Christmas fun in class- and few post-holiday class activities

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I have been the class Christmas lessons  planner for many-many years. We have games, crafts, fun language activities, and an absolute blast with my students. I also always have printable games on hand, just in case I need to fill some time. Usually, though, we end up with way more fun than there is time for.

This year, I used most of the activities I have already written about, in older posts, and added few new ones…

In this post,I just wish to share some pictures, which prove how much fun we had, while learning new things about Christmas and practicing our English , at the same time!

For more details about most of them, please, feel free to read my earlier relevant blog posts, here , here or here.

This year, we made beautiful 3D crafts with my little ones, learning the Christmas vocabulary a, at the same time.

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We played lots of fun games, with all classes!

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We sang Christmas songs!

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We even sang old-time-classic songs  such as “The rainbow song”, using Christmas ornaments!!

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We made Advent calendars!

 

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We decorated our special Christmas trees!

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We wrote Santa letters and met one of his best friends!

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Here  are some cool post-holiday classroom activities I have come across online and I have decided to use in my class next week!

I hope, they’ll work!

POST-HOLIDAY CLASS ACTIVITIES

We  should try to avoid diving right into the schoolwork after break. Instead, I think we should make the adjustment a little bit easier by welcoming students back with fun activities that incorporate what they did over their holiday vacations.

Let’s get our students back on track and motivated to learn once again.

Create a Holiday Memory Book

Have students capture their best holiday moments in a memory book. Students will have more than enough to share, and a memory book is a great way to do that. Ask students to draw or bring in a picture of their favorite holiday outing or gift. Then ask students to write a few sentences about it. Once students have completed their memory book page, have them share it with the class or bind them all together to make a class book.

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 Make New Year Resolutions

Returning from holiday break is the perfect time to teach students how to reflect upon the past year and to make positive changes for the new year. Tell students that the new year means a fresh start and they can make promises to themselves that are positive and realistic. As a class, brainstorm a few resolutions together. Give them the following prompts to get started.

  • In 2015 I want to learn …
  • In 2015 I want to get better at …
  • My goal(s) for 2017 are …

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Have a Show and Tell

As soon as students enter the classroom after winter break, they inundate you (and each other) with stories about what every student received from Santa, or all of the fun places that they went while on break. What’s a better way to share all of their experiences and new toys then to bring something in for a little old show and tell? For a different spin on the traditional activity, try having students guess who brought what item in.

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Creative Writing Prompts

A creative and calm activity to get your energetic students back into the grind is to have them write about what they did and received over break. Students can get the opportunity to discuss their adventures in a fun writing piece. For instance, ask students to write about the best gift they gave and what made it so special, or describe their family’s holiday traditions in detail. Here are a few more creative writing prompts.

  • What are you most grateful for this holiday season?
  • What was your favorite holiday food that you had over break?
  • Who was the person you spent the most time with and why? What did you do with them?
  • Write about a place that you went over the Christmas break.
  • Write about something you did with your family over Christmas break.

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Play a Fun Game

Welcome your students back to school with a few fun games! Try to avoid piling on the schoolwork right away and instead try playing a few fun games to ease students back into the routine. Review games are a great choice for easing students back in. Try games like the “Hot Seat” where one student faces away from the board and chooses three people to give them clues about what is written on the board behind them. Another fun game is “Ping Pong,” where students are divided into teams of two and the team that gets the answer correct gets to throw a ping pong ball into a one of three cups to get a prize for their team. Prizes are things like a homework free pass or lunch in the classroom.

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Host a Party?

Before you must get back to all the school chaos and your crazy school day routine, kick off the first day or two back to school with a party! Invite the classroom next to yours over for some cookies and hot chocolate. Allow students to share their holiday break stories over a warm cup of cocoa! Students will love the ease and flow of a relaxing day back to school.

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Christmas break was a time for rest and relaxation, so it’s important to remember to ease students back into the school routine slowly and carefully. This will ensure that everyone will be motivated and ready to learn in no time.

Back-to-school fluency enhancing activities

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Fluency refers to how well a learner communicates meaning rather than how many mistakes they make in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Fluency is often compared with accuracy, which is concerned with the type, amount and seriousness of mistakes made.

I personally, don’t believe that  fluency is a goal worth striving towards only with students who are at a fairly advanced level. I firmly believe  that the learning of a language is about communication, and I  feel that fluency should be the main goal in our teaching and that it should be practiced right from the start.

