Santa’s French Workshop: 5 Christmas Activities to Polish Up Your KS2 Students’ Français
It’s that time again.
You know, the most wonderful time of the year!
Your young French learners have been eagerly waiting for it.
And if you’re like me, you’ve probably been counting down the days to Christmas, too!
The food, the Christmas markets, the Christmas spirit—Christmas is truly magical.
So make it special!
The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to engage with your students and make French lessons even more fun.
It’s also a great way to create memories and inspiration that will stick with them for the rest of the year, and years to come.
Here are some uplifting, highly-efficient French activities specifically designed for Christmas that will get your students into the holiday spirit!
But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of bringing Christmas into your French classroom.
Benefits of French Christmas Activities for Your KS2 Students
- They’re in season: Christmas is everywhere right now, and your students probably expect you to bring it to the classroom. They’ll love you for it if you do! Take it a step further by transporting them to France this holiday season!
- They’re engaging: Christmas makes students happy! L’Esprit de Noël (Christmas spirit) does wonders to raise the attention level of your young students. You’ll quickly notice that even your little introverts will want to participate and share their thoughts on their favorite holiday, so make the most of it!
- They can increase understanding of the French language and culture: Language is best practiced in context. Christmas has its own vocabulary, expressions and idioms. Aside from teaching your students the cultural aspects of French Christmas—including different Christmas traditions throughout the country—you’ll be greatly increasing their overall ability to communicate in French.
- They make your students comfortable: Christmas activities put your students at ease. Cheery and uplifting, they shift the focus from pure language to communication: And that’s what language is really all about! With these activities, you’ll quickly notice that even your shyest students won’t stop talking: They won’t worry as much about making mistakes.
Perfect Occasions: 5 Christmas Activities to Make Your KS2 Students Love French Forever
1. Les décorations de Noël (Christmas decorations)
It all starts with setting the right tone!
Gathering your students together to let them create their own Christmas decorations is the perfect way to kick off this year’s French Christmas activities in style. It will put them in a good mood and predispose them to being excited about the other wonderful activities you have in store for them.
It’s also just a great way to bring the Christmas spirit to the classroom, and to let your students make the classroom their own by embellishing it.
To start, get your hands on some decoration materials. Partner with the art teacher, if your school has one. Materials can include colorful boards, glitter pens, Christmas stickers, cotton to mimic snow, cinnamon sticks to create a holiday feel, etc….
Start off by introducing the activity and getting your students’ feedback: What do they think about it? What do they want to do? Get them talking!
Then, introduce the materials: This is a great opportunity to review some tricky French grammar points in context.
For example, you can explain the difference between types of articles:
du papier — paper
une feuille de papier — a sheet of paper
de la cannelle — cinnamon
un bâton de cannelle — a cinnamon stick
This is also a good time to teach them some new words using the art materials and supplies you’ve brought in. For example:
une paire de ciseaux — a pair of scissors
des autocollants — stickers
des paillettes — glitter
des crayons de couleur — crayons
A good way to do this is to brandish the material and ask the class, “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” (What is this?)
Some of your students may know the right word: Reward them by letting them pick their favorite Christmas sticker!
Then, get started! Give your students the opportunity to either work on their own decorations or join a group: If they opt for the former, ask them what they intend on doing: They should reply in French. If they don’t know a word, write it on the blackboard so the other students can learn it, too.
Some fun ideas include a sign with Christmas greetings, a Christmas house or a famous Christmas character such as le Père Noël (Santa), les lutins de Noël (Christmas elves) or la Mère Noël (Mother Christmas).
For your students who prefer to join a group activity, ask them to create a Christmas storyboard for the class. Help the group come up with a basic storyline, such as what happens at Santa’s workshop, how Santa prepares for Christmas and how he distributes presents on Christmas Eve.
In the scenario above, each student should be assigned a scene: Make sure that they love it! They should number their own scene to keep things in chronological order, and then start drawing! Make sure that each student includes a brief French explanation of what the scene is about at the bottom, and help them come up with the right words if necessary.
Eventually, this will make for a great mural. You can put the drawings side by side on the wall. This activity can get noisy quickly, so make sure your students are happy, but that they behave!
2. Les chansons de Noël (Christmas carols)
Christmas carols are the perfect way to bring students together. But for the French classroom, they can be so, so much more than that!
They are an opportunity to teach new vocabulary using a familiar tune: Your students already know the music—now teach them the lyrics in French!
Carols also can make students more aware of both cultural differences and similarities: After all, these are the same songs that French-speaking children sing on Christmas Day!
