Rare occurrences almost invariably hold the attention of learners -- both children and adults.
What would offer a couple of hours of fun and suspense is the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin followed by the video The town that nearly danced itself to death available on BBC, which is about the dance epidemic which led to a shocking number of deaths. A similar outbreak of dancing mania in Germany is thought to have been the basis of the tale of The Pied Piper.
The level of English required is B2 or post B2.
The original story is available online, plus there are several video versions available on YouTube. But I prefer to stick to the original so I can introduce new vocabulary and provide more practice on it.
Here is where you can read the original story:
A key concept you could start with is “plague”. An explanation in the students’ mother tongue would be appropriate -- accompanied by some images. It is a great opportunity to present relevant words such as “infest”, and “infestation”.
I have prepared a vocabulary exercise to use for extra practice:
The story of the Pied Piper is an enchanting one: man’s powerlessness to deal with nature’s strange ways, the power of music to tame, human greed, vengefulness. You could explore one or all of these themes depending on your students’ eagerness. The students could be even asked to think of or bring to class other stories revolving round those themes.
The video on the other hand about the outbreak of dancing in Strasbourg in 1518 contains more sophisticated information about the way the incident manifested itself and the possible explanations for people literally dancing themselves to death: from purely physiological (typhus or epilepsy) to socio-cultural ones (mass hysteria).
Here is the link for the video about Strasbourg:
Mature students, especially those who specialise in Medicine or Psychology would find some food for thought in the video. It could serve as the springboard for an oral session on what motivates people to become self-destructive.