More traditional teachers may tend to give accuracy greater importance;In my classes, I tend towards fluency.

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Of course, we learn a language for communication, so I think that if a student is fluent but not accurate, it is still important to check whether the mistakes or errors can not block communication. Otherwise we need to correct any mistake that can be an obstacle to communication. I just want to stress out that being fluent without being accurate is not the issue we should focus on if communication is taking place effectively.

Let’s be honest: in terms of preparation for the world outside the classroom, fluency is sometimes even more important than accuracy.

Why I am more interested in fluency than accuracy in the early stages of language acquisition? Because,  I think back to my own elementary school days… I disliked teachers who singled out students for correction. I think correcting speech is counter-productive to learning. I think some students are initially going to have a difficult time learning English due to not comprehending what is being said and also due to vocalizing new words. So, if I correct everything said, students might feel that English is too difficult. They may perhaps tune out and/or become embarrassed and may develop a negative attitude to English.

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The most important thing for me has been to recall the wonderful teachers I have had in the past with a view to modeling them as much as possible in my own classrooms. And I have found reflecting on the outcome of my lessons brought me closer to the ideal. This I found was a positive way for me to improve my teaching and create an ever more joyful atmosphere for the learning of English as a foreign language for my young students.

Actually, I have realized that, it’s usually easier to become more accurate in a language!  Fluency is harder to master, so that’s what we should focus on at first, even  in the beginning of the school year! Especially, then!

An example I can give, comes from a close friend of mine, who loves learning languages. This is what she has told me…:”A long time ago when I learned French in a “Frontisterio” (  private Language Institutions in Greece) , the language teachers believed that the most important thing was grammar. So I learned French grammar very well—even to this day I am proficient. But I can hardly speak a sentence of French because no one cared about my fluency—only my accuracy.”

All in all, quite an important factor in education towards  cooperation, is the teacher’s attitude. If she favors a cooperative style of teaching generally and does not shy away from the greater workload connected with group work or projects, if she uses activities to increase fluency, then the conditions for learning to cooperate and develop fluency,  are good. The atmosphere within a class  can largely be determined by the teacher, who – quite often without being aware of it – sets the tone by choosing certain teaching methodology and practices.

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Activities that help to develop fluency focus on communication- for example discussions, speaking games, presentations…..

Here are just few ideas for icebreaker and fluency activities, suitable for a wide rage of students, which have worked in my classes.

a) Start with a ball of yarn.Say your name and an interesting fact about yourself.Then, holding an end, toss the ball to a student.The student will say his/her name and an interesting fact , then holding on to part of the yarn,toss the ball to another student.By the time everyone has spoken, there will be a large web of yarn that can be displayed on the bulletin board with thumb tacks, if you want!

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(This activity is excellent as a review tool, too.Each student says something about the subject, , then tosses the yarn)

b) Split the students in pairs. Each pair will have 30 seconds to find 5 things they have in common.At the end of the 30 seconds, put two pairs together and give the four a minute or so to find something all four students have in common.

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Finally, each group can present the list of things they have in common.(You can use this activity, to form student groups, too)

c)Pass around, a bag of M&Ms.Tell the students to take as many as they want.Once all the students have M&Ms, tell them that for each M&M, they took, they have to say/write one thing about themselves. For instance, if a student took 10 M&Ms , they would have to say/write 10 things about themselves, different for each color.

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Examples:

Green: something about school

Red: something about my family

Blue: something about my hobbies

Yellow: something about my future plans

Brown: something about my friends

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(Variation-use a roll of toilet paper, instead of M&Ms)

 

d)Me in a bag, has been one of my most favorite activities, for many years now…

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I put a few items that represent me in a large paper sack.I put a paintbrush because I love drawing, my favorite book , my favorite CD, a cookbook etc

The students, guess the significance of each item as I pull it out of the bag.This discussion helps the kids to know me as a person.

Each student then, has a turn to bring in his/her own ” Me in a Bag”, giving everyone in the class the chance to shine!

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e)Another fluency activity that I love, is “My timeline” or ” My numbers”.

I start the lesson by drawing a line on the board and and write important dates of my life on it.

Students ask me questions about my life to get them as answers.

For homework, students draw their own timelines.and they talk in pairs about them. I walk around listening…

Brainstorming!

Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

f) Music mingle , is also one of my favorite fluency activities.