This website has all the resources you need for lyrics, songs and lyrical versions of many popular (and lesser-known) Christmas carols. Feel free to print out the lyrics of your favorite French Christmas songs to sing with your students during class.
Begin the activity by playing the song with lyrics first (the French version, of course!) and get your students’ feedback: What do they think about it? What does it evoke for them? What do they think it means? What did they understand or not understand?
Then, either print out lyrics for them or turn the classroom into a karaoke bar: If the song you like isn’t available with a karaoke version, you can make slides and show them to your students using a video projector.
This option requires more work on your part and that you stay focused throughout the song to manually skip through the slides, but it may be more interactive for your students.
Before playing the tune and singing the song together, be sure to finish thoroughly discussing the lyrics, any unknown words, the general meaning and what your students think of it. Is it similar to the English version (probably not!)?
Last, sing along! Start by playing the song for the entire class, and then split the song into three or four parts. Create corresponding groups: Each group will sing their part until the entire class has sung.
Continue by rotating parts for groups: The goal is to make sure they remember the song, and repetition is a foolproof method in that respect!
Make the most of the incredible French Christmas carol selection out there: It may be fun to introduce a new song per lesson or per week!
3. La lettre au Père Noël (Letter to Santa Claus)
Santa speaks every language in the world: Let’s show him how studious your students have been all year by sending him a letter in French!
A Christmas letter writing workshop is a fantastic way to teach your students about French letter formatting while offering them an opportunity to express their creativity, too.
To prepare for this lesson, create a customized Christmas mailbox, decorate it and write:
Destination : Pôle Nord — Destination: North Pole
Lettres au Père Noël — Letters to Santa Claus
Classe de [your name] — Class of [your name]
Leave the mailbox on your desk: That will set the tone for the day’s class and get your students’ attention.
Discuss the mailbox and see what questions they have about it: That’s a great way to raise their curiosity and the perfect introduction to the day’s activity!
Start by discussing Santa Claus with them: Who he is, what he does. Ask if they like him. Ask them what kids have to do in order for Santa to give them presents. (Study hard, be good to their parents and teachers, be well-behaved, make their beds every day, say “Thank you,” etc. are obvious answers, so make sure that you cover them!)
Introduce the activity: The goal is to share with Santa what good students they’ve been this year, and what better way to do that than to write a letter in French?
Discuss with them what they want to tell Santa in their letter: The goal is to make the lesson lively and engaging and to stimulate both speaking and communication skills by letting your students participate actively and share ideas. This is also the right time for them to ask vocabulary questions and for you to identify, correct and introduce new words to the class.
Move on by teaching your students writing guidelines and highlighting differences between French and English letters. Some things to watch out for are the date formatting and the order of sender and recipient.
Introduce them to the various formules de politesse (greetings) they can use to open and close their letters, connectors and new vocabulary.
One way to do this is to separate the board into two halves: The left side for the English format, and the right side for the French format.
You may prefer to jump right to the point and focus only on the French letter: This can be better with your younger students, but you may want to consider bringing up differences with students who have already learned letter-writing with their English teachers to avoid confusion.
Alternatively, check out this insightful website if you are looking for a template. Feel free to print it and hand it out to your students. Pay attention to the structure of the letter and discuss it together: This can be helpful to get them started.
It’s also a good idea to show your students some examples of Lettres au Père Noël (Letters to Santa): This will help them to get an idea of what they should be aiming for, see what the format looks like and get some inspiration!
This website features an impressive collection of authentic letters sent to Santa by children from the French-speaking world: It’s a great resource for your students to get a feel for what others are telling him!
Another great website to look at is this one: It consists of a collection of fictional letters, all well-structured, well-written and very moving!
Then, proceed to the writing! Take at least 20 minutes: Feel free to walk around the class to watch your students’ progress and be available for questions.
Finally, let your students place their letters in the mailbox. As Santa’s French helper, don’t feel bad for looking them over after class: This is a great opportunity to spot mistakes, assess the progress of your class and adjust accordingly.
4. Les contes de Noël (Christmas stories)
That’s right! You’re telling your students a Christmas story!
Start by changing your classroom setting: Rid your classroom of all desks and tables by putting them to the side, and gather chairs in the center of the room into a half-circle. Your chair should be facing your students: You’re the storyteller!
Pick a story they’ll love: “Les Contes” by Andersen is a good resource filled with magical fairytales. The stories may not be Christmas-centered, but the feel is perfect for casting that traditional ambiance that evokes the holidays!
