Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

24 April 2018

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Kindness, Joy, Compassion and More!

You are keen to teach your students about the important things in life, such as kindness and compassion, but you need a great way to introduce your lessons. 

A fabulous Religious Educator and local school Chaplain, Stephanie, told me about this great website a few years ago and my students and I have enjoyed using it ever since. I think the new format makes it even easier to use and it is great for all sorts of learning – not just Religious Education. Take time to discover Go Noodle. You will need to create a free account first. It is easy, even for a noodle head like me.

Once you are in the site, try starting your day with Be Grateful.
Another favourite is Forgive Others.
And remember - kindness grows kindness! Be Kind.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget about brilliant resources and so it is good to be reminded of the really fabulous websites that can brighten our day. 

5 April 2018

Neuroscience Meets Miracles and How to Walk on Water!

I had the absolute joy of attending the Pearson Mind Brain Conference in Brisbane. Oh my stars! It was brilliant. All the speakers were outstanding but I was particularly fascinated by Dr Judy Willis. Dr Willis is a neurologist who was concerned about children in schools and their learning and behaviour, and so she retrained and became a teacher! She is fabulous.

Dr Willis focussed on using neuroscience to develop effective teaching strategies and optimising students’ learning.

Dr Willis suggests that when preparing lessons, teachers should respond to the current neuroscience research and this means:-
1. Novelty moments – unexpected, interesting activities
2. Stress free environment – a warm, caring, kind environment, reducing sources of anxiety
3. Pleasurable experiences – enjoyable, relevant

Teaching a Unit on Miracles - Believing the Unbelievable gives us such scope to use neuroscience, but the basic tools and strategies based on the work of Dr Judy Willis can be applied to any subject or topic.  As Dr Judy Willis explains, when classroom activities are pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the memory centres and promotes the release of acetylcholinem, which increases focused attention.

In addition, to optimise learning, add a little of the unexpected to your lessons. We all love some surprises. Neuroscience teaches us that the brain responds to the unexpected and the curious. When we introduce something unexpected we get the attention of the brain. 

Watching videos is a great way to respond to neuroscience. It may form part of a brain break and so the students feel enjoyment. When the students are not feeling stressed they are better able to engage and learn. Enjoying fun movies fosters a positive climate and allows students to think more deeply. In addition, the research tell us that students will retain more when learning is linked to strong emotions, like joy.

If you are keen to use the brain research, it can be great to start your lessons with a whole range of challenges where the children have to guess if statements are True or False. Have some pictures or video clips to back up your answers. Be creative.
For example – True or False.
o One man can pull a Boeing 767 
o Kangaroos can walk backwards
o Apples can float
o There is a yoyo that dates back to 500BC

Watching ‘People Are Awesome’ is a great way to introduce miracles. It is also a way to bring joy, fun and the unexpected to your classroom. Look out for the man who ‘runs on water’.

So, if for example you choose to teach your class the miracle story of Jesus walking on water, I have quite a few favourite videos. However, before you show them something fabulous like God's Story:Peter, grab their brain attention with something like these videos.

When in doubt about finding a suitable video – and it can be tricky at times – two of my favourite presenters are Richard Hammond and Steve Spangler. However, always watch each video thoroughly yourself to check if the video is appropriate for your students.

Funny, interesting and relevant videos can help you respond to neuroscience. Your students will certainly appreciate your efforts. Have fun. One last tip - don't try this at home!!

21 March 2018

Jesus Christ Could Have Been Ugly

Well – at least that is the headline on the 12 March from the Daily Star in the UK.

This controversial idea has been suggested by Professor Joan Taylor of King’s College in London. The general idea is that Jesus may have been rather ordinary looking, hence the lack of descriptions in the Bible.

This could be a fabulous place to begin a discussion on the historical Jesus with your students or indeed an opportunity to introduce an exploration into our identity in Christ.

It is also a fabulous way to look at religious art through the ages. Two great websites with plenty of resources are:-

1. Rejesus.co.uk – Faces of Jesus

Perhaps finish off your Unit or lessons with this great activity. Let your students draw or paint their own depiction of Jesus. They can look to the internet for inspiration. Try using these time lapse drawings to help them. There are many to choose from. Find something that will engage your students and let them create.

15 March 2018

A well-timed question

There is an art to asking useful questions and an even more refined art to allowing students time to process and respond. We’ve all been in situations where the speaker finishes, hastily asks “well, what do you think of that?” and then proceeds to “ok, no ideas? Must be my turn again!” This approach helps the speaker lose their voice, and frustrates listeners who know they have good ideas, if only they had time to formulate them!

Given time, most students will come up with ideas in response to questions, but we often misjudge just how much time they need. Here are a few steps as a refresher:

  1. Alert students that a question is coming up and that you will randomly select respondents.

  2. State that you will give everyone 30seconds to think quietly, and that jotting notes or scribbling concept maps is fine during this time.

