Butterflies

These pages are stimulus and inspirations for the RE teacher, adviser and professional

Authentic Voices

 

Where in the world or rather where on the world wide web can you find authentic voices. In RE it is hard to get 'raw' material of people expessing their own views about religion, about faith or about their own moral or ethical stances. There are a couple of good places on line to begin to look for such materials. 

 

a) YouTube or Google Video: These are repositories of video materials; some of these are professional clips and some are amateur but there is an amazing and fast growing resource of authentic material; (b) Look on Podcasts Net and look for the religious contributions.

b) Look at the NATRE database of young people talking. This is an excellent, and growing, set of materials of young people who are expressing their sefl-identifed views on religion. Whilst this does not always conform to the 'official' viewpoint it is an excellent insight into the minds of young people.

Both these video and audio resources offer a great way into the hearts and minds of authentic people - not the slightly sanitised views which can be found on 'offical' video or audio resource

Virtual Aunties

The websites for the children of faith communities often have an ‘agony aunt’ section. There are examples of issues related to living out the faith for young people. These issues can be a useful way into a topic particularly for KS3 students. For example, www.totallyjewish.com had a question about a Jewish girl wanting to celebrate the birthday of a non-Jewish friend on a Saturday. This could be the focus of work on the role of Shabbat for observant Jews and a consideration of some of the tensions and conflicts of loyalty. Students can research the background and frame their own response and then compare with the answer given by the agony aunt.

The Window and the Mirror

Searching for ways to explain Learning about Religion and Learning from Religion in a memorable way I hit upon the idea of a window and a mirror. The image has been successfully used throughout the introduction of the new Norfolk Syllabus. 

Standing next to a window, I look through and talk about this action being like ‘looking in’ on a faith community, observing and investigating, asking questions and so on. This perspective is appropriate for teacher and pupil in school RE, with additional information being provided by anyone in class who happens to belong to that community and can add extra insight. Reception children, Year 3’s and Year 9’s can all engage in looking through such a window but questions, deductions and conclusions should gradually become more sophisticated in relation to age, ability and the RE teaching and learning programme.

Turning away from the window, I draw an imaginary mirror in front of me (although in one school a nursery teacher rushed to wheel in the full-length mirror from the nursery!). ‘Learning from Religion’ is like turning away from what can be seen through the window and looking at yourself. Imagine the pupils looking in the mirror and considering their own feelings and beliefs: What do I think about the idea of God or of life after death? Who do I go to for advice? What do I think about the Christian idea of heaven or the Hindu idea of karma? Pupils in a class could probably see friends on either side of them in their mirrored reflection and could ask their opinions too. Again pupils can become more sophisticated in their reflections and explanations, offering their own ideas, maybe their experiences from another faith community.

The window / mirror image has gone down well, making an immediate difference for some teachers in their classroom practice and enabling some to redress more easily teaching which has tended to favour ‘learning about’ rather than ‘learning from’. One teacher came back with a folded piece of A4 paper divided into a cut-out window and mirror and said she was giving out recording sheets like that for children to work on. Another had made a really large fold-up mirror and window to put on her big book stand and now introduced her RE lesson by putting a ‘Learning about’ question on one side and a ‘Learning from’ question on the other as the lesson objectives. She could start with either but both had to be addressed in the lesson.

There have been several other examples of ways teachers and children have used the idea. It is something so simple yet has made an instant difference to the understanding of RE for many teachers and pupils.

Wonder Walls

 

We’ve all heard Oasis sing about Wonder Walls and I wonder… if we can use the idea to serve the awe and wonder – the AT2 aspects - of RE? Those familiar with Mary Stone and “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” or Godly Play will know the magic quality of the words: “I wonder …” or “Mmmm…” to encourage reflection and response.

How about setting up a graffiti-type wall, but for RE called a Wonder Wall, for pupils to add their reflections to a leading and topical question from their current unit of work. There are no right or wrong answers:

  • I wonder if Christmas is only for Christians?

  • I wonder how we can help to keep the world a special place?

  • I wonder what you might ask a Hindu about life after death?

