Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Places To Learn About Christmas, Hanukkah, & Kwanzaa

'Santa Claus' photo (c) 2012, Sam Howzit - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Check out my New York Times post: Ideas for English Language Learners | Celebrate the Holidays

ELLs learn about tamales, holiday food traditions and Three Kings Day at my latest holiday-related New York Times Learning Network post. It includes a student interactive and teaching ideas.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are all coming-up, and I thought it would be timely to create a “The Best…” list focusing on those holidays.

Obviously, there are a lot more materials about Christmas out there accessible to English Language Learners than there are for the other two events, but I have found some for all of them. You can also find these links, and many more, under Holidays on my website.

Also, check out The Best Ways For Students To Create Online Holiday Content Quickly & Easily and
Here Are My Favorite Fun Christmas Resources (and “Feel Good” Christmas Stories For Christmas Day).

Few, if any, of this links are really tailored towards “higher-order” or “critical” thinking.  They all pretty much provide “just the facts” about the holidays.  As usual, I couldn’t really find good online resources that help broaden the topic to look at issues like over-consumption or commercialism in an accessible way.   It’s certainly feasible to do so, though, in classroom lessons building off the information learned from the sites on this list.  For example, I’ve had students define what the word “gift” means, and then reflect on what have been the most meaningful gifts that they have given or received.  Students then conclude (truthfully, I hope) that they can’t use the cost of objects to measure their value. I think it’s also worth reading this article called Christmas Curriculum: Unintended Consequences.

Here are my picks for The Best Places To Learn About Christmas, Hanukkah, & Kwanzaa (not in order of preference):

CHRISTMAS:

ESL Civics For ESL Students has an accessible Christmas Lesson with nice images and simple text.

A Florida school has a page that provides audio to support to the text giving an overview of Christmas.

The New York Times has a slideshow on how Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Watch this fun video on Decorating For Christmas using time lapse photography from The Washington Post.

Here’s another fun slideshow called Santa Gone Wild. It’s from Time Magazine, and ” shows people who dress up like Santa Claus and make fools of themselves.”

Christmas Around the World is a slideshow from CBS.

Here’s a “drag-and-drop” Christmas vocabulary activity from Visual ESL.

The Beacon Learning Center has a nice story about a Christmas Bear.

ELLO has a good listening game. You can play Part One and Part Two.

Here’s a news story from CBBC Newsround about childhood obesity and Christmas. It has audio support for the text.

MES Games has an online Christmas vocabulary learning activity and game.

Oxford University Press has another Christmas vocabulary game.

What’s Christmas without music? The British Council has a Christmas Song. And, of course, don’t forget about Jingle Bells!

This is one you have to check-out — the Simon Sez Santa.  Tell Santa what to do and he’ll do it. There used to be a specific “family friendly” version, but it’s off-line now, so just be aware…

Christmas In Sacramento And Around The World is a collection of great images from the Sacramento Bee.

The British Council has just come-out with several excellent online activities I’m adding to that list, and also to the Holidays section of my website.

They include:

Whose Present , a neat listening activity.

The Busy Elf, an entertaining Christmas song.

Santa’s Little Helper, a talking story.

A Letter To Santa , a sequencing activity.

All are accessible to Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners.

With the Carol-Maker you can compose a never-heard-before mashup of strange grunts with classic Christmas songs, and email it to a friend (or enemy).

Students can send a Dancing Santa Claus and then post the link on a teacher or student website.  You can do the same with this Gingerbread Cookie Card.

Another is the Merry Message from Better Homes and Gardens. Have Santa Claus deliver an audio message either by recording your own voice or by using the text-to-speech feature. Students can then post the link to their message on a blog or website.

The Gingerbread Man With Everything
lets you create your own virtual…gingerbread man and send or post the link.

Make a snowflake, describe it, and post the link on a student/teacher blog or website.

The History Channel has a site about The History of Christmas.

A series of images from the Sacramento Bee titled Holiday Mail gives us a picture of the holidays through a lens we don’t usually look through.

Scholastic has some nice online Christmas resources.

I’m adding three holiday lessons from ESL Holiday Lessons to this list.  They include both online and hand-out materials and activities.

Renee Maufroid, an English teacher in France, develops a lot of excellent ESL/EFL online activities. His latest is a nice game on The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Here are two listening activities related to Christmas from ELLO.

Here are some more Christmas slideshows from The New York Times:

Ready For Christmas: Preparations Around the World

To Each, A Personal Holiday

A Christmas Superstore

Santa Makes The Rounds

And here are slideshows and sources of general information about the Christmas Tree tradition:

A History of Christmas Trees that is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.

