Carnival fun in class: when improvisation rules!

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William Shakespeare claimed that

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143
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In theory, drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning.  Ideally, the teacher will take a less dominant role in the language class and let the students explore the language activities.  In the student centered classroom, every student is a potential teacher for the group.
Drama for second language learners can provide an opportunity to develop the imagination of the students. The students can go beyond the here and now and even ‘walk in the shoes’ of another. It provides an opportunity for independent thinking.
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When the students are having fun, they let their second language guard down and become less inhibited.  The student will tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language.
In the ESL/EFL classroom, role-playing is a powerful tool.  It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students.
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The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued.  In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination.  It is the spark that makes the ordinary into something incredible.  Imagination is the magic force that is beyond facts, figures and techniques which can inspire new ideas.  It is with imagination that the ordinary is transformed into something significant.
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We shouldn’t underestimate this powerful teaching tool to reach our students.

Having all the above in mind, I decided to have my students use their carnival accessories and costumes, as their inspiration to create their own skits, working  in groups! It was actually the day, the school Carnival party would take place during the last two teaching hours, therefore all the kids were in the spirit of  Carnival fun and came to class wearing Carnival masks and costumes ! It was difficult to have a..proper english lesson under the circumstances, therefore, I decided to ask them to use their costumes and masks as realia and write and act out their own skits, working in groups! The outcome, was amazing! It was hilarious! I love it when my students become creative!

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Although, my students used their own scenarios , I also asked them to play one  favourite drama game  :

“Scene from real life” 

Procedure:

1.  Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students each.

2.  One member of the group must tell the others a true story about an event in his/her life.  Encourage him/her to describe it in as much detail as possible.  This person becomes the “director”.

3.  The director then chooses members of the group to play the various characters involved in the scene (including him/herself).

4.  The actors then improvise the scene in front of the director.

5.  After each run-through, the director should give notes. Then the group improvises the scene again.  The goal of the director is to make the scene as believable as possible.

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6.  Once the directors of each group are satisfied with their scenes, have the groups share in front of each other.

With my very young learners, we tried several Carnival fun games such as ” The Carnival King says…”

"The Carnival King says..."

“The Carnival King says…”

or many Carnival-themed vocabulary games such as the one shown in the photo below, called” The Carnival masks dictation”  , played in teams!

"Carival Masks Dictation"

“Carival Masks Dictation”

I also, had my afternoon students make these special LEG puppets

Leg puppets

Leg puppets

and use them to play ” Musical chairs” or ” Freeze”! I finally asked my older students to use the leg puppets in order to act their own puppet shows!

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Improvisation , was the key issue in that, too!

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Working in teams to create the story!

 

That was an alternative english lesson, which we all enjoyed , as you can see in the photos!

Highly recommended to all teachers!

Halloween fun!!!

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What is it about Halloween that I love so much ? It’s its  FUN element, I guess….

I decided to try and bring some Halloween spirit to my class  this year, too. I attempted to teach my  students Halloween themed lessons, and to  elicit some  excitement from them. I feel that I at least paid Halloween  a pretty good tribute.

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Some games and ideas were ones that I created and some came from my colleagues or the Internet.

Here are only  FEW  of my favourites.

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The Donut Game

My students love this game – The day of the class party, they buy a  donut .

I divide the students into pairs  and give each pair a 3-4 foot long piece of strong string/butcher cord.Two pairs of students compete against each other.

While a student holds each end of the string, the other  student places a donut through the string and with hands behind his/her back, tries to take a bite of it, as the other student slides the donut from one end to the other by moving the string gently.

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I make sure that the student doesn’t get too frustrated.

There is always spooky music during the game and when a music piece  is over, time is up and we decide which student has eaten most of his/her donut!  The winners are awarded Halloween stickers and the game continues. TONS OF FUN!

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Halloween Spell Book

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This is an amazing Activityvillage idea, which we finally turn into a class competition for the best spell! Put together your own book of common spells with this Activityvillage  fun Halloween printable!

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Print the cover onto coloured printer card or colour it in yourself. Then print as many pages as you like and fill them in with lots of gruesome and interesting details.

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The Pumpkin Patch chant

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Setting: Small or Large Group
Objective: Oral Language development, name recognition
Materials: one pumpkin die-cut per child, Sharpie marker
Directions: Write the each student’s name on a pumpkin with a Sharpie. Sit the students in a circle in your large group area and place all the pumpkins in the middle of the circle on the floor face down. Have each student take a turn coming to the middle and turning over a pumpkin and reading the name. The entire class says the following rhyme:

Who took the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch??

Who took the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch??

“Who took the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch?
________ (insert name of student whose name appears on the pumpkin die-cut) took the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.”
Student whose name appears on the pumpkin says: “Who me?”
Teacher and class= “Yes, you”
Student= “Couldn’t be”
Teacher and class= “Then who?”

I repeat the activity by having the student whose name was on the pumpkin turn another one over. I continue until all students have had a turn.

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Bobbing for apples

An old-time-classic Halloween game! I put  lots of apples in a bowl of water and thenstudents  try to get them out! But, no hands!!You could make this traditional game a little more scary by filling the bobbing tub with milk and adding red food colouring. Add enough colouring until the milk resembles bright red blood….You could also use a large plastic “cauldron” rather than a bucket or tub.

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What’s missing?

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Very useful to teach and practice Halloween vocabulary! I stick Halloween word cards on the board and ask two students each time, representing two teams, to close their eyes or turn their back to the board.Meanwhile, I remove a card from the board and ask: ” What’s missing”?

mos14hweennewgameThe first student to find out and name the card missing, wins a point for his/her team! Fun!

