EFL Lesson Ideas for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! The Year of the Dog begins on Friday 16th February. This loyal, friendly and honest creature should imbue your EFL teaching and learning with extra diligence this year, as Chinese tradition dictates there will be a hard-working and responsible flavour to 2018.

The Chinese New Year is a great time for a seasonal EFL lesson and as learning about other cultures and traditions is always interesting and a great way to learn more English, we’ve prepared a fun comprehension exercise for your next EFL lesson relating to Chinese New Year!


The Chinese Year of the Dog in EFL

As an EFL student, the characteristics of the dog should help you with its responsible nature, brave attitude and faithful personality.

These positive dog characteristics should help you feel a strong sense of commitment to your studies and encourage bravery in your approach to learning this year. You might want to take on new challenges and try using difficult aspects of the language.

You could also take advantage of this year’s responsible dog vibe to develop a sensible timetable for study.

Year of the Dog in Studying

The Year of the Dog for students: responsible and diligent

However, the dog also has a stubborn and critical streak, which could hinder your confidence. Be careful not to allow yourself to become too self-critical, as this negative dog characteristic could undermine your progress.

For teachers, the Year of the Dog might bring up some impatient tendencies, as the dog personality can be fussy and irritable.

Try to take advantage of the friendly and loyal side of the dog’s character and foster its natural spirit of justice. These useful dog traits will help you to show fairness, understanding and support to students throughout the year.

Year of the Dog in Teaching

The Year of the Dog for teachers: supportive and fair

EFL Lesson Plans for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a great time for developing some interesting learning materials, especially using comprehension exercises.

Comprehension exercises are a useful way to help students with all their English language skills – reading, listening, writing and speaking.

The target text can be presented written down for reading practice and also read aloud for EFL listening practice.

Afterwards, the students can answer questions or fill in the blanks to practice writing skills, then read their final text aloud to practice speaking in English.

So let’s learn a bit more about the traditions of the Chinese New Year:


EFL Comprehension Exercise for Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is a very important Chinese holiday as traditionally it is a time to honour one’s ancestors and the gods. This traditional Chinese festival is also called the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival.

Chinese New Year’s Day begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar.

The exact day that Chinese New Year’s Day falls will change every year because of the variations in the Chinese zodiac, but it always falls on a day between 21st January and 20th February.

At Chinese New Year, children are traditionally given money in red paper envelopes as presents from relatives and red lanterns are hung in people’s houses.

There are also many street parties with loud, brightly coloured fireworks. The celebrations continue until Lantern Day, on the 15th of the first lunar month of the new year.

Chinese New Year parade - dragon dance

Chinese New Year parade ‘dragon dance’

Chinese New Year Traditions


Traditionally, Chinese people spring clean their houses on the evening before Chinese New Year’s Day. This is so that they can prepare their homes for the incoming good luck that the New Year will bring.


Certain flowers are popular at Chinese New Year time, such as orchids, peonies, peach blossoms and narcissus.

Orchids are known as fertility flowers, favoured for their image of luxury and refinement and these flowers are often given as presents.

Narcissus is a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture, so this flower is also highly popular at Chinese New Year.

Lucky foods

People eat special lucky meals at Chinese New Year, incorporating not only lucky foods but also lucky methods of food preparation and ways of eating.

Lucky foods include fish, spring rolls, dumplings and niangao (rice cakes), long noodles (‘longevity’ noodles) and orange or golden coloured fruit (‘good fortune’ fruit), such as oranges.

Chinese New Year Lucky Orange

EFL ‘Fill the Gaps’ Exercise for Chinese New Year:

Chinese New Year is a very  ________________ Chinese holiday. This holiday is also called the Lunar New Year or ________________.

Chinese New Year’s Day begins on the ________________ day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. The 15th day of the first lunar month is called ________________. The exact date of Chinese New Year’s Day________________ every year because of Chinese zodiac.

