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.

15 December 2011

Making Communication Easy

Strand: Values and Ethics

Year Level: Middle School, specifically Year 9

Phase: All

Summary: here’s a way to generate discussion in the classroom

Nightmare scenario: teaching the Morality of Sexuality to a year 9 class in an all girls’ school. Many would consider this disastrous, and most would hope, with crossed fingers, that it was merely awkward. With good relationships and a lot of trust between student and teacher, this was a joy to teach. One idea that worked well and helped generate communication on a touchy subject was a follows: 

At the beginning of each lesson, each student was given a couple of pieces of notepaper. The process was discussed and agreed upon: during each lesson there was time given to consider questions or comments, write what you enjoyed about the lesson, or express concerns about the content. If a student had a question that they did not want to broadcast, they took the opportunity to write it down on the notepaper. These were kept until the end of the lesson when all students put their papers in the sealed discussion box – even if the paper was blank. That way, anonymity was preserved and I had discussion starters for the next session. 

My experience was that everyone respected the process and used it to express their progress through the unit. Eventually, when I read out a question, students began to own the query and start the discussion themselves.The box was a shoe box, covered with wrapping paper and decorated with sparkles!! There was a slot in the top into which students dropped their papers.

Bloom and the Bible - Upper Primary

Strand(s): The Bible and Theology

Year level: Upper Primary

Phase: Any

Time: N/A

Summary: A range of ideas for applying Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy to lessons focussing on Biblical texts with upper primary students.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain is a effective way of meeting the needs of students and engaging them cognitively at a range of levels. The six levels of thinking enable teachers to think about how they may take students from basic thinking levels such as remembering to much higher ones that require them to use the information to design new things. Below are some ideas for using Bloom’s Taxonomy when engaging with Biblical texts. With all of these activities appropriate passages of scripture needs to be chosen.

Remember: After reading a particular passage of scripture, have students match spoken dialogue with the person who said it.

Understand: Have students predict what might happen next in the story before the reading of the entire passage.

Apply: Have students explore a situation that occurred to someone in the Bible passage and write about how he or she could have acted or responded differently.

Analyse: Compare and/or contrast two of the main actors in the story.

Evaluate: Have students judge whether a particular person should have acted the way they did in the story and why?

Design: Have students imagine that he or she is one of the main characters from the story and write a diary account of thoughts and activities relating to the event.

14 December 2011

Taking A Stand – Clarifying Values

Strand(s): Ethics and Values

Year level: Middle school, Senior school

Phase: Orient

Time: 10-15 minutes

Summary: An exercise to help students identify where they stand on issues relating to choices about values and morals.

This values clarification exercise can be a useful way to begin a unit or lesson on a particular ethical topic or values issue such as war, abortion or drug use.

Students are asked to stand in the middle of classroom. One side of the classroom is designated as strongly agree while the other side is designated strongly disagree. These words may be written on either side of the white board in order to remind students. Various values related statements are read aloud and students must move to one side of the class or the other depending on where they stand in relation to the issue.

While students may be given the choice to stand in the middle often this an easy way out of standing somewhere definite. Encourage students to move by getting everyone back into the centre before reading the next statement.

After a statement is read out students may be given the opportunity to say why they agree or disagree with a particular statement. In this phase of the lesson you might discourage students from debating the topic so that a range of views can be heard. Guidance might need to be given in regards to the grounding of statements, for example instead of saying: Euthanasia is wrong because.... they should be encouraged to say: I believe euthanasia is wrong because...

At the end of the unit or lesson student may be given the opportunity to re-evaluate where they stand in relation to the statements previously read out. This may require them to record their position in the first round.

Examples of general statements might include:

  • Lying is acceptable if you are protecting another person.
  • Downloading music from the internet is not stealing.
  • The death penalty is an appropriate penalty for murder.
  • If someone under-charges you at the shops you should tell them.
  • Smacking children is a legitimate form of disciplines.

More nuanced question may be developed for a single issue.

Story books – Gateways to talking about God

Strand(s): The Bible and Theology
Year level: All Levels
Phase: N/A
Time: N/A
Summary: A useful resource for finding appropriate story books that link to Biblical and theological themes for a wide range of ages.
Story books can provide a wonderful entry point for discussing concepts and issues related to faith and the Bible. Even older students (Upper Secondary) may be engaged with the right children’s story book and this can provide a useful springboard for the introduction of abstract concepts and deep theological conversations.
An excellent resource in this area is a blog called Children’s Literature: A Resource for Ministry, that can be found at http://storypath.upsem.edu/. A link to this website can be found on the right of our blog.
Children’s Literature: A Resource for Ministry is a very useful resource. Each week a children’s story book is reviewed which include a summary, key literary elements explored, a link to scripture and theological ideas and a list of faith talk questions. The book is also categorised according to age, themes and biblical links. This means you have the ability to find books reviewed or suggested for particular books of the Bible. The blog also provides story books that link with weekly lectionary readings.
Children’s Literature: A Resource for Ministry is a simple but powerful resource for those seeking to use story as an entry point for discussion about faith and life, especially those working in the early childhood area.

