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Christmas lesson plan

Materials with permission from Crew's Nest logo

For a Word version

xmas scene

Preliminary information

Time: 60-90 minutes??

Level: Upper Intermediate/Advanced - although it would be easy to rewrite the texts for use at lower levels.

To give freer speaking practice
To give reading practice
To introduce some vocabulary & traditions connected to Christmas celebrations

That the group will be interested in Christmas traditions

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
The texts might prove to be challenging in terms of the vocabulary >> pre-teach crucial stuff, meaning from context task for the other interesting items & ignore the remainder.
The Xmas wish letter might not go down well with all groups.

Texts - x 4 on aspects of Xmas & the jokes taken with permission from Crew's Nest web site
Accompanying comprehension tasks
Accompanying chart for the info exchange


Stage 1 - Lead in - sink stds into the theme of Xmas - jokes
10 mins

1. Tell one of the jokes below.
2. Handout the reindeer joke matching - pairwork.
3. Handout a joke to each std & they tell each other in pairs.
4. Elicit if they know any jokes themselves.
5. Stds tell you about their Xmas traditions.

Stage 2 - Xmas vocabulary - brainstorm
10 mins

1. Brainstorm - stds throw out all words connected to Xmas. This would be an opportunity for you to pre-teach any vocab from the text that you deem necessary.

Stage 3 - Reading
15 mins

1. Put stds into four groups - handout copies of each text - one version per group.
2. Stds read & write four questions for each other to check understanding. It would probably be a good idea to have dictionaries a hand.
3. In their groups they hand round their questions & answer them, getting back to the question writer, clarifying any problems. You could be going round & sorting out any problems.
4. Handout the chart & they fill in for their text.
5. Make sure that each group is OK with their texts.

Stage 4 - Information exchange
15 mins

1. Explain the activity - that you will put them in groups of four & each member of the group will have a different text. The aim is to find out if their are any similarities with the dates & to generally find out as much information as possible about the different aspects - the chart is to help them focus - check instructions.
2. Group the stds & the discuss & exchange. Take notes while they are doing the activity.

3. Regroup the stds back to their individual groups to compare ideas & completed charts.
4. General content feedback - any similarities in dates, anything new that didn't know before, anything similar in their countries & could develop into a good discussion on altruistic behaviour re. St Nicholas, etc.
5. Linguistic feedback - pick up on some general +/- areas from your notes.

Stage 5 - Follow up activities:

Letter writing - depending on the group! - 20 mins
1. Introduce the idea of a letter to Father Xmas or the Kings - do they have it etc..
2. Handout letter outline & stds write their own. Go round & help out.
3. When all finished pin on the walls, all read & decide on best/most convincing letter..

Roleplay with Santa - 15 mins
1. Stds brainstorm questions they would like to ask Santa if they had the chance.
2. Designate who takes on Santa roles & others interview.

Presents - 15 mins
1. Stds think what would be a suitable present for each of their classmates, including you. They write these each down on slips of paper.
2. Stds, & you, mingle & give out the papers, the presents, to everyone & at the same time wishing each other a happy christmas.

See also the ideas from last Christmas

A few (pretty awful) Christmas jokes

xmas decoration

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Mary who?
Mary Christmas

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Snow who?
Snow business like show business


Match the two line jokes

1. How long should a reindeer's legs be?

2. What do reindeer have that no other animals have?

3. Why did the reindeer wear sunglasses at the beach?

4. Where do you find reindeer?

5. Why do reindeer wear fur coats?

6. What did the dog say to the reindeer?

a. It depends on where you leave them

b. Just long enough to reach the ground

c. Because they would look silly in plastic macs

d. Because he didn't want to be recognised

e. Woof, woof

f. Baby reindeer

What's an ig?
An eskimo's home without a loo

What do you call a penguin in the Sahara desert?

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa?


Texts for the jigsaw reading activity

The First Christmas Cards

The first recognised commercial Christmas card was produced in England in 1843 by Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a hand coloured print showing a family scene flanked by scenes of Christmas charity. This was inscribed with the words: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" with space at the top to put the name of the recipient and at the bottom for the name of the sender.

However, it was not until the 1860's that the Christmas card as we know it came into being. Initially these were small cards with a simple greeting set within an embossed border. However, as the demand for Christmas cards grew, the cards became larger and more elaborate. Folded sheets of white paper were ornamented with borders of overlapping lace that lifted to form a raised framework for a central picture and turkeys, fireside scenes, plum puddings etc. became popular themes.

The founder of the American Christmas card is said to be Louis Prang of Boston who printed a wide variety of album cards and visiting cards. In 1875 he issued seasonal greeting cards which were an immediate success.

