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ESL Holiday Speaking Activities

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

ESL students of all ages may struggle with describing holidays, including traditions, sequenced events, and using tense appropriately. Use these activities to help your ESL students tackle these tasks.

ESL Holiday Speaking Activities

These ESL holiday speaking activities ask students to practice important skills while discussing holidays. Use them with any age group to help your students understand more about description, sequencing, and verb tense. Each activity includes structured support which asks students to write, sketch, and talk about their holiday topic multiple times. Students can engage in team or partner discussion or a one-on-one conversation with you. Additionally, they can write about or illustrate their activity as a follow-up assignment.

Ideal Holiday Vacation

  • Materials: graphic organizer, chart paper, markers, descriptive ideal holiday vacation example, notebook and/or blank paper, colored pencils or other writing utensils

In this activity, students will discuss their ideal holiday vacation. They will focus on vivid description and using adjectives and strong verbs to explain their visions. Begin by providing students with the prompt for the activity: ''What is your perfect holiday vacation?'' For added support, brainstorm together or provide a graphic organizer. One option can include a ''Five Ws and an H'' organizer or a flow chart that describes their holiday in sequence.

You may also want to allow students to draw sketches showing each part of their ideal holiday vacation. Then, you or a supportive partner can help students put their sketches into descriptive words. Give some examples of descriptive language. For example, write ''beach'' and ask for words they would use to describe a holiday vacation at the beach, such as sand, sun, or waves. Incorporate adjectives, such as smooth sand, crashing waves, or bright sun.

Provide direction and adequate time for students to create their ideal holiday vacation sketches and/or written descriptions. Then, allow time for them to read their writing aloud or describe their sketches to you, a partner, or a team. This part of the activity is for organization, to improve comfort level when speaking, and to practice for sharing their holidays with others on a larger scale. Wrap up by having students put away their sketches and/or writing and describe their ideal vacation to others. Consider asking other students to write down descriptive words or create sketches of their own, based on the ideal holiday vacation presentations.

Tradition Talks

  • Materials: examples of holiday traditions, poster paper, markers, research resources (optional), notebook or blank paper, colored pencils or other writing utensils

In this activity, students will either recount their own family holiday tradition or research one and describe it to others. Explain the concept of holiday tradition to students. Brainstorm some ideas together, such as a holiday meal, cooking together, gift giving, a family gathering, or going to a religious service. Ask students to sketch the steps of one tradition, either from their own family, or from research with resources you provide.

After sketches are complete, ask students to work with a partner or team to ensure that each step in their tradition is recorded in the appropriate sequence and that there are not any gaps. For example, when attending a religious service, the family may get dressed, drive to a church, sing songs, light candles, eat refreshments, and exchange gifts before heading home. After students have discussed and filled in any gaps or adjusted sequence, ask them to practice discussing and explaining their tradition. They can practice with you, a partner, a team, or on their own.

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