EFL Advent Calendar – December 4th


Good morning everyone! Yesterday I braved the crowds to do some of my Christmas shopping (not very successfully, although I was looking for gifts for other people I kept finding things for me!) and I have to say that I’m really enjoying all the Christmas music that’s being played everywhere!

Today’s activity is another young learner one (although it could probably work with fun-loving adults). It’s not a Christmas activity in its own right, but can be easily adapted, and is a fun way to practise recognising and producing vocabulary at word level. As to why it’s called ‘Fishbowl’? I’m honestly not sure… it was taught to me by one of my Prague colleagues, and I’ve just stuck with the name he called it!

December 4th – Christmas Fishbowl

For: Young learners

Level: Beginner + (can be made more challenging up to around pre-int/int level if desired)

Time: Around 30 minutes for the whole game, but if you want to cut out rounds/impose a shorter time limit you can make it shorter!

For this game you’ll need some Christmas vocabulary that the students are familiar with (this is a great fun review game to play at the end of a lesson or at the beginning of the following one). If you’re lacking in inspiration enchanted learning has a list of words of varying levels of complexity, or you could use Christmas flashcards from a site like Activity Village or MES English.

  1. Divide the class into two (or more) teams. Allow each team 1 minute to choose a team name, and write these on the board.
  2. Sit on a chair at the front of the room, in front of the board. Decide which team is going to go first, and ask them to come to the front – they must stand in a line starting in front of the teacher. Tell the other team that they mustn’t help or call out – they should only listen (it will help them if they can remember what words are included and the other team’s approach to problematic words!).
  3. Demonstrate the procedure – one student will come forward, and look at the flashcard/vocabulary word shown to them by the teacher. They must then draw it on the board for the rest of the team to guess. No talking or miming allowed! Once a word has been guessed successfully, the student goes to the back, and the next student comes forwards for the next word.
  4. Set a timer – around 2 minutes is probably the perfect length of time to give the students a good chance of guessing lots of words without making it too easy. If they’re really struggling to guess a word, use your discretion, you can put it aside and move on – but this should be a last resort!
  5. Once the time is up, count up how many words the team guessed correctly, and record it on the board. Repeat the process with the other team.
  6. Repeat the process with the different rounds (same words used each time): Round 1 = draw the word, Round 2 = mime the word (again, no speaking allowed!), Round 3 = describe the word.  Round 3 can easily be adapted to offer different levels of challenge (or just to shake things up a bit!). Students can offer a full description of the word (eg. it’s an animal, it’s got four legs, it pulls Santa’s sleigh…) or can say only one key word to describe it. Although saying one word seems easier on the face of it, it really forces the students to think carefully about both the word and how to describe it. For some words (eg. ‘animal’ for reindeer) this is easier, but for others it’s harder – how do you describe ‘angel’ in one word?!
  7. At the end of all three rounds, add up the totals – the team who guessed the most words across the game is the winner!



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