In today’s uncertain world, one of the few things many can agree on is that Christmas is the most nostalgic and family-oriented time of the year. So for the ALT in Japan, preparing a fun and entertaining Christmas lesson should be the proverbial piece of cake. However, Japan — like many other countries — has its own way of doing Christmas festivities.
As a teacher, you need to be aware of local cultural ideas in all of your lesson planning, but this is especially relevant when planning a Christmas lesson. Classes about festivals and celebrations that have faith-based origins can be problematic in a country where teaching religious doctrine is officially banned in public schools. This is perhaps why Easter has never really caught on here in the same way Christmas and Halloween have in recent times.
So, with this in mind, here are five common pitfalls to Christmas lesson planning and how to avoid them.
1. Santa is still real for many of your students
This is an important point that you really need to remember. Most of us foreigners probably learned the truth about Santa Claus when we were in grade three or four of elementary school (spoiler alert: he’s not real!). However, in Japan, this happens later — and in some cases much later.
In my current job, I teach English mostly to elementary school fifth and sixth grade students (10-12 years old) and a lot of them still believe in Santa. Just today, as I was doing a Christmas lesson of my own, one student, a fifth grader, asked me: “Sensei (teacher), is the santa who delivers presents in Scotland the same Santa who delivers my presents here?”
Sometimes kids here say the most adorable things. Of course, this means that we need to tread carefully when discussing that jolly man in the red suit.
A friend of mine got into hot water with his school a few years ago for not realizing this. He was showing the students some pictures of his family’s Christmas in the U.S. He explained: “And here you see the presents under the tree. We usually buy presents a week or two before Christmas and put them under the tree until Christmas Day.”
One student innocently raised their hand and asked: “But sensei, what about the presents from Santa?”
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