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Foot Ghost

I ask the kids to trace their foot  on white craft foam or paper . They cut foot pattern out of it. If they wish, they trace and cut a hand pattern and glue the hands on the back of the ghost . They can also draw a face and glue wiggly eyes , on the heel of the foot. They can use ribbon or other materials to decorate their  ghost.I later ask them to write simple sentences on the ghost  and finally put all ghosts on the classroom walls. Cute!

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Halloween Spooky Tree
I build a spooky tree decoration using black and purple card, which I put up on the classroom walls.

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I ask my kids to use web,  spiders,  little ghosts and  halloween words pictures  to decorate our tree. A great way to review Halloween vocabulary and decorate the class at the same time!

Pin the wart on the Witch’s nose

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I draw a big picture of a Witch.I get lumps of green play dough, blidfold each child and let them put the wart on the Witch’s nose! Variations I have also tried: Pin the nose on Jack ‘O Lantern, Pin the tail on the black cat.

Wrap the mummy

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I use loo rolls for this hilarious activity! I have the children work in teams and see who can wrap up their friend the fastest! Spooky background music, necessary!

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Costume contest

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We love it in my class when we take a vote on the best and scariest costumes. The kids actually decide what dress-up clothes or accessories to put on , on the spot! Sometimes, imagination works miracles!I always make sure that  I hand out some..spooky prize for the best costumes!

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Horrible Halloween Recipes

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I always give students a handout with Halloween party recipes and ask them to go home and try some of them and bring them back to class for their classmates to taste! This year, I asked them to try the “red/green  slime dessert” .They had to make an either green or red jelly, break it up with a fork, add some gummy worms etc in it , to make a slimy dessert. Yummy!?

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Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

ALL my students love it when they go Trick or Treat to all the classes in school and get treats!!

 

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Halloween treats

Halloween treats

Halloween cartoons and videos time 

I always have my classes watch Halloween videos and comment on them! This year, I had them watch a video about how to carve a pumpkin, a Disney Halloween cartoon story and some easy and fun Halloween songs for very young learners on youtube! There is such a large collection on line of all of the above therefore, I won’t suggest anything here…

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Classroom party games are great for team building and student motivation in the classroom!!

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Don’t try to play all these games at the same party. You won’t have time and you’ll be rushing through them. Keep something new for the next Halloween  school year party.

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The main thing is to have fun and enjoy your students!!

Thanksgiving class favourites

 

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Thanksgiving, is my most favourite holiday of all! Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach our kids about being thankful. Taking nothing for granted, matters! Here are some ideas to teach  children how to appreciate the blessings in their lives.

Most of the following ideas, come from http://www.apples4theteacher.com, an amazing site I often visit! Highly recommended!

Thankful Paper Chain

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Another way to remind your children of their blessings is to create a paper chain. This is similar to a regular paper chain – where you cut strips of paper and connect them together as loops, but there’s one difference. You write on the strips of paper before you connect them. Write the things you are thankful for with your children. For instance, “Grandma plays games with me” or “My teacher is nice.” The fun part of this activity is to make the chain as long as possible – showing all your blessings. A variation I tried this year was to ask my students to write the things they are thankful for on paper turkeys which they have made by tracing their hands on paper and later added eyes etc to make it look like a turkey!

 

Thanksgiving Tree

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This is another take on the idea above and works really well if you have several kids in the family. Get each child to trace their hand on yellow, red, or brown construction paper. Cut out the hand shapes and write (or have the child write) what they are thankful for on the hand shape. Cut a tree trunk shape out of brown construction paper. Glue it on a large piece of poster board. Let the kids add their hand shapes as leaves above the tree trunk, turning it into a beautiful fall colored tree.

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Thankful Book

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This idea is similar to the others, except it’s more of a keepsake. Purchase a photo album or scrapbook kit and make a “blessings” theme. Add photos of loved ones, including stories about why they are special to you. Also, include pages of your favorite foods, favorite stories, favorite movies and all the other things that make you happy. Any time your kids feel down, you can open your blessing book to see all the reasons you have to be happy – and thankful for the blessings in your life.

 

Thankful collage 

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The goal of this craft is to create a collage filled with drawings and pictures of all the things the  children are thankful for. I ask them to cut photos from magazines, or print some photos from their  computer. Older children can write captions under the photos or draw their own. After I have talked with my 4th graders about what they feel thankful for,and we brainstorm some relevant vocabulary on the board, I ask them to go home and make their  collage  and be ready to talk about it in class, before it is put up on the classroom walls!The big poster with all the individual collages , remains on the classroom walls till the end of the school year, reminding my students of all their blessings every time they look at it! Precious!

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Our “European Day of Languages”class activities- Promoting cultural and linguistic diversity

 

Traveling the World, speaking English!

Traveling the World, speaking English!

We live in a world that becomes more interconnected every day. Language is a large part of this interconnection because it is the primary means for communication. We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. I believe that, we can raise children to celebrate and value diversity and to be proud of themselves and their family traditions.

The European Day of Languages has been celebrated every year since 2001 on 26 September, as an initiative of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans represented in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states are encouraged to learn more languages, at any age, in and out of school. Being convinced that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent, the Council of Europe promotes plurilingualism in the whole of Europe.

The European Day of Languages celebrates plurilingualism and encourages the 800 million Europeans in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to learn more languages.

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For the day, a range of events is organised across Europe: activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences.

Modern foreign language education aims to develop multilingualism and intercultural awareness. In this theoretical framework, the foreign language can be used as a bridge among the students’ languages and serve as a tool to develop translinguistic competence.

This year, I decided to adopt and use in class, many of the activities, Lilika Couri had suggested in her “Tesol Greece 2012 Convention” workshop!

Traveling the World, using our imagination and..English!

Traveling the World, using our imagination and..English!

Actually, Lilika talked about the facts that, language is culture, FL broadens our horizons, and that ,WE teachers are the humanists who aknowledge the presence of foreign nationals in  our classrooms!

