TeachingEnglish
Bonfire Night

Theme: Bonfire Night in the UK
Lexical area: Festivals

Instructions for language assistants in Italics

Classroom materials

Introduction
November 5th 2005 marks the 400th anniversary of the famous Gunpowder Plot when Guy Fawkes and his conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Bonfire Night is celebrated throughout Britain on the evening of the 5th of November with firework displays. As a language assistant you can really bring this class to life by adding your own experiences of how you’ve spent Bonfire Nights in the UK.

Task 1 is to find out how much your students already know about Bonfire Night and to look at the important vocabulary. Task 2 is a jigsaw reading about the history of the Gunpowder Plot. Task 3 asks students to talk about similar festivals in their own country and Task 4 gives students the opportunity to talk about winter food and design a Bonfire Night menu. Task 5 is a pronunciation task based on a traditional rhyme and Task 6 looks at firework safety.

1. Bonfire Night
Draw a picture on the board of a bonfire with a figure (an effigy of Guy Fawkes) on the top and people standing around with sparklers. Draw the moon and fireworks in the sky. Ask students what the things are and label them – fireworks, moon, bonfire etc.

Write the date at the top – November 5th and ask your students if they know anything about this British festival. If they do, elicit as much as possible and fill in any missing information. If they know nothing about Bonfire Night at all, give a brief and simple explanation, but not too much as they will find out more in Task 2.

Task 1 Bonfire Night
Listen to your teacher and make a note of any new vocabulary.

2. Guy Fawkes jigsaw reading
Depending on the level of your group, decide how much of the vocabulary to pre- teach. Make sure all students know the meaning of the following, before they begin the reading: blow up, a plot, gunpowder,

The Houses of Parliament.

This is a simple information gap activity. Cut up the text and put students into pairs. Make one student in each pair A and the other B. Give out the corresponding texts. Student A has four bits of information missing from the first paragraph and student B has four bits missing from the second paragraph. They must read their text and ask each other questions to complete the missing information. Make sure they don’t just look at each others’ papers to get the answers! This defeats the object of them asking each other questions and makes it far too easy. They will probably all try to do this so demonstrate the activity beforehand using a book or folder to create a barrier between the two students.

Task 2 Guy Fawkes jigsaw reading
Work in pairs, A and B. You are going to read about the history of Bonfire Night. Ask your partner questions to find the missing information.

Example

  • A- “When did the men make the plot?”
  • B – “In November 1605”
  • B- “When do people remember the attempt?”
  • A – “On November 5th.”

 

A - In ____________________ a group of men decided to make a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The men were angry about the way the Catholic people were being treated in England. At this time the King of England was __________________. The plot is known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ and the leader of the plot was called ________________. The men put 36 barrels of gunpowder in the Houses of Parliament and they waited for the King to open Parliament. Guy Fawkes was the man who was going to light the gunpowder and cause the explosion. However, __________ found the gunpowder before it could be exploded and they caught all the men involved in the plot. The men were tortured and killed.

On November 5th British people remember the spectacular attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by celebrating ‘Bonfire Night’. All over Britain there are firework displays and bonfires with models of Guy Fawkes which are burned on the fire. It’s normally quite cold on Bonfire Night so people wear warm clothes, hats, scarves and gloves to spend the evening outside. Traditional Bonfire Night food is jacket potatoes and toffee apples. This year is the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and there are special events being held in London to remember the events of 1605.

 

B - In November 1605 a group of men decided to make a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The men were angry about the way the Catholic people were being treated in England. At this time the King of England was James the first. The plot is known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ and the leader of the plot was called Guy Fawkes. The men put 36 barrels of gunpowder in the Houses of Parliament and they waited for the King to open Parliament. Guy Fawkes was the man who was going to light the gunpowder and cause the explosion. However, police found the gunpowder before it could be exploded and they caught all the men involved in the plot. The men were tortured and killed.

On _____________ British people remember the spectacular attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by celebrating ‘Bonfire Night’. All over Britain there are ___________ displays and bonfires with models of Guy Fawkes which are burned on the fire. It’s normally quite cold on Bonfire Night so people wear warm clothes, hats, scarves and gloves to spend the evening outside. Traditional Bonfire Night food is ________________ and toffee apples. This year is the ______ anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and there are special events being held in London to remember the events of 1605.


3. Discussion questions
These questions are to follow on from task two. If you haven’t done task two, but have explained the events of Bonfire night in another way, you could still use the questions as a starting point for talking about similar/other festivals in the students’ country. Put students into small groups or discuss the questions as a whole group if your class isn’t too big.

Task 3 Discussion questions

Discuss these questions in your group.

  • Which festivals in your country remember historical events?
  • Do you have any festivals that are similar to Bonfire Night in your country?
  • When do you have firework displays in your country?
  • Do you think you would like Bonfire Night? Why/ why not?
  • Do you think festivals are a good way to remember historical events?

4. Bonfire night food
Try to remember if there was any typical food you would eat on Bonfire Night. Soups, jacket potatoes, burgers, toffee apples? Tell students that food for Bonfire Night has to be hot and you have to be able to eat it outside, sometimes standing up as you watch the firework display. Think of some ideas together and ask students to think up a menu for Bonfire Night.

If they need a structure, get them to think of one type of soup, a jacket potato filling and something sweet that they would like to eat on a cold, winter evening.

Task 4 Bonfire night food
You are going to think of some food to eat on Bonfire Night as you are watching a firework display. The food should be hot and tasty. What would you like to eat? Write your menu here:

 

 

 

 


5. Remember Remember the Fifth of November
This is a pronunciation activity. Depending on what problems your students have with individual sounds or intonation you can adapt the task to their needs. You say a line and get the students to repeat the same line. Gradually build it up until they say the whole rhyme all together. You may feel a bit nervous about doing this type of ‘choral drilling’ at the beginning, but lots of students do appreciate the chance to practise their pronunciation in this way and it can be quite fun.

Task 5 Remember Remember the Fifth of November

This is a popular rhyme about the fifth of November. Listen to your teacher saying each line and then repeat. Try to copy their pronunciation.

Remember remember the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot...


6. Firework Safety

This is a group task and would be suitable for lower levels and/or younger students. Tell students that before Bonfire Night in the UK there is always a campaign to ask people to use fireworks safely. This year a new law is being introduced in the UK to completely ban the use of fireworks to everyone under the age of 18. This may be a shock for some of your students who are used to having access to fireworks from an early age, as is the case in Spain for example. For more information about the new ban, check out:

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3539880.stm or
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/chat/your_comments/

This activity asks students to think about firework safety and to design a poster for children to keep them safe on Bonfire Night – or at any festival that uses fireworks. Brainstorm a few ideas with the group about firework safety, such as keeping pets indoors and not returning to a lit firework that hasn’t gone off etc. Then ask the groups to design a poster to encourage firework safety.

Task 6 Firework Safety
In the UK there is a new law to ban everyone under the age of 18 from buying fireworks and carrying fireworks in public places.

  • How old do you have to be to buy fireworks in your country?
  • Do you think the British law is too strict?

Work in groups and design a poster to encourage young people to keep safe when they’re using fireworks.

 Internet links
This site has bonfire night food ideas.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/news_and_events/events_bonfirenight.shtml

This site has basic information.
http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Guy.html

This site has simple information about the history of Guy Fawkes.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A199488

This site has a Gunpowder Plot game.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/games/gunpowder/index.shtml

This site has the full history of the gunpowder plot.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/state/monarchs_leaders/

By Jo Budden
First published 2008

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