One of the ________________  on Chinese New Year’s Day is that you should ________________ your house, so you will prepare your home for the good luck of the year ahead. Children traditionally receive ________________ on this day and red lanterns are hung in people’s ________________. To celebrate Chinese New Year people hold ________________ in the streets and let off brightly coloured, noisy ________________.

People eat special foods at Chinese New Year, such as ________________ fruit, which the Chinese call ‘good fortune’ fruit. They also give flowers as gifts, such as narcissus, which is known as the flower of  ________________.

There are many more exercises you can create for EFL students using the Chinese New Year as theme.

Some more ideas would be a ‘choose the right word’ exercise where instead of gaps, there are two options of words the student could use – one is correct and one is incorrect.

This ‘true or false’ exercise is a great way for students to improve English vocabulary knowledge as it gives them a simple test, while keeping the words in context.

Other ideas include correcting scrambled sentences and matching two halves of a sentence. All the exercises should use the main text as a starting point.

Students could also ask each other questions about the text, orally or as a written exercise. This can be done in pairs, small groups or as a whole class.


The Chinese Zodiac

Most people are familiar with the Western zodiac and some of you may check your horoscopes but not everyone is familiar with the Chinese zodiac.

In Chinese culture, each year corresponds to one of the twelve different animals in the zodiac: rat, oz, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Below is a zodiac wheel featuring all the animals and their corresponding years. The Chinese New Year starts each year at some point between 21st January and 20th February, so if your birthday is between these dates, it could be different from the chart.

For example, if you were born anytime after 20th February during 1980, your animal is the Monkey. If you were born before 21st January in 1980, your animal will be from the year before, which is the Sheep.

Chinese New Year - Chinese Zodiac Wheel

Each animal in the Chinese Zodiac has different characteristics. For example: Sheep are intelligent, gentle and studious, while Rats are charming, sociable and artistic; Horses are courageous and adventurous, while Roosters are honest and confident.

All the animals also have negative character traits, such as the pettiness of the Ox, the jealousy of the Rat and the pessimism of the Pig.

These Chinese zodiac animals can form another part of the EFL lesson for Chinese New Year. For example, students can work out their own Chinese animal and learn the character traits associated with their animal.

This is a good way to discuss vocabulary related to characteristics and personalities, both positive and negative.


Chinese New Year Parades

Chinese New Year is always an exciting time and the London parade is always a huge attraction filled with dancing, music and bright costumes.

This parade is the biggest Chinese New Year parade in Europe and people can be sure of a wonderful, vibrant and eventful celebration! The parade normally starts at 10am and moves along Charing Cross Road into Shaftesbury Avenue before arriving in Chinatown. There will also be a range of exiting cultural activities for all the family in Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.

The main London parade takes place on 18th February in 2018 and the celebration will feature the ‘dragon dance’, the ‘flying lion dance’, a variety show, comedy, acrobatics, martial arts, opera, live performances and fireworks!

For another aspect to an EFL lesson themed on Chinese New Year, students could explore the area of Chinatown in London by reading about its history and discussing it as a group.

This could be a good time to show a video of the costumes, music, dancing and traditional parades of the New Year festival, along with some of the more exotic elements, such as acrobatics and martial arts.

As the dog scampers into 2018 to promise us a year filled with committed academic progress, there are practically limitless ways you can incorporate Chinese New Year into the EFL classroom!

Happy Chinese New Year in Cantonese

How will you celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dog?

Do you celebrate Chinese New Year?

Teachers, what lesson plans or ideas do you have for Chinese New Year?

Will you be going to any Chinese New Year celebrations this year?

Chinese readers, do let us know about your first-hand experiences of Chinese New Year – we’d love to learn more about your festival.

What foods do you eat at this time? Do you give any presents?

Share your ideas, thoughts, plans and experiences in the comments box!


How are you celebrating Chinese New Year?

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2 thoughts on “EFL Lesson Ideas for Chinese New Year

  1. Hi Mel,
    Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great Chinese New Year!
    Best wishes,

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