A slideshow from The New York Times about the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center

Another slideshow on various trees and Christmas Tree farms

Better Homes and Gardens shows various ways to decorate a tree in this slideshow.

Materials about the famous 1914 Christmas Day Truce during World War I seemed to be worth adding to this list.  Here are some:

Social Studies For Kids has a very accessible and short description of the truce.

There are some excellent “music videos” on YouTube showing images with the soundtrack from two good songs about the Truce. Since so many districts block YouTube, you can download them into your laptop and use a converter so it’s viewable at school.

One video features the song “Bellau Wood” and is sung by Garth Brooks. Here are the lyrics. The language is fairly accessible to English Language Learners.

This video has good images and uses a different song called “Christmas In The Trenches.” It’s sung by John McCutcheon, and you can find the lyrics here. The language is a little difficult and “old-fashioned” since it’s taken from a letter written by a soldier who participated in the Truce.

The Center For The New American Dream has a good booklet in PDF form called “Simplify The Holidays.” Its language is not accessible to anyone other than advanced English Language Learners, but teachers can modify it for classroom use. It provides a lot of good information to help students think critically about the massive consumption focus of culture during this time of the year.  You have to register in order to gain access to the PDF, but it just takes a few seconds.

Changing The Present is an effort to encourage giving of charitable gifts over the holidays.

That in itself doesn’t make it stand-out in any major way — there are quite a few other groups with websites that do the same thing.  Changing the Present stands out, however, by two slickly-produced spoofs on typical television commercials that push consumption this time of year. These accessible videos can be excellent points to initiate discussion on the meaning of the holidays with students.

Santa Claus Boy Escape is the latest addition to this list.  It’s an online video game useful for English language-learning, as I’ve described in my article Pointing & Clicking For ESL: Using Video Games To Promote English Language Development.

The creator of the game describes it like this:

“This game is specially developed for Christmas celebration. During the beautiful season,a santa boy is trapped in a stranger’s house. No one is there to help him out. The only way to escape from the house is by using different objects and clues.”

I know it sounds strange, but if your school’s content filter will let it through, it’s a useful and fun game.

Here’s the Walkthrough.

A similar game is called Christmas Gift Escape. Here’s the Walkthrough.

Gatuno in Christmas offers the challenge of helping Gatuno find a gift for a child. Here’s the walkthrough.

The Christmas Fix is another online video game. Here’s the Walkthrough.

No Christmas Gifts This Year provides you a template of a letter you can send someone this year offering a gift of time instead of a bought present. The sentence frames are particularly good for English Language Learners, and the thought behind the idea is a good opportunity for discussion on what is important during the holidays.  You can email your letter and post it on a teacher/student website.

A San Francisco Chronicle slideshow about a Holiday Lights Parade…on water.

MSNBC has a Faces of Santa slideshow.

The Sydney Morning Herald has a slideshow called Lighting-Up For Christmas. It has great images of how people are decorating the outside of their homes during the holiday season.

That’s A Wrap is a Washington Post slideshow on a Christmas-wrapping contest.

Holiday Lights From Around The World is a slideshow from the Hartford Courant,

Crazy Christmas Traditions is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

Santa Claus Around The World comes from the Sacramento Bee.

The Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

It Happened On Christmas Day is yet another TIME Magazine slideshow. This one highlights historical events that occurred on December 25th, and has accessible captions.

A Christmas Story slideshow comes from the Las Vegas Sun.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from The New York Times.

January 6th  is Three Kings Day.  This holiday is celebrated in many Latino households — often more enthusiastically than Christmas Day.

Here are some resources on Three Kings Day, also known as also known as the Epiphany and El Dia de los Reyes (some of the articles aren’t particularly accessible to English Language Learners, but can be modified by teachers):

CBS News has an article with a couple of nice photos, too.

Here’s an article in about how retail stores “cash-in” on the tradition.USA

Here’s a short slideshow from the Orange County Register about foods prepared for the day.

Here are some photos of a Three Kings Celebration in Spain.

Here are a series of photos from the Sacramento Bee showing how January 6th is celebrated around the world.

The New York TImes has a slideshow of a Three Kings Day parade In Harlem.

The End Of The Christmas Season is a slideshow from The Boston Globe.

Marvelous & Massive Megawatt Displays
is a collection of amazing Christmas decorations.

The Washington Post has a slideshow on the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

Santa Makes The Rounds is a series of images from The Sacramento Bee.

A Christmas-related online reading comprehension exercise for English Language Learners.

