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.

14 August 2018

Have you finished your marking?

Assessment in Religious Education is always a bit of a hot topic. Each school seems to approach it differently. Some schools assess but there is no formal reporting and some schools have extremely detailed assessment and reporting.
There are so many big questions when it comes to Religious Education and assessment!
  • *       Why do we assess in RE?
  • *       How do we assess in RE?
  • *       What do we assess in RE?
  • *       How do we make assessment manageable?
  • *       When do we assess? Which year levels?
  • *       How do we use the assessment information?

The list of questions goes on. RE:ONLINE is a great place to look for the answers to these and other assessment questions.

According to RE:ONLINE, it is important to let pupils know how they are doing and what they must do to make progress. A key part of Religious Education is that pupil’s positive attitude to study should be encouraged and praised.

The view you adopt in terms of assessment of Religious Education will no doubt depend on the aims of RE in your school.

Whatever you are doing in assessment, here are a few ideas to possibly make it more fun for you and your students. These ideas come from a brilliant book called The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook by Jim Smith and edited by Ian Gilbert. Now you may be thinking that this is perhaps not a good book to read, but it is in fact wonderful.

If you are reading this, you are probably a rather dedicated, committed and diligent teacher. I might also guess that you are working very hard!

According to research, teachers make more than 1500 educational decisions every school day. It is a demanding job and often exhausting. However, the ‘Lazy Teacher’ realises that if we do everything for our students, we are doing them a disservice. We need to empower our students to take responsibility for their lives and their learning. We can equip them to be independent, thinking and reliable students while at the same time preventing teacher fatigue and burn-out. This philosophy supports individualised and personalised learning within our schools.

The basic idea is to ensure that students are doing the ‘work’ or ‘heavy-lifting’ in the classroom which raises achievement and fosters positive learning attitudes. The ‘lazy teacher’ puts the students right at the heart of the learning, according to Jim Smith.
“As Independent Thinking’s Ian Gilbert says, ‘Do things with them, not to them.’”
With this in mind, perhaps you might be able to rethink your assessment strategies.

Ideas to try from The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook
*       Focus on the Good Points.
Occasionally, do not correct your students’ work for mistakes, but rather only focus on the good points. Imagine how the students will feel when all that is highlighted or commented on is the strengths of the students’ work.

*       The Late Night Marker
This idea is hilarious. Return students’ written work with completely fictitious comments. Pretend you are serious! Be creative. Then ask the students why the comments or marks are wrong. Such a great way to engage students and develop their critical thinking. If you want to make it easier – write the fictitious comments on those tiny post-it notes – and then you can remove them and use them again with the next class.

*       Mark the Marking.
Ask students to give you feedback on your marking in terms of how it helps them learn. There is no point wasting time on something that does not work.

*       Do Me Out of a Job
Ask students to write the comment they think you should write and justify why, by writing comments in the margins before they hand in their work.

If you are still looking for some Religious Education assessment inspiration, why not have a look at the Can Do Statements  on the RE:ONLINE website.

Hopefully you and your students can have some more fabulous fun and meaningful, engaging learning linked to assessment.

3 August 2018

Character Building

I have a passion for Christian Character Education. In my own lessons, I call it Christian Character and Religious Education – CCARE -  because I believe that it makes religious education a more accessible, relevant and meaningful subject. Focussing on character is a way to guide students in how they live their lives so that they may thrive and flourish.

A fabulous resource to support teachers who are also passionate about Character Education is The Character Builder’s Bible – 60 Character Building Stories from the Bible.

This Bible is such a great place to start and can be used with a range of students.

As it states in the blurb, “No matter what your goal in raising your children, they will have a greater chance of being happy and successful as they grow up if they learn

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16”

In this Bible there are 60 stories. Each story focusses on one character trait which is explained in simple terms for the students. There is a Bible verse to go with the story and then in addition, there is a contemporary story showing the application of the character trait for the students to read and consider.

Let me give you one example – and remember there are 60 different lessons in this Bible – so plenty of choice.

Character Trait - Repentance

Bible Verse
 If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9

Bible Story – ‘A Changed Man’ from Luke 19:1-10 – The Story of Zacchaeus

Definition of Repentance – If I do wrong, I need to ask, ‘Forgive me,’ in words or a letter. Showing I’m sorry always makes thing turn out for the better.

