Lesson Plan to accompany Developing Teachers Newsletter - April 2000


Here is a piece of material from the Guardian newspaper. Unfortunately we don't know the date but it's certainly two/three years old.
It is quite a difficult text. Watch out for the cultural references - you could cut the introduction & also the last line of the Cow Fights festival.
Careful about not offending any of your stds with the content of the article!
You could limit the amount of festivals used to the number of stds you have in your class.
The ranking is a bit strange too - you could omit them or say they relate to the writer's interest.

Here are some ideas:

You need to copy the article & cut it up into the different festivals - one for each stds & also create a chart like the one below for each std.

1. Intro to 'Festivals' - Easter festivities coming up discuss what stds are going to be doing, discuss a local festival, know any dangerous ones, which famous festivals would they like to go to...
Could introduce a few connected words: festival, festivities, to celebrate, a celebration etc. Pictures of some festivals would help.

2. Titles of festivals - predict the content - see the chart below - you could explain the purpose here ie that they are going to read about some bizarre festivals to find out about them & also to see if they have any preferences in common. In pais discuss ideas for each festival

3. Handout a description from the article to each std - stds read & fill in the description section on their chart. Teacher takes the descriptions back

4. Stds mingle to fill in the other descriptions - they rely on their own descriptions to descibe to others who then write a description on their charts. You could encourage them to explain the other descriptions they have on their charts gleaned from the other stds.

5. When all have completed the charts, they individually decide the top three festivals of interest - number the festivals in the ranking column on the sheet.

6. Stds mingle again to find someone who has similar tastes in festivals - they sit down together & give reasons for their choices to see if there are any similarities. The teacher could hand out the top choice of each pair for them to consult the original version of the festival.

7. General feedback - teacher chairs a class discussion - which is the most/least interesting, know of any other bizarre festivals etc. Feedback on the language that cropped up during the two mingles & pair work discussion.

8. As yet the stds haven't got all of the text, just their bits, so it is difficult to draw out any language area. You could give it out now but as it is quite difficult you could easily get bogged down. There are some meaty language areas all the same. I would tend to see what language cropped up during the lesson & respond accordingly. You could prompt the stds before the mingle activities & the pairwork on the language of explanations, giving reasons, clarifying, etc - the language areas they will need at each stage. This would possibly make it a richer activity from the viewpoint of language use by the stds - instead of relying on their standard stock of phrases they could be made to stretch themselves a bit. As the activities are going on you could get around, listening & teaching individuals. Make notes as you do so that you can draw the language together at the end.

9. Follow up activity - in the pairs they were in at the end the stds now invent a new festival & write a short review of it. These are then circulated for all to read & possibly vote on for interest & imagination values.


Name of festival
The Bun Festival
The Cat Festival
Near-Death Pilgrimage
Cow Fights
Seaman's Day
The Luhya Circumcision
La Tomatina
The Bayreuth Wagner
The Moose Shit Festival
The Hunger Hooting
The Caci Whip Duels


Strange days

If you find the same old acts are clogging up the nation's fields, the more intrepid festival goer may care to venture a little further afield for a truly memorable experience. Bill Borrows is your guide A festival doesn't have to be middle-class tossers from the home counties wearing ethnic print T-shirts, drawstring pants , and "eye-catching" headgear, taking mind-altering substances and sleeping with their friends in rotation. Take my word for it, it can get a whole lot more mental than Jocasta dropping acid for the first time and giving Toby one off-the-Wrist even though she's supposed to be seeing Angus and Toby hasn't really got over Phoebe yet. There are plenty of festivals weirder than Glastonbury.

Here are some of the best, with details of when and where and a rating out of 10 indicating the chances of bumping into anyone with parents who "made a lot of money in the eighties". Ten is bad news.

Not really what you might expect from a nation dedicated to the cult of machismo. Whereas American rodeo riders rope cattle and steers and then jump from moving horses, the brave inhabitants of Keppel Sands (Queensland) take 10 steps into an arena filled with big crabs and try to tie their claws together before getting nipped. Almost unbelievably they are forced to go barefoot. Only a militant vegan would consider this cruelty towards animals.

THE BUN FESTIVAL (May, Hong Kong) 4/10
This is a festival which has lost some of its edge since a bad accident in 1978 saw a huge bamboo scaffolding decorated with buns collapse and injure several people. It is still, however, pretty bizarre. It is designed to placate the spirits of the dead (victims of either the plague or the pirate Cheung Po Chai in whose lair - Cheung Chau Island - it takes place) and as a concession to the spirits of the animal kingdom is entirely vegetarian. The "floating children" appear on the third day, the main day of festivities, but are actually juveniles in hidden harnesses on top of poles. Leave the acid at home. Buns are now handed down from the scaffolding to stop intoxicated revellers climbing the traditionally unstable structure.