Move with the music, stop when it stops, grab a partner and talk about a happy memory ( or anything else, eg holidays, favorites etc) until music starts again….

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g)True or False activities ,have always been my favorite ones!

I write 4 facts about myself and read them to my students. 3 facts are true but 1 is false.

Students take my little true-false test.Then, I survey students to learn the results. We go back over each question to see what they  thought about each statement.

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That gives a chance to tell them a little about me.

Then, on a sheet of paper, students write 3 interesting facts about themselves that are true and 1 that is false. A class discussion starts.

h)Open questions session: Sometimes, just a simple opportunity to ask questions, can benefit our class. When I have a few minutes, I open the floor for my older students to ask me questions.,They can be about anything! They just love it!

Learning a foreign language is not just a matter of memorizing a different set of names for the things around us… it is also an educational experience.

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Whatever the activity, think through the language they will need to complete it and include some kind of post-activity focus on form slot. Variety is important as anything can become dull if it’s done too often and is thus predictable. Vary the task, the seating arrangements, group size and materials used.

Good luck!

9 All about me: this is another favourite project of mine! We spend at least two lessons on it.First , I start by asking them to play the guessing game "Me in a bag": I take out of a bag several objects which have to do with my life and interests and ask the class to guess how they are related to me! I ask them to do the same during our next lesson for themselves and challenge their classmates to guess about them! Finally, they are assigned to write everything they consider important about themselves on this paper figure which is displayed on the classroom walls!

More ,start of the school year, fun!

 

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Building a classroom community is very important and is an indicator of success. Icebreakers and other activities are important to implement during the first days of a new school year. It is important for all students to feel welcome and a part of their small community which actually a part of an even bigger one. Feeling comfortable will help create resilient learners that have confidence in sharing their ideas without fear of being judged.

Sharing some of my favourite activities, here, today…….

The ball game

Have all the kids stand up .  As a group think of 5 questions that they want to find out about each other such as:

What is your name?

When is your birthday?

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?

Name something you are good at?

After you decide on the questions you can start the game.  Give one player the ball.  Have them throw the ball across the circle to another player.  Whoever catches it has to answer one of  the 5 questions- the one the person who has thrown the ball is asking him/her.  When they answer the questions they throw it to another player who then does the same .  To make sure everyone gets a turn make it a rule that you have to throw the ball to someone that didn’t already have a turn.

Variation: I ask them to say a reason they think they are special , each time they catch the ball or share a fact about them nobody in class knows …..

Words about me

I saw this one on Pinterest and thought it would be a great way to revise some vocabulary and boost their self-esteem, at the same time .  The students had to find at least 20 words that describe themselves. They had a great time working on this activity. This was also an encouragement to the students because they realized that they have some great qualities to share with the world.

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With older students, we do ” I am special because..” They have to write as many reasons they can think of , why  they are special!I use the body template below… A great self-esteem booster, too.

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Scavenger Hunt

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Children are given a list of questions about their class and classroom to answer. First most accurate sheet wins. Some examples are: How many children are in this class, how many girls/boys are there, how many dictionaries are in the room,  where are the games kept….This activity helps the children get to know each other and their new classroom.

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Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

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A ball of yarn

One of my favorite getting-to-know you activity is building a friendship web using a ball of yarn. We all sit in a circle and I start with a ball of yarn ( I say my name and something that makes me special and then throw the yarn to a friend. When my friend catches the yarn, he/she states his/her name and shares a reason he/she is special  and then throws it to another friend. It is a great way for everyone to get to know each other. I tell all the children we are building a friendship class web where we are always here to help each other. They really enjoy this activity and always ask to do it again!

 

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Self portraits

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Have students draw and color self-portraits on the first day of school. These self-portraits make great displays for back-to-school night and perfect keepsakes to pull out at the end of the year.This activity would be further enhanced by having students write an “I Am” poem. Each line of the list poem starts with the phrase, “I am”. You could also add other phrases such as ” I have..”, “I can…”, ” I like…” etc. Students brainstorm descriptive phrases about themselves to write their poems. Younger students could brainstorm a list of descriptors as a group and copy their ideas onto sentence strips to write a class poem

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Shhh Spray

I made up some “Quiet Spray!”  You spray the ROOM to signal children to get quiet.  Or you can just leave the bottle empty.  Mine love the mist in the air.  It is so funny!  {I do not condone spraying a child!  As much as you might want to!  Ha! ;)}

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Brain Sprinkles

1. To playfully encourage anxious kiddos during test time or challenging academic times throughout the year 2. To playfully encourage students to THINK or USE THEIR BRAINS when conflicts, problem-solving situations, anger-inducing situations, or social situations arise

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I took an empty spice container, created a cute label, then filled the container with beads and glitter. I shake the container over their heads, and…boom! They are revitalized. Sometimes I use them on myself. I love to give everyone brain sprinkles right before a test. Some even ask if I can shake a little extra sprinkles for them!