Personal Application – In My Everyday Life – Make Things Right

While this Bible is clearly aimed at our youngest students, the concepts can be applied across all age levels and each story can also reveal additional character traits and these would become evident if you were to study the stories in greater depth. You might find it useful to simply have an excellent list of Bible stories to teach during the year. 

For example, if you are exploring the concept of ‘Service’ with your students you can still refer to the suggested bible verse, ‘Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.’ Colossians 3:23. The story of Deborah from Judges 4-5 is still relevant regardless of the age of your students.

The character traits explored in this Bible include:
*      Self-control
*      Obedience
*      Humility
*      Patience
*      Honesty
*      Responsibility
*      Service
*      Sharing
*      Gentleness
*      Kindness
*      Perseverance

Studying the Bible with your students through the lens of ‘character’ adds a new dimension to your religious investigations and can transform the lives of your students. It is certainly worth considering and this Bible might be an excellent way to begin your Christian Character and Religious Education journey. Enjoy!

19 July 2018

Is Star Wars a Religion?

I must confess that it has never occurred to me to entertain the notion that there is a Jedi faith. I am not a huge Star Wars fan, and while I appreciate that there are powerful themes and messages throughout the saga, I had not realised that there is a Star Wars religion – ‘Jediism’. However, in the last week, I have heard 2 people refer to this faith, so I thought I had better check in with Google!

I started with Wikipedia. 
Sure enough, there is an entry called Jediism, described as a ‘philosophy’ and recognised as a ‘religion’ on official census documents.
There is a super helpful website for the Jedi Church.  
“The Jedi Church believes that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together. The Jedi religion is something innate inside every one of us, the Jedi Church believes that our sense of morality is innate. So quiet your mind and listen to the force within you!
Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.”

Professor of Religious Studies, Robyn Faith Walsh in a fabulous blog on the Huffington Post posed this great question – Is Star Wars a Religion?

What a great way to engage your students in a discussion about religion and faith!
Did you know that in an Australian census (2011), at least 65 000 people identified themselves religiously as ‘Jedis’? In New Zealand, the Jedi Church has once again asked to be included on the 2018 census. Apparently, in New Zealand there are more Jedis than Hindus or Buddhists.

So how do we define ‘religion’? Let your students grapple with that one.
Or maybe you could just look at the question of ‘faith’?

CBR.com movie review by Anthony Couto  suggests that there is a common theme of ‘faith’ in the Star Wars series. “Empire Strikes Back was all about faith. It’s about letting go of facts and logic, about simply believing in something, resisting what education may tell you.”
“Empire and The Last Jedi are all about making mistakes. Thinking you can face something alone, without belief in a higher power, and the consequences that come with a refusal to have faith. Isn’t that what Star Wars is all about, really? While Star Trek concerns itself with logic and rationality, Star Wars takes a different path: one of belief. There’s a reason why Empire, and now Last Jedi, are considered stronger entries in the Star Wars saga. They concern themselves with pondering faith, the message at the core of Star Wars itself.”

According to the Jedi Church website, there is one all powerful force that binds things in the universe together, and accepts people from all walks of life, from all over the universe. I wonder if there is anything that resonates with our students in this statement from the Jedi Church – “as the belief in Jesus defines Christians, how we see the Force defines us as Jedi.

The Temple of Jedi explains that believe :-

In the Force, and in the inherent worth of all life within it.

In the sanctity of the human person. We oppose the use of torture and cruel or unusual punishment, including the death penalty.

In a society governed by laws grounded in reason and compassion, not in fear or prejudice.

In a society that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or circumstances of birth such as gender, ethnicity and national origin.

In the ethic of reciprocity, and how moral concepts are not absolute but vary by culture, religion, and over time.

In the positive influence of spiritual growth and awareness on society.

In the importance of freedom of conscience and self-determination within religious, political and other structures.

In the separation of religion and government and the freedoms of speech, association, and expression.

