Winter activities need not be synonymous with Christmas. There’s a lot to love about winter that is holiday-free, like snow days. Yes, the pandemic probably killed snow days for the children of today and tomorrow. However, many adults who didn’t work for a school district probably went Hulk-green with envy over the snow days they didn’t get.
What about an in-class snow day for your adult ESL students?
I remember how my Saudi students would ramp up the energy level in every class with their barely suppressed intense desire for snow and everything to do with winter. Even students from countries that got cold winters and snow (my Russian students come to mind) looked forward to the winter season because with every change in the season, they got fresh opportunities to participate in new cultural events. Everyone was always ready to try American winter activities.
Winter activities are different for adults.
What were they not prepared for? Those annual winter activities outside of snowman building, like removing layers of frost or ice from their windshields and windows. Slowing down sooner and slower than usual when driving. Digging themselves out of their driveways. Does leaving the water dripping count as one of the more fun winter activities? Probably not, but there’s more.
- Short days and nights that begin in what used to be the late afternoon.
- Christmas music that begins around Halloween and continues into January.
- Crowded stores.
- Empty shelves before each snow or ice storm.
- Steering into the skid.
WE know what to expect, but it can be almost traumatizing for someone who hasn’t experienced a winter at the level of where they are now. We lost a student who bought a ticket and flew home after two days of cold that wasn’t really that cold (or so we thought). When his friends told us he left because he was too cold, we were in disbelief. (He came back after winter was over.)
Involve and teach them about winter activities during in-class snow days!
So, my proposal is to host some in-class snow days that combine all the delightful aspects of winter, the dreadful parts, and of course, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Maybe even some singing.
It would be a break from whatever routine you have without losing momentum. You can still cover what you need to. With a little creativity, you can winterize all four language domains.
Bring food and drink to fuel discussions on those winter activities.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite: food and drink. During your winter-themed lessons or your winter activities on an in-class snow day, serve some hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies. Encourage students to bring homemade winter goodies from their cultures (if possible). While swapping recipes, draw their attention to useful cooking verbs, connectives and transition signals that guide people through a recipe, and expand their food vocabulary with spice vocabulary.
Most of the focus on winter activities tends to be the fun ones that kids participate in, which is great. Unless you’re teaching adults. Who have adult responsibilities. Now, we don’t want it to be all gloomy and look at pictures of frostbite and burst water pipes, but let’s not leave those things out either. Not sure how to even begin? You (and your students) would probably like an introduction with my Winter Digital Presentation.
Add some music during your studies of winter activities!
They’re going to hear many wintery songs in the stores, banks, restaurants, and any waiting rooms or lobbies. Teach them a few of the more popular ones. Winter Wonderland tended to be a favorite because students heard it everywhere they went, and it didn’t conflict with anyone’s religious beliefs.
You can focus on the ones that have nothing to do with Christmas, that are secular, or depending on your group, some of the religious ones. I created a winter songs YouTube channel and added every song that I taught to any of my classes and gave them the link. I also typed up the lyrics to provide them with copies.
Don’t assume Christmas is out because your students don’t celebrate it, but don’t assume they want to spend time on it.
The biggest hits with my group of mainly Saudi women? The “romantic” winter songs that I personalized copies for the students by including pictures of them with their spouses. My students who had kids in school loved learning the songs that their kids were learning.
But, we didn’t just sit around drinking cocoa and singing songs. Nope, we discussed the meaning of the words in the songs, the message, and what it meant to them. We looked at verb tense, considered synonyms for adjectives, and marveled over how the sentence structure of a song can be so different from that in a reading passage. We talked about how we can add “full” to transform so many words. Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful…
The weather certainly influences winter activities adults get stuck with. Oklahoma’s weather can veer from politely pleasant to downright nasty during the length of a class period. I will never forget the day fall ended and winter began.
Many of our students rushed outside, eager to have their first-ever snow fight and without a single thought to later scraping ice off their windshields or shoveling snow, only to come back in later wet and a bit Smurf-tinged.
As the weeks went on, many bought enormously puffy coats but nothing else for winter attire. They’d wear those coats all day long in the classroom because they were still wearing their t-shirts beneath them. We had to discuss layers, the pros and cons of gloves vs. mittens, the importance of a scarf, how and why to combine a hat with a hood, and so on.
I’ll totally have a winter clothes wall!
The next time I have a class of newcomers, walls permitting, I want to have a clothing wall where I staple a variety of winter clothing along with number cards. I could use that in many ways, like matching, riddles, quizzes, grammar (comparative adjectives immediately leaps to my mind here), and discussion starters. A winter clothing wall or two could serve as a decorative backdrop for one of those in-class snow days.
Be sure to check in with your students to make sure they have the resources to purchase or acquire winter clothing and some extra blankets for at night. If they are from a much warmer climate, show them some of your heating bills from previous years because they might not be aware of how expensive it can get to keep your apartment at 80℉ or even higher throughout the winter.
Now, unless you have to drive somewhere, let it snow, let it snow, LET IT SNOW~!