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Technology-rich, standards-based lessons for upper elementary and middle school


Procedures for Teachers

Introductory Activity
  1. Begin the lesson by setting the stage and discussing traditions and celebrations students may have with their families and communities. Ask students to brainstorm how they celebrate and capture the ideas on chart paper or the board. These may be religious or secular celebrations. What do their celebrations "look" like? Are there multiple generations present? How does it differ from an ordinary day? What do their celebrations"sound" like? Is there music? Prayer? Toasts? Special songs? Are there special foods served that are rarely eaten at other times? Do they dress differently for the celebration? Is the celebration something done within the family or with a larger community? How long does the celebration last?

  2. Introduce Ramadan. Ask students what they know about Ramadan and capture their responses on the board or on chart paper. During the discussion, ensure that students understand that Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam. Muslims observe Ramadan for 29 or 30 days, and one of the most outward signs of observing (celebrating) Ramadan is the observance of the Fast. Ask students if they understand what it means to fast. Explain or clarify to them that fasting for Ramadan means to not eat or drink while the sun is up, but there are other important "tenets" around fasting as well that the class will study. What would make it difficult to fast during the day? Why would people choose to do that? Can anyone think of examples of fasting or restricting certain types of foods in other religions?

  3. Students who may have little exposure to the Muslim community may be interested in viewing the Web site from NOW,, which provides some information about how many people in the United States and the World are of various faiths. According to the data on this site, 5% of America's population is Muslim and by 2050 it is expected that 25% of the world's population will be Muslim.

  4. If you haven't already done so, print the brief description of Ramadan from the RELIGION & ETHICS Web site at Distribute copies of the transcript to students and ask them to read it and respond to the questions on the Introductory Activity Guide. The questions included on the Introductory Activity Guide are:

    • During what times of the day should those observing Ramadan fast?

    • When does Ramadan begin?

    • What is the significance of fasting according to the Qur'an?

    • Provide another example of a common practice Muslims perform during Ramadan.

    • After sunset each day, the fast is broken, called iftar. What are some traditions around breaking the fast?

  5. After students have had the opportunity to respond to the questions independently or in pairs, discuss their responses as a group. Respond to any questions they have, and point out that what they've learned so far is just some of the basics about behaviors during Ramadan. The class will next investigate the thinking behind the duties.
Learning Activity:

  1. In this activity, students will move in small groups through several learning stations and read transcripts, watch clips, and investigate Web sites about Ramadan. The goal is to provide students with several perspectives about how Ramadan is observed and the impact it has on the spirituality of those interviewed. Ideally, groups will be four to five students. Ideas for six stations are listed and additional stations can be added if class size demands additional resources. Each station will require printed copies of the transcript from the noted segment and access to a computer from which students can watch the segment.

    During the activity, students should be addressing the following guiding questions listed on their activity guide. Encourage students to take notes and add information from each station to develop a well-rounded response to each set of questions by the end of the activity. Before students begin, review the guiding questions to ensure understanding.

      Guiding Questions:
      • Why is Ramadan important to people?

      • What does Ramadan commemorate? Why is it considered the holiest of times?

      • How are the dates of Ramadan determined?

      • Beyond abstaining from eating and drinking during daylight, what are some other practices involved with Ramadan?

      • Fasting is more than just not eating or drinking. What else to Muslims refrain from in observance of Ramadan?

      • What does the Qur'an state about Ramadan?

      • How are family and community brought together during Ramadan?

      • What is Eid al-Fitr?

      Eid al-Fitr
      Station 1
      Eid al-Fitr is the feast period signifying the end of Ramadan. Students may view this segment to better understand the closure of Ramadan. Students may be prompted to consider what the celebration looks like, why the community comes together, why gifts are given, and what the tone of the celebration is.

      Islamic Celebrations
      Station 2
      This segment also focuses on Eid al-Fitr and the significance of Ramadan in the lives of many people. Students may be prompted to consider the spiritual importance of Ramadan while investigating the transcript and segment.

      Ramadan Observance
      Station 3
      Ramadan Observance concentrates on one family and how they observe Ramadan. Encourage students to consider how this family changes their daily routines to abide by their duties. How does Afeefa Syeed, the mother, describe Ramadan?

      Ramadan Moon
      Station 4
      The sighting of the crescent moon (hilal) signals the beginning of Ramadan. This segment focuses on the excitement and process by which Muslims share the start of Ramadan at the Islamic Society of North America.

      Station 5
      Moonsighting -- is the Web site seen in the background in the "Ramadan Moon." On this site, viewers can research the visibility of the moon to help determine when the new moon will be visible signifying the start of Islamic months. Prompt students to look carefully at the graphs and text to glean as much information as they can about how one may use the site.

      Station 6
      Translations of Qur'an regarding Fasting.
      The Qur'an is considered by Muslims as the word of God (Allah) as delivered by His messenger, Muhammad. Students will read three sections of the Qur'an to better understand how the Qur'an addresses Ramadan and the fast. Sections 2.183 and 2.184 explain the fast and section 2.185 addresses Ramadan. Prompt students to apply the duties set forth in the text to the lives of the people they are learning about.

  2. After students have visited each station, allow them time in groups to develop a sentence or two answering each guiding question. Post chart paper for each question around the room. As groups complete their answers, ask them to record on the chart paper. As students complete this task, there should be 5-6 statements listed for each guiding question.

  3. Review the chart paper responses as a class and facilitate discussion about any unclear points using the notes above as a guide. If students seem unclear, go back to the station addressing that guiding question and investigate further as a large group.
Culminating Activity:

    Eid al-Fitr
  1. Ask students to identify some things people may find challenging about observing Ramadan and the fast. How would it be more or less difficult as a child or young adult? Remind them that fasting isn't "required" until children enter puberty, but many young people want to participate in this religious practice and fast earlier. (Students may state it would be difficult to go all day without eating or thinking mean thoughts. Prayers may be difficult to do during the day at school or work. Peer pressure may make it difficult for students to observe.) As a whole class, view the clip about children and fasting in schools: "Eid al-Fitr." What are some of the ways these students modify their school experience to accommodate their fasting?

  2. Writing assignment:

    • Instruct students to consider a celebration in which they participate. From the perspective of someone unfamiliar with their tradition, write a letter to themselves stating what seems confusing about the celebration. Ask questions which would help understand this celebration better. Then, write a letter in response addressing questions and concerns voiced in the first letter. If needed, consult a family or community member for possible information to include in your response.
Extension Activities:
  • Explore other religious celebrations.

  • Research other Muslim calendar events.

  • Compare/contrast Muslim practices to observances from another religion. Examples could be to compare fasting practices, forms of prayer, languages used in worship, etc.

  • Interview community members about their understanding of Ramadan and report the findings back to the class. Students could create a chart of standard questions based on their own learning and compare community members' knowledge to their own. Assemble data and publish the results in the school newspaper.