‘I am an atheist, I do not believe in God and do not celebrate harvest; I do not know what to write.’
How many times do many a student say this in response to ‘Write down all the words that come to your mind about harvest.’ with further probing, this situation is soon turned round with questioning along the line: ‘You must surely know one or two things about harvest, you need only give a word relating to what you know.’
Sometimes the student is convinced to have a go, at other times when not convinced, the way forward is taking the lesson back to basics; this means doing more research together as a class, reading more about the history and practices of harvest through time and in different cultures. With a racially mixed and multicultural class , this could provide an opportunity for different pupils to present harvest celebration in their own culture or religion. Researching online provides a vast of amount of new information and knowledge, throwing up a few surprises for the students at times e.g. when they learn that the English used to nominate a Harvest Master and the Edo from Nigeria used to celebrate for five to nine days as a community unit wining, dining and partying. students with Bangladesh and Kenyan origins for instance could add more insight to how this is celebarated in their cultures e.g. explain how a cow is slaughtered and the meat shared amongst all, giving generously to the poor; Muslim students could explain how they give salah (alms to the poor). Christians sing, praise and decorate their churches during this time.
A resulting definition of harvest festival could be: a celebration of good harvest of land produce and the sharing of our good fortune with others.
The discussion could be extended to the Live Aid of 1985, considering the question ‘What if the drought wind had been blowing our way rather than to East Africa, would we have wanted to be ignored and left to die of starvation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Aid
This could even extend further to the vexing question of why the Church took over a universal festival celebrated from ancient times by all cultures and rebranded it as a Christian practice in their principal feasts, holy days and festivals yearly calendar, brandishing others’ practices as pagan.
A good way to record research findings on harvest could be through poetry. You can find some examples to use as models for students to write their own poems on this link. http://kidspoemsfn.blogspot.co.uk/
Harvest is a good topic to use in a cross-curricular mutlicultural way to improve students' reading and writing skills;technology makes it easy to do so.