How to incorporate Ramadan into the western classroom

Ramadan is one of the most extraordinary events in the Muslim culture. Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. In the west, this holiday is most well known for the practice of strict fasting throughout the daytime - it includes not eating food or drinking water.

Due to its modern history, Islam has become a touchy subject in the Western world. That presents a challenging task for teachers, as they are trying to explain and teach about the culture outside of the sad stereotypes we see on television.

The good news is that there are things you can do in your classroom during Ramadan to help and deeply educate both Muslim and non-Muslim children in your class about the cultural importance of Ramadan. 

Be aware of your Muslim student's limitations during Ramadan

Although it is not required for children to fast, many Muslim children as young as 8 will fast by their own will. That means they won't be consuming any food and water during the daytime. It is important that as their teacher you respect their decision to participate in the fasting. To help communicate your respect for them you could try to show your support for Ramadan by making life a little easier for them by using a combination of the following ideas. 

During lunchtime, organise a separate, special activity for Muslim children in the classroom, or create a temporary "resting room" for them to relax in while other children eat and drink.

Cut on your demands - don't make them do difficult sports activities, especially on a hot day. Also, be aware that Ramadan is a busy month for Muslims when they spend a lot of time at home praying, doing charity work or providing voluntary services in their community as good deeds, or tending to guests. Because of all of that, consider giving lighter homework during this particular month if you can, or center their homework around their own celebrations.

Talk with Muslim children about their needs during Ramadan - if they need some time to pray, perhaps it can be organized in the already mentioned "resting room".

Read and analyze a story from One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights is the best-known collection of Arabic folk tales, with many of them being very wise, morally uplifting, and suitable to analyze in a classroom. It is a good way illuminate some aspects of Arabic and Muslim culture. Find a story that you like and that you consider suitable for your student's age, and then find a shorter version or take a passage for students to read. A lively and enthusiastic discussion is sure to follow, especially if you pick the well-known ones: Aladdin, Ali Baba or Sinbad the Sailor.

Traditional Rice Pudding

If none of your students are on a strict fasting regime and you have a kitchen you can freely work in, you can try to teach all of your students about the Muslim culture through its unique cuisine.

A "suhor" is a light meal which is prepared and eaten slightly before dawn during Ramadan, and it is the last food Muslims will eat until another evening sets in. Rice meals are quite common as a suhor. Dates are also cherished during Ramadan since it is believed that The Prophet Muhammed ate them, so this can be a conversation starter about Ramadan in itself. You can find the recipe here

At the end of the day, the most important part of bringing Ramadan into the western classroom is that you respect your Muslim students culture while also educating the rest of your class about a culture that may be significantly different to their own.

Looking for a low prep option this Ramadan? Why not check out my Ramadan Celebration Study? Students love this resources and learn so much about Ramadan from it.