‘Winter activities for adults’ – an #ELTchat Summary from Wednesday 9th December

On Tuesday 8th December, I put out a plea for help on Twitter for Christmas activities for adults, as the large majority of the material I found online was aimed at children. I was also pushed for time to create something for my last few classes myself due to too many visitors coming to Berlin for the Christmas markets!

Some very kind people linked some ideas to me (major thanks to @SueAnnan), and then @Marisa_C suggested that I propose the topic for #ELTchat the following day, which I did… And it managed to win the vote (despite some scroogey resistance from some!) Of course, the time of year probably helped, as many people are coming to the end of terms and courses, but because I proposed the topic and was so excited it won, I was *ahem* volunteered to write the summary.

Christmas tree

If you’ve never heard of ELTchat before, it’s an hour-long conversation which takes place on Twitter (almost) every Wednesday, alternating between 12pm and 9pm GMT. At the end of the chat, one lucky person uses the transcript lovingly collated by @SueAnnan and summarises the discussion. All of the summaries are then added to the amazing summaries index, which, as I have just seen, dates back to October 2010.

This is my first ever summary, and thankfully the nature of the chat calls for a collation of ideas rather than a summarising of opinions and arguments on complex methodological concepts, so hopefully I can’t go too far wrong…! I am, however, famously not very good at being concise, so I’ve tried to break the main bulk of the chat down into bullet-pointed sections for everybody’s ease of reference.


Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that the #ELTchat community teaches around the world, sometimes in countries where Christmas isn’t celebrated. Therefore, these are ‘winter activities for adults’, but Christmas will of course be mentioned!

Christmas/Festive Season Activities: general

  • @MarjorieRosenberg said that she does a winter holiday lesson featuring Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza where she uses overlapping circles for students to compare the traditions. She also brings in a menorah, dreidl and Christmas cracker for students.
  • @racheldaw18 (so weird to quote yourself but moving on….) suggested Christmas crosswords, of which there are hundreds online, or make your own at my favourite website halfacrossword.com
  • @sandymillin shared this mega post from her blog of a mixture of activities, some of which will feature in her BELTA Belgium webinar this Sunday 
  • @sandymillin also pointed out that there are almost 700 photos in the Festivals and Celebrations collection on the ELT Pics website
  • @sandymillin also shared this short pictorial vocab list on Christmas from her Quizlet collection
  • @sandymillin later recounted how much her students enjoyed the edible realia of eating Christmas pudding one New Year 🙂
  • @racheldaw also shared the link to some good resources she’d received in an email from Oxford University Press, via the lovely @SueAnnan (later note: the jigsaw reading went down well with a B1 group I have)
  • @marisa_C introduced everyone to ‘picture karaoke’ where you put some pictures in a Powerpoint or similar and then flick them every so often so that students have to keep up with the story. You can also show them a picture and caption that has to somehow be incorporated in their story, because the caption then allows for greater control.
  • @sandymillin then suggested something similar, via @haniazieba, where students have a picture and a caption, and they tell the story and the captions can lead them to different interpretations of the story
  • @ESOLLiz offered a discussion on terrible cracker jokes as one idea and @Marisa_C extended this by suggesting that students could then write their own. @shaunwilden then shared this link with the 50 best/worst jokes of all time
  • @KateLloyd03 shared her experience of showing students pictures of different traditions and asking them to guess the tradition – pantomime was apparently a funny one!
  • @Marisa_C proposed cutting up #ELTpics diagonally and letting students mingle to find their other half and then discuss what it could be. @shaunwilden added that you could also do this with old Christmas cards.Christmas presents
  • @Marisa_C pointed out that there are normally lots of festive articles to share authentic materials with your students – articles about commercial excess, giving to homeless people, charity gifts etc.
  • @Marisa_C uses the holiday season as an opportunity to teach her students how to send thank you letters, and then to send them to each other in the class to help class cohesion. @MarjorieRosenberg later added her own twist: writing thank you letters for bad or strange gifts, and then other students must guess the gift
  • On a similar note, @ncguerreiro suggested having an advent calendar, with a small language task per day, like “say something positive about your year”
  • @sandymillin also suggested talking about ‘hot holiday toys’ 
  • @fionaljp shared her Christmas list from Scoop.it
  • in the latest edition of the TEFL Commute podcast there is an activity at the end for class based on guessing what’s in the stocking
  • @sandymillin passed on @teknologic’s Christmas quiz which can be personalised
  • @sandymillin also passed on @joannacre’s Christmas advent feature from her blog
  • @sandymillin shared this lesson plan on some passages from A Christmas Carol
  • @SueAnnan had the very creative idea of getting students to follow/make instructions to produce decorations for the classroom, such as origami or paperchains (see this link from @fionljp). This might not be popular with all adults, but if you happen to have a class of parents, they might like activities they could later do with their children. Following on from this, @sandymillin added that you could do something about recycling, then link to what crafts you could make. She shared her experience of having toilet roll snowmen at her Young Learners’ social 🙂
  • Perhaps inspired by my (@racheldaw18)’s recent gallivanting across Berlin’s Christmas markets, @sandymillin made the great suggestion of a planning activity, like designing the layout of a Christmas market, and @Marisa_C then suggested organising an event to raise money for refugees.
  • @naomishema said she plays miming opening a gift box with something inside, and students have to guess what gift is. This could then be adapted that for gifts under a tree. @sandymillin added to this with some unwrapping YouTube videos
  • Thanks to @Marisa_C for passing on the link from Sue Lyon Jones @esolcourses , where there are lots of Christmas activities
  • @sandymillin shared this link to ‘Twelve Days of Christmas letters’. This is a series of letters from a woman to the man who keeps giving her presents, which start with a nice thank you letter and rapidly progress to letters from the lawyer!
  • @MarjorieRosenberg suggested adapting sentences like ‘you know you’re an engineer if…’ to be related to Christmas. For example ‘You know you’re an engineer if you find the broken light in the chain’ etc.
  • @sandymillin linked to some word clouds about Christmas and suggested playing ‘Guess the Christmas movie’ from its word cloud
  • The unstoppable @sandymillin proposed a discussion about Christmas films, for example ‘What makes a good Christmas film?’ ‘Have you seen any on the list?’. She also linked to some festive short films: https://t.co/A4ybgNIhYv
  • @fionaljp shared this link, which includes a range of festivities during December, and suggested perhaps using it for a webquest
  • rather profoundly, @ESOLLiz simply stated that, in order to keep it meaningful, she tends to rely on lots of sharing traditions from each others’ countries / families etc., which is of course one of the best ways to talk about winter holidays with mixed nationality groups!
  • after the chat @Marisa_C shared this link about Christmas around the world, which was just too good to not include

