Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas everyone! Today’s post is a final round-up of festive activities – I’ve tried to choose fun ones that don’t take too much prep time. If you’re teaching today it’ll be a unique experience, but try to make the most of it.

Christmas Videos

Larry Ferlazzo has a great list of Christmas videos  to use with your students – some of these are extracts from longer films, others stand-alone in their own right. Once you’ve chosen a video, Claudia Pesce has some good ideas of how to use them at

Christmas Games

There are lots of different ideas for Christmas games and activities at If you’re teaching young learners on Christmas Day it’s a nice idea to make it into a Christmas party lesson using a mix of EFL games and traditional childrens’ party games.

Good EFL games:

Bingo, Pictionary, Hangman, 20 Questions/Back to the Board (use Christmas vocab throughout!)

Childrens’ party games:

Musical statues, Musical Chairs, Pin the Nose on Rudolph, Pass the Parcel


I’ll be taking a few days off from the blog between now and New Year, so have a happy and peaceful Christmas, and I’ll see you in 2017!

Elly x


EFL Advent Calendar – 24th December


Christmas Adverts – 24th December

Yesterday I talked about Christmas music, and it made me remember another thing Chrismas wouldn’t be Christmas about: Christmas adverts on TV! I love using adverts in class (especially the Christmas ones) as there’s definitely been an increase in recent years in ads that are more like mini-films. They’re complete enough that your students feel like they’ve watched something (and therefore done something fun!) but short enough that you can fit lots of activities around it, and it’s possible to rewatch the advert a few times getting the students to focus on different things each time. On doing some research, it seems like lots of other EFL teachers feel the same! Here’s a round-up of Christmas advert activities:

Lesson plans based on John Lewis adverts from 2011-2014 (including Monty the Penguin, the Hare and the Bear, the Snowmen and Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want). These lessons are at B1 level.

Another lesson plan (this time for B1-C1 students) based on John Lewis’ the Snowmen advert.

A B1/B2 lesson plan based on the Sainsbury’s Christmas Truce advert.

An A2-B1 lesson plan based on Mog’s Christmas Calamity (Sainsbury’s Christmas advert last year and probably my all-time favourite Christmas ad!). There are also a variety of non-EFL teaching ideas based on this advert here, some of which I think could easily be used with higher-level children or teens.

Finally, if you just want a round-up of all the Christmas adverts on UK TV this year (there are definitely some I haven’t seen here!) The Telegraph presents their best Christmas adverts of 2016 (with embedded video).




Most Popular Posts of 2016


Having spent the last five Christmasses in countries where December equals snow, I can’t quite believe it’s only two days til Christmas and there’s not a flake or a flurry in sight! Although I can be something of a workaholic I will be taking a few days off from the blog after my EFL Advent Calendar finishes on the 25th. In the meantime, though, I’ve been inspired by other people’s round-up posts. Here are my top ten most viewed posts in 2016!

1. Planning on a Daily Basis

Topping out the list of most popular posts was this one, where I discuss how I usually plan my lessons, and offer tips for new teachers on how to keep that pesky planning time down. This post then sparked ones by Sandy Millin, where she shares one of her own plans, Tekhnologic, who discusses how to use Microsoft Word for lesson planning (and shares some helpful shortcuts that I’ve bookmarked for my own future reference!) and Giulia, who shares her own reflections on lesson planning.

2. 5 Games for Advanced Students

In my first couple of years of teaching, I taught predominently higher-level classes. Here I share five of my favourite games to play with upper-intermediate or advanced students.

3. I don’t know: What if my students ask me a question and I don’t know the answer?

I have to admit that I’m really pleased this post is up there in the top three most popular posts – simply because this is a situation we all face as teachers! It also sparked some interesting discussion, both in the comments and on Facebook: the overall consensus was that honesty is the best policy.

4. 2 Ways to Make it a Game

In this post I share two pen and paper/whiteboard games that can be easily adapted to use with any topic/grammar point. Great for that one time that technology fails you!

5. Games for Beginner Students

Games seem to be a universally popular topic for teachers. Although most of us have a core repertoire of activities we often use, it’s good to add to it and change things around once in a while.

6. Teaching Teens 101

Ah, the dreaded teenagers. Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s useful to know how to teach them. Here I offer 10 tips for teachers.

7. Teaching Kids 101

My sister post to teaching teens, this time on working with our younger learners.

8. Teaching Beginners 101

When I first started teaching, I found beginner students among the hardest to teach. Now they’re one of my favourite levels to work with. If you’ve got a beginner class for the first time and are looking for some tips, start here.

9. 5 Ways to Improve Students’ Spelling

Last year I devoted a lot of time and effort to helping my young learner students improve their spelling. These were my favourite activities and techniques.

10. Everything But the Kitchen Sink

In ELT blogging, we spend a lot of time talking about teaching and specifically focusing on activities to use in class. We don’t spend much time talking about what often comes before you even get a class to teach – packing and starting a new job abroad. In this post I share my thoughts on what I’m glad went in my suitcase… and a few things I wish I’d left behind.

