Age range: 12 - adult
Cross curricular links: Religious studies
Instructions for language assistants in Italics
This lesson is based on Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and festivities. Every year the exact dates for Ramadan change according to the lunar calendar. In 2008 Ramadan will take place from 1st – 29th September and in 2009 it will be August 21st – September 19th. If you have Muslim students in your class it may be an opportunity for them to share their experiences of how they celebrate Ramadan. If you have students of other faiths, then you may be able to use this lesson as a starting point for talking about important times of year for several different religions. It goes without saying that you should always be sensitive to your students and your surroundings when discussing topics that could potentially provoke strong feelings.
Task 1 gives you an opportunity to find out how much your students already know about Ramadan. Task 2 is a simple true or false activity and Task 3 is a quiz about Islam. Task 4 is a reading task taken from an audio file on the BBC website that gives a personal account of how Jamilla Khanum, a reporter for BBC Radio Leicester, spends the first day of Ramadan. If you have the technology available, the ideal would be to use it as a listening task. Task 5 is a reading text about Eid Celebrations and Task 6 asks students to find out about, and report back on other faiths.
Start this task by inviting your students to guess letters as in a game of hang-man. Draw seven dashes on the board ( _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ) and when they have guessed the word RAMADAN ask students what they know about it. Use the table to find out what students know and would like to know about Ramadan. At the end of the lesson you can go back to this to see if there’s anything you and your students still need to find out. You or your students can easily do this after the class using the internet and you can tell the answers to the rest of the group in the following lesson.
Task 1 Introduction
|What we already know about Ramadan. ||What we would like to know about Ramadan |
2. True or False?
Look at the true or false statements as a whole class and take a vote on the correct answers. If you have students in your class who know a lot about Ramadan, ask them to think up some more true or false statements to ask the rest of the group.
- False. Almost 3% of the British population is Muslim. Total population: 58.8 million, Muslim population: 1.6 million (2.8%) Source: Office for National Statistics, 2001 figures.
- False. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle.
- False – as the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the dates for Ramadan vary.
Task 2 True or False?
- Almost 10% of the British population is Muslim.
- The Islamic calendar is the same as the western calender.
- During Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink anything during the hours of daylight.
- Ramadan takes place on the same dates every year.
3. Islam quiz
Depending on the level of your students you may need to pre-teach some of the vocabulary such as ‘pilgrimage’ or ‘prayer’. Think about this before you begin the class. If you have a large number of Muslim students you may like to make the questions more challenging or involve them in asking them to write some more quiz questions for you. The quiz has been adapted from the following site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/interactive/quizzes/ If you have access to a computer students could do the quiz on-line.
Task 3 Islam quiz
|1. Where was the Prophet Mahammad born?|
2. What is an Imam?
a. a prophet
b. a teacher
c. a musician
3. How are Muslims called to prayer?
a. By a call
b. By ringing bells
c. By an alarm clock
4. What is the name of the Muslim holy book?
a. The Bible
b. The Hijra
c. The Qur’an
5. What is Ramadan?
a. A special festival day
b. A month of fasting
c. A traditional prayer
6. What’s the name of the building where Muslims worship?
a. A church
b. A temple
c. A mosque
7. How many times a day should Muslims worship?
8. What is the Hajj?
a. A pilgrimage
b. A holy book
c. An item of clothing
4. Jamilla Khanum’s Ramadan Report
If you have access to the internet in your classroom, the ideal would be to use the text as a listening task. Prepare some comprehension questions depending on the level of your students and make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to listen. The link is:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/leicester/ You will need Real Player.
If you don’t have the technology to use the audio file as a listening, you have the text transcribed below with discussion questions inserted.
Task 4 Jamilla Khanum’s Ramadan Report
|Jamilla Khanum lives in Leicester, England, and works for BBC Radio Leicester as a reporter. During the first day of Ramadan she made an audio report for the BBC website where she describes her day. If you have access to the internet, listen to her report as you read the text.|
As you read the text, discuss the questions with a partner.
It’s now 9.45 the night before the very first fast of Ramadan 2006. What that means is, many Muslims around the world, like me will be fasting for the next thirty days. That’s no food or drink during daylight hours. Muslims fast for a number of reasons. Discipline is one of them. We fast because it’s a way of appreciating what we have and appreciating that people around the world are not always as lucky as us.”
It’s now ten to five in the morning and I am actually up, but it’s still dark outside which is one of the most depressing things about getting up this early. I’m all set! I’ve got my cornflakes, got my cup of coffee and toast. Now this is all I will actually have to eat until tomorrow evening so it’s a case of trying to eat as much as you can which can be so hard at this time.”
I think my earliest memory of fasting is when I was nine years old. It was about the same time I finished reading the Holy Qur’an for the first time. When you’re a child of that age fasting is a novelty because as all your friends are fasting and it’s a competition really to see who can keep the most fasts in that year so you tend to compete.”
It’s now breakfast time on the first fast, or what would have been breakfast time and I’m okay so far, but I think give me a couple of hours and I’m really going to start missing my coffee! One of the most important parts of Ramadan isn’t necessarily the fasting, it’s actually praying. For me, praying is a very personal thing. It’s finding time to ask for forgiveness and to connect with Allah in my time and on my own terms and that doesn’t necessarily mean going to a Mosque.”
