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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Meaning of Christmas

There are many misconceptions about Christmas traditions among people who don’t celebrate, or people who didn’t grow up in countries that do celebrate the holiday.  ESL students have many questions about the holiday that even teachers are unable to explain.  This is my version of the answer to the question “What’s the meaning of Christmas?”
Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be the son of God.  Christmas today is still celebrated as a religious holiday, but it has also become a huge celebration for both religious and non-religious people. 
At Christmas children receive presents from “Santa Claus”, a magical being, if they have been good all year.  Family, friends, and co-workers exchange presents; there are many parties and special events to celebrate the season, people decorate their homes and businesses elaborately.
Many people believe that Christmas has become too commercial, and that stores and businesses encourage consumers to spend a great deal of money in order to have a “perfect” Christmas. 
Yet, there is no one idea of what a “perfect” Christmas is.  The holiday is supposed to be a time of love and joy, but for many people the stresses of shopping, cooking, decorating and celebrating are overwhelming. 
People are too busy getting ready for the holiday and don’t really enjoy it.  People are sometimes too exhausted to appreciate the simple aspects of the season:  a beautiful tree, an act of kindness, a touching song, or the love of a family.
Merry Christmas!
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 12:15 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Activities

The first year I worked overseas, I was shocked to learn that it was business as usual on Christmas Day. 
The management of the school where I worked requested that the teachers design some Christmas lessons to offer the students on December 24th and 25th.  The Christmas lessons would be offered to students at all levels from beginner to advanced. 
Designing lessons for the advanced students was easy.  Teachers could lead discussions about Christmas and Christmas customs, and ask students to share their experiences/memories/impressions with the class. 
Designing lessons for the lower levels was more challenging.  At first, many teachers started thinking about word games that could be played….jumbles, crosswords, word searches.  These activities are not communicative, but students might enjoy the break from their usual lesson activities.  On the other hand, they would probably get bored spending two to three hours doing word puzzles. 
After much discussion about the pros and cons of word puzzles, it was decided to just teach our regular functionally based lessons, but change all the vocabulary to Christmas vocabulary.  So the lower level classes reviewed countable and uncountable nouns when discussing what food they needed to prepare a Christmas feast.  “I need a few onions, a little milk, a few potatoes, a little salt, etc.”  The intermediate classes had lessons on describing likes/dislikes, wants, and preferences.  They described what they wanted for Christmas, and what their friends and family members also wanted for Christmas. 
The lessons went well.  The students enjoyed them, and management was happy.  The teachers didn’t mind teaching them.  Management provided coffee and cake to the staff and students on Christmas Eve, and snacks on Christmas Day.  It was not a really Merry Christmas for the teachers, but it wasn’t a miserable Christmas either.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 7:28 PM   2 Comments  Add Comment

top Wednesday, December 05, 2007


December is a bad month for many ESL students.  Students who enrolled in programs eagerly in September have a tendency to slack off or lose interest around this time of year.  Some students are discouraged because they feel that haven’t improved.  Some students are just bored with the routine of the lessons. 
Teachers should try as much as possible to find ways to motivate the students to not give up, and continue studying.  Teachers can remind students that it is difficult to accurately judge their own progress. 
Students may feel that their language skills have not improved since September.  They need to be reminded of the achievements they’ve made since beginning the course.  Perhaps, they lacked confidence to perform such tasks as ordering a pizza in English, over the telephone, a few months earlier, but now are able to complete the task easily.  Students should be given the opportunity to reflect on their goals.  Adult students are goal-oriented and sometimes they can renew interest in the course by reviewing their goals.
Teachers can also re-energize students by changing the routine and structure of the class as much as possible.  Avoid doing activities, although effective, that have been done week after week in the class.  Instead, try bringing in supplementary materials that are relevant to the students and their needs.  Get students interested in working together.  Assign group projects/presentations or organize a class party, or social event.  Students will be less likely to give up a lesson or course, if they feel a bond with the other members of the class.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 11:50 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Erasing Game

One of my favourite games to play in the classroom is the Erasing Game.  The Game can be played with any level of students, and is a great way to practice listening or reinforce new vocabulary. 
Divide the class into teams of no more than 5 or 6 students.  Then divide the board into sections.  Each team will be assigned a specific section.  In each section write identical vocabulary words.  For example, if the class has recently studied /r/ vs. /l/ sounds, write words containing those sounds randomly in each section of the board.  Do not write the words in a line or a row.  Instead write them on angles, and scattered throughout the section.  Write each word in a different place in each board section.  Each section should look very crowded with words.  Words for an /r/ and /l/ review could include: right, light, play, pray, lice, rice, laugh, raft, lay, ray, pry, ply etc.
When the board sections have been prepared, tell each team that you will call out one word that has been written on the board.  One member from each team will get up from their seat, run to their board section, erase the word that was called and sit back down.  The team that erased the correct word first is awarded a point.  Any teams that erase an incorrect word will lose a point.  Continue until all the words have been called.  The team with the most points wins.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 8:55 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

The Meaning of Christmas
Christmas Activities
The Erasing Game

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