Lilika believes that ” we are the Stars of our microcosms” and therefore, we can make the difference!

Today’s classroom is more diverse than ever before. My classes consist of students coming from several different countries : most of them are Greeks but, I also teach childern whose parents come from Albania , Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Hungary, the U.K ,even… India!

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Activities

1. “My music”

I ask all my students, who come from a different country ,to bring a CD with music  from their country ,which they wish to share with the rest of the class!

I ask the class to jot down words  which come to their mind and have to do with that specific country, while listening to the music! (This is where stereotypes usually arise .) Later, I ask them what they were thinking or what images came to their mind while listening, and a discussion follows!

The child who has brought us the CD, has a chance to comment on what has been said and add anything else he/she wishes to.

Finally, I say ” I’d like to thank…..who brought us this beautiful music.”

2. “Stamps: I am from…where are you from”?

I am from....

I am from….

This is an ideal activity for very young learners. I ask my students, to bring a stamp-or a postcard or even a flag- from the country they come from or any European country.

First, we practice ” I am from…where are you from”?

Later, children, holding their stamps, flags or postcards say in a chain “-I am from..Greece. Where are you from? -I am from ..Albania” etc

3. “All I know about…”

All I know about....

All I know about….

This is a good activity for older students. I personally used it with my 5th graders

I ask both Greek students and foreign students to do public speaking in front of their classmates  and share  3-4 facts about their country. These  can include, customs, traditions, a fairytale, historical facts, food, music, national costumes, sports, famous people, carols ..anything they wish to share!

4. “The postcard of my choice”-an oral project

Alexander's mother is from Hungary. he decided to bring postcards from that country !

Alexander’s mother is from Hungary. he decided to bring postcards from that country !

This is a suitable activity for advanced classes…I used it with my 6th graders and it really worked!

Students are asked to bring postcards from their countries.

They tell their classmates why they have selected those specific postcards .What they say about their country, how  they  make them feel…

Lilika Couri, suggests that we ask our students to write the answers and send them to the teacher using “myBrainShark“.

5.”If I were a bird” song

My daughter, decided to travel to.....Hawai!!

My daughter, decided to travel to…..Hawai!!

I always finish our class activities, celebrating the “European Day of languages” with a special song.

Since the Tesol Greece 2012 Convention, I have used this  song several times , on different occassions, with success! Lilika taught us how to sing it back then and I  loved it, at once ! Here are the lyrics:

If I were a bird,

I would fly high.

If I were a bird,

I would reach the sky.

If I were a boat,

I would have sails.

If I were a boat,

I would ride the waves.

But, I am a child,

A lonely child.

I don’t have a boat,

I can’t reach the sky.

If I hold your hand

And you hold mine,

I can make a boat,

I can reach the sky.

If I hold your hand,

And you hold mine,

We can make a world

With hope and smiles!

6. “Traveling the World with English”

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I used this awesome drawing activity, with my afternoon classes! They hardly know the alphabet! They have been learning english for less than a month ..I am not their morning school english teacher!  I decided to have them try to dream about where around the world they would like to be traveling- speaking ENGLISH of course!! That drawing activity, was first tried with a bunch of special kids, by members of our local “English Teachers Association” board, during the “European Day of Languages” week ,  with huge success!

First,  ask a volunteer  student  to be a “tourist” who wishes to travel the World! Hand him a rucksack, a map, sunglasses, a camera, and ask the class to tell you what else might be missing…brainstorm words…..if they don’t finally  come up with the answer, tell them that it is  ENGLISH , which is an international language, spoken all over the World!

France!

France!

You may wish to write the word “English” on card and add  it in the tourist’s backpack ! Hand the rest of the class different cards ,which have  some clues on them having to do with  imaginary identities eg Name, Age,  Country. eg Ben, 9, Canada

Use a Globe and tell the class that the tourist is traveling the world , speaking english and making new friends.  Then ask the class to walk around the room, and introduce  themselves to the tourist and each other , asking and answering questions!

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Later, spin the Globe and ask them to imagine, where the tourist might  be,  at the moment . Ask them to think about the place , the food, the sights, the people . I tell them that,  now it’s their turn to draw pictures from his   journey around the world, using their imagination .

When they finish, you can have  students talk about their  drawings , in front of the class.

Finally,  use clothes pins and hang the pictures somewhere in the classroom ,for everyone to admire!

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7. Few extra activities

I had found most of these few extra activities I have used in my classes, in a very interesting book called “500 activities for the primary classroom” ( Macmillan) . I had  to slightly change some of them, in order to suit the theme of the “European Day of Languages”.

The activities included, “Where is Ben” -using a soft toy- , “Fruit salad”- using the names of countries instead of fruit-, ” Duck-duck Goose”-with my 1st or 2nd graders, practising “hello”-“goodbye” or other greetings.

But, my most favourite one was

7. “Living Bingo”

Prepare  two sets of cards: one set with the english words and one with the Greek words. I used only names of countries for this activity but, you could also use nationalities.

Have students make four groups of 4 or more people each .

Hand out the english words to the groups of students and ask each group to stand in one of the classroom corners, holding their cards.

Then , call out the greek words. The person with the english word , gets to sit down.

The first team with all the members sitting, is the winner!

I used a handmade camera to talk to my students about my travels around Europe, speaking English-of course!

I used a handmade camera to talk to my students about my travels around Europe, speaking English-of course!

 

 

 

 

 

Easter in our english class

Funny Easter eggs

Funny Easter eggs

In our Easter lessons, which last about a week before schools close,  my students are introduced to some common Easter vocabulary, make  Easter cards and  Easter crafts and, of course, play lots of fun games.

Our students  know full well that any games we play in class will be somehow related to an ESL component, that there will be some focus on grammar or new vocabulary. Because they know that in an ESL classroom, we rarely play games just for fun…. Want to surprise your class? AND give them opportunities to learn? Try these Easter games, and you’ll have your students eagerly lining up to play. And learn!

