Do they know it's Christmas Comprehension lesson

As many of you know, I often use music as a way to explore text and improve comprehension skills.

To get in the festive mood, here is another brilliant song to deconstruct with your class and inspired a recent project with my pupils.

It is my favourite Christmas song - Band Aid - Do they know it's Christmas?

Here are the lyrics with some questions to consider!

It's Christmastime; there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

  • Can you find a contraction? What is it short for?
  • Why is there a semi-colon in the first line?
  • Why is there no need to be afraid at Christmas? We put our troubles aside and enjoy time spent with our families.
  • What do the symbols of light and shade stand for? We associate light with joy and happiness, shade is darkness and is linked to danger or evil.
  • What do you think the word plenty stands for? All the material things we have.
  • How effective is the word plenty on a scale of 1-5?
  • What does the word banish mean? On a scale of 1-5 how effective is this word?
  • In what other way could we say 'throw your arms around'? Hug
  • What is the singer trying to say with the last line? A hug is a sign of affection and embracing someone or something you care about.

But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
At Christmastime
It's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears

  • Who are the other ones we should pray for? Poor, less fortunate people.
  • Why is it hard to pray for others at Christmastime? We are usually consumed with what we will be getting as presents. 
  • What is the meaning behind the world outside your window? As we all have houses, we spend Christmas inside enjoying the time with our family but there are so many other people out there who need our help.
  • What do you think about the words dread and fear?
  • Why is the world full of dread and fear? Dread for what is going to happen to these people suffering and fear of how will it end?
  • Whereabouts in the world were the singers singing about? Explain that in 1984 when this song was written, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure founded Band-Aid to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia. A large portion of Ethiopia is desert or semi-arid. When this song was recorded, there were two particularly bad famines in Ethiopia. In some areas of the country there was very little water, let alone drinkable water.
  • How would a bitter sting feel? Painful
  • Why does the singer describe the tears in this way? We can cry tears of happiness and when we are sad, he is really emphasising how bad and painful their situation is. 

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Oh, where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

  • Are the bells that ring there the same as once we hear at Christmas? 
  • Where do you usually hear bells? At church
  • What events at church usually involve bells? 
  • The clanging chimes of doom, what type of bells may these be? Funeral
  • Well tonight thank God.... is considered the most powerful line of the song, why? It is meant to make us reflect and be very grateful that we’re not suffering from starvation due to famine. Don’t forget how lucky and privileged you are to be able to eat every day.
  • The next few lines have been considered to be a misrepresentation of Africa, can you think why? The two Ethiopian famines of the mid-80s were caused primarily by the government’s poor agricultural policies, misuse of international aid, and an overzealous military which took funds away from health spending. Poor rainfall exacerbated this. Of course, it is factually inaccurate to paint all of Africa (the second biggest continent) as one barren wasteland. There are many rivers, lots of rain, huge amounts of plant life, and even snow. To further demonstrate this point, use Google maps to try and find some. 

Here's to you, raise a glass for everyone
Here's to them, underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

  • Why should we raise a glass for everyone? We should be making sure we think about everyone around the world. 
  • What does Christmas mean to us? 
  • Why does the singer ask a question? To make us realise that the way we celebrate Christmas is very different to the way people living in poverty and harsh conditions will be. 

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

  • What do we mean by feed the world? 
  • Why is it repeated?

Why do you think the song was so successful? Do you think it is still popular today? Is it still relevant today over 30 years later? Why do you think this?

After doing this activity, my pupils were inspired to write their own song, which they have made into a song and is available to download, please help share their message by watching and sharing their video and then downloading a copy! 


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