But if you believe that nothing but Christmas will do for your students, browse this website for inspiration: There are numerous cheery Christmas stories that will do wonders!
Alternatively, use this activity to introduce French Christmas culture: Simply turn a Christmas-related subject into a fairy tale! Some examples of great stories could be Les origines de Noël (The Origins of Christmas), La légende de St Nicolas (The Legend of St. Nicholas) or La légende des guirlandes du sapin de Noël (The Legend of the Christmas Tree’s Garlands).
How to do this? Start with “Il était une fois” (Once upon a time) and focus on the characters, their struggles and what they learn. A great story is moving, magical and relatable. If you need some guidance, this insightful TED talk by Andrew Stanton, the man behind “Toy Story” and “WALL-E,” will help you tell a great story!
Once you know what your story is and how to tell it, don’t forget to make it simple and understandable. Take your time to introduce the story, characters and cultural elements before you proceed to telling the story: Bring up key elements, words, names and expressions you’ll be using that are unfamiliar, and take the time to explain them first.
Write them on the board and repeat them together several times: This will activate your students’ immediate memory every time you read the words!
Don’t break the flow of the story too much while you’re telling it, though. Instead, make the new vocabulary interactive: If your character is a bear, move like a bear. If your heroine is sad, do your best sad face. If you mention an enemy, make it such that you convey a sense of danger. Another good tip is to change voices so your students understand who’s who and can follow you with greater ease.
However, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to pause every once in a while and ask them what they think is going on to make sure that they understand. Get thoughts on the characters, their choices and what your students think is going to happen: Make sure that they participate!
5. Le goûter de Noël (Christmas teatime)
Food is a great way to teach your students about French culture and customs. After all, who doesn’t love to eat?
During the days leading up to Christmas, host a Christmas teatime with your students! Sitting together at a table and sharing a meal is a great way to deepen your relationship with your students, and Christmas is perhaps the best time of the year to do that!
Make the Christmas teatime activity more than a one-time event: Host multiple activities around it or at least discuss it on multiple occasions with your students. This should be the climax of your French Christmas activities, a reward for their efforts and diligent participation!
Make sure that everyone is on board and can come up with their own baked goods for the occasion. Based on experience, this should never be a problem for your little eaters…but you do want to let their parents know about the activity. You don’t want your students to start baking without adult supervision at home, so communicate with the parents to make sure that they do their part!
To prepare efficiently, in the weeks leading to Christmas, make sure to:
- Review Christmas traditions throughout France: Christmas in France is very similar to Christmas in most of the English-speaking world. After all, we share a common Christian heritage. Nevertheless, discussing Christmas traditions together is a great way to keep the Christmas spirit up—and learn French together! This resource offers a detailed review of the various Christmas customs, rites and characters that make Christmas so special in France!
- Review dishes together in French, along with eating traditions on Christmas: It’s a great way to explain why certain dishes are commonly found at the Christmas table. Of course, some ingredients are seasonal, but there are local traditions, too! Make sure that you share with them the variations of Christmas cuisine throughout France, especially in Provence and Alsace!
- Review French Christmas recipes: This is the time to introduce your students to the diversity of French cuisine—and teach them the culinary lexicon that will enable them to search for, read and execute authentic French recipes on the internet!
- Make sure the recipes aren’t too elaborate: This website, which has been specifically designed for young French students, will be perfect for your French learners. Aside from including numerous yummy recipes, it has beautiful pictures for immediate image/word association, it’s easy to understand and it’s all in French! Alternatively, use this site for additional inspiration: Some recipes may be more difficult to execute, but it’s very comprehensive.
- Focus on introducing key vocabulary: Recipes are generally based around the same format and words, starting with ingredients and directions. Start with a template recipe of your choice: List ingredients on the board and detail the process step by step. Drawing skills help, but don’t overthink it!
- Direct your students to websites or print out your favorite recipes: Make sure that each student picks one type of recipe so that there aren’t too many of the same things. Bûche de Noël (Christmas log cake), mendiants (chocolate mendiants) or truffes en chocolat (chocolate truffles) are all-time favorites, but the options are endless! Make sure that the dishes are actual French Christmas dishes. This will be a great way for your students to have a taste of the real thing!
And if you’re feeling generous, why not have a present exchange, too?
With these uplifting activities that are easy to execute, we’re sure that your students will learn from and love your French Christmas classes, and remember them fondly for the rest of their lives.
Un très joyeux Noël à vous tous! (A very merry Christmas to you all!)