17 Free Christmas and New Year Classroom Games for ESL and Kindergarten Classrooms
All the following games and activities for kindergarten, preschool and ESL students have been tried and tested in classrooms by The Magic Crayons, who are experienced teaching professionals. If you are planning a lesson to a theme, remember to check our flash cards, crafts and songs pages too.
1. Santa's Spider
Materials: some small boxes, small plastic spider, Xmas f/c Class Size: whole Set up: Place four or five small cardboard boxes in front of the class. Place a small plastic spider in one of them. Go through the Xmas flash cards - whoever identifies them can have a chance to open one of the "presents." If there is nothing inside the class is "safe." Continue this until one of the students opens the present with the spider inside, then chase them around the room a la ghost game / spider game.
2. Axel Claus
Class size: whole class flash cards and two small bells Set up: Two lines Two teams (Girls vs. Boys) etc. One team has the Reindeer card and the other team has the Candy cane card. They pass the card down the line and back up the line until the teacher says stop. The two bells are positioned in the middle between the two teams. After the teacher has said stop then he/she says Merry Christmas in which the two kids holding the cards race to the middle to ring the bell. The first one to ring the bell and identify the card that they are holding gets one point for his/her team.
3. Under/Over Line Pass Game
Flashcards to use: christmas (though any will work) Class size: whole class Set up: If possible, it would be good to use coloured tape to put lines down on the ground to indicate where the teams should line-up.
Divide the class into two teams (or more if a large class) Have them sit down in lines. Give each team a name, like 'bell team', 'star team' etc. IF you have a long seika class, let the kids decide their own team name.
Model the game by joining one of the teams and stand at the front of the line. Choose a card and then have the kids say 3-2-1 GO! before you start to pass the card. Model the passing over your head, then next kid passes between legs, then over head then under legs etc. until you get to the last kid in the line. Encourage him to run to the front and hand you the card. Ask him what it is, and don't award any points or celebrate until he (or his team) shout out the answer. Get him to sit at the front of the line when the round has finished.
With the teams standing in their lines, shuffle the cards and then everyone says 3-2-1 GO! Pass a card to the front member of both (or all if more than one) teams. Give the team that correctly identifies the card a point and then encourage the entire class to repeat the vocab. Repeat.
4. Circle Pass Game
Level: Would work well with all age levels.
Variation of a circle pass game using realia. Buy a bunch of Xmas decorations at a ¥100 shop and a gift box tied with a ribbon. Inside the box put a Xmas decoration relating to the vocab and pass the present around the circle. When the music stops, the child with the present opens it, takes out the decoration, correctly identifys it, then puts the decoration on a tree drawn on the board. Get all students to repeat the vocab. Pretty basic, but they loved opening the present and putting the decoration on the tree.
5. What Do You Want For Christmas?
Have all the students sit in a circle. Then give one card to a student, for example candy cane, and get the students to start passing the card around the circle. Once the kids get the hang of it, teach them to pass the card whilst music is playing and to stop when the music stops. The student who has the card when the music stops stands up, and the class is to ask him/her “What do you want for Christmas?”. The student holding the card should respond “I want a/an ……….”.
6. Where Is Santa?
Materials: Christmas flash cards Time: 10 minutes Receptive Language: ‘Where is Santa?’ Game Explanation: Move all the students to one side of the room. Put all the Christmas FC face down at the other end of the room. Have groups of 3-5 children line up and race down to the other side of the room and energetically flip the cards over until one child finds Santa. Give that student a high five or something to that effect. It is a good idea to get the children who have finished to sit in a different area to those still waiting to have a turn. That way you can easily tell who has and hasn’t had a turn. Play until everyone has had turn.
7. Sittin' On Santa’s Lap
Flash cards - If willing to make on your own time, fc of things the children might want. Class Size - Whole class
First, the children must know "What do you want for Christmas?" "I want..." Put flash cards of toys/funny things around the room. Maybe demo the game with the gumi teacher if she is willing. Play some fun Christmas music and dance around the room, when the music stops all the children must freeze. Santa (the teacher) must then choose a child, and ask them what they want for Christmas, whatever answer they give, the whole class must run and sit next to that flash card. Repeat until gets boring.
8. Bell Jump
Bell Jump (3 year-olds). Five students stand up front under instruction to be quiet. They all have their hands behind their backs. Place jingly bells or a small tambourine into the hands of one of the students, so that the crowd doesn’t see. 1-2-3 Jump! The class guess who has the bells.
Bell Jump v2 (2 year-olds). All the children stand in a circle, hands behind their backs. Walk around the circle and place bells or small tambourine into the hands of one student. 1-2-3 Jump! The class guess who has the bells.
9. Find The Xmas Thang
Materials: flash cards, Christmas decorations Time: 5-6 minutes Receptive Language: instructions, unit vocab Productive Language: unit vocab
Game Explanation: Decorate the classroom with various Christmas-themed items. Play some Christmas music & have the students dance around the room. When you stop the music they must freeze until you call out an item. They must then run & line-up behind the item you’ve called.
