Easter Activities for the EFL Classroom
With Easter approaching, I’ve recently been asked about putting together some topical ideas for teaching.
The derivation of the word ‘Easter’
In many European languages, the word for Easter is derived from the Jewish festival of Passover – the celebration of the exodus of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. It later became linked, in Christian theology, and to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The English word is derived from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, named Eostre, who was closely associated with spring and rebirth. In fact, a similar word, Eastre, is believed to be an ancient word for 'Spring'. Unsurprising, perhaps, that it has become linked to the Christian story of resurrection.
If you work in a Christian faith school, you will undoubtedly want to take time to celebrate Easter with your students since, for most Christian communities, it represents the most important festival of the year. If your student cohort is of a different faith or is multi-faith, it may form part of a wider calendar of important religious celebrations from different religions. As Easter often coincides with Passover and Ramadan, it can be a good opportunity to share and compare the meanings and traditions of the festivals or the three main Abrahamic religions. For reference, this year, the dates are:
This year, Good Friday is on April 15th and Easter Sunday is on April 17th.Passover begins on April 15th and ends on Saturday April 23rd.Ramadan begins on Saturday 2nd April and ends on Sunday 1st May.
Traditional Easter activities
Easter is a time when teachers can take time to explore the story of Jesus, and get younger students involved in traditional easter craft activities, like painting eggs, making Easter cards or organising Easter egg hunts. Alternatively, it can be a time to get students interested in nature and to get involved in practical projects on the life cycles of plants and animals. You might also think about organising an Easter parade. The tradition of parades at Easter goes back many hundreds of years and is still popular today, particularly in the US, where it has become a secular event with widespread participation.
Tapping into the Power of Chocolate
Whether they are religious or secular, it is sometimes difficult to tie Easter-themed activities directly to language learning. Making Easter cards, organising an Easter egg hunt or organising a class dress-up and parade can all be good fun, and that might be a good enough reason for doing them. However, if you want more of a focus on language, or if you want something more secular, there is an easy way in – by unlocking the power of chocolate! Why chocolate, you might ask? Bear with me, while I pitch this to you as a gateway to a range of activities and tasks – from the frivolous to the academic and from the light-hearted to the darkest depths.
Here is a list of some of our top chocolate-themed tasks and activities:
1. Chocolate Taste Challenge
This is something I’ve done with both adults and children and always goes down well. It can be done as a stand-alone activity or used as a lead-in to some of the other activities. There are different ways of arranging the tasting, so organise it according to what will work best for you and your class. I usually get the students to do the tastings ‘blind’ – they seem to enjoy the matching challenge and the reveal at the end brings the lesson to a natural climax.
- You’ll need to buy 6 chocolate bars and some paper plates. If it’s a small class, you could increase it to 8 bars. Try to buy bars that are quite different: I usually try to include two popular mainstream brands, a bar with high cocoa-solids content (70% +), maybe a handmade or artisan chocolate bar and a couple of non-dairy, vegan brands (one basic and one high-end). However, it depends on what is easily available in your local supermarkets and delicatessens.
- Allow time to set up the challenge before the lesson starts and check for potential food allergies.
- Label the bottom of each paper plate with the name of one of the brands you have chosen.
- Cut or break each bar into very small pieces and place them on its plate.
- Line the plates up along the side of the class and label each with a letter.
- Stick or pin the wrappers to a display board so the students know which brands they are tasting.
- At the start of the lesson, have each student write the letters down the side of a sheet of paper. Tell them you want them to make some notes on the taste of each bar and for them to try to guess the brand of each.
- Before they start, teach the students some tasting vocabulary. Depending on the level of your students, you can make this as simple or as complex as you wish. For higher-level students, here is a free downloadable handout, with a chocolate flavour wheel, where students can make notes and record their guesses. For lower-level students, you could just pre-teach a few vocabulary items, such as: sweet, bitter, bland, strong, powdery, creamy, inedible, delicious (maybe supplemented with a few modifying phrases: not very, quite, very, extremely).
- Have the students make notes about each chocolate bar and ask them to try to match each bar with its brand. With advanced students, in groups, have them describe to each other the taste of each chocolate bar, in as much detail as possible, comparing their notes with others. With the lower-level students, have them rank each bar out of ten based on the pre-taught language, for example, sweetness: bitter (1) to sweet (10); strength of flavour: bland (1) to strong (10); creaminess: powdery (1) to creamy (10); deliciousness: inedible (1) to delicious (10).
- Vote on which bars they like the most and least and then, have them try to match each to its brand. Reveal which brand relates to which letter.
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2. Class surveys and questionnaires
Create a class survey of which chocolate-based snacks are the most popular amongst the students and how often they eat them. Alternatively, have the students devise a chocolate-themed questionnaire to do with friends and family. Questionnaires are a great way of revising mixed question forms and can be used in a couple of different ways. You can either ask students to write them and distribute them, then collate and present the results to the class, or you can have a single copy, which students use verbally and on which answers are tallied as they go along. Alternatively, the questions could be set up as an online poll, using one of the free poll creation apps. Example questions, using mixed question forms:
- When, if ever, do you eat chocolate?
- What is your favourite chocolate snack?
- How much is it?
- How many times a week do you eat chocolate?
- Where in the world do you think produces the most chocolate?
- Which chocolate brands do you think are the most and least ethical?
3. Chocolate Entrepreneur
Working creatively to create and market a new brand of chocolate is a great way of integrating a variety of learning objectives. You can even use the theme to work across the curriculum. Here are some examples of tasks:
- Create a new brand of chocolate or chocolate bar.
- Name your chocolate bar, and decide how you would market it and what outlets you would sell into. Identify your target market.
- Create a brand identity and design a label for your bar.
- Decide how you would promote your chocolate bar, create a campaign and a sample advert, complete with music, voiceover, and strapline.
- Pitch your idea to the rest of the class.
- Create a website to showcase your chocolate bar.
4. Recipe Recall
This is basically a complete cloze listening activity, leading to a more creative, productive task:
- Read out your favourite chocolate-based recipe.
- Have your students listen, without making notes.
- In groups, have them recreate from memory, as accurately as possible, the ingredients list and instructions.
- When they have finished, re-read the recipe and have them make any corrections.
- Ask them to use their phones to create a short instructional video on how to make your favourite chocolate-based recipe.
5. Research Tasks and Presentations
Because of its history, chocolate can be used as the basis for a whole series of fascinating research tasks and presentations. Here are some topics you could ask your students to research and present:
- The history of chocolate and chocolate production.
- An investigation into a particular chocolate brand – its story, its mission and its values.
- The town of Bourneville – why it was set up, its links to the Quaker movement and the living and working conditions of the staff.
- Modern Slavery and Child labour in the chocolate industry.
- The Ethics of Chocolate Production: The Fair-Trade Movement and Transparent Trade
You can find lots of chocolate-related resources online, but here is a selection you can use as a starting point:
Written by Mike Turner
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