Many  of the activities below, where found either on a Burlington Easter Activities leaflet which was sent to  most schools a few years ago or on the  ESL kidStuff  site which has even more activities than the ones that I have personally used in my class and have REALLY worked!! This site therefore, is highly recommended!

One other  site where you can find lots of craft ideas that have really worked in my class is:  http://www.kidssoup.com/index.html  I should also not forget to recommend my most favourite site of all: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/easter

Activity Village has a huge selection of Easter activities for you to enjoy with your kids, including colouring pages, printables, jokes, crafts and puzzles!

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Easter Games & Activities

Bunny hoping

Bunny hoping

Bunny Hopping Exercises: have Ss hop to your commands (like an Easter Bunny): Hop slowly, hop quickly, big hops, small hops, turn around hops, hop on left / right foot, hop forward / backwards / sideways, close your eyes and hop, flap your arms and hop, etc.  This is a great activity to do after making ‘Bunny Ears’ . (TP: V: hop, slowly, quickly, big, small, turn around, left, right, backward, forwards, sideways, flap, close. F: giving instructions to play a game using adverbs and prepositions of direction).

Bunny hoping

Bunny hoping

Easter Bunny HopConduct a relay race for two or three teams.Each player must cover a certain distance while jumping with a plastic egg between his/her knees.

Easter bunny hop

Easter bunny hop

Chocolate Egg Bowling: roll a ball across the classroom. Ss take turns to roll their eggs to get closest to the ball. (TP: V: roll, closest. F: giving instructions to play a game).

Duck Walk Race: have the kids line up at the Start Line, squat down and grasp their ankles with each hand from behind. On GO, they waddle to a designated Finish Line. They can’t let go of their ankles or they are disqualified. The first child over the Finish Line wins a prize. (TP: None).

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Easter Egg Blow: use real hollow egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out) or plastic eggs. Use a straw to blow the eggs across the classroom. First person across, is the winner!

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Easter egg blow

Easter Egg Decoration: use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Use colored felt pens, glue and glitter, stickers and anything else to decorate the eggs. You can use these eggs in the ‘Easter Egg Blow’ game. (TP: None).

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Easter Egg Emotions: use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Use felt pens to draw faces in different emotions (happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc). (TP: V: various emotions vocab. F: using adjectives to describe emotions).

Easter egg emotions

Easter egg emotions

Easter Egg Faces: review face vocab (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, eyebrows, cheeks, chin, etc.). Use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Do as a listening activity – T says “draw a nose” and children draw a nose, and so on. Also good for adjectives – “Draw a long nose”, “draw big eyes”, etc. (TP: V: various face vocab. F: giving instructister Egg Hunt: hide small chocolate eggs around your classroom / school / the park and send your Ss off to find them. Teach them expressions like “I’ve found one!”, “Where are the eggs?”, etc. (TP: V: I’ve found one!, Where are the eggs?).

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Easter egg faces

Fair-For-All Easter Egg Hunt: this stops some kids getting all the eggs and other getting none. Simply, write each Ss names on some eggs. The Ss will have to recognize their own names. (TP: F: recognizing your written name).

Egg & Spoon Races: it’s up to you whether you use real, uncooked eggs! Teams relay race with eggs on spoons across the classroom. (TP: None).

Spoon races

Spoon races

Nosey Easter Egg Roll: Ss roll the eggs using only their noses. The first one over the finish line wins. (TP: None).

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Hot Cross buns game: First, I talk to them about Hot Cross buns….I give my older students the recipe which in case they use at home to make some hot cross buns for their classmates to taste in our next lesson, they are awarded stickers!! I hand my younger students a picture with 10 hot cross buns hidden and I ask them to work in teams and find them. Later, they read five sentences and decide if each sentence is true or false.

Hot cross bun

Hot cross bun

Finally, pupils learn a traditional chant about hot cross buns and play the following game: I ask a volunteer to leave the classroom for a minute. I hide a hot cross bun flashcard in the classroom. I invite the students back in the classroom and ask ” Where is the hot cross bun”? The pupil must look for the hidden flashcard.

Looking for the hidden hot cross bun

Looking for the hidden hot cross bun

The rest of the class can help the student by calling out ” hot cross bun” softly when he or she is far from the hidden flashcard or loudly as he or she comes closer to it!When the student finds the flashcard he/she says a sentence about its location eg ” There is a hot cross bun under the book”.

The Hot Cross Bun game

The Hot Cross Bun game

The Easter Egg game: This is a board game.Pupils play in pairs.The object of the game is to be the first player colouring three Easter eggs. Unfortunately, I have a copy of that Burlington  worksheet at school but, I can’t find it online anywhere . You could ask Burlington books to send it to you, too, I assume…

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You could easily make your own worksheet with three Easter eggs on the top and three on the bottom of it each  divided into three sections , by drawing  lines. Then, ask the students to roll the die, and when they land on a colour,  colour the indicated section of an egg. The winner is the pupil who completes colouring his/her three eggs first.

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Easter Bingo: I ask the pupils to make Bingo cards using the Easter vocabulary I have taught them in class beforehand, using flashcards .

The winner of course, is the first pupil to mark all the pictures on his/her card and call out “Bingo”!

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An easter egg hunt variation for older students: turn the egg hunt into a scavenger hunt. For this idea, the entire game must be thoroughly planned out from beginning to end. Inside each plastic egg, place handwritten clues. The kids can divide into teams. Each team is given the same clue to start. When one clue is figured out, it will lead them to another egg with another clue inside. The team that finds the prize first, splits it. 

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Inside each plastic egg, I place handwritten clues

Easter egg hunt

Easter egg hunt

Easter egg hunt: " It's here..!"