In our Shared Syllabus Strand‘Thinking About Religion’ the students are asked to consider such questions as –

What is religion?
What is the purpose of religion?
What does religion do for people?
Why do some people not participate in religion?
Why do some people believe in God and some don’t?
From where do people get their beliefs?
How do beliefs shape actions?
What makes something a religion?
How does society and media shape perceptions of religion?

Surely a study of Star Wars could provide a great provocation for a unit on Thinking About Religion!

In case you are bit like me and can't remember all the Star Wars movies, here is a short video to help!

May the Force be with you!

11 July 2018

NAIDOC Week 2018 - Because of her, we can!

Many schools are on holidays during NAIDOC Week but that doesn't mean schools should miss the opportunity of celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and achievements. The NAIDOC website has some great ideas that could be transferred to another week in Term 3. Some of my favourites are:

  • Start your own hall of fame featuring Indigenous role models.
  • Listen to Indigenous musicians or watch a movie about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.
  • Study a famous Indigenous Australian.
  • Research the traditional Indigenous owners of your area.
  • Visit local Indigenous sites of significance or interest.
  • Invite local Indigenous Elders to speak or give a Welcome to Country at your school.
  • Hold a flag raising ceremony.

20 June 2018

Wisdom From Stories - A Powerful Way to Teach

Here is a fabulous story to share with your students whether you are a teacher or a Chaplain. I first read this on a brilliant blog by Fr Philip Chircop, called Wisdom Stories to Live By

This would be fabulous as part of a sermon, or indeed, a lesson for Religious Education. You could easily link this to your Character Education focus as well. It is filled with teachable moments and great wisdom.

"Once upon a time, a Russian peasant went to visit Moscow, the big city. He arrived at its fanciest hotel. His boots were covered with mud, his clothing was torn, and his appearance was dishevelled. Despite all this, the clerk at the hotel smiled at him. He gave the peasant a key to his room, the highest and most elegant room in the hotel. The peasant began walking up the hotel’s beautiful winding staircase.

When he arrived at the first floor, he walked right in front of a full-length mirror. He had never seen a mirror before, and he was terrified because it contained a beastly image staring back at him. He growled and shouted at the beast but found it did the same right back to him. He screamed and ran up the next set of stairs. On the second floor, he ran into the beast again. He screamed, and the beast screamed back at him. Once again he ran up the stairs, to the third floor. The beast stared right back at him. They exchanged insults and stood toe to toe.

Realising he could not escape, the peasant ran back down to the lobby. He went back to the clerk at the desk. He told the clerk about the beast stalking him. The clerk quickly realised the man was seeing his own reflection in the mirror. Rather than embarrass or shame him, the clerk told the peasant that the strange-looking man was there to protect the hotel’s guests.

“Here’s the trick,” the clerk says. “If you make an angry face at him, he will do the same to you. But if you greet him with a smile and kind words, he will do the same to you.” The peasant thanked the clerk and went up to his room. He had no more terrifying stops."

Fr Philip suggests the following in his ‘Consider This’ comments. This is so helpful if you wish to have a deeper discussion of the story.

The clerk could have responded differently. He could have taken advantage of the peasant’s vulnerability and ignorance. He could have laughed at him. He could have called him names. He could have scolded him or showed him the way out. But for this clerk, another person’s humanity was more important than a smug sense of superiority. Another person’s need gave the clerk an opportunity for kindness.

Remember: Life is like an echo. Whatever energies you send out, they will be echoed back to you. What you give away is what you will receive.  Or as scripture says:
  • “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” —2 Corinthians 9:6
  • “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” —Galatians 6:7
I wonder if anyone in your class has ever made a mistake and been laughed at?

Is it better to be right or kind? Let your class decide.

31 May 2018

National Reconciliation Week 2018 Videos

The RAP group in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland have created a number of videos sharing stories of reconciliation action. Check them out here.

24 May 2018

Dust Echoes: Ancient Stories, New Voices

Dust Echoes "is a series of twelve beautifully animated dreamtime stories from Central Arnhem Land, telling stories of love, loyalty, duty to country and aboriginal custom and law."

There is a study guide for each of the videos. The videos themselves can be accessed on the website but some also appear on Youtube.

These videos and resources would be useful in exploring Aboriginal religion and spirituality or even considering values and the way they are expressed in story.