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Submitted by Nedra Rivera, Madrid, Spain

Santa's Favorite Christmas Superstitions

Can you match the two halves of these Christmas superstitions?

1. To have good health in the following year . a) . as the number of houses where you eat mince pies during Christmastime.
2. A child born on Christmas day . b) . means that Easter will be green.
3. Snow on Christmas day . c) . eat an apple on Christmas Eve.
4. If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning . d) . where a fire is kept burning throughout the Christmas season.
5. Good luck will come to the home . e) . will have a special future.
6. You will have as many happy months in the coming year . f) . you will be able to carry heavy things.

Do you believe in this type of superstition?
Are there any similar Christmas or holiday superstitions in your country?

ANSWERS:
To have good health throughout the next year, eat an apple on Christmas Eve.
A child born on Christmas Day will have a special future.
If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning, you will be able to carry heavy things.
Snow on Christmas means Easter will be green.
Good luck will come to the home where a fire is kept burning throughout the Christmas season.
You will have as many happy months in the coming year, as the number of houses where you eat mince pies during Christmastime.

Submitted by Simon Gill, Olomouc, Czech Republic

Gifts

Here's one that works well for me and fits in well with my criteria for a good classroom activity:

1. no preparation
2. no special materials
3. no direct teacher involvement
4. fun
5. produces a lot of language
6. lasts a long time

You need a pile of small pieces of paper, enough for everybody in the class to have as many as there are other people in the class (eg for a class of 16 you need 16 X 15 = 240). If you want to be involved yourself you can be; it's up to you.

Distribute them.

Get each person in the class to write the name of ONE classmate on each piece of paper they have. Next to the name they should write the gift they'd like to give that person. Money is no object. It should be suitable for them, though.

Students circulate and give their "gifts" to one another, explaining the reason for their choice.

Feedback: get students to say what were the funniest/ craziest/ best/ most useful etc gifts they got. This is more a fluency than an accuracy activity but can be used to focus on various aspects of language: offers, expressing gratitude, clauses of justification etc etc.

Submitted by Patrice Palmer, Hong Kong

Christmas Customs

I teach in Hong Kong so I think it is interesting to have students learn about how Christmas is celebrated around the world and in their own country.

Lesson Plan

Introduction and Brainstorm
1. Write Christmas in a large circle on the board.

2. Elicit from students what comes to mind when they think of Christmas (e.g. when is it, traditions, turkey) Group Activity

Before the lesson, go to the website: http://www.Christmas.com/worldview
There is a map of the world and you can click on a part of the world and get a print out of how Christmas is celebrated in that country. The print out is 3-4 short paragraphs.

Have students pick out the main points of how Christmas is celebrated in that country. They should write some points on the board under the country heading. It will then be easy to compare and talk about the similarities and differences.

Class Activity
Prepare a sheet with columns. One column for student name and other for what they do at Christmas. (This was interesting to me because so many people buy and give gifts at Christmas even though they do not celebrate it formally in Hong Kong).

Whole Class Activity
Ask students what they found out through their interviews. How is it celebrated?

At the end of the activity, I give each student a candy cane which they absolutely love!

Submitted by Gwyneth Box, Madrid

Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas is a time when students want fun activities, and songs and bits of coloured cardboard always go down well. My students enjoy sorting out the words to the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is readily available on any festive cassette.

We listen to the start of the song so they get the hang of how each phrase is repeated. (There is no need for them to hear it all at this stage.) I give the students the information about the gifts as follows (a total of 36 pieces of cardboard for each pair of students.)

a
partridge
in a pear tree.
two
turtle
doves
three
French
hens
four
calling
birds
five
gold
rings
six
geese
a-laying
seven
swans
a-swimming
eight
maids
a-milking
nine
drummers
drumming
ten
pipers
piping
eleven
ladies
dancing
twelve
lords
a-leaping

They have a few minutes to sort out the words - the bright ones will begin to line up the numbers in a column at this stage.

We listen again and they have to get the twelve combinations. Because of the way it repeats over and over, they have plenty of opportunity to correct and confirm as they go. However they invariable panic and enjoy a small riot with their partner as they scrabble for words. (All good clean fun.)

After listening all through, it's a good idea to let them have a few minutes to see if they can add any of the remaining words.

We usually listen again all through before checking, as it is a tricky exercise.

When we get to the checking stage, I find that some of the students can't resist joining in with the tape. (If you really can't bear to listen all through again to confirm their answers, you can always just play the very last verse and check from '12 lords' back to 'a partridge', but I think the students enjoy the whole thing.)

If you want, you can then move on to discuss the most unsuitable/unwelcome presents the students have ever received, or presents in general. NB: I refuse to explain any vocabulary until the song is complete, although I will tell them how the words are pronounced.

I use this as a pure sound exercise, and find it gives them confidence to see they can do it without understanding more than a few words. This really needs the students to be working at large tables - unless they're young enough to get down on the floor - as they need plenty of space.

One point which is useful for any activity like this that uses lots of little bits of cardboard, is to colour code: I had copies of the song made on six different coloured cards (i.e. one on each) several years ago.

At the end of the class they all get swept into a big envelope and can easily be sorted out next time they are needed. This saves the hassle of repeatedly having to cut out new sets of materials - you can use the same ones over and over again.