Easter egg hunt

Carnival and Mardi Gras activities

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In carnival time, I usually talk to my students about  famous carnivals in the english speaking world! My most favourite one is Mardi Gras!

First, I explain to students what Mardi Gras is and why people celebrate it.
I discuss traditions, festivities and vocabulary associated with Mardi Gras.
I explain the colors of Mardi Gras and what they stand for. In 1892, the Krewe of Rex carried out a Mardi Gras parade whose theme was “Symbolism of Colors.” Green, gold and purple were used. Rex interpreted purple as being symbolic of justice. Green represented faith and gold symbolized power.

Today’s Mardi Gras colors are everywhere: on banners, costumes, masks, beads and colored sugar on king cakes.

Some more things I tell them , can be found below…..

What is Mardi Gras?

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Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, and even Pancake Day,  in the UK, is an annual festival falling just before Lent. It traditionally marks the last opportunity for fun and feasting before 40 days of “self-denial”. Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French.

Festivities begin at the beginning of February, leading up to Mardi Gras day, and consist of parades, dancing in the street, costumes and masked balls. The modern Carnival tradition developed in Europe in the Middle ages, and is celebrated mainly in Roman Catholic communities in Europe and the Americas today. Some of the most famous celebrations are held in Nice (France), Cologne (Germany), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and New Orleans (USA)

When is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras will be  celebrated on 4th March 2014.

Later, I either play games or ask them to make some items, following the instructions below and bring them to our school carnival party! This year, I have asked them to make:

Mardi Gras Cup Shakers

These Mardi Gras cup shakers are fun to make and produce a satisfyingly loud noise for our  Carnival party at school
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You will need:2 polystyrene cups
Green and purple paint
Dried beans or rice
Gold star stickers
Sticky tapeInstructions:Paint one cup purple and one green.Leave to dry and then decorate with stickers.Fill one cup about 1/3 full of rice or bean. Turn the other cup upside down and tape securely together.

Shake and enjoy!

Mardi Gras  bottle Shakers

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To make these Mardi Gras shakers you will need to raid the junk cupboard for supplies. Kids can use them in a very noisy Mardi Gras school  party!You will need:>Small empty plastic water bottles, with lids
Purple and green acrylic paints
Glitter, ribbon, sequins and/or beads in Mardi Gras colours
Dried beans, lentils or similarInstructions:Using the acrylic paints, decorate the outside of the plastic water bottles in whatever design you choose.When the paint is dry, decorate your “shaker” further using glitter, ribbons, sequins or beads. Let the children really go for it!Drop a small number of beans into the bottle (make sure the inside is completely dry first!) and close the lid firmly. Now, shake, rattle and roll!

Mardi Gras Necklace

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This Mardi Gras necklace is fun to make for all ages, but especially younger kids. Depending on how patient your kids are, you might want to prepare the “beads” in advance!You will need:An assortment of pasta shapes, with holes, which can be “strung” like beads.
Purple and green poster or acrylic paints
Gold acrylic or spray paint.
Shoelaces, yarn or string.
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A shaker and necklaces!

Instructions:Sort the pasta into three roughly equal groups and paint each group with one of the traditional Mardi Gras colours. If you have very young kids involved, expect them to get very messy but have a great time!For the gold “beads” it is easiest to use a gold spray paint. Either delegate this to an older child (supervised) or do it yourself, using plenty of newspaper, and in a well-ventilated room or outdoors. Spray one side of the pasta, wait for it to dry, then spray the other side.When the pasta is dry you can assemble your necklaces. Tape one end of your string to the table to make it easier.Take the opportunity for some patterning practice, or try counting the different coloured beads.

Please make sure that the pasta is completely dry before you let the kids put their necklaces on!

Mardi Gras Jester Hat

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Kids will have fun making and wearing this fun, floppy Mardi Gras jester hat!

You will need:Gold card (about 3 inches / 5 cm wide and long enough to go around your head plus some scraps)
Purple and green paper
Glue
Sticky tape
Stapler (optional)Instructions:Cut 3 ‘arches’ of each colour from the paper.Lay your gold card in front of you, face down. Arrange your arches so they stick over the top of the card. Tape into place along the back of the card.Turn your headband over. Roll up each arch and then allow to open again, so that they curve down.Cut 6 circles from the scraps of gold card and glue these to the ends of the ‘arches’.Bend your crown around so it fits your head and staple or tape to secure.

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This is a great National Geographic Video , about Mardi Gras in New Orleans -to watch with your older students.

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/kids/history-kids/mardi-gras-kids/

ENJOY!

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Valentine’s day class games

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During my 20-year teaching career, I have learned that when you work hard to create a community of learners, behavior problems go down and the level of student engagement goes up. Teamwork is a large part of the academic and professional world.  So learning to communicate and befriend others is an important skill for children to learn.

I spend a large amount of time at the beginning of the school year incorporating community-building activities and strategies into my class.

I continue to revisit and build upon activities and strategies that strengthen student relationships in the classroom.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate friendships and to revisit the importance of working together in the classroom. Take a look at some of the activities I incorporate into my classroom on this day of love and friendship.

What makes a friend?

I  have my  students brainstorm what they think makes a good friend.  After this  discussion, I  present them with several different scenarios and have them identify which is an act of a friend and which is not.

Friendship From the Heart

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This activity should be completed after you have discussed the characteristics of a friend. Give each of your students a small heart with the name of a classmate on it.  Have each student write one adjective that describes that classmate on the heart.  Glue each student’s small heart to the large heart in the classroom.  Hang it in the classroom so students can remember the qualities of a good friend.

Who’s Your Friend?

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By this time in the school year, your students are well aware of the names of their classmates. But can they recognize their voices?  This fun game tests that ability. To play this game, select one student to be “it.” This child should sit with his eyes closed in front of the other students. Select a student to walk up behind him and say, “I’m your friend,” in a regular voice. After the second student returns to his seat, the student who is “it” must guess who it was.