Renee Maufroid has created several new Christmas exercises for ELL’s.

Chat with a Santa Bot.

Christmas Arrives At The Obama White House is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

Gift of Christmas Escape is an online video game. Here’s the walkthrough.

Christmas Around the World Internet Scavenger Hunts are very accessible. Thanks to Diana Dell for the tip.

Have A Very Ridiculous Christmas
is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

Interesting Things For ESL Students has a special Things For December page filled with Christmas exercises.

Santa Gone Wild is a fun slideshow from TIME Magazine.

Here are three new resources for English Language Learners from The British Council:

Santa’s Little Helper is a short story.

The Busy Elf is a song.

Whose Present? provides listening practice.

“Insane Amounts Of Christmas Lights” is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

Scared Of Santa is a hilarious slideshow of scared children getting their picture taken with Santa. It’s from MSNBC.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from the Wall Street Journal.

8 Spectacular Christmas Light Shows on YouTube
is a fun video collection.

Faces of Santa is another fun slideshow from MSNBC. It shows Santa’s doing strange things around the world.

The Sacramento Bee has a series of photos of Holiday Lights From Around The World.

Here are two infographics:

Our Present Economy is an infographic from GOOD Magazine.

Christmas By The Numbers

Christmas At The Zoo is a fun slideshow from Newsweek showing animals opening their presents.

A Brief History of Boxing Day is an article from TIME Magazine explaining the day-after-Christmas holiday celebrated in many countries.

Voice of America Special English has a nice explanation of Santa Claus that provides audio support for the text.

Christmas Around The World
is a slideshow from The New York Times.

Christmas 2009 is a series of pictures from The Big Picture.

Hear and read a song about a Christmas tree here.

Macy’s Brings Theater and Tech to Holiday Windows is a video from The Wall Street Journal.

Here Comes Santa Claus! is a collection of the best Los Angeles Times photos about the big guy.

Here’s a series of photos showing White House Christmas decorations. It’s from MSNBC.

Christmas Comes To The White House is a TIME Magazine slideshow.

The Evolution Of The National Christmas Tree is another Wash Post slideshow.

Christmas Tree Arrives At The U.S. Capitol is yet another Post slideshow.

Baltimore Street’s Christmas Lights is a Wall Street Journal video.

Coming Together for Holiday Lights is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.

Here are some Christmas vocabulary exercises from Learning Chocolate.

Nothing for Christmas is a learning activity for English Language Learners created by Renée Maufroid.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas is a series of photos from The Boston Globe’s Big Picture.

Teaching the Holiday Season are lesson plans from The New York Times Learning Network.

Christmas Activities for Young English Learners is a collection from the British Council (thanks to CASLS for the tip).

ESOL Courses has created a massive Christmas resource list

Christmas Celebrations Around The World

Christmas lights illuminate the night is a series of photos from The Sacramento Bee

Christmas Cards Are For The Dogs is a video from The Wall Street Journal about dogs sending Christmas cards (?)

Here’s a video from The Wall Street Journal showing popular television commercials using a holiday theme.

In pictures: 20 Guinness world records with a Christmas theme comes from The Telegraph.

Holiday Frenzy At The Post Office is a Washington Post slideshow.

Shipping And The Holidays is an interesting infographic.

Write A Holiday “Mad-Lib”: You have a choice of various stories you can choose and turn them into a “Mad Lib.” You can it via Facebook, or you can download it to your computer. Unfortunately, though, they don’t provide a url address to post.

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry is an NPR slideshow.

Captured: The Christmas Season Across the Globe are photos from The Denver Post.

Holidays By The Numbers is an interesting infographic.

Christmas in the Middle East is a slideshow from The Guardian.

The world’s weirdest Christmas tradition is a slideshow from The Telegraph, though I wish they wouldn’t label them with such a derogatory description.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from The Wall Street Journal.

Bethlehem Celebrates Christmas is a video from The Wall Street Journal.

Santa Claus sightings 2010 is a series of photos from The Sacramento Bee.

Holiday Windows is a video from The New York Times.

Holiday Misgivings is another intriguing infographic.

Christmas At The Zoo

Escape from Santa’s Room is a fun online video game that can be used as a language-learning activity (you can read how I use these kinds of games in this article). Here is its Walkthrough.

Christmas Across the Globe comes from The Big Picture.

Here’s a video from The New York Times called “Educating Santa”:

Christmas approaches is a photo gallery from The Boston Globe.

Christmas – Links to Free Online ESL Worksheets, Lessons and More is from ESOL Courses.