(Gwyneth is the editor at http://www.patchword.com)

Submitted by Stephen Rogers, Madrid, Spain

Anti-Christmas Christmas Lesson

Level: Upper-intermediate to proficiency

Time: Half an hour to a lifetime

Focus: Fluency speaking, advanced vocab, conversation, destroying students' enjoyment of Christmas.

Age: Adults or older teens.

No. of students: 6+ (though you could miss out some of the roles, or double up on the kids roles to be more flexible)

Materials: Role cards and props - something to represent a TV, a remote control for father, a tray for mother, perhaps drinks and food.

Procedure:
1. Do usual 'So what's a typical Spanish Christmas like? Oh, really?' stuff. Students should go on about how much fun it is, all the family together, etc. etc.
2. Then tell them that a typical British Christmas is a bit different, as our traditions involve eating too much, drinking too much, watching crap TV, and arguing with the rest of the family. Consolidate this by telling them about your last Christmas, using all the usual sitcom cliches about unpleasant relatives, bored sulky kids, the Bond film you've seen a million times but have to watch because Granny wants to, etc.
3. They are now prepared for the row. Assign roles and give them the cards. The language is very advanced so you will need to give individual help with any problems. It is essential they all understand fully what their role is, but that they don't see the other cards.
4. Arrange the room into typical living room style and give out the props.
5. Let them go for it! Most classes will love it and keep going for a good half hour to an hour. If things start to pall, leave the room and knock loudly until someone lets you in. Be the neighbour from next door who is having a lovely Christmas, singing carols, making punch etc. This should be enough to kick the whole thing off again.
6. Homework: Tell your students to go home and practise the row on their family on Christmas Eve.

Have Fun!

CHRISTMAS ROW - ADVANCED

KIDS You have had too much to eat and aren't feeling too well. You know Mother wants you to be on your best behaviour so you are determined to annoy everyone. You don't want to do the washing up, only play with your toys which you aren't happy with as you wanted something different and more expensive. Earlier you overheard Granny criticising Mother's cooking and know that you shouldn't really say anything about this to Mother, who is looking a bit overwrought, but . . .what the hell! You're bored and it'll be good for a laugh.

MOTHER You have spent all day slaving over a hot stove trying to make this the perfect Christmas, but no one has thanked you and no one seems keen to help you with the washing up. You have had a couple of sherries and are feeling a bit squiffy and unappreciated. Seek compliments; the less you get the more upset you get. Try to politely persuade the kids to do the washing up (or Father, but not Sharon's boyfriend - he's a guest!), and try to control them as you don't want them to annoy everyone and spoil Christmas for the adults. Try to diplomatically stop Father from drinking any more as you know he gets belligerent when drunk. Try to be the perfect host. You feel no one is eating or drinking enough (especially after all the money you have spent on food and drink!). Try to organise some party games.

FATHER You've had a varied mixture of drinks, far too much to eat and are started to get irritated and argumentative. There are far too many people about, the kids are making too much noise, Granny is being boring and keeps making critical comments about everyone, and Mother is started to get on your nerves because she seems to feel doing a bit of cooking on Christmas day is the equivalent of organising a Royal wedding! You haven't complimented her and don't intend to as it would just make her worse. You are feeling far too placid to do the washing up and just wish everyone would shut up and let you watch the Bond film in peace (it's your favourite). What's more, Sharon's new boyfriend seems like a shiftless good-for-nothing who's only after one thing and is trying to ingratiate himself with everyone. Interrogate him to find out his job, prospects, intentions, etc.

SHARON (16 years old) You are just about at the end of your tether. The kids are too loud, father is being a slob, mother is hovering about and appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Granny is hassling you (and every one else). To make matters worse your new boyfriend is spending Christmas day and your family are embarrassing you in front of him (as you knew they would). Mind you, you're going off him fast. He's being so oily and ingratiating with everyone and you're starting to think he may only be interested in you for one thing . . . Refuse to do the washing up (you always end up doing it and think the kids should do it for a change). Stand up to Granny, you're old enough to speak your mind to her THIS year. You want to watch Top of the Pops on TV. Try to make Father switch over.

SHARON'S BOYFRIEND (17 years old) You're feeling a bit stressed out as there seems to be a lot going on you don't know about. You're trying to be nice to everyone (even listening sympathetically to Granny, who is sooo boring!!) as you think it will score points with Sharon. You don't have a job or any intention of studying and are content to hang out in pubs with your mates, picking up girls. You're hoping that if you impress her family, Sharon will be pleased and tonight could be your lucky night! Her Father seems to be a bit suspicious, so try to avoid him. Offer to help Mother.

GRANNY (78 years old) Ooohh, it's awful. Things didn't use to be like this when you were younger. That's the problem with the younger generation, they don't realise how lucky they are. The kids are spoiled, when you were a child you used to get an apple for Christmas (if you were lucky) and didn't complain. Sharon is wasting her time going to school and then university, she's only going to get married and have kids so what's the point? Mind you, her new boyfriend seems like a nice chap. The TV is awful, as usual. All sex and violence, and terrible music. Your daughter (Mother) is panicking and over-reacting about the whole day. You used to cook Christmas dinner for twice as many people as this, with only 1.50 to spend, and didn't complain. Her lazy husband is a waste of space, she should have married nice Mr Jenkins from the undertakers. You've had four sherries and are determined to tell everyone what you think. You made a negative comment about Mother's cooking a while ago and hope no one overheard and mentions it. Everyone seems to have forgotten how old you are. Keep reminding them.

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