In the northern hemisphere, there are lots who dream of a white Christmas, whereas in the south of the world the holiday season is best enjoyed by the pool while sipping cool drinks. No matter where we are in the world for the holidays, two things remain the same: we all look forward to getting together with family and friends, and we sing Christmas songs.
Some Christmas carols have become so popular and so well-loved, they’ve been translated to several languages, and are sung in countries where snow and hot chocolate have nothing to do with Christmas. For students of English as a second language, there are songs that are timeless classics, which should definitely be taught as another way to make students more familiar with English-speaking cultures.
Here are the Top 10 Christmas songs for ESL classes.
Here you'll find some classic, traditional carols and some modern favorites. We’ve provided some background information on each song, which you may share with your students, together with lyrics and some suggestions for activities.
How To Proceed
This is probably the single, most popular Christmas song ever, although it was originally written for Thanksgiving. Bogglesworld offers a short version that is perfect for ESL classes.
This classic carol was actually originally written in German, but is now sung in over 44 languages. About.com offers the lyrics and a short list of vocabulary you might want to go over before listening to the song in class.
Joy to the World
And what a joy indeed it is to lead your class in this happy hymn! For lyrics and list of recommended vocabulary words, go to About.com.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
This 16th century English carol has stood the test of time and remains a very popular Christmas song to this very day. Lyrics also available at Bogglesworld.
O Christmas Tree
This song was originally a traditional German carol called “O Tannenbaum” (fir tree in German). Although the best known version is from the 19th century, the original melody dates back to the 16th. Lyrics in both English and German are available at SongsforTeaching.com.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Who can name all of Santa's reindeer? Few probably can, but there’s one name that stands out among young and old: Rudolph, the reindeer that was at first ridiculed for his big, red nose, but later saves the day as he deftly leads Santa's sleigh through the fog. Lyrics are available at About.com, but don’t forget to try the activities recommended at ESLKidStuff; there's a pin the tail on the reindeer game that is sure to provide lots of holiday fun for the little ones.
When we think “White Christmas”, we think “Bing Crosby. The song written by Irving Berlin has actually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the all time best-selling single. Here is a wonderful worksheet for beginners, guaranteed to put their listening comprehension to the test.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
This fun song reached the number one position on the charts in 1952. The story is as endearing as any Christmas tale: an unsuspecting child endeavors to sneak up on Santa Claus and finds him (presumably his father) kissing his mother underneath the mistletoe. Here's a great worksheet based on the cover recorded by the Jackson 5.
All I Want for Christmas Is You
One of the most recent additions to the list of holiday classics, this song was released in 1994 in Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas album. Lyrics and activities are available in this worksheet.
Do They Know It's Christmas
This is the perfect song to raise awareness among your students of the hardships others may face in other parts of the world. In 1984, Bob Geldof wrote this song and put together a group of English and Irish artists, called Band Aid. All proceeds from this song went towards relief for the famine in Ethiopia. The video and lyrics are available at Engleo.com.
Some of these songs are great lead ins for discussion, others are simply fun to sing. Whether you make your own worksheets or use the ones we've provided, make sure you give your students plenty of new things to learn with these wonderful holiday classics!
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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I taught my korean students jingle bells, silent night, frosty the snowman, white christmas, and jingle bell rock. When I took a class poll Jingle Bell Rock was the unanimous winner. They love that song! ages 11-12.
It depends! I have used both - if the students are eager to sing , they sing whatever I offer them.Today the 5th graders were very enthusiastic about Rudolf! Thanks for the idea about its nose, drew the reindeer, tomorrow the song and the activity! Ina, Latvija