Make sure to indicate that they are NOT to touch the item, only to line-up behind it (otherwise you will have a lot of ripped decorations). The first 3 children in the line-up are the winners of that round. Some of the more advanced (or independently-minded) students will soon notice that there isn’t only one line-up they can get in & so sometimes you will have more than 3 champions per round.
Note: In order to incorporate more productive language into this activity you could ask the children in the line-up ‘Is this a ____?’ & get them to respond ‘Yes it is’ or ‘No it isn’t’ (followed by ‘It’s a ____’).
Xmas flash cards ,small christmas tree, ornaments.. Set up. This is a fun activity in which each child can choose an ornament from your magical bag of happiness and place it on the tree... Some schools might have small trees already in the English room but I'm sure that most do not..The key is the F/C decoration and the phrase "decorate the tree." Have the children line up, choose an ornament, and decorate the tree. Play The Magic Crayons CD in the background and be merry.
11. Pass The Parcel
Materials: pre-wrapped parcel with flashcards, music Time: 8-10 minutes Receptive Language: instructions Productive Language: various Wrap a number of Christmas decorations in gift boxes, draw an undecorated tree on the whiteboard, & get the students to pass the boxes around the circle until the music stops. Students get a predetermined number of seconds to attempt to unwrap the boxes before the music starts up again & they have to pass the parcel along. When a student gets to the decoration in the gift box he has to identify it before he can use it to decorate the tree. Make sure all of the students repeat the vocab terms. Note: Just to mess with their minds, make the present in the middle something totally valueless or even disgusting, ie your socks.
12. Christmas Devil
Materials: flash cards Time: 4-5 minutes Receptive Language: instructions, Merry Christmas! Productive Language: flashcards Game Explanation: Explain to the students that anytime you shout ‘Merry Christmas!’ you will turn into a Christmas Devil & chase them around the room, attempting to devour them. Go through the target flashcards slowly (making sure the students repeat them in unison after you), randomly dropping the occasional ‘Merry Christmas!’ Try & trick the students by calling out unconnected phrases like ‘Happy Birthday!’ or ‘It’s a beautiful day!’ instead.
13. Find the Present
Materials: Present FC or small realia present Time: 10 minutes Receptive Language: ‘Where is the present?’ Productive Language: ‘I found it’ Game Explanation: Show the students that you are going to hide the present card / relia present somewhere in the room. Have the children all go outside and sit down, Eyes closed, while you hide the present in the classroom. See if they can find the present within a certain time limit. If the can’t, give them hints until one lucky student finds the present. Play several times making the hiding spot more obscure each time. For added mirth, hide the present somewhere on your body for the final round.
14. Thumbprint Letters
Materials: paper, ink pads, finger paints Time: 6-10 minutes Receptive Language: instructions, various Productive Language: various Game Explanation: Before class, prepare a sheet of paper for each student with his or her name on it. Distribute fresh paper & inkpads to the students & give each the sheet with his or her name on it as well. Show the students how to press their thumbs on the inkpad & then on the fresh sheet of paper & then get them to ‘write’ their names on the fresh sheets by copying the one you’ve written for them. You might want to start of with names & move on to ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy New Year!’ messages that the students can take home as presents for their parents. Note: Could get messy. Make sure you’ve got lots of towels & tissue available. You may also want to check with the kindergarten before you try this activity.
15. Rock, Scissors, Paper Game Variation
Introduce three poses: 1. Two hands, palms facing in, out in front of you stomach. (Santa's big fat stomach) 2. Two hands, together in fists, hovering over one of your shoulders. (Holding Santa's heavy sack) 3. Two hands, palms facing out, Held up. Like your being arrested. (Shock, I just saw Santa)
As the teacher you become Santa, it would be good if you have a Santa hat to wear. Practice the chant, "Santa Clause, Santa Clause, Ho, Ho, HO!". On the final "HO!" everybody has to assume one of the three poses. The children who have made the same pose as you (Santa) have to sit down. Continue till you have one child left, who can then become Santa if they so desire. Best played in a circle. It may take a few rounds for everyone to get it. Please persevere as it's a real favourite.
16. Xmas Body Shapes
Materials: flash cards Time: 3-5 minutes Receptive Language: instructions, unit vocab Productive Language: unit vocab Game Explanation: Like BODYSPELL or SHAPESHIFTERS, this activity involves getting the students to make various shapes relating to the unit vocabulary with their bodies. Have the students get into pairs & show them the ‘snowman’ card. Explain that, on your command, each pair will make a snowman out of the bodies. Once this has been accomplished (presumably with much tumbling around & hilarity), get the students into groups of three, show them the ‘Christmas tree’ card, have them try & make a ‘Christmas tree’ with their bodies, & so on. If you like, try & get them to make bigger & bigger Christmas trees by increasing the number of students in each group. Then baffle them by telling them to make a present, a bell, a reindeer, etc. Note: Recommended for nen-cho only. Keep an eye on the top student in each ‘Christmas tree’ to make sure they don’t tumble off & crack their skulls open in a very unfestive fashion.