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For teachers with long term students, festivals can be a nice time to change our usual TEFL lesson plans or just introduce some additional fun activities into it. Below are five winter festivals I celebrate with my students, and some of my favourite games and activities.

Christmas – 25 December

Being a global festival, Christmas is celebrated by many of our students and known by many others. There are so many free Christmas worksheets, songs, activities, and stories available that you can create your ideal TEFL lesson plans or customise your classes so they’re perfect for your student. Here are just three of many ideas for your Christmas themed class:

Read a book. As simple as this idea is, there are many beautifully written Christmas stories and poems, from The Night Before Christmas to A Christmas Carol.

Listen to a Christmas song. Christmas songs are ideal for listening activities because they’re fun and exciting, especially for children.

You can find some Christmas songs here:

https://www.songsforteaching.com/christmas/

Write a letter to Santa. A fun activity for children is writing a letter to Santa. This activity can be adjusted to your student’s level, with beginners listing their favourite toys and more advanced students learning about letter writing.

Chinese New Year – 1 February

Those of us who have taught Chinese children (or live in big cities) will be familiar with Chinese New Year. Celebratory activities include the dragon dance, fireworks, and the famous red packets. Red is the main colour of this vibrant winter festival, which for younger children could be a lesson theme in itself. Try finding red versions of your class topics – clothes, fruit, or animals. Other fun activities include:

Reading about the Chinese zodiac. 2022 will be the year of the tiger but you could also learn about your student’s zodiac animal.

Discussing tidying the house. Cleaning is a big part of Chinese New Year, a lesson on tidying things away is a timely way to practice nouns, prepositions of place, verbs, and sentence structure. Use a picture of a messy house and ask the student to help tidy it up by telling you where the items should go.

Creating a family tree for your student or a character in a book you’ve been reading.

You can find some more fun ideas here:

https://teambuilding.com/blog/virtual-chinese-new-year

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/Chinese%20New%20Year%20Lesson%20plan.pdf

The Rio Carnival – 25 February-5 March

Rio’s famous carnival comes from the Portuguese tradition of dressing up in costumes before the start of Lent. It has since come to reflect more of Brazil’s many cultural influences, with the Brazilian dance, Samba, taking centre stage.

Being an energetic, multi-cultural event, The Rio Carnival is perfect inspiration for EFL teachers. Here are some ideas for carnival themed lessons.

Play Samba music. Although this isn’t overtly English practice, rhythm is an important part of language and awareness of rhythm has been shown to be beneficial for English students. There are some interesting Youtube videos about Samba rhythms which you could watch with your student. Alternatively, you could try speaking sentences or reading poems in a Samba rhythm to see how different it sounds.

Design carnival masks or costumes. The Rio Carnival is known for its vibrant masks and costumes, so students can have a lot of fun designing their own. You can find some masks to colour, and other Carnival themed colouring pages here.

Plan a street party. Street parties are an important part of Rio’s Carnival. A lesson on planning a street party can include adjusting recipes for more people, describing the student’s ideal party, or colouring some decorations for the event.

You can find more interesting activities here:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/storytelling-carnival-crime

https://classroom.synonym.com/childrens-rio-carnival-activities-6553349.html

Winter solstice – 21 December

The winter solstice has been celebrated for many centuries by people all over the world. There are many different ways of celebrating the solstice, making it ideal inspiration for teachers with lots of international students. Ways of celebrating the winter solstice include:

Reading ancient myths. Many cultures celebrate the winter solstice by telling traditional stories and poems. You could tell your student a traditional story from your culture or ask them to tell one from theirs. You could also read some ancient myths about the sun. Alternatively, you could read a story or poem that you just know your student will love.

Reading some recipes. Another common way of celebrating the winter solstice is by making a special meal, so reading recipes is a good solstice themed activity to do in a TEFL lesson. Creative students can write their own recipes, while those who love maths can have fun adjusting the recipes for more people. 

Studying astronomy. The winter solstice is a celebration of a natural event, so it is an ideal chance for those teaching science enthusiasts to bring their interests into our lesson. You can read a text explaining the solstice or even learn about the solar system in general. Many of the activities found here can be used in or adapted for online classes.

The Sapporo Snow Festival – 5 February-12 February

This Japanese festival is very new and started in 1950 when some children made snow sculptures in Odori Park in Sapporo, Japan. This continued for several years and in 1974 it became an international competition.

The beauty of this festival is that started with children playing in the snow. Although it has since become an international event, that spontaneity and playfulness are useful in children’s TEFL lesson, and this festival is a reminder of what children can do when they’re given the tools and freedom to play. Here are three activity ideas inspired by The Sapporo Snow Festival:

Make some word art. Write out the words you’ve been working on and shape it, so it looks like an ice sculpture. You can make an example to show your students here.

Play snow sculpture dictation. The student draws their own snow sculpture but doesn’t show it to you. Instead, they give you instructions on how to draw it. Compare the pictures afterwards.

Play ice statue. This game is similar to musical statues. The student becomes an ice statue and needs to stay still while the teacher reads out words or sentences they’ve been working on. The student needs to move when they hear an incorrect word or sentence.

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