By 1880 the popularity of Christmas cards was such that many prominent artists of the time had their work reproduced in this form. It was also the year that the familiar 'Post early for Christmas' plea as issued for the first time.

The First Christmas Cards

Write 4 questions about your text to check your partner has understood the text.


The History of the Christmas Tree

xmas tree 1

Although it is generally agreed that the Christmas tree in its current form came from Germany in the early 19th century, the tradition of decorating a tree to mark winter celebrations dates back hundreds of years to Roman times, when they used to decorate evergreen trees with small pieces of metal to celebrate Saturnalia.

In medieval times the 'Paradise Play' was performed every year on 24 December. This depicted the creation of Man and the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and always included an evergreen hung with apples which represented the apple tree of temptation.

The first mention of decorated trees being taken indoors came in 1605 in Germany - a country with a long Christmas tree history! The trees were initially decorated with fruit and sweets together with hand made objects such as quilled snowflakes and stars. German Christmas Markets began to sell shaped gingerbreads and wax ornaments which people bought as souvenirs of the fair and took home to hang on their tree.

Artificial trees were invented in the 1880's in a bid to try and stop some of the damage being caused to real trees due to people lopping the tip off large trees, thus preventing the trees from growing any further. It got so bad in Germany that laws had to be brought in to prevent people having more than one tree.

xmas tree 2

The History of the Christmas Tree

Write 4 questions about your text to check your partner has understood the text.


Saint Nicholas

father xmas 1

St Nicholas was a real person who was born to a wealthy family in Lycia, Asia Minor (now known as Turkey) sometime between 270 and 280 AD. He was orphaned at an early age and grew up in a monastery becoming one of the youngest priests ever at the age of 17. He travelled to Palestine and Egypt before returning to Lycia to become Bishop of Myra.

Nicholas was a very generous man, known for his charity and wisdom, who gave away his wealth to those in need. He would often go out at night, disguised in a hooded cloak, to leave gifts of money, clothing or food for the poor and underprivileged.

He died on 6 December 340 and was buried in the church in Myra. After his death he was canonised, becoming the patron saint of Greece, Russia, children, scholars, merchants, sailors and travellers.

In 1087 religious soldiers from Italy took the remains of St Nicholas back to Bari in southern Italy where they built a church in honour of him - the Basilica of San Nicola. This greatly increased his popularity in Europe, with pilgrims from all over the world coming to visit his shrine. Each of them took his legend back to their native countries where, as his fame spread, it took on the characteristics of each country. One thing remained common to all however, and that was the traditional image of the Bishop's mitre, long flowing robes, red cape and white beard.

There are many legends surrounding St Nicholas, the most famous of which tells how he gave bags of gold to three poor sisters for their dowries, throwing them down the chimney where they landed in some stockings which had been hung up by the fire to dry. This gave rise to the custom of giving gifts on his feast day (6 December), a practice which is still followed in the Netherlands and Germany where children leave their shoes out on St Nicholas Eve and hope that they will be filled with sweets and gifts the next morning. Elsewhere this has been incorporated into Christmas due to his identification with Santa Claus - a corruption of his Dutch name of 'Sinter Klaas'.

father xmas 2

Saint Nicholas

Write 4 questions about your text to check your partner has understood the text


The Christmas Pudding

xmas pudding 1

The origins of the Christmas pudding go back to the 14th century when a porridge called frumenty was made by boiling beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was similar to a soup and was eaten as a fasting dish in preparation for the Christmas festivities.

By 1595 frumenty was beginning to evolve into plum pudding - it was thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit and was given more flavour by the addition of ale and spirits.

Over the years it became the customary Christmas dessert. However, with the arrival of the Puritans in 1664 it was banned as a lewd custom and its rich ingredients described as being 'unfit for God fearing people'

In 1714 plum pudding was restored to the Christmas table by George I who had tasted and enjoyed it, despite some objections by the Quakers.

By Victorian times, the plum pudding had evolved into something which looked similar to the Christmas puddings enjoyed by people today and it is now estimated that in the UK over 40 million people will finish their festive meal with a bit of Christmas pudding.

One of the many customs surrounding the Christmas pudding is that they should be made by the 25th Sunday after Trinity, prepared with 13 ingredients (to represent Jesus and his Disciples) and that every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding from east to west with a wooden spoon, in honour of the three Kings.

Another custom is for silver coins to be put into the pudding mixture before it is baked - whoever finds it will have health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.

xmas pudding 2

The Christmas Pudding

Write 4 questions about your text to check your partner has understood the text.

Chart for the information exchange

early dates
other information
The first card
The tree
St. Nicholas
The pudding

An idea for a letter outline to Father Christmas/the Kings

Dear Father Christmas,

This year I have...............


I would really like...........


I would be grateful if you could.................


If you can't manage ......................


Your sincerely,




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