The run up to Christmas is always a busy time for English Teachers and all those in the TEFL and ESOL community. The holiday season is a great time for teachers of English to infuse their classrooms with a little extra magic. Beyond the obvious tinsel and ornaments, the festive season offers a wealth of learning opportunities. But for teachers, it is always an exceptionally busy time with a lot of things to get finished before the holidays begin. With that in mind, we have a free download to help you through the last weeks of term this festive season. The download contains texts based on one of our students’ favourite aspects of this time of year; giving and receiving gifts! We hope the download will provide you with some quick and easy materials to use in class. In the main article below we have also included some lesson ideas and tips to get the most out of the texts. This is our Christmas gift to you.
Beginners And Younger Students
The first text is aimed at A1-A2 level students and younger learners. It contains a short and simple text about the history of gift-giving at Christmas. Here are some ideas for using the text in your classroom.
As a first step distribute the text around the class and ask students to take turns reading it, one line at a time, correcting pronunciation and answering vocabulary or comprehension questions as you go along. You can make this activity more fun by asking the students to speed up or slow down, speak loudly, speak quietly, or even speak in tune.
Before the students read the text, prepare some simple comprehension questions to read out. When they have read the text they can answer your questions either verbally or in writing.
Alternatively, blank out some selected vocabulary and create a gap-fill version of the text appropriate to the level of the students you are teaching.
The text is short enough to be broken up into sentences or short chunks. These could be distributed so that each student gets one sentence. The students must walk around and speak to their classmates reading out their sentences. They then have to form a circle around the room trying to arrange themselves in the correct order according to the text. Alternatively, distribute larger text extracts to groups of students. The groups talk to each other so they can arrange the text in the correct order before reading it out.
To add a more Christmassy element to the above idea you could wrap the text sections from the previous suggestion in Christmas wrapping paper so that students have to unwrap and reveal their text before proceeding.
Our second text is a longer and more detailed version of the first text which gives more historical information about the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time. It is designed for intermediate students levels A2-B1. You could adapt any of the ideas given for the first text, in addition to which you may wish to try some of the following suggestions:-
Comprehension. Create your own questions to assess your student’s understanding of the text. Ask about specific details, timelines, key figures, or the evolution of gift-giving traditions. Alternatively, cut the text into sections, then divide students into groups and have them compose questions based on their section of the text. You can then go on to hold a classroom quiz with each group posing their questions to the other groups.
Vocabulary Expansion. Identify key vocabulary, words or phrases that might be new to your students, (the text contains vocabulary such as; pagan, entwined, disparity). Get your students to look those words up online or in a class dictionary. They can then use them in other sentences (general or Christmas related) or ask them to suggest synonyms or antonyms for the chosen vocabulary.
Creative Writing. After reading the text get your students to write a reflective piece on their own experiences or family traditions regarding gift-giving during the holiday season. They can compare and contrast these traditions with those mentioned in the text.
Ask your students to find out more about the gifts given to Jesus by the Three Kings or Wise Men at the beginning of the Christmas story. What was the significance of gold, frankincense and myrrh? They could create a story about what happened to those gifts later or they could suggest three gifts for famous or influential people that are alive today.
Get your students to write an essay discussing the positive and negative aspects of gift giving in the holiday season, either now or historically. Students with higher abilities could also comment on the commercialization of Christmas. They can use information from the text provided or do further research to support their opinions.
Speaking Activities. Initiate a class or group discussion about the changing nature of gift-giving and its significance in different cultures. Encourage students to share their own experiences and opinions. Ask if they are aware of other religious festivals in which the giving of gifts plays a part. This should work well in a multicultural classroom as long as everyone involved feels safe to openly discuss personal beliefs and practices. Remind students this is an opportunity to share without being judgemental.
You could ask your students to perform short role plays depicting scenarios related to the text, such as a family discussing Christmas gifts or a historical figure reacting to modern gift-giving practices. If you want to give more direction divide the class into groups and give each group a character or historical section of the text to base their mini-drama on.
Older Intermediate or Advanced Students
Our final text is designed for older intermediate or advanced students, level B1+ and above. It begins with a historical summary of the information given in the previous texts and then goes on to discuss the more controversial subject of the commercialisation of Christmas. Again, any of the ideas and activities previously mentioned could be adapted to this level. Here are some further ideas.
Classic Debate. Divide the class into two groups and assign them opposing perspectives (e.g., pro-commercialization vs. anti-commercialization of Christmas). Tell or show them how a classic debate works with somebody proposing a motion, somebody opposing the motion then somebody seconding the motion etc. Get the students to debate the merits and drawbacks of each viewpoint. Possibly have a third group of students to act as judges to decide who wins the debate in terms of quality of argument. This can be quite challenging for students who have not participated in this style of debate before.
Role-Play Debate. Hold a debate in any style you choose, but assign students specific roles such as businessperson, shopkeeper, religious leader, and single parent. Before the debate commences the students should carefully think about the perspective their character is likely to have. Think of a situational topic and location for the debate to take place. For example, it could be a town hall meeting in which the council elders are deciding whether to allow a new Christmas market.
Research Projects and Presentations. Assign research projects in which students investigate and present the impact of commercialization on Christmas and other cultural or religious holidays. You could designate different festivals to specific groups so that after the presentations there is an opportunity to compare and contrast what each group has found. The students could use PowerPoint and other technology to enhance their presentations.
In-depth discussion or essay writing. Hold a discussion or set a written essay about the ethical implications of the commercialization of Christmas. Prompt students to reflect on the potential drawbacks, such as financial pressure on individuals and families, environmental impacts from excessive consumption, and the shift from meaningful giving to materialistic expectations.
Critical Reading. Provide excerpts from other literary texts or newspaper/magazine articles discussing similar themes, such as consumerism, cultural traditions, or historical origins of holidays. You could also ask students to suggest or bring in their own texts. Have students compare and contrast these sources with the given text on Christmas gift-giving, analysing different perspectives and approaches to similar topics.
Comprehension. Finally, here are ten questions based on the text which could be used to test comprehension for more advanced students, or as starting points for essays or compositions.
- How did gift-giving become associated with Christianity, and what historical event in 336 CE contributed to this association?
- Explain the transition in the focus of gift-giving during medieval times, highlighting the pivotal role of certain stories.
- What literary work in the late 19th century influenced the change in the timing of gift-giving during Christmas?
- How did businesses capitalize on the tradition of gift-giving in the 20th century, specifically targeting a demographic to boost sales?
- Prior to Coca-Cola’s influence, describe the diverse representations of Santa Claus.
- What concerns about Christmas commercialization were highlighted by economist Joel Waldfogel, and what discrepancies did he identify?
- What were the implications of certain gifts, such as perfumes or clothing, not aligning with personal tastes, as revealed by the survey?
- Explain the impact of the Coca-Cola company on the standardized image of Santa Claus.
- How did the perception of Christmas gifting change over time in terms of its economic significance?
- In what ways does the text suggest a disconnect between the monetary value of gifts and their perceived value by recipients in the context of Christmas gifting traditions?
We hope our texts and lesson ideas will take a little bit of the pressure off during this busy festive season. Good luck with all your Christmas activities in the classroom and enjoy the coming holidays.