I’d like to thank everyone for their support, engagement, sharing and comments in 2016. It seems crazy to think that this blog has been read almost 13,000 times since I started it back in March!

In the meantime if there’s anything you’d like to read here in 2016, drop me a comment here!

I hope you all have a peaceful, happy Christmas, wherever you are, and I’ll be back writing again soon!

Elly x

EFL Advent Calendar – 23rd December


Christmas Songs – 23rd December

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas music, would it? Here in the UK shops and radios have been playing seemingly nothing but festive tunes since mid-November and I’m thoroughly sick of them, but they’re still nice to introduce a bit of Christmas spirit into your classrooms.

Several websites have simplified lyrics for various traditional Christmas carols, such as these from LanternFish and these (with accompanying activity ideas) from has lots of gap fill and multiple-choice activities for Christmas songs (helpfully grouped by student level).

For those of you teaching young learners, the British Council has some Christmas songs written especially for kids:

Santa, High in the Sky

Turkey Trouble

The Busy Elf

All of these have an accompanying animated video and activities to do online or print.

I’ve mentioned Super Simple Songs a couple of times before as being a great resource for those teaching the younger end of young learners, and they also have a selection of Christmas songs, including a simple version of Jingle Bells.

Finally, there are some lovely ideas for action Christmas songs at I can see many of these working really well for those of you who teach pre-school age children.


EFL Advent Calendar – 22nd December


Winter Activities – 22nd December

Although I’m sharing Christmas activities left, right and centre, you may well be teaching in a country  where Christmas isn’t celebrated. Whilst you may be able to incorporate some Christmas material (as it relates to the culture of English-speaking countries) you may be working in an environment where it isn’t appropriate, or you may simply be ‘all Christmassed out’!

Today I’m going to share some ‘winter’ themed activities for your young learners- with no Christmas in sight, so these could still be used in January (or even in July and August in the Southern Hemisphere!) 

First of all, Snowflakes. Although it may seem like there’s little education value in making these, they can be a useful craft for very young learners who are still developing their fine motor skills, including using scissors. You can also use them to review shapes, buy asking your students to cut squares, triangles, circles, or rectangles. 

I also found this great booklet for young learners who are learning clothing vocabulary and who need to review colours. ‘What I Wear in Winter‘ contains spaces for your students to draw, colour, and write the names of colours. This would be a nice follow up activity after a  song, such as ‘Put on Your Shoes’ by Super Simple Songs or ‘My Clothes’ by ELF Kids Videos. 

If you have an Interactive Whiteboard you might also like LanternFish’s ‘Winter Quiz Game’‘Winter Quiz Game’, which takes the same format as jeopardy.


EFL Advent Calendar – 21st December


Application for Santa Visit – 21st December

Christmas is fast approaching now – can’t believe it’s only four more days until the big day itself! Children in the UK and US will have already written their letters to Santa, but it’s not too late for your students to get in on the act. Even if your students are a bit too old to write a letter to Santa, it’s still possible to use this theme as a topic with teen or adult students. Wondering how? Read on and find out… 

My first resource today is one that was shared with me while working at BKC International House, Moscow. Ever thought that simply asking your child to write a letter  was far too simplistic to secure a letter from Santa?  The Application for Santa Visit lets you know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. Be warned, the language in this is advanced, but it’s a fun activity for your high level students (or might make your colleagues smile if it’s too tough for your  students). I like the idea of getting students to interview each other and complete the form with their partners’ answers.

You can download the PDF document here: application-for-santa-visit

If you’re looking for a similar concept, but with slightly easier language (or if your students aren’t quite sure how good they’ve been!)  LanternFish  have a ‘Kindometer’ and a ‘Notometer’ for your students to fill out. Once your students have completed their own (or their partner’s) answers, they could interview their teacher, come up with alternative questions, or plead their case!

You can download the ‘Kindometer’ and ‘Notometer’ here: notometer    kindometer (both Word Documents)


EFL Advent Calendar – 20th December


Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean! – 20th December

For: Children, teens or low-level adults

Level: Elementary plus 

The lesson plan and resources I’m sharing today have been an absolute life-saver – I think I’ve used them at least once every Christmas I’ve been teaching (apart from this year when one of my colleagues got there first!). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Bean, it’s a British sitcom following the (mis)adventures of a bumbling ‘man within a child’s body’. As the comedy is mostly physical and there’s very little dialogue involved, it’s great for low-level EFL learners and it also gives them a valuable insight into British culture. 

David Mainwood at The EFL SMARTblog has a great set of worksheets for use with the video (which can be watched on Youtube if you don’t have access to the DVD). If you scroll down to the bottom of the page there are printable versions, which include an ordering task, true or false questions, discussion questions, review of past simple, and a Christmas wordsearch. Choose the activities which are most appropriate for the age and/or level of your class, or simply show the video and ask the students questions at intervals – either based on what they have just seen, or what they think is going to happen next.  

As many of the elements of ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Bean’ show a traditional British Christmas (carol singing, cooking a turkey, sending Christmas cards, hanging up stockings, kissing under the mistletoe) this video also allows you to show students how we usually celebrate Christmas (rather than simply talking about it or using a listening/reading exercise on the topic).