Merry Christmas From Lee Friedlander is a photo gallery from TIME.

Ho Ho Hmm. Gun Club Offers Photos With Santa is from NPR.

Make your own talking Christmas Teddy Bear with this viral marketing too.

Make a talking Christmas….Coffee-Mate? As weird as it sounds, you an actually do it.

The 5 Best Toys of All Time is a must-read article from Wired by Jonathan Liu. “Stick” is ranked as number one. I’d also suggest you read his follow-up piece, Get a Kid the 6th Best Toy of All Time. (thanks to Ed Yong for the tip)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

Holiday Decorations Shine at The White House is a TIME slideshow.

Infographic: The Visual History of Christmas Trees (I’m also adding this one to The Best Sites To Learn About Trees).

MacMillan has a nice Christmas Advent Calendar telling about world holiday traditions. (Thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip).

Christmas trees around the world – in pictures is a slideshow from The Guardian.

The 9 Most Christmassy Towns in America is from TIME.

Worst Christmas gift ideas – in pictures is from The Guardian.

Merry Quizmas is from ELT Digital Play.

Horror For The Holidays: Meet The Anti-Santa is from NPR.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from ABC in Australia (thanks to Ira Socol for the tip).

Photos: Santa Claus, the Holly, Jolly Stuntman is from TIME.

Holiday season lights up the globe is a photo gallery from the Sacramento Bee.

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas is from TIME.

A look at the legend behind Santa Claus is a slideshow from The L.A. Times.

Santa Timeline: Before he was cheery and chubby is also from The Times.

Best Christmas Movies is from The Huffington Post and includes video clips.

‘What’s Christmas without chopsticks?’ How other faiths celebrate December 25th is a CNN slideshow.

Epiphany and Orthodox Christmas around the world is a slideshow from The Telegraph.

In pictures: Christmas in the Orthodox world is from The BBC.

HANUKKAH:

Apples 4 The Teacher has a simple explanation of the holiday.

The History Channel has a site about Hanukkah, including a video.

Scholastic has some nice online Hanukkah resources.

Here’s another simple explanation of the Hanukkah holiday.

BBC Schools has a good site about Hanukkah, but it’s probably only accessible to advanced English Language Learners.

EL Civics has a Hanukkah Lesson for English Language Learners.

The Orange County Register has a slideshow showing a synagogue’s celebration of Hanukkah.

Believe it or not, here’s a Math Game for Hanukkah.

A Menorah Lighting slideshow comes from the Las Vegas Sun.

What is the deal with Hanukkah, anyway? is an infographic that describes the holiday fairly well.

ESL Holiday Lessons has a nice one on Hanukkah.

National Menorah lights up the White House Ellipse is a Washington Post slideshow.

Hanukkah celebrations around the world – in pictures is from The Guardian.

KWANZAA

Here’s a short piece on Kwanzaa that provides audio support for the text.

EL Civics for ESL Students has a nice lesson on Kwanzaa.

Here’s a simple explanation of Kwanzaa from Kulture Kidz.

The History Channel also has resources on Kwanzaa.

Scholastic also has online Kwanzaa resources.

The Orange County Register newspaper in southern California has a collection of excellent interactive graphics. I’m adding three of them to this list.  Coincidentally, they have ones on each of of these three holidays.  Here are the links:

Kwanzaa

Christmas

Hanukkah

I’m adding a site called American Folklore to this list.  It has many great short stories that would be accessible to English Language Learners, including one section on Holiday Stories and Winter Tales.

“Winter Holiday Spending” is a useful infographic from a Florida newspaper.

Kwanzaa celebrations across the country is a Washington Post slideshow.

Christmas Around the World

Browse more data visualization.

 

 

Christmas Dinner Across The World

 

Browse more data visualization.

 

 

A History of Christmas Trees

 

History of the Christmas Tradition

 

The Top 50 Christmas Toys of the Past 100 Years

 

 

What

 

Learn about infographic design.

 

 

27 Days Of European Christmas Customs

Advent Calendar For English Students and Kids
is from ESOL Courses.

Festival of Lights is a slideshow from The Wall Street Journal.

O Christmas Tree! is another Wall Street Journal slideshow.

Santa Claus 2012 is a photo gallery from The Sacramento Bee.

Kwanzaa - All You Need To Know

Type what you’d like Santa to say to a particular person, and Chatty Santa will say it.

Then send it to the designated person or post its link on a student or teacher blog or website.