Name chant

This cute chant , is the way for my juniors to get to know each other’s names  , the very first day in our  English class! Sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”.

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I am done Jar

I created an “I’m Done” jar for my fast finishers and it was seriously amazing! I always had students who finished their “must do’s” quickly. They just got it! When they came up to me and exclaimed, “Teacher! I’m done!” I generally would just tell them to go read a book/magazine . I wanted to figure out *more* ways to challenge and engage my students who finished quickly. So I complied a list of activities  that would be fun and meaningful for my students and stuck them in a jar. It worked wonders!

 

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Bulletin boards

I always create my class bulletin boards, before the school year starts!They help me improve effectiveness and enjoyment of lessons . They make my classroom visually appealing and stimulating to my  students

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 Fill in the funny blanks

Sometimes, I give them a sheet of paper with funny info about me and ask them to work in teams and correct the info which is not right, by guessing! They love this activity! They always guess wrong about my age!!….

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Our mail box

There is a mail box in class, where anybody who wishes to write me a letter can do so, any time they feel like it! The first letter I send them myself,  is at the beginning of each school year, welcoming them to our class  and I always ask them to write back sharing their hopes, fears, expectations, goals, feelings…..

Here are some of their letters , this year!

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Three truths and a lie

I play a game called 3 Truths and 1 Lie and have students tell their three most favourite things  and one  untrue fact. It is up to the class to guess which fact is untrue.

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All about me paper figures 

I provide each student with a small paper cutout in the shape of a human, or have students cut out their own paper figures. I ask each student to write his or her name on the cutout and all about him/her they would like us to know…

These cutouts make a beautiful classroom walls display!

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Posters  entitled ‘About Me’

They have  spaces for a photo of the child, likes and dislikes (foods, movies, books etc), about their family, what they like to do in their spare time,  what makes them special….

It’s a way for me to get to know the children and if the children are new to each other, its great for them to learn more about each other and find a new friend with similar or same interests.It is also a good self esteem booster!

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Cute selfies, on our classroom walls

Using  templates ( there are so many of them on Pinterest, eg https://www.pinterest.com/pin/248401735675011808/ ) , students draw their selfie (self portrait) onto a smart phone template handout. They then select from the variety of text message (writing prompts) and answer questions for back to school, Halloween, New Year’s or end of the year. This year, I have  decided to ask them to choose from alternative back-to-school  text message  topics:

 

  • What I DIDN’T DO this summer
  • A unique person I met this summer
  • My most memorable moment of the summer
  • One thing I learned this summer
  • The person I spent the most time with this summer
  • The best meal I ate this summer
  • Something educational I did this summer
  • Something I bought this summer
  • Something I made this summer

 

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Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Our birthday calendar

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When it’s a student’s birthday, I give him/her a special birthday card and they have to wear their birthday hat , during the lesson! In the beginning of each school year, I ask them to use this calendar to mark their birthdays on.

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A class poster

A poster with their class photos, on their first day in class, is always a precious keepsake.

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Me in a Bag

I ask them to bring a bag to school on the first day with things –no more than 3 (objects, pictures, etc.) that tell about them, their family, and things they like. I start by sharing my bag and telling about myself and my family. After seeing what’s in my box and sharing my stories about each objects, students can’t wait to show their objects and talk about themselves. I learn a great deal about each child and their lives. This is also a great speaking activity! Classmates are given an opportunity to ask a question or share a compliment.

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Time capsule

I make a Time Capsule every year with my students, as one of my first activities. It includes their goals for the new school year. One they have each completed one, they fold it up and seal it and it goes in a box that I have labeled Time Capsule. In May,they open the one from September and to much of their surprise many goals are NOT accomplished , over the course of eight months.  This activity is always a winner with my students. I have been doing it for years!

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The first days of school, can be stressful for everyone, but these activities  will help you and your students get to know each other in a fun, interactive way to help build the classroom environment all year long!

What are your favorite first days activities?

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