Father ChristmasChristmas/Festive Season Activities: video-based

  • @shaunwilden got over his Grinchy start 🙂 and shared this link to a lesson on one of the John Lewis adverts
  • @ncguerreiro posted a link to the Believe Mog video, which can provide a great opportunity to talk about similar adverts in students’ own countries and unforgettable Christmases
  • @sandymillin shared this idea from the AllatC blog based on a Curry’s advert
  • @Marisa_C also reminded us that you can always watch (and discuss) a classic Christmas movie, or part of one. @Sandymillin suggested all of my favourites: Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, The Holiday and shared a lesson plan from @leoselivan on Love Actually
  • @sandymillin shared the Creature Comfort videos

Christmas/Festive Season Activities: music-based

  • the classic Christmas gap-fill: thanks to @Marisa_C, here is a huge list for some ideas
  • @SueAnnan suggested an interesting twist on the above: comparing songs through the ages
  • @sandymillin proposed playing students a few Christmas carols and then getting them to choose one they’d like to learn and sing
  • Or you could take the translation approach, as suggested by @sandymillin: for example, Silent Night is in so many languages – students could have a go at translating it into English, and then compare it to an English version. Or vice versa, which would be a little less challenging.
  • @Marisa_C introduced everyone to Jacqui Lawson’s e-cards, which together produce a playful advent calendar
  • @MarjorieRosenberg sings ‘Twelve days of Christmas’ with her students, with different groups each singing one part each

 Christmas/Festive Season Activities: food-based

  • @naomishema likes to print out lots of food photos and discuss them with her students
  • @sandymillin took a photo diary of her Christmas a few years ago, and now uses those photos with her students (Google Images is of course a good substitute!)
  • @sandymillin also suggested challenging students to cook from an English recipe – then the teacher definitely benefits, too!Mince pies
  • @racheldaw18 (yes, me again, sorry) shared a blog post from a lesson she created on the M&S Christmas food advert, which can lead to a great exchange of food vocabulary

Christmas/Festive Season Activities: alternative ideas

If you find yourself with a group of students who are Scrooge reincarnate, then here are some other ideas that appeared over the course of the chat.

  • @Marisa_C pointed out that you can have some very serious discussions about the meaning of Christmas with ‘a dour group of students who enjoy slagging off Christmas’
  • @sandymillin also took inspiration from a Tesco advert (British supermarket) on having a gluten-free Christmas to encourage students to explore problems that Christmas can cause
  • @naomishema also mentioned that you could discuss how people who may have had a bad Christmas experience can learn to enjoy it again

And we didn’t just talk about Christmas…

New Year’s Activities

  • New Year’s Resolutions: get students to discuss theirs (I liked this idea so much I knocked up New Year’s Resolutions very quickly for a low-level company class I have)
    @marisa_C linked to a post of hers which features Bridget Jones
  • New Year’s cards: lots of the ideas for cutting up pictures and cards and letting students mingle as suggested above, can of course also be used for lessons on New Year


A few extra links

@sandymillin shared a link from @cerirhiannon about Vlogmas and the 12 Edtech tools of Christmas for the technologically-inclined among us

Christmas Crackers@sandymillin’s webinar on activities for Christmas and New Year with BELT Belgium (I’ll post the recorded link once it’s over, if that’s allowed!

The transcript of this whole #ELTchat, thanks to @SueAnnan: http://eltchat.pbworks.com/w/page/103668899/Winter%20Holiday%20activities%20for%20Adult%20Learners

Phew, I made it! If you spot any broken links, typos or misquotes, please let me know! Otherwise, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂



About BerLingo

My name is Rachel, I am 25 and I love Germany. I studied German, Spanish and Italian at Durham University for four years, one of which I spent living in Europe, and then worked at Routledge academic publishing house for almost 3 years. Towards the end of 2014, I decided it was time to finally fulfil a long-held ambition to live in Berlin, and so in April 2015 I completed the CELTA qualification (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, adminstered by Cambridge University) here in the German capital. Now qualified, my blog berlingo18.wordpress.com charts my experiences as a new English teacher in my favourite city... (More information about my plans can be found in my first ever blog post.)
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3 Responses to ‘Winter activities for adults’ – an #ELTchat Summary from Wednesday 9th December

  1. tekhnologic says:

    Thank you to both Sandy and you for the mention. I appreciate it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mandy says:

    Such a great, fun-filled array of ideas! Thank you so much Rachel for the write up and to everyone who contributed!! My final week of teaching for 2015 is all planned up!

    Liked by 1 person

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