Creepy crawly holidays: Nine bugs a-leaping
is a unique interactive infographic from The Washington Post. This is how it is introduced:

The most wonderful time of the year has a dark underbelly: germs, bugs and general ickiness that can travel more quickly than Santa’s sleigh. We’re not trying to give you the willies, just suggesting a few easy ways to prevent problems and make your holidays even happier.

Zoo animals receive Christmas gifts is a slideshow from CBS News.

Stunning Christmas lights is another CBS slideshow.

The British Council has a nice collection of Christmas activities.

Christmas food around the world

 

 

Holiday Foods to Avoid (And What To Eat Instead) is a slideshow from TIME.

Christmas Around The World is a well-done classroom project.

Christmas Around The World is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

The Life Of Christmas Trees, Before The Merriment is a slideshow from NPR.

Here’s another video game: Christmas Eve Escape Game, and here’s its walkthrough.

Light Me Up

Santa Winter Games

Christmas Around the World

Greet Santa. Cue Tears.

Hanukkah

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Christmas food around the world

by infogr8.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Christmas in Every Country

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

by Pixaal Eva Buyuksimkesyan has published the 36th ELT Blog Carnival (formerly known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival) and it’s a great one on holiday lessons.

Top Christmas Dinners

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Google’s Santa Tracker has a interactive world map highlighting holiday traditions around the world (thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip).

Here are two interesting word maps (also found via Google Maps Mania): one showing the word people use for Santa Claus, and the other the word used to describe Christmas.

Here are many good ideas for ELL Christmas lessons from the British Council.

Here are many Christmas-themed interactives from ESOL Courses.

Christmas/Winter Holidays Around the World unit is from Share My Lesson.

Christmas becoming less religious in U.S. is a lesson for ELLs from Breaking News English.

Here are 12 Christmas Infographics.

It’s A Message lets you send a personal holiday message, along with images of snow falling on the address of your choices.

Here’s the EFL Classroom 2.0 Christmas page.

A Christmas Game Gap Fill

‘How to celebrate Christmas with Technology: 7 ideas& a lesson plan.’ is by Christina Martidou.

An expat Washington Christmas: Antelope and ptarmigan can be tough to find is from The Washington Post.

I wouldn’t say this video is in the “Christmas spirit,” but it would certainly be engaging to ELLs (thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip):

Common, Costly & Bizarre Christmas Injuries

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

 

Twelve Interesting Christmas Food Traditions From Around the World

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Simple English Videos was begun by veteran ESL/EFL teacher Vicki Hollett. You can read her description of the free site here. The engaging videos have “clickable” transcripts. Here’s a fun Christmas rap video they just produced:

TIME has published an interactive showing the most popular Christmas songs.

Chatty Santa is one of my students’ favorite ways to use English and send holiday e-greetings.

 

Why Tamaladas mean so much to Mexicans

From The Associated Press:

A South Pole Santa known as ‘Pancho Claus’ has become a fixture in Texas cities, bringing a Feliz Navidad to low-income families and at-risk kids. In Houston, it’s Richard Reyes who dons the red suit and fedora to spread holiday cheer.

He wears a sombrero, comes from the South Pole and swaps reindeer for a Harley Davidson and donkeys. That’s right, Pancho Claus is coming to town is from The Mail Online.

Pancho Claus: A Tex-Mex Santa From the South Pole is from The Associated Press.

Christians Celebrate Across the Globe is a TIME slideshow.

Christmas Around the World is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.

I’d certainly be interested in hearing other suggestions, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

14 Comments

  1. Great List. Will explore. You can even explore my site on christmas here:
    http://www.kidsfreesouls.com/chris.htm

  2. I really liked your blog comments on how you turned around the problems in your class in a positive manner, and was blown away by all your resources on the holidays. Great work.

    Helen Gettys Michie Marymount University Grad Student
    ESOL
    Substitute teacher

    • I liked the idea how you presented the topic . It is worth trying it in class especially expecting some prep activities before Christmas with my 6 grade students .Good job.

  3. Hi Larry,

    I have also made a set of conversation prompt cards for adult language learners about Christmas and other related traditions.

    It comes with a SimplyQuest – internet exploring activities for the students to do as a post-task activity.

    This is available at:

    http://www.kalinago-english.com/cms/index.php/Marketplace/SimplyConversations/Free-Samples.html

    Hope a useful addition to your list

    Take care,

    Karenne

  4. Wow! This is a fantastic list. I can’t wait to explore. Thank you!

  5. Amazing. Simply amazing list. Thanks!

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  9. Thank you so much for the amazing list of resources!
    I have just written a post with a link to your blog and presented some of the resources you mention here.
    Merry Christmas!
    Nadia :)

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