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I do this activity with my younger students but it’s fun to do with all !

Can You Mend My Broken Heart?

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Cooperative learning activities promote friendship and teamwork in the classroom.  Divide your class into small groups of four to five students.  Give each group the pieces of a broken heart (made from  paper).  Each group must work together to mend their broken heart before time runs out. The first group to repair their heart wins the game!

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Class Buddies

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Give each of your students one half of a broken heart cut in different ways. Instruct the students to move around until they find the classmate with the matching heart.  Once all the students have found their partners, explain that for the day, they will work and play with their partner.  Encourage students to learn at least two new things about their partner and share it during closing circle.

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 Valentine Guess-who 

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Each child makes a panel for this write-and-read valentine banner. Make  aclass set of a heart  banner template as shown in the photos . Give each child a secret valentine. Have children write the name of their secret valentine at the top of the banner pattern. Have them fill in a clue about themselves.  Guide children in following  directions.

Cut the secret flap door on the dotted lines and fold it back.Glue a piece of light-colored construction paper on the back of the heart so that it covers the opening of the door.Draw a picture of yourself and write your name on the construction paper.Close the door and decorate it with bits of paper, ribbon, doilies, foil, and othercraft materials.Cut out the heart. Glue it to a sheet of construction paper and decorate.

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Have children put their completed panels together to make a banner by taping them side to side. Display on a wall or in the hallway. Let children find their names on the banner, then use the clues to guess their secret valentines…I have them play a guessing game, by reading the clues myself  to the class….real fun!

What I Like About You

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What I Like About You is an esteem-boosting game which can be played in the family or classroom. Great for Valentine’s Day.Variation 1: Give each person a stack of paper and a pencil. Call out the name of one child in the class and ask everyone to write that name on the top of the paper. Now write down something you love (or like) about that person. Fold in half, and throw the papers into a hat. Continue until you have written something about everyone. Now pass the hat around and take turns pulling out a paper and reading what is on it out aloud.
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Variation 2: Put all the pieces of  paper on the classroom walls and ask the students to walk around the classroom and write what they love about each person on the paper .They continue until they have written something about everyone.

It’s amazing how happy  students become when they take the pieces of paper down and read all the positive comments their classmates have written! They feel loved!

A love chant

This is popular among my third graders..We make bird finger puppets, like the ones in the photo and chant it all together moving the birds  according to the chant which  goes like this:

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” Two little birds, sitting on a wall

One called Mary, one called Paul

Fly away Mary, fly away Paul,

Come back Mary, come back Paul

I love you Mary, I love you Paul

Tweet-tweet!”

Hope, you enjoy this special holiday with your students every year ! I do!

 

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Reposting: New Year ideas

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Loved this blog post and I’m sharing  it with you! It’s Maria Theologidou’s blog New post!
http://mariatheologidou.blogspot.gr/2014/01/back-to-school-again-new-year-ideas.html

“At last, the new year has come and 2014 is now officially here! Nothing compares to that feeling of excitement and anticipation that a new year brings along, that’s why I feel our first back to school lessons should focus more on retrospection, reflection and decisions. Obviously, most of us will focus on new year resolutions and what our students hope to achieve this year, but we can also opt for alternative ways to celebrate the start of a new year in our lives!

1. My super power! – Ask your students to imagine that from 01/01/2014 all of them possess a super power that no one else knows about! The reason they were all given these powers though is so that they can use them to become better people and change the world! Give me them a superhero template (you can find some great ones here: http://jchriscampbell.com/2011/05/ ) ask them to create the superhero version of themselves, but most importantly explain why this special power is important and what is the thing they can change about themselves or the world.

2. New Year/I’d like to have 2014 – Acrostic poems. Ask them to write an acrostic poem using the first letters of “New Year” or even better the numbers of 2014. In case you choose the number version, tell them that each number should refer to something they would like to achieve/change/have (or not have for 0) this year. For example:

This year, I’d like to have
2 large pieces of chocolate cake every day of the week
0 worries and problems
1 big brown bookcase
4 months of vacation!:)
3. My 2014 infographic – Instead of working on a worksheet ask students to create their own infographics about their hopes/ambitions for the new year. (Use http://www.easel.ly/. Totally worth giving it a try!)
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4. Fortune teller – Print one of this amazing fortune tellers here: http://www.thepartyartisan.co.uk/article.asp?article=32&pID=5. Ask your class to write down 3 new things they would like to try this year and test whether their wishes will come true afterwards – great for a warm-up!
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Fortune teller!

5. Year in review (inspired by Facebook) . Ask your students to choose their favourite -or even least favourite photos- of the year that has just passed and create their own collages of 2013 moments. Upper elementary students can write short paragraphs about the things that made last year special or difficult/challenging for them. For intermediate or upper intermediate ones, you can ask them to focus on the mistakes they made last year and the lessons they learnt from them.
6. New Year message to the world. I love the free printables from makebeliefscomix , and this one in particular http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Printables/print.php?category=Holidays_and_Celebrations&file=347_Print.GIF  would be great with advanced or proficiency level students.”
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School Christmas shows and some thoughts on Drama and ELT

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Just a few drama activities can bring an EFL/ESL classroom to life. The trends in English Language Teaching (ELT) lean heavily toward communicative and authentic language use. Drama provides lots of immediate resources and is fun for teacher and students alike. The fear factor for a new drama user is the hard part to overcome.

Some traditional style teachers are afraid they will appear unprofessional and even risk being fired if they focus the lesson on ‘playing’ instead of serious study. Some language teachers feel comfortable only when using the course textbooks and feel that drama activities could take away from their position as the language “role model”. Instructors can be wary of focusing too much on “drama” and not the real subject; English. There is also the issue of control here. A class of 25 students who are working in groups on a drama activity can be a nightmare for a leader who wants to control the timing, language use and focus of the unit.