  3. Ask your question, clearly and concisely, and record it on the board for easy reference.

  4. Read or view any stimulus material you have, eg the Bible story in the example below.

  5. Restate the question.

  6. Actually give that 30 seconds you promised (some will be counting!) in silence, without giving in to the temptation to fill it with your voice, or further instructions.

  7. Allow people to keep their pens active during the feedback time, as they add the ideas of others to their own.

  8. Choose people to respond, moving quickly so no one feels they bear the full responsibility.

  9. Follow up the process with an exercise where students place themselves along a line of opinion. E.g.; Human Continuum (see http://www.itcpublications.com.au/)

An example for the "Teaching the Bible" strand.
Tell a story about Jesus, eg: the episode where Jesus drives the moneychangers from the Temple:
· Mark 11: 15-19; 11: 27-33
· Matthew 21:12-17; 21:23-27
· Luke 19:45-48; 20:1-8
· John 2:13-16

Possible questions to start with:
  • What surprises you about this story?

  • What do you think made Jesus angry?

  • What do you think about people using a place of worship as a place of business?

  • Think about our would. Where do you see religion and money mixed together?

Possible questions for the Human Continuum:
  • Should we be surprised that Jesus acted this way? Why/why not?

  • Should Jesus have become angry in this situation? Explain.

  • Should people use a place of worship as a business centre?

  • Should money be a big part of religion?

7 March 2018

How interested are you?

Making connections in a classroom can be a challenge for teachers who have many students and teach many classes. However, it is worth it.

Students who believe you genuinely care about them and are interested in them as people, will blossom in your class.

A super simple way to get to know your students and tap in to their interests to help you make a connection is to ask students to write an INTEREST INVENTORY.

This can be a simple and quick lesson with any class or group.

Ask every students to write down 5 things that interest them.

Always set guidelines about respect and appropriate sharing.  Be explicit and clear in this regard.

Try asking the students to write each interest on a separate Post It Note and then stick them all over the room.  Then let the students sort them. You don’t have to name them at this stage.

A great game is to guess ‘who wrote what’ as the students walk around the room reading the Post It Notes.

Move in to a circle for sharing. Students can take turn to share their interests and even arrange themselves in groups of common interests or groups where no one has anything in common! Ask the students with nothing in common to come up with one thing they all like! You might be amazed. You could get answers that range from gelato to glaciers!

Teachers should join in. Write your own interests that are appropriate to share.  This might be a great time to mention God or the Bible.

At the end of the lesson, reinforce the ideas of belonging, acceptance and respect. And try to use what you have learnt about the students to develop positive relationships and greater interest and engagement in the classroom.

So, start thinking. What are 5 things you are interested in?

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

1 March 2018

In defense of religious education

A few years ago the Anglican Schools Religious Education Development Committee wrote a document called: "Precious Cargo:The Value of Religious Education in the Formation of Students in Anglican Schools" The purpose of the document was to challenge schools to see the importance of Religious Education and to resource it the way it deserves.

The document also had a list of recommendations for lifting the standard of RE. Read it here.

22 February 2018

Are your lessons missing the Mark?

Religious Education is a great way to explore the Big Questions in life. It can be the perfect place to discuss global issues such as the plight of refugees, terrorism or concerns about the environment and sustainability. However, sometimes the ‘religious’ part of the lesson gets lost or forgotten.

If you are struggling to link your lessons to Religion and the Anglican ethos, try reviewing the Marks of Mission. They can become a great point of reference or a framework to support lessons about current issues.

The Five Marks of Mission are:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

A Unit based on the Marks of Mission could work well in a concept based inquiry curriculum.
*       Try to engage your students by perhaps reflecting on their opinions of the Five Marks.
*       Perhaps they could debate the value or relevance of each of the Marks of Mission.
*       Do the students agree with any of the Five Marks of Mission?
*       Is there a Bible verse or story that teaches each of the Marks of Mission?
*       Are there any ideas with which they agree or disagree? Why or why not?
*       Is Mission relevant today?
*       If you are a believer, is it hard to ‘Proclaim the Good News’?
*       How can we show loving service to someone we don’t love?
*       How is society unjust? What makes you angry about society?
*       How can students or young people actually make a difference or facilitate change?
*       Encourage your students to write their own Five Marks of Mission. Maybe the class could reach a consensus and develop a Class Mission Statement? Maybe each student might develop a personal Mission Statement?

A great resource, called “Hitting the Mark” has been developed by the Anglican Church of Bermuda.
“Hitting the Mark is the Lent Bible study resource on the marks of mission

produced by the Bishop of Bermuda and the Evangelism and Education Committee of
the Diocese of Bermuda.  It comes in five sessions with an introduction all of which can be downloaded here.”

Hitting the Mark

You can also find the links on this page along with other resources.

Encourage your students to reflect on action that they can take in response to their inquiry.

 “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. 
Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10

“Sympathy is no substitute for action.” 
 David Livingstone (missionary to Africa)

May your students feel challenged to make a difference and to make their own mark!