I hope that these ebooks may make teaching Religious Education easier and more rewarding and may have useful ideas for teachers of other similar subjects as well.
Most of the ideas suggested here can be acted on with minimum preparation or expense and can work in all types of classroom. The ideas have been used at key stage three and four (11-16 year olds in England and Wales) but could also be used at earlier stages. They would also work in many countries of the world.
Some of them could be used in subjects other than RE and especially in tutorials and life skills lessons without much alteration. The ideas should help to make RE fun and enjoyable and at the same time should enable pupils to learn both about religions and from religions.
Many teachers will recognise and have used some of these ideas but they should find several new ideas or variations of tried and tested ideas that will prove useful in lessons.
Other teachers may find much more that is new to them. Most of the ideas have been borrowed or adapted from other teachers, inspectors and advisers, youth workers, books and videos but some of the variations at least are ones that I have developed in lessons throughout over 33 years of teaching in London Comprehensive Schools.
I have been encouraged to write these books by the OFSTED (inspection) report on the work of the Religious Education department at my last school and by the fact that I have retired from teaching and now have the time to write a book!
Some quotes from the inspection report follow which refer to the kinds of activities I will be writing about.
They suggest that having fun can improve the behaviour and concentration of most pupils and can at the same time help provide a high quality of education by encouraging learning and understanding.
In our OFSTED (inspection) report, Religious Education was described as making a ‘major contribution’ to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the school.
The report spoke of the Religious Education at key stage 3 as being one of the ‘strengths of the school’. It went on:
“A high level of enjoyment and excitement in participation pervades many lessons. Pupils with short concentration spans are motivated by the constant change of activity; they do not have time to be bored or to become distracted.”
The report also spoke of ‘the good practice in the department seen in every lesson’ leading to ‘pupils generally receiving a high quality of education.’
The report continued: “A wide variety of games and exercises are used effectively and pupils are constantly challenged to demonstrate that they are learning and understanding the facts being taught. Pace is fast and much work is covered in a short period of time with constant repetition ensuring that all pupils are making good progress. Pupils are taught to work well under pressure and praise and humour are used often and appropriately.”
I quote the report to show that games and other activities which generate ‘enjoyment and excitement’ are not contrary to the general attempt to raise standards in education. They can even be used to test and assess learning and understanding and confirm such learning.
The success of this approach as shown in the quotes from the report may encourage teachers who are sceptical of what seems to be a less academic approach to experiment with some of the strategies suggested.
Religious Education is the one ‘voluntary’ subject in most English and Welsh schools. It has to be taught but parents can withdraw their children at any time. It is, therefore, essential that pupils enjoy their lessons or at least some of them. A bored student can easily persuade his or her parents that they should not be doing Religious Education. Fortunately, there is no reason why Religious Education should be boring.
Most of the games and other activities suggested in this manual can be used to help pupils achieve the attainment targets set by local RE syllabuses. These may well ask students to:
learn about religions (Attainment Target 1)
learn from religions (Attainment Target 2)
Teachers all over the world may find the topics and even the targets mentioned in this book are familiar or at least similar to the ones that they are teaching.
There are several sub targets under each main target like
Learning about religions (Attainment Target 1)
“You should be able to identify or name the key beliefs, practices, people, places and objects of the main world religions.”
“You should be able to use several important religious words correctly and explain the meanings of key religious writings, language and symbols about key beliefs.”
“You should be able to understand some of the historical links or connections between some of the great world religions.”
“You should be able to understand that religions make a difference to the lives of individuals and communities.”
“You should be able to identify or name the moral values (like love for the undeserving)
“You should be able to understand that beliefs, values and practices etc. are expressed in similar and different ways.
Learning from religions (Attainment Target 2)
There are several sub targets under this main target:
“You should be able to consider whether religious teaching can help you understand the meaning of key experiences in your life” or
“You should be able to suggest lessons that might be learnt from the lives of inspirational people.”
“You should be able to explain why some questions are difficult to answer (e.g. suffering).”
“You should be able to express or describe your own values (what you think is important and valuable) and commitments.”
“You should be able to take part in debates on religious and moral issues and identify or recognize contrasting views and give well argued reasons for taking one view rather than another.”