THE CAT FESTIVAL (May, Belgium) 7/10
Belgium is something of a surprise package on the festival scene. The Cat Festival in Ypres is only one of many but, given that (until 1817) it used to involve throwing live cats off a belfry to see if they would land feet down, it deserves a mention hare. Today the cats are made of material but the original impetus for the event stemmed from a rising cat population. No doubt there was a huge campaign not to ban the pastime conducted along the same lines as that recently co-ordinated here by the pro-hunting lobby. "You just don't understand," the wealthy, in-bred and slightly dim burghers of Ypres will have argued. "It is the most humane method of controlling the cat population. We have personally seen them drag babies from rudimentary perambulators and rip their heads off. Have you?" It should be noted that the annual goat-tossing from the church belfry in Manganeses de la Polvorosa (Spain), although outlawed since 1992, still continues and involves the almost certain death of an animal. Perhaps the pro-hunting lobby can relocate.

Since the death of Franca, Spain has gone festival-mad, indulging both its predilection for over-the-top sanctimonious religious worship and a well-documented love of partying. This is a festival held in Pontevedra, Galicia, for people who consider themselves lucky to have escaped death that year. Taunting the Grim Reaper to a reckless degree perhaps, many arrive in coffins before jumping to their feet. Amusingly, one person en route to the festival in 1994 was killed instantly when his car collided with a coach.

COW FIGHTS (June, Switzerland) 10/10
Not really a festival as such, more a case of humans in Valais making a spectator event of the natural competition for social ascendancy between Herens cows - slow bovine creatures of minimal worth -in ad orgy of horn-locking. Much like the Tara and Tamara column-inch war in this country.

SEAMAN'S DAY (June, lceland) 9/10
Only really listed here for its cheap gag potential but still a 100 per cent guaranteed bender with enormous potential for death by alcohol poisoning. A rare opportunity to eat both blackbird and penguin.

NAADAM (July, Mongolia) 1/10
The major festival in the country is called "The Three Manly Sports" (or, in Mongolian, "Eryn Gurvan Nadom"). Those sports are wrestling, riding and archery. It is a nationwide event and competitors wear tight-fitting shorts and a harness over a bare chest. This uniform, they are loath to disclose, was introduced a couple of centuries ago to confirm that those involved were, indeed, men. This measure was introduced after a champion wrestler subsequently became identified as a woman. The sound heard at the time was believed to be that of either Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, or possibly both, turning in their graves.

THE LUHYA CIRCUMCISION CEREMONY (August, Kenya) 2/10 (until it appears in Mane Claire)
Not much room for gender identification problems here. This is an annual event held in Kakamega between the 18 tribes who farm the area. It is a massive initiation party for teenage boys which, unlike this country, does not involve sniffing glue, buying a copy of Fiesta or, indeed, driving one. Not for the squeamish.

LA TOMATINA (August, Spain) 6/10
Held in Bunol, near Valencia, this amounts to the biggest food fight in the world. It is a hormone. charged free-for-all involving 110,000 kilos of tomatoes and any person able to throw a ripe red borderline fruit/vegetable at anyone else Origin depends upon perspective, it was either: (a) a bizarre political response in 1945 to the continuing influence of Franco or (b) a chance occurrence after a lorry-load of tomatoes spilled on to the streets of Bunol around the same time. Whatever. It is the most fun it is possible to have within the constraints of the law, involving, as it does, underage boys and girls, fruit/vegetables and extreme violence. This is a solid-matter variant of the Wine War in Haro (also Spain). Use your imagination.

A really strange one this, dedicated as it is to Stephanie Powers' co-star in Hart To Hart and the former husband of Natalie Wood. But where's the logic when David Hasselhoff is the number one recording artist in Germany?

When the snow melts in Alaska it reveals millions of fields full of moose shit. Alaska is a lonely country and, consequently, the inhabitants of Talkeetna arm themselves with what's at hand for the annual festival. The line-up of events includes dancing, drinking and throwing slit at targets and each other. Whatever is left over is used to make jewellery, which, presumably, was where Gerald Ratner did most of bulk-purchasing.

In Accra, the firing of guns and incessant drumming indicates a good harvest and the beginning of the festival to celebrate it. Citizens run around shouting, "Thursday people, Thursday people" which commemorates the day of the week the founders of the city -arrived there. It is, basically, a huge feast with an unusual side interest for the mothers of twins who daub their children in white clay and cook them a meal of yam and eggs. Obviously.

THE CACI WHIP-DUELS (August, Indonesia) 7/10
Essentially a graphic illustration of the Far Eastern concept of entertainment, two men whip each other until bleeding occurs. The blood is then collected and used as an offering for the spirits of ancestors. The subsequent welts and scars are much admired by women of Ruteng. There is, it is believed, soon to be a sister festival in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Bill Borrows is currently writing a book about some of the weirdest festivals in the world. Global Warning: Bizarre And Savage Writing From Five Continents will be available from Virgin Books early next year

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