similar to check their comprehension. Have students work in small groups or ask the class as a whole.

  • Do you have any big holiday parades in your country?
  • Do you decorate with lights?
  • What are some holiday songs in your culture?
  • Where does Santa Claus supposedly live?
  • What does Christmas traditionally represent?

Post-video Activities

There are various fun activities you can use with this video presentation, including:

  • Christmas Bingo: This activity takes a little more preparation time, but your students are sure to love it. Create your own bingo cards using vocabulary from the lesson. If you are short on time, you can use these pre-made bingo cards instead. In class, call out the different vocabulary words until a student get five images in a row. The first student to yell “Bingo!” wins.
  • I Spy Game: This activity is great for students just learning English numbers. When preparing this game, be sure to print as many playing cards as you need beforehand. Every student should have their own card, unless you decide to have your students work in pairs. In that case, print one card for every two learners. Then, have students look over the card and count the number of each item displayed on the sheet. At the end of the lesson, give students time to compare answers.

When I show this video to intermediate and advanced students, I like to add a writing component as well. Do this by having them write about Christmas (or a similar holiday) in their home country, comparing and contrasting it to Christmas in English speaking countries around the world.

Bringing the Holiday Cheer

Christmas videos are a wonderful way to engage your students. They will expand their vocabulary, give them the chance to explore other cultures and traditions, in addition to getting students to use English as a way to express their own wishes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas to you and your students!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.

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