So it’s now lunchtime and I’m walking through town and as I walk through town past these bakeries and sandwich shops it is mouthwatering ‘cos I know that I can’t go in, but I think the strangest thing is, that as you get older and you get used to fasting. It’s not such an ordeal as when I was younger. For people who don’t fast and who don’t have an understanding of why we as Muslims do it, it’s often very difficult for them to try and grasp the concept of not eating and not drinking for this ‘notion’ so to speak. It’s so strange in this day and age to have such a focus in a world that is consumed by material things and possession and things that are not much deeper than that, it’s hard to comprehend that people have such feeling and such passion for something that isn’t shiny and new and costs lots of money.”
It’s now four o’clock and I’ve gone eleven hours without having anything to eat. I think when it comes to this time of the day it’s really difficult not to start imagining what food you’d really like to have, and right now I’d love to have a donner kebab or some of my Mum’s home made birani.”
So, it’s now six o’clock so that’s thirteen hours without any food. As well as having no food I’ve also had no fluids all day which is really difficult on a day like today when it’s quite warm. It’s difficult not to become dehydrated.”
So, it’s the end of the day, it’s five past seven and it’s time to open my fast. Traditionally I would open my fast with Egyptian dates like this. When you’ve opened the fast it’s time to pray so if you’ll excuse me I’ll go and do that and then have some well deserved food.”
5. Reading Task – Eid Celebrations
This is a reading task about Eid, the festival at the end of Ramadan. It is written by the British Council’s Trend UK team. Ask students to read the text (you may need to pre-teach some vocabulary) and then ask them to compare Eid to an important festival they celebrate in their country.
Task 5 Reading Task – Eid Celebrations
Read about Eid celebrations in the UK. How does it compare to a festival you celebrate in your country?
Make note of any similarities and differences you find.
|Eid celebrations (Text written by the British Council’s Trend UK department) |
This year (2006) Eid ul Fitr starts on the 24 September in the UK and lasts for 30 days. We asked a couple of UK based Muslims about their Eid. The build up to Eid, Ramadan, is a time of fasting and being allowed to eat only up to first light.
Bibi, 29, from Marple says, ‘It is a strange pattern of eating. I give myself treats as I haven’t been eating all day. I eat things I wouldn’t normally… Your body goes into starvation mode and slows down and what you do eat turns to fat – well, that’s my excuse anyway… Initially fasting was to make the food last longer but now it is a spiritual achievement of self-control.’
She adds, ‘I am amazed I can do it! Normally I am starving by 12 and need to get my lunch, but during that month I have willpower. I think it’s that I know I have to do it so I do. I do miss cups of tea though.’
The night before Eid, people in the UK do their last minute shopping. Bibi goes to Longsight or Rusholme in Manchester, which have large Asian communities, and buys sweets which she will give to people the next day. ‘Everyone has their favourite sweets and shops. I like Rasmillie, a sweet textured cheese curd that is egg shaped and is sweet as it is cooked in sugared milk,’ says Bibi.
Children get excited as they get new clothes and gifts. Anwar, a Pakistani now living in Manchester, says he used to love it as a child as he would get money from all his relatives. ‘Muslims will follow the rituals in the times of Eid… I have no family in the UK so it is also used an opportunity to meet other people.’
Faisal Kureshi, who wrote a play for the BBC on young British Muslims, comments, ‘It's a family occasion with everyone getting together to celebrate the end of Ramadan. With young people, if they don't want to celebrate with the family, they'll go out to party with their friends. In Manchester the focal point of this celebration would be Wilmslow Road, where the roads are packed with young people celebrating one of the most important holidays for Muslims.’
So Eid Mubarak to everyone!
Bernie, November 2006
6. Multifaith Calendar
This task is for higher levels. How you adapt this task will depend a lot on who you are teaching and where you are. Divide the students into small groups and let each group choose a faith they would like to know more about. The idea is that each group finds out a little about a faith and then tells the rest of the group about it. They don’t need to go into much detail, just the main festivals and some of the symbols associated with that faith. If you have access to a computer room with internet, the ideal would be for the groups to search for information on the BBC site. If not, you will need to print out enough information for your students. They will need the basic information from the homepage of each faith.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ this page links to many faiths, for example:
Buddism - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/
Islam - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/
Hinduism - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/
Christianity - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/
Judaism - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/
Also print out a copy of the Multifaith Calendar for each faith which you can find on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tools/calendar/index.shtml
Task 6 Multifaith Calendar
Work in small groups. You are going to find out about a faith and then tell your group about it. Your teacher will give you some pages from the internet to read. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all. Find out about the main festivals, the place of worship and the main ideas but try to keep it simple. Make notes and then decide how you are going to explain the faith to your classmates.
BBC site with information on Ramadan.
The Guardian’s interactive guide to Ramadan.
This BBC site has some excellent downloadable worksheets for all religions.
Background information on Islam.
Find some typical recipes for Ramadan.
Muslims in Britain site. Ramadan What it's about and how it is celebrated in the UK.
Information from the BBC’s Religion and Ethics pages.
A BBC page about religion.
Wikipedia's entry on Ramadan.
Muslims in Europe.
More information on Eid ul Fitr and a link to an explanation of Ramadan.
Eid food and drink.
Discover more about the customs, culinary traditions and celebrations for the Muslim festival, Eid.
By Jo Budden