For pre-intermediate/intermediate English language students, suitable for teenagers and adults.
For free sample unit (with answer) click below.
Starting with New Year and continuing through the calendar to Christmas, each of the 16 units features an annual celebration from the English-speaking world (plus two excursions to Rio and Munich).
Some celebrations have religious roots, some have their origins in traditional pagan rituals, and some are relatively modern, including such things as movies, sport, and hot-dogs; it is a diverse variety.
On every page is a communicative activity, exercise, puzzle or quiz, so students are continually engaging and interacting with new language, as well as deepening their insight and understanding of the cultural background of each celebration.
This is a stand-alone study-book. There is no teacher’s manual, no workbook, no media, and no need for photocopying.
ANSWER KEY – This is password protected (to prevent students from copying). Click the link on the homepage to receive the password, and gain access to all answers.
PHOTOS – In addition are a number of photos which can be used to further illustrate each celebration. Hover and click over a photo to get a larger version, which can easily be projected to a classroom screen, enabling students to gain a deeper insight, and perhaps prompting a little more classroom discussion (these are available for each unit from the dropdown menu on the homepage).
LINKS – Lastly are some links to other websites which afford much greater detail of each celebration, both for students and teacher. Most links are for wikipedia pages and, whilst some wiki information needs to be treated with caution, it is a rich source of accessible data. Plus wikipedia has links to multiple languages which may well be of use to students. There are also links to several live webcams from around the world, which can give a ‘real-time flavor’ to the classroom (these are available for each unit from the dropdown menu on the homepage).
Each unit is a self-contained lesson, and units can be conducted in any order. American English and British English is used as appropriate, in deference to the location of each celebration.
There is a similar blueprint for all units. A unit is divided into 5 sections. The first 4 sections (Warm-up, Background, Information Gap, Puzzle/Quiz) form the bulk of the unit, and should be conducted in order. This takes very roughly about 60 minutes (±10 mins). The final section (Writing & Discussion) is optional and, depending how thoroughly it is covered, can take another 15-60 minutes.
Very little rubric is provided; most activities are self-explanatory, and students can quickly figure out what to do. This also helps keep activities flexible and versatile, enabling the teacher to add, subtract, adapt and expand, to suit the particular needs of each class. And it also results in much less clutter on each page, so students can concentrate on the activity in hand without having to wade through any extraneous prose.
Warm-up – an exercise/puzzle which gently introduces the unit’s theme.
Having spent a few seconds considering the title to the unit, students need little instruction on how to complete the Warm-up activity. I find “Warm-up. (Just) do it!” is generally enough. Feedback can be carried out in a conventional manner, nominating random students, or by raised hands. But it can also be conducted by projecting the answer key to a classroom screen from this website. This can save quite a bit of time, as students focus on their individual answers, and frees up the teacher to monitor and offer targeted assistance and explanation.
Background – a short text with the history and background surrounding the theme.
A spoken narration is available on this site. This is an option for teachers who may wish their students to listen and read simultaneously.
There is deliberately no affiliated exercise here; this is still preparation for the main reading activity (the information gap) which comes next. Nevertheless students should be encouraged to read the text thoroughly (I often have them in groups of 2, 3 or 4, for collaborated reading). Even though it is a relatively short text, a generous amount of time should be afforded. It’s quality over quantity, and all the while the teacher can be monitoring and facilitating. As the course proceeds, students should recognize the value of this background reading and not cut corners.
Information Gap – a duo, trio or quartet activity. This is the main section of the unit which focuses directly on the theme.
My modus operandi is to have all the A students sitting together, and all the B students also sitting together, with a physical gap between each group (for a trio activity there will be 3 groups, and for a quartet, 4). If the groups are too large then they are sub-divided. The reading and initial exercise is then conducted, in readiness for the information gap activity.
Now it is time for each A student to pair up (randomly) with a B student (plus C for a trio, and D for a quartet), and to attempt the information gap activity to completion. After the first few units the students cotton on to the procedure, and group organization is easily managed.
One point: a standard information gap activity is for a pair of students, a duo. But a third student drastically alters the dynamic. With pairs A knows B has the all the answers, and B knows it too. However when the information is spread between three students, a trio, A doesn’t know whether B or C has the answer, and neither does B nor C. This element of doubt really spices up the activity. The same goes for a quartet, but quintets start to get too unwieldy.
Puzzle/Quiz – A lighthearted activity after the effort of the information gap, which has an oblique association to the theme.
This is the dessert after the main course. Again the rubric is short and simple (or non-existent), the students know what to do. I almost always have students in small groups for this activity (often the same group as the preceding information gap). Sometimes smartphones need to be prohibited. Then it’s a race between the groups.
Writing & Discussion – an optional extra that can take anything from about 15 minutes to more than an hour.
At the teacher’s discretion this section can be covered quickly, with students simply taking a few moments to consider the topic, and making a few notes, which they can later share in discussion with their partners.
Or, at the other end of the spectrum the topic can be explored in depth (often requiring some individual research by students), and can result in a serious piece of writing, leading to a lengthy discussion.
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