Are your students getting restless dreaming of the holidays and Christmas presents?
Can you already see the candles’ reflections in their eyes?
Can you feel the warmth and excitement of the Christmas season?
That’s great—let’s bring all that into your German lessons!
‘Tis the season for fun and games in the classroom.
7 Engaging Activities for a Holly Jolly German Christmas Lesson
What is Christmas in Germany? Think of trees, Christmas markets and mulled wine. Think of wreaths, candles and advent calendars. Of glass ornaments, church bells and—if you are lucky—a soft blanket of snow.
Think of culinary delights such as carp and goose, gingerbread and Stollen.
Think of Saint Nicholas and his scary companion, Knecht Ruprecht or the Krampus.
Think of Saint Martin and of star singers, of the Christkind and of Father Christmas.
Read on to learn why you should teach German Christmas traditions to your students, then see seven exciting activities to really get the class engaged.
Why You Should Expose Your Students to German Christmas
As we established in the beginning: ‘Tis the season.
What would be more appropriate than focusing on Christmas and the time leading up to it?
It will relax and improve the classroom atmosphere, creating a tighter bond between you and your students.
They have worked hard on their German skills the whole year. Now let them have some fun with what they learned. What better occasion for this than Christmas? That way, they can explore the German holiday traditions they will hopefully experience in person someday.
Yes, these traditions are widespread, and your students are likely to have had some exposure to a few of them. But that means that your lessons are more engaging and easier to relate to. And even if your students come from a place where Christmas is not a holiday, they can compare it to other festivals they are more familiar with.
It is also a great opportunity to use a range of authentic materials from songs to writing to videos, just like the ones that can be found right here on FluentU. Integrating FluentU into the classroom allows you to use contemporary clips taken from all kinds of sources and presented in the perfect way for language teaching.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s look at how you can bring Christmas to the German classroom.
7 Fun Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Your German Lessons
Brainstorm some Christmas traditions and facts with your students, then introduce them to the world of German Christmas.
1. Decorating Your House, German Style
A German living room looks much different on Christmas than it does year-round.
But how exactly does a typical German home look on Christmas Eve? Have your students brainstorm what they think should be there, then start by putting up a Christmas tree and learning about the words associated with it.
There are the glass baubles and ornaments, the wood-carved nativity scene or the star at the top of the tree. You can have them cut out elements or draw a complete tree in groups or on their own, then compare the results.
What can you find on every tree? What have they missed?
Then, go from the tree to the whole house. Here is a large-scale arts and crafts worksheet with cutouts to fill an empty living room with all kinds of Christmas-related things and visiting relatives.
2. Singing the Carols
No Christmas atmosphere is complete without songs.
Listen to karaoke versions of popular German Christmas songs and ask your students to identify them. Some of them they might know from their English equivalents (“Silent Night” and “Stille Nacht”), others may be completely alien to them.
And if you really want to give your learners a challenge, have them try to write their own German lyrics to the tune of a song. Just be sure to save time at the end of the lesson to let them share their songs with the class!
3. Walking Across a Christmas Market
What sticks out for your students?
What is being sold, what is being offered?
What kinds of food can you get there?
You can even turn a casual discussion into a full-blown classroom activity by adding an accompanying worksheet. Either make your own or use one of the pre-made ones online. There are plenty of worksheets related to Christmas markets out there.
And maybe your students have even visited a Christmas market outside of Germany and can recount their own impressions.
4. Writing Christmas Cards
Writing Christmas cards to friends and relatives is a time-honored tradition in Germany and around the world. Most of your students will be familiar with Christmas cards, making it easier for you to set up this activity without any problems.
Have your students write letters to each other in German. But first, teach them about letter formats, the different ways of addressing people, personal pronouns, greetings and other Christmas-related vocabulary.
Especially great for younger students, another fun activity is writing letters not to each other, but to Santa directly. Have them explain the good and bad things they did regarding their German language learning—what have they successfully learned, what are they still struggling with?
Of course, they can also ask for some presents in the form of a Wunschzettel (“wishlist”) if they know the right word and the right article!
5. Exploring Christmas Traditions
Have your students present their own Christmas traditions. Then, as a class, try to guess what Christmas in Germany might look like.
Can your students come up with the right answers? Put them to the test.
After all the answers are checked, divide your students into groups of three or four and give them a quick research assignment on any topic related to Christmas in Germany. It could be about star singers, the Krampus or even the First World War’s Christmas truce. Be sure to give the class enough time to collect information—I recommend 30 minutes—then have each group give a short presentation (under five minutes) in German on what they learned.
6. Teaching Christmas Words
There are many German words related to Christmas. Whether it’s about traditions, foods or celebrations, the German language has the vocabulary for it.
Or how about a vocabulary game? Every student or group (depending on class size) gets a token and a die. Depending on their roll, the token moves a number of fields; then, the student or group has to identify the German word for the Christmas-related image on that field.
If they are right, they get to stay; if they are wrong, they move back two fields. If the field shows the image of a die, they get to roll again. And, as you might have suspected, the winner is whoever reaches the last field first.
You could also create some cards with Christmas words and use them for a round of taboo or Pictionary. Divide your students into groups and get them started!
For taboo, one student needs to explain the word on the card in German without actually using said word; for Pictionary, the word has to be drawn, and the rest of the group needs to guess it on a timer.
Whichever variant you choose, groups get a point for each guessed word, and the group with the most points wins.
7. Crafting an Advent Calendar
In the Advent time leading up to Christmas, German households and offices typically have Advent calendars that have one door for each of the twenty-four December days leading up to and including Christmas Eve.
Why not have one or more for your classroom?
You can have a pre-made one with Christmas words, but even more fun is having your students craft their own! They just need content for 24 fields, some paper and a bit of patience—and their vocabulary will profit in the process.
These activities are great for bringing the holiday spirit into your lessons and inviting German Christmas traditions into your classroom. What better way to end the year?
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