“If drama can really enrich the language class in all these ways, why are so many teachers reluctant to use it? Many still think of drama as ‘theatricals’, because this is their only experience of it. Often the fault lies not with the individual teacher, but with the training that he or she has received; a training that presents education as the one-way transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the student, rather than the creation of a learning situation in which the student is also the teacher.” (Wessels: 14)

“Drama demands enthusiasm- not only for the lesson, but also for the students. And this in turn depends on the formation of a relationship of mutual trust in which neither teacher nor student feels ‘at risk’, but they willingly change roles and status to achieve the aims of the lesson.” (Wessels: 15)

‘Drama can help the teacher to achieve ‘reality’ in several ways. It can overcome the students’ resistance to learning the new language:

  • by making the learning of the new language an enjoyable experience;
  • by setting realistic targets for the students to aim for;
  • by creative ‘slowing down’ of real experience;
  • by linking the language-learning experience with the student’s own experience of life

And drama can create in a students a need to learn the language :

  • by the use of ‘creative tension’ (situations requiring urgent solutions);
  • by putting more responsibility on the learner, as opposed to the teacher.’

(Wessel: 53-54)

Christmas sketses , are a good chance for my youngest learners, to use their english for the first time, in front of a real audience!

Christmas sketses , are a good chance for my youngest learners, to use their english for the first time, in front of a real audience!

 

Being involved in a  School Christmas play is great fun, whether the play is religious or secular, a variety show, drama or pantomime. It is also good experience for children as it develops confidence and communication skills.

I have been staging Christmas plays from many years now…And  I just love it!!

There are so many recources out there for all teachers but, I personally believe that, the teacher could better use the students’ own talents in organising an original dramatic production or variety style show. The children could be involved in designing scripts and mimes, thus enhancing their creative literacy.

The creative teacher or community group leader has a number of choices when organising their end of year or Christmas play. Traditionally certain types of plays have been popular during the Christmas season. These are the types , I choose from:

1. The variety show

  • This simply showcases the children’s talents in the best way possible. To be successful, a variety show should contain some instrumental performances, jokes, comedy skits, simple dance routines, group and solo singing.Not really easy when it comes to my school which lacks all the basics! It’s my DREAM, to stage such a  school show one day soon, though….
  • Novelty acts such as magic tricks, juggling, gymnastics and puppet performances may also be included.
  • This type of concert is ideal for introducing a multi-cultural element allowing students to share and experience music and dance from different countries.
  • 2.The Pantomime

  • They have been traditional Christmas fare fro many centuries. They feature comic characters and are really easy to stage with almost all classes and under all circumstances!
  • Pantomimes are comical and rely heavily on masks (or face painting) and costuming for their effect.
  • Plot wise pantomimes are very simple. Easy to use even with students whose english is limited!I also like them , because they depend on improvisation!
  • 3. The Traditional Nativity Play

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  • Browse the Net on your own,  to find out more…I do so, every single year!
  • After all, drama, is crucial when it comes to foreign language teaching, isn’t it?Image

Our English class Christmas games and activities

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Well, every last week  before our Christmas school break, we  ALWAYS leave the course books aside and start….enjoying Christmas !

Actually, it all starts much earlier…..about a month before Christmas, I put up  our Advent calendars, full of surprises inside…! This is when all  the fun starts! We continue with our 4th graders  short Christmas plays rehearsals and our  artistic Christmas cards ( to be offered to our Christmas show guests ) and we conclude with the Christmas games and activities week!!

I’ll share some games that have really worked with my students!

Stocking guessing game

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You will need a small Christmas stocking (or perhaps a bright red sock). Into the stocking put a collection of small objects that you see or use around Christmas time. Tie a ribbon or rope around the opening to make sure nobody peeks.

Give everyone a piece of paper and, passing the stocking around, ask them to write down all the objects they can feel. The person that guesses the most objects is the winner. A GREAT game to teach or revise Christmas vocabulary!!

Rudolf, the red nose reindeer!!

Rudolf, the red nose reindeer!!

This is a take on ‘pin the tail on the donkey’. Put a picture of a nose-less Rudolf on the wall, blindfold the students, spin them around and see if they can pin a red nose in the right place. The nearest wins a prize/points.

This is a Christmas card, which we received some years ago, from one of our first partners -pen friends, abroad! Love it!

This is a Christmas card, which we received some years ago, from one of our first partners -pen friends, abroad! Love it!

Santa Says

Same as ‘Simon Says’: The S up is “Santa”. S says “Santa says hop”. All Ss hop. S says “Stop”. Ss should continue hopping on until “Santa” says “Santa says stop”. Repeat for other actions such as jump, run, turn around, sit

The Snowman game

The object of the game is to complete a picture of a snowman ( two eyes, a carrot nose, one hat, one scarf, three buttons, one umbrella) .

Materials

One copy of a snowman worksheet for each student

one die for each group

crayons

a pencil

I first review the objects with the class.

I help students practice saying the names in english.

Pupils take turns throwing the die. The player , says the name on the die  and the english word for the corresponding object.If the player identifies  the object correctly, he may draw it on the snowman.If not, play passes to the next child.A pupil who rolls a number and has already completed that particular feature on his snowman loses his turn.

The first pupil to complete the snowman, is the winner!

I ask them to speak only in english.I put expressions like…” It’s my turn.Throw the die.I can’t go. Pass me the die, please”

For homework: I ask them to write a short description of the snowman.

