Holiday activities for your world language classroom

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@DiegoOjeda66

Christmas and the end of the year are two important events for most of the Western world, but of course there are differences in how they are celebrated in different countries and cultures. I am originally from Colombia and I came to the United States 20 years ago and I still remember my first Christmas in this country as if it were last year.

Three things surprised me about the celebration of Christmas in America: First, I couldn’t believe the amount of cookies that invades homes starting December 1. I came to think that cookies were the only possible food to enjoy during Christmas in this country.

The second thing that surprised me and that actually made me feel a little sad is that nobody wished me “Merry Christmas” on December 24. In Colombia and other Latin American countries we used to wish each other a Merry Christmas throughout the day of December 24. I had to wait 24 more hours to hear the much-awaited greeting but for me it was already late, I did not feel the same when I received the merry Christmas on December 25.

The third thing that left me a little perplexed was the way Christmas presents are exchanged. I was stunned to see how almost every person received a gift from each person present in the room and in front of the tree, but what left me speechless was the tradition in which each person explains the reason why a gift was given.

I know that Christmas in the Western world is very connected to religious traditions, but I have also learned that this is not so for many people in the United States. I always worry about making mistakes and suddenly doing a class activity that is very connected to the religious aspect. I try to do non-denominational activities that allow everyone to enjoy the last days of the year, while still practicing the second language they want to acquire.

Here are some activities to try with your students in the coming days, no matter what language you teach:

TREE

Five classes before leaving for the Christmas break, one letter per day of the word TREE in the target language is designated for students to use to say a word that begins with that letter as a code to enter the class.

So on the first day, if you teach Spanish, you would start with “A”. Possible words; bird, open, blue, etc.

Variation: Students may be asked to use nouns, or verbs, or adjectives.

PEACE

Christmas is a time when the world speaks about and awaits peace. Share the international symbol of peace and help them understand it. Then ask students to create their own peace symbol in pairs or individually. They can use the letters of the word in the target language or draw a picture that represents peace for them, then they must present it and explain it to the class.

MY WORLD

Explain to students that this is a time when we reflect on the important things for each of us: Family, friends, experiences and opportunities shape our personal world.

Ask each student to make their own three-dimensional world. In his own world the student will include things that symbolize those most important aspects of his life. Clay, paper mache or other techniques can be used.

Upon completion of their project, students explain it to their classmates.

MYSTERIOUS GIFTS

One of the most pleasant and meaningful ways to express generosity is through words. We will put the names of all the students in the class in a container and each student takes one, making sure not to take their own. Each student should draw a card for the student they have chosen at random. On the card they will write and explain in the target language, all the positive characteristics that they have been able to observe in the person who corresponded to them. The teacher collects the cards, reads them and the next day puts them on the table or chair of each student.

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS

Both the teacher and the students will adapt common greetings and farewells in the target language to sing them to the melody of a Christmas song. Thus, one day after allowing them to prepare the activity, the teacher will say or better, sing “Good Morning” with the melody of Silent Night. We ask students not only to work with one or two words of greeting, but to extend it so that they can sing more. Think of the tune of Silent Night and students singing “Good morning, señor Ojedaaa, how are you?”

WISH STORM

Make some snowflakes on white paper. HERE you can find some snow flake templates where students can write a wish in the target language that helps them, their school, their community, or the world in general.

The snowflakes can decorate the entrance of the classroom so that the rest of the students and teachers know that there is a storm of good wishes in your class.

BE A CHRISTMAS OBJECT

There are many objects connected to celebrating Christmas. Make a list of objects and let each student choose one at random. Students will try to see the world from the perspective of that object and write descriptions that allow the rest of the class to guess which object they have chosen.

Possible objects: sledding, snow, tree, lights, cookies, etc.

Example: I am white and I love the cold. (the snow).

It will be decided how long the descriptions should be according to the level of proficiency of each student.

THE IDEAL CHRISTMAS

We ask students to think about their ideal Christmas day. We ask you to describe the following details when thinking about your ideal Christmas:

  • Temperature of the place where they are
  • Who are they with?
  • Sound
  • Smells
  • Colors
  • Actions
  • Conversation topics
  • Activities

GUESS THE GIFT

A student is asked to leave the classroom. The group decides a code that defines the gift they will give to the student who has left. For example, they can decide that it will be any gift that is not written with the letter “A”.

Upon returning the teacher asks the student “What is your gift?” The student begins to name possible gifts and the rest of the class will answer yes or no, according to what has been decided. The student should keep asking until he is sure what rule the class has decided.

Example:

Student: Es una silla
Class: No
Student: Es una camisa
Class: No
Student: Es un zapato
Class: No
Student: Es un dulce
Class: Sí

SECRET GIFT EXCHANGE

We ask students to bring a very simple gift for another student in the class. The students do not know who they will give the gift to. It is important to put a limit on the price of the gift. I would advise that it will not cost more than $2. Students must bring the gift wrapped in wrapping paper.

During class each student will write on L2, three clues that help discover what the gift is.

Two students are randomly chosen to exchange gifts. The teacher will ask you to use your senses to try to guess the object that is wrapped, if after using touch, sight, smell and ears they have not been able to guess, then the person who has brought the gift reads the clues one by one.

Diego is a passionate Spanish teacher and an accomplished world language presenter. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, with many years of experience teaching in his native country and in the United States, Diego brings a refreshing, cultural awareness and innovative perspective to the teaching of the Spanish language. Diego is co-founder of #langchat, a Twitter chat that has supported many world language educators in the US since 2011. He also is co-founder of #CharlaELE1 a Twitter chat where Spanish teachers around the world share and collaborate.  Diego is currently the World Languages department chair at Louisville Collegiate School in Louisville, KY.

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