It might be anything that the children are wondering about, and could be different each week. It might set off a line of enquiry, a P4C (Philosophy for Children) session or some homework, and pupils can help to answer each others’ questions. Dialogue is such an important way of finding out about religion, and wondering is such an important aspect of exploration of belief.

A more sensitive approach 

Some artefacts are sacred objects whilst others are not. Decide in discussion with the class which is the case in relation to what you are looking at. When using them ask the question, “What does this sacred object tell you about being human?”

Links between literacy and Religious Education

 

Identify the teaching techniques that work for Literacy and RE e.g. speaking and listening strategies such as conscience alley. This can radically improve pedagogy in primary RE. For a “bigger flap” make cross curricular links with the exemplified units ­ this is what the renewed framework suggests should happen.

Making Links

 

Pupils often have little knowledge of different parts of the world where events (religious or general) are taking places, so have map of world in classroom and collect items of world news about religions ­ link to places with pieces of wool or string OR collect pieces of news about one religion and do same, in order to generate more awareness of worldwide character of religious traditions and also to provide resource for exploring/considering media representation of one or more religions. Create a Google Map for the articles.

Putting RE on the whole school agenda

 

All too often RE isn’t mentioned in schools’ improvement/development plan and it’s difficult to get it there, with so many demands on schools and targets to meet. There is another way of getting RE onto the whole school agenda: encourage RE teachers to find out about/contribute to the school’s race equality policy (REP) and action plan (REAP). Every school has to have them and RE can play a key role in this. The policy has to go to the governors for approval and for revision and so the place of RE can be recognised and enhanced. I often find that RE teachers don’t even know the policy and action plan exist when they could/should be central players in writing them. Obviously, it also contributes to the duty to promote community cohesion, now required by Ofsted (and there are still many teachers who don’t know about that).

Speed Dating with faith groups

 

A Blackpool network group invited members of faith communities to come to a meeting to discuss visits, visitors and learning outside the classroom. A rabbi, RC priest, Hindu, Vicar’s wife, Imam, member of the Salvation Army met with teachers to discuss a Lancashire document giving guidelines to faith community members visiting or receiving visits from schools. The faith members then sat at tables and spoke with teachers either as a one to one or in 2s and 3s. Questions were answered, contact details exchanged and possibilities regarding visits discussed. After 8/10 minutes [depending on how many were involved] the teachers moved to the next person. The atmosphere was wonderful with animated conversations as well as laughter. Everyone was exhausted but agreed it was a very effective way of making initial contact. Visits have resulted and calls made to enquire about aspects of faith practice and belief.

Run an RE fair

This will provide valuable opportunities for teachers to meet SACRE members, local faith communities, publishers, charities and artefact providers. Each of these groups had a stall and provided information to take away. Members of the Rastafarian Community, Christian Aid, and Hodder Stoughton all took time to talk to each other as well as teachers....

Praising attitudes by post

 

Focus on children’s attitudes in RE, not ‘effort’, and write an RE postcard with the details and context of the good attitude shown, which the headteacher signs and posts to parents. These are timed to arrive at the weekend so that the family can receive them together. Once you’ve got a format, they can be easy to complete. The use of praise postcards generally has done a great deal to raise the self-esteem of many pupils. Parents and carers have very much enjoyed receiving them and some have commented that when they previously received communications from the school they always expected them to be bad news. Make sure the postcard also advertises what RE is about in your school.

Here's a sample:

Religious education at the Keats Community Primary School is about thinking more deeply about life’s big questions and learning from the insights of the world’s major religions and beliefs. I am delighted to say that Alice has recently done very well in RE, showing a very positive attitude to our study of the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan. In particular she has listened carefully and fairly to other people’s points of view and recognized that people’s religious beliefs are often deeply felt.

WoW words

Every time you come across a word in RE that children find exciting, interesting, impressive or different, write or type it up in large letters and pin to display board. Encourage children to use these words in their writing to make an impression on the reader. A slight variation to this is to use Word Clouds (https://www.wordclouds.com) to create a word image of a collection of words or text from a group.

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