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A fun Christmas spelling game!

Before class, cut out construction-paper letters to spell out a Christmas phrase or message (Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Happy New Year, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, etc.).

To play, give each student a letter (or two), then have them line up to spell out their Christmas message. Take a picture of the finished product to send to their parents!

Variation A: Make two sets of letters, and have two teams race to spell out their message.

Variation B: Make two sets of different letters, assign two students a phrase each, and have them figure out who can help them spell it.

Variation C: Hide the letters around the classroom, and have students look for them before spelling the phrase.

Variation D: Hand each student a piece of paper, and assign each student a letter to write and illustrate beautifully. When they’re finished, have them make the sentence and pose for a picture.



Paper Chain Sentence Making

This is a fun way to make your Christmas activities educational!

Before class, prepare strips of paper for making paper chains. On each strip, write a word. Bring several spare strips of paper to replace any that get ripped or damaged. Also, bring glue sticks or staplers to class.

Divide the students into groups of two or three, although you could have bigger groups if you don’t want to prepare so many strips of paper. Each group receives about 20 strips of paper, and has to put the words on them into grammatically correct sentences. When they’ve made a sentence, they glue or staple the strips of paper into rings and string them together in order, to make a paper chain. You can give prizes for the longest chains, the most sentences, the most creative sentences, and the prettiest chains. Use the paper chains to decorate the classroom when you’re done!

Some sentence ideas:

  • The reindeer is on the roof.
  • My stocking is in front of the fireplace.
  • I want a big, expensive present from my parents for Christmas.
  • Every year I eat lots of delicious chocolate Christmas cookies.

Hangman Deluxe

A new twist on a classic last-five-minutes-of-class game!

The game is played just like regular hangman at the beginning – the teacher thinks of a word and students guess letters. For every wrong letter, the teacher (or the student leading the game) draws a body part on the board. If the teacher draws the whole body on the board, the students have lost. If the students guess the word before the body is finished, they win.

Pretty standard Hangman design - as you can see, some of my students aren't clear on what letters are most common in English! This is a seven-letter word, so I'd give 14 points for guessing it correctly.

Pretty standard Hangman design – as you can see, some of my students aren’t clear on what letters are most common in English! This is a seven-letter word, so I’d give 14 points for guessing it correctly.

(To be politically correct, you can replace the hanging theme with something else. I sometimes draw a face on the board and erase it bit by bit. Now it’s not hangman but a whole new game!)

My alternative to Hangman - erase the face. One wrong letter erases the hair, one the mouth, one the body, and so on. The kids honestly don't realize this is the same game as Hangman!

My alternative to Hangman – erase the face. One wrong letter erases the hair, one the mouth, one the body, and so on. The kids honestly don’t realize this is the same game as Hangman!

To add to the educational value of the game, after the word is guessed, the students have the chance to earn points. I have a sliding scale of point values for my students. You get 5 points for naming a synonym or antonym (opposite) of the word. You get 10 points for using the word in a sentence or defining the word in English. I also give two points per letter for guessing the complete word. I play this team by team, rather than giving points to individual students, but either way would work.

Scoring for the word Lantern.

Scoring for the word Lantern.

To keep it organized, if team A guesses the word, they get first choice of bonus points. They choose to use the word in a sentence for 10 points. Then team B gets the chance to earn bonus points by naming a synonym or antonym, or giving a definition of the word. If we’re short on time, we might guess five or six words in a row, writing the answers in the corner of the white board, and then use them in sentences etc. for bonus points at the end of the game.


Guess My Animal

An excellent game for forming questions, as long as the students already have some vocabulary to work with. The first time I play this game, I write up a list of suggested questions on the board for students to adapt. Ask each student to get out a scrap of paper and a pencil.

Guess my Animal

The teacher thinks of an animal. It doesn’t need to be an animal that the students know the word for – feel free to be creative! Shark, cow, monkey, rhinoceros, seahorse, otter, lemur, squirrel… as long as the students know it exists, it’ll work.

The students stand up and raise their hands to ask a question about the animal. They must use yes or no questions. The teacher answers the question in a full sentence. Example: “Yes, it has four legs.” “No, it doesn’t eat grass.” Continue the question and answer sequence until every student has asked a question, even if most of the class seems to know the answer.

When a student thinks he or she knows the answer, DO NOT let them say it aloud. Instead, they must try to draw the animal on their paper. Those students who don’t have a guess must continue to ask questions. When every student has something drawn on their paper, then the teacher can quickly sketch the animal on the board and tell the students what it is. Every student who got the wrong answer stands up and answers a question as a penalty before the game continues. (These penalty questions can be opinion questions, questions about the animal, spelling or review questions, or anything the teacher wants to ask.)


Hot Potato

The students pass a ball around the room, either in order or randomly from student to student. The teacher can play music, or have the students sing a song, spell words aloud, or chant something (numbers, months, the ABC’s) while the ball is being passed around. When the teacher shouts “STOP!” (or stops the music), the student holding the ball has to answer a question. The game continues as long as the teacher wants it to last – generally less than 5 minutes, as this game gets old fast.

Variation – pass two different-coloured balls around. When the teacher says stop, the student with the red ball asks a question for the student with the blue ball to answer.

Variation for large classes – Divide the class into teams. Each team has their own ball to pass around, and the students holding balls race to answer the question first.

You can also have the students spell a vocabulary word or make a sentence with a vocabulary word, rather than answer a question.



A pair of students stands back to back. The teacher holds a set of flash cards between them. The teacher counts to three as the students take three steps apart, and then when the teacher shouts “go!” the students turn around to face each other. The students look at the flash card that the teacher is holding up, and have to name the word and then shout “bang, bang!” at the other student while making an imaginary gun with their fingers. The faster student is the winner.

Alternatives to flash cards:

  • The teacher does a gesture and the students name the corresponding word.
  • The teacher says a word and the students do the corresponding gesture.
  • Before saying go, the teacher says a word and on go, the students have to spell it out.
  • The teacher says a word, shows a flash card, or writes a word on the board, and the students have to use it in a sentence.

Note: Yes, this is against all the rules in American schools where you’re not allowed to even pretend to have heard of making a gun with your fingers. Can anyone suggest an alternative to the gun thing? Make a silly face at the other student, maybe?