Here’s a second seasonal lesson idea.  This time based on Carnival.  In Brazil the holidays have just come to an end, and in my adopted hometown of Cádiz we’re only half way through!


I first used this lesson idea with a large class of mixed-level high school students but it can work with a number of different ages and abilities.  Most of the input comes from the students and it requires zero preparation (unless of course you want to kick off with an image of carnival as I’ve done above).

Step 1:  letter dictation

Spell out words connected to Carnival in your context, letter by letter, e.g.  costumes, streamers, parade.  Ask the class to chorus the letters after you and don’t let them write them down. If they think they know the word before you finish spelling it, they can shout it out.  Write each word on the board as they finish spelling it.  Check meaning and pronunciation.

Step 2: brainstorming

You may want to do this differently if you’re working in a classroom with mobile devices and/or an IWB, this is how I do it with my classes. I ask the whole class to come to the board at the same time (I have a big board!) and write more words associated with carnival. The advantage of having the students at the board is that I can censor any silly suggestions and push the stronger students to contribute more difficult words.

Step 3: commenting

Once the brainstorming is finishes, ask the students to explain any associations that need explaining, define difficult words, ask them questions about their suggestions so that you hear and use all the words.  This can easily extend into a lively whole class discussion. For example,  one of my students wrote sandwich. I didn’t get the association, but everyone else did.  They all pack sandwiches for the carnival street parties as it’s much cheaper and easier than queuing for food on the street!

Step 4: definitions

Give all the students one or more strips of paper and ask them to write a personal definition of carnival i.e. what it means to them.  As they write walk around the room, monitoring the strips of paper. Give  fast finishers a clean strip to write a second definition or return the original with suggestions for corrections.   Read out one or two early definitions out loud to the class as they’re writing (correcting or rewording orally as necessary). This helps the slower students to think of ideas.  I call the writing to a stop when I can see that everyone has written at least one definition.  Here are a few examples from my class:


Step 5:  discussing pros and cons

I collect in all the strips of paper and choose some positive and some negative reactions to read out to the class. First I ask them to put their hands up if they agree, then if they think their parents would agree or disagree, and then I ask them if who else they know who would agree or disagree.   Having set up the two sides of the argument I ask them to work in groups to draw up lists of what people like and dislike about carnival and why.  At the end we display the lists on the walls of the classroom and the groups circulate spotting any similarities and differences in the lists.  This can easily lead into an essay writing task, either collaboratively in the class, or as homework.

Ceri Jones

I’m a teacher, trainer and materials writer. I live in Cádiz in the south west of Spain. I’ve been involved in ELT for over 25 years. I share more lesson plans and experiences on my blog, Close Up

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