Six topical teaching ideas for December

Last month I neglected to do a list of topical teaching ideas, instead focusing on activities with camcorders. But I can’t really let December and the last week of classes before the holidays go by without some kind of practical post. So, here goes!

1. Play the Christmas Stocking game

I’m currently not teaching (my classes finished last month), but if I were I would use this favourite standby. I bring in a Christmas stocking (if you don’t have one, use a big woollen sock) and a bunch of small items (e.g. toy car, pencil, eraser, keys etc). I explain the tradition of Christmas stockings and then discreetly put an item into the stocking. Students pass it around and have to make a guess as to what it is. I did it once with kitchen utensils (e.g. carrot peeler, garlic press) with a group of adults and it was hilarious. Good practice of modals of speculation too.

2. Talk about something other than Christmas

Here are some other interesting national holidays from December that have nothing to do with Santa Claus: United Arab Emirates Independence Day (Dec 2), Thailand King’s Birthday and National Day (December 5),  Turkmenistan Neutrality Day (Dec 12), South Africa Reconciliation Day (Dec 16) and the anniversary of Panama assuming control of the Canal (Dec 31).  Now, I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could create an activity to do with one of these but I’ll leave it as a germ of an idea for you to develop.

3. Make  a Christmas or end of year Crossword puzzle

Pretty standard idea, yes I know. But December 21 marks the 96th anniversary of the first published Crossword Puzzle so hey that can act as the hook for the lesson! Make your own crossword puzzles here.

4. Read some Sherlock Holmes

One of the big films coming out around this season is Sherlock Holmes. I’m really not sure about the Hollywood version, but it’s as good as oppotunity as any to read a bit of Sherlock Holmes with the class.  Full texts available here.You don’t need to do a whole story, just choose an extract as a starting text and go from there.

5. Rate the top gifts of 2009

A link on Yahoo took me to the top gifts of 2009. I’m always a sucker for this kind of thing. Anyway, these top products each come with a little text, making them ideal for a matching activity, followed by some vocabulary work and then perhaps a ranking activity?

6. Make some New Year’s Resolutions

The following website from the American government shows some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions for American citizens with links. It’s an interesting list, quite predictable to me as a North American but it could be interesting to ask students to guess what these are before sharing the list. This could form the basis of small group discussions on the benefits of making resolutions and what, if any, resolutions your students want to make. Or ask students to write simple resolutions on pieces of paper (using going to!) and put them in a hat. Students them pull out a resolution and say how likely it is they will do it.

There you have it! Hopefully ONE of these ideas can help you get through to the end of the year!

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. When I was at university, our American literature teacher had a brilliant idea on how to spread the Xmas spirit.
    She made everyone bring a present we got but, for some reason, didn’t like.
    At the beginning of the class, all presents were collected and numbered. Then, every student drew a number and got a corresponding gift. The funny thing was that if he/she didn’t like it, he/she could exchange it with the students who got their presents before.
    I drew the number as one the first and got a tacky photo frame. 5 minutes later, a friend of mine demanded an exchange – got my frame and left me with a brand new green potty and 3 rolls of toilet paper in it. The best part was the inscription on the potty – ‘Exegi monumentum’. If you know Latin, you should know what that means!
    Gosh, we had so much fun that day! :)))

    Thanks Lindsay for the other ideas!


  2. Btw, just remembered – I once used the New Year’s resolutions from ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ with my adult group. It was great fun!

  3. Some great ideas, I particularly like the stocking one. I’ve done something similar to practise describing senses. It takes a bit of preparation but if you have a few goodies you can have students producing language such as it feels…, it smells like…., it tastes…. etc. Depending on how creative you be, it can have hilarious consequences.

    I’ve also asked my Polish high school students to buy a gift for themselves that costs no more than 5zl. We will guess who bought each item and then explain our reasons for our choices and then vote on who bought the best gift. I have to admit though, this idea is not mine – it was stolen from chapter 3 (Secret Treat p53) of Teaching Unplugged. Today I bought a couple of children’s books in Polish which I’m sure my students will find highly amusing for me to attempt to read out loud.

    • Thanks Peter and Anita, for these two ideas of gift-giving activities. I have to confess I haven’t done this with students, not even a secret Santa activity! Next year if I have a class at that time of year I will. I know the Secret Treat activity from that book too Peter (quite well, as I was one of the editors of that book 🙂 )
      Thanks for coming by.


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