By Claire Woodall
I’m not sure about you, but the start of December and being able to open my advent calendar has officially got me into the festive mood; something which I can’t help but share with my students. Of course with EFL not all the students will be celebrating Christmas, however it is still a really good opportunity for some more personalised activities and has inspired this article on the benefits of keeping classes interesting by involving current events into language learning.
Festivals and holidays are one of the main aspects that can vary so widely between cultures, so you have a fantastic opportunity to exploit this with EFL. Here are a selection of activities that can be used during the year on the topics of national holidays, celebrations and notable dates. I’ve found the following activities work really well as warmers/enders to generate lots of speaking from students.
Present a picture of a Christmas dinner to the students to generate some discussion on the types of food eaten at Christmas in the U.K. Find out what students eat on special occasions in their cultures. You can then follow up this discussion with a more focused speaking activity, the ‘dream dinner party’ game. Split the class into groups and give each group a photocopy of a template of a dinner table with 10 chairs around it. Give students ten minutes to decide who they want to invite to their dream dinner party (famous people dead or alive). Encourage students to present the reasons why they should be allowed to invite the guests they have chosen and to collectively decide on their top 10 guests for the party. Next ask students to decide on a seating plan. Finally, allow students to present their dream dinner party to the rest of the class, explaining why they have chosen their guests and their reasons behind the seating plan.
Friday the 13th
A fun activity that has always provided plenty of interesting feedback from students: Ask students what the date is and if this has any significance to them. Explain that Friday the 13th is thought to be unlucky in western cultures. Find out if this is the same in their culture or if they have another date like this. Then allow pairs to discuss symbols of good luck and bad luck in their cultures. Feedback from students and write up their responses on the board in two columns – good and bad luck. If you want to extend this activity you could elicit the meaning of ‘superstitious’ from students and then play them Stevie Wonder ‘Superstitious’ getting students to fill in the gaps on a lyric sheet.
February’s Month of Love
An activity I’ve used on Valentines day has been to present my students with some English chat up lines, and then get students to come up with some of their own (with correct grammar, etc). Next February, 2012, will also be a leap year; this could provide some speaking on the differences within students’ cultures on the customs of marriage proposals.