People celebrate different things every day of the week. Some days, people celebrate a birthday or holiday. Other days people celebrate religious or political events. Still other days personal accomplishments or achievements are enough to spur people on to celebrate. In fact, any event can be cause for celebration, so whatever today’s reason might be, these ESL activities will fit right in with the festive mood of the moment.
How to Teach a Unit on Holidays and Celebrations
Though not always the case, most people have a reason to celebrate. Working as an entire class, brainstorm as many reasons as you can that someone might celebrate. Be sure to include political and religious holidays as well as personal achievements or personal milestones such as birthdays. As you compile your list, encourage all members of your class to participate. For those who may not normally volunteer answers, remind them that any answer during a brainstorming session is a good one. In addition, everyone has things that she celebrates that others do not, so each person has something unique to contribute to the discussion. Once everyone has given a few reasons for celebration (and that alone may be good reason to celebrate) break your class into smaller discussion groups for the next part of the activity.
In groups, your class should decide on a classification scheme for the items on the board. As a rule, look for the following when classifying items. Each group should be distinct from every other group with no one group functioning as a subset of the other. There should be no overlap between the groups. That is, no item should be able to fit into more than one group. Each group should have a name or at least a description that distinguishes it from every other category, and students should be able to explain the differences between the groups.
Depending on the language level of your students, you can work with these classifications in your writing class. For lower level students, have each group or each individual write a paragraph about one of the classes or groups. The paragraph should include the name of the group, a description of it, what distinguishes it from the other groups and some specific examples that would be classified in that group. For students more advanced in their language studies, individuals can use this activity to write a classification essay following including the same criteria as the paragraph. In this case, though, each person will write about three or more classes and will also include an introduction and a conclusion with their paper. Give each group a chance to share with the class how they classified the items, and encourage your students to compare and contrast how different groups classified the same items.
How to Celebrate?
How a person celebrates a given event differs from country to country and from household to household. Because of this, talking about celebration is a natural opening to share about native cultures among your students. To do this, ask each person in class to think of a recent celebration in which he participated. Then using the journalistic questions who, what, where, when, why and how, each person should make notes about the event, putting into words as many specific details as possible. To help your students, you can suggest questions that begin with the question words. For example, who was at the celebration? Who planned the celebration? What did you do? What did you eat? What did you say to one another? Where did you celebrate? Where did you spend your time during the celebration? Countless questions can be asked using these words. If you want to challenge your students to do more of the work, have them work in smaller discussion groups to come up with and answer the questions on their own. No group will have the same questions and therefore the same answers. Using journalistic questions is another useful prewriting activity, and your students can now use the answers that they have put down on the page to write a more organized and composed piece. Another option rather than writing would be to put that same information into an oral presentation after which other students can ask clarifying questions of the presenter. However you decide to share the information among your class, encourage each person to help the others understand his culture with the information he presents.
Plan to Celebrate
Now that your class has had some general discussion about celebrations, bring your plans to something more specific. For either an upcoming holiday or other event in the near future, have groups of students plan a celebration for the class. In groups of about four students, ask your class to be very specific as they plan a celebration for the event. They should discuss the location of the celebration, the events of the celebration, what items they will want to include (such as food or music) as well as any other details they can think of. Allow students to use the internet to get prices and compile a budget for the event. They should also put together an invitation list which includes all the members of your class as well as any other people they would like to invite. Finally, each group should write some sort of invitation to send out to the invitation list. They may choose to do a simple card, a more formal invitation or a short note or letter, depending on the occasion. If you have models for them to use as inspiration, your students will have an easier time with the activity. Ultimately, you may or may not want to have the celebrations, but your students will have benefited from the planning process.
Your students are learning and improving their English, and who needs any more reason than that to celebrate?
Still, encouraging your students to share some of their personalities and cultures will help them appreciate their classmates in a fun and friendly environment, and that is also a reason to celebrate. Party on!