Check out my New York Times post: Ideas for English Language Learners | Celebrate the Holidays
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Here are some more Christmas slideshows from The New York Times:
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.
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.
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.
The videos shared in 17 Jaw-Dropping Christmas Light Shows are pretty amazing. When I share YouTube videos here, I generally only share the Edublogs TV link to them after I’ve uploaded the videos there. But they’re still not done moving Edublogs TV to a new server, so I can only offer YouTube versions. These are unlikely to be accessible through school content filters.
But, even if you can’t use them in school right now, they’re pretty darn entertaining to watch at home.
You can design a virtual “holiday sweater,” describe it, and then both email and post the url address on a teacher/student website. Just another strange example of viral marketing. You can read how I use viral marketing tools as language-learning opportunities in my article, Samuel L. Jackson, My ESL Students, And Me.
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 Today
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 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.
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.
Tesco, the large British-based grocery chain, is donating funds to help plant tress for every Christmas eCard you send from their site. It’s simple to do, no registration is required, the card is musical, and you get to write your own message, too. You’re given the url address of your creation, so it can be posted on a student/teacher website or blog.
“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.
Faces of Santa is another fun slideshow from MSNBC. It shows Santa’s doing strange things around the world.
Holiday Lights Across the Globe is a LIFE slideshow.
The Sacramento Bee has a series of photos of Holiday Lights From Around The World.
Here are two infographics:
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.
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.
ESOL Courses has created a massive Christmas resource list
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 share it via Facebook, or you can download it to your computer. Unfortunately, though, they don’t provide a url address to post.
Send A Video Message From Santa: Portable North Pole lets you create a personalized video message from Santa Claus. You can send it to a friend and or post it on a student/teacher blog or website.
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 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).
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.
Apples 4 The Teacher has a simple explanation of the holiday.
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.
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:
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.
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.