The snowman game

The snowman game

Scramble Christmas Words

Supplies: index cards, paper bags. How To Play: Choose a Christmas word such as: Christmas, Candy Cane, Santa Claus, Reindeer…. Write each letter of a word on individual index cards. Put the set in a paper bag. Divide the Ss into teams. Give each team a bag. The first team to decipher what the word in the bag wins. A variation of the game would be to divide into teams with the same number of Ss as there are letters in the word. Each S gets a letter and the team must arrange themselves in the right order to spell the word.

 

Who am I Santa?

Who am I Santa?

Who am I Santa?

Blindfold one student. The other Ss stand in circle around the blindfolded student. Spin the student around and then stop him/her facing another student. S says “Ho ho ho. Who am I?”. The blindfolded S must guess who that student is and call out his/her name…Great game for the youngest learners!!

Word Find

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Supplies: timer, paper, pens. Divide Ss into teams. Take a Christmas related word such as: Christmas, candy cane, Santa Claus, etc. and find as many words as possible using the letters of that word. Give a time limit (e.g. 2 mins). The team with the most words wins! Example: Christmas 1: (sit, is, his, miss, rat, tar, this, math, chair, rim…), Example 2: Candy cane (candy, cane, and, dance, day, nay, can, dye, an, any…) Awesome spelling activity!

Freeze

Freeze!

Freeze!

Supplies: Christmas music

How To Play: Begin playing music, everyone moves and dances until the music stops then they must “freeze” in whatever position they happen to be in. Just for FUN!

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Christmas Charades

I prepare two banners,that say whatever  I  want them to say, ie Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, etc. Also prepare a set of letters for the same words cut out in two different colors hidden randomly around the room. I I divide the class into 2 teams with two captains–the captains sit and wait for their teammates to bring the letters for their banner. If a student is on the “red” team and sees a letter for the “green” team he/she just leaves it alone. The first team to cover their banner letters wins.

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Frozen Snowman

In this game, everyones tries to make the snowman move!

The snowman has to stay frozen still…

They can’t touch him but they can, make faces, make noises, tell jokes, dance!

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If the snowman moves, smiles or laughs, it’s the end of the game! Whoever, made the snowman move, is the next snowman!

Christmas Whispers

I usually choose to play this game with the christmas vocabulary I have previously taught!

It works best with lots of people.The first person on a line, whispers a Christmassy phrase to the person next to them.

That person whispers what they think they heard to the person on their other side.

The game continues until the phrase reaches the last person.

That person says out loud what they think the phrase is.

It could start ” Reindeer love to fly in the sky” and finally be ” Raid ear love to fling in a…pea!”

With my younger learners, I  use one word each time eg ” Snowflake”.

Pass the snowball

This is a great game to have the class sing new Christmas songs and learn them easily.

For this game, we need a ball- the snowball- and christmas music.

Everyone sits in a circle, and one person holds the snowball. The music starts,  all students are asked to sing along, and the student with the snowball, throws it to someone else.That student, quickly throws the snowball to someone else and so on…When the music stops, the student holding the ball is out!

The game continues and the last person still playing, is the winner!

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Rudolph!!

The Christmas tree

I give out the worksheets. You can make them on your own, it’s simple to draw.

I explain that as I name a decoration, they must draw it on the Christmas tree. I call out different combinations of decorations.

eg Draw two balls on the Christmas tree.

 Draw three bells on the christmas tree.

I later give them specific instructions on how to colour the decorations.

Colour the tree , green.

Colour the balls blue and pink etc

I use the worksheets to decorate the classroom.

Students can alternatively stick the trees on a poster in the shape of a Christmas tree.

Or, complete sentences below the tree with the correct colour of each item.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree Game

This is a simple printable Christmas Tree board game, with some exciting cards to pick up every time you land on a square – will they help you or hinder you?

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I have come across this amazing game which my students just LOVE in www.activityvillage.co.uk

Print and cut out the Christmas Tree game board, and laminate if you like for durability. Print and cut out the cards and shuffle before placing face down in a pile by the side of the board.

Youngest player rolls first and moves his counter. If he lands on a square, he takes a card and follows the instructions. First to reach the Christmas Tree Star wins!

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My Christmas Book

I generally, love mini books and often use them in my class!

They are simple to make. Ideas can be found on line . eg  http://www.miikogibson.com/origami/Making%20a%20Mini%20book.pdf

I tell my students  that they are going to draw their own pictures about Christmas on the blank pages, writing a sentence for each one. I ask younger learners to write single words.

I can help them get started by asking questions such as :

What do you put under the tree?

I write all possible answers on the board.

eg My tree has got two balls and an angel.

Instead of drawings and sentences/words, they can write lines frfom Christmas carols.

While they are working on their books, they can listen or sing along with carols on the cd.

They finally, staple the left side of the pages together, to make a book!

A letter to Father Christmas

I always ask my students to write their own letter to Father Christmas soon…

I tell the younger ones that, I used to be an elf  (!!) therefore, I know the REAL Father Christmas’ address cause, I used to work and live there! They feel really surprised and ask me lots of questions about my life there! It’s so funny! They usually ask me about my ears…and why they don’t look …”elfy”! I tell them that , I had to undergo a plastic surgery as soon as I left the North Pole cause, people used to make fun of me!

Some of them DO believe me and tell all the other students during the break ” Our english teacher used to be an Elf”!!

I have several worksheets that I use to help them write their letters!

I am soon going to upload photos of them. For more ideas you can visit http://www.pinterest.com/indial/printable-santa-letters/

Here, I am sharing with you the address where my students send their letters and ALWAYS get a reply letter by Father Christmas himself, at home!!

They are so proud when they show it to  the rest of the class , as soon as they get back to school after the Christmas break!

If they write in english, the reply letter comes in english, if they write in albanian, the reply letter comes in albanian, if they write in greek , the reply letter comes in greek…..! It’s really fascinating!

Santa Claus,

North Pole,

Hoh Oho,

Canada.

Enjoy!

More ideas soon…stay tuned!!!!!

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