15 November 2011

Where's Jesus

Strand(s): The Bible
Year level: Upper Primary/Middle School
Phase: Synthesise
Time: 10 - 20 minutes
Summary: A learning activity to check students’ ability to look up Bible references while familiarising themselves with Biblical geography.

Once students have learnt to look up references in the Bible the following activity might be used to check their skill level while getting them to look at maps of Israel. This may help them to understand that the places Jesus went to, as recorded in the Gospels, are historical locations, some of which may be visited today.

Provide students with a map of Israel focussing on Biblical places (these can be found online) and a list of the following references without the place names attached. Have students identify the location mentioned in the passage and find the location on the map.

Mark 10.46 Jericho
Luke 19.29 Mount of Olives
Luke 24.13 Emmaus
Luke 1.26 Nazareth
Luke 2.3 Bethlehem
Mark 6.53 Gennesaret
John 12.1 Bethany
Luke 2.41 Jerusalem
John 4.5 Sychar
John 1.44 Bethsaida
John 2.11 Cana
Matthew 4.13 Capernaum
Matthew 15.39 Magadan
Luke 7.11 Nain
John 6.1 Tiberias
Mark 7.24 Tyre

A way of extending the activity would be for the students to come forward and mark a large map and to tell the class what event in Jesus life occurred at the location they looked up.

11 November 2011

Charting the Bible

Strand(s): The Bible
Year level: Middle school, Senior school
Phase: Enhance
Time: 30 -60 minutes

One way of helping students to engage with the Bible is to get them to compare and contrast parallel narratives within the Gospels.

Use T Charts and Y Charts in your RE classroom to help students unpack and explore Biblical texts.

Provide students with a copy of the Last Supper from either Mark (14.12-31), Luke (22.7-34) or John (13.1-30). Give each student only one, but make sure all three are handed out around the class. Alternatively give students in small groups one of the texts for the group to explore. One way of helping students engage with the text is to use a Y Chart Chart (Innovative Teachers’ Companion: Secondary Edition 2012, page 288, or see www.itcpublications.com.au ) The headings: feels like, sounds like, looks like, might be used to help students explore the mood and details of the events expressed in the text.

Students could be given time to provide feedback on their particular reading. A section on the board could be used for the feedback from the three different readings.

Next provide students with Matthews account of the Last Supper (Matthew 26.17-35). Have the students complete a T-Chart Chart (Innovative Teachers’ Companion: Secondary Edition 2012, page 276, or see www.itcpublications.com.au) comparing their previous reading with the Matthew reading using Similarities/Difference as the headings?

As an extension (synthesis) exercise classical or contemporary paintings of the Last Supper might be explored by students for elements that appear in one reading but not another. Images of this sort can be found at http://www.textweek.com/art/art.htm

A helpful resource for this topic is the documentary Easter in Art by Tim Marlow.

28 October 2011

Values and Ethics in World Religions

Topic:  World religions / morality / codes of behaviour
Year Level: could be adapted for upper primary, middle school and senior
Phase: Introductory
Duration: between 30minutes and 80 minutes (depends on the research phase)

Often students need to be in the control-seat in order to engage with a topic.
Use the Jigsaw (Innovative Teachers’ Companion:  Primary Edition 2012, page 104, or see www.itcpublications.com.au ) in your RE classroom to respond to a challenge like the following:

Question: Right or wrong?
Compare and contrast different ideas of morality in human societies. 
Design a new set of commandments, taking into account the teachings of the world’s major religions.

Step 1:  form “home groups” of 4 and allocate a number for each participant.

Step 2:  introduce the challenge:
Design a new set of Commandments, drawing on the teachings of 4 of the world’s religions.

Step 3: each member of the Home group goes to their expert group (numbered 1,2,3 or 4)
Expert teams would look like this:

1.      Explore Christianity’s teachings on morality
2.      Explore Islam’s teaching on morality
3.      Explore Budda’s teaching on morality
4.      Explore Hinduism’s teaching on morality

Step 4:  Research the topic within your expert groups: organise a range of materials for each workstation beforehand. Depending on the complexity, the research phase could take between 10 minutes and 2 lessons.

Step 5: all “experts” return to their home groups, bringing their notes on their expert research. Report on their findings to the home group and contribute to producing the final list of “commandments”.

Following this:

Consider using a Publish:Circle:Refine process (Innovative Teachers’ Companion:  Primary Edition 2012, page 100, or see www.itcpublications.com.au) to avoid the need for “feedback”. Involve all students at once, have them publish their group’s work, circle the room to view others and return to their home group to refine their ideas.

27 October 2011

Five ways to add value to your RE classroom

Let’s face it, sometimes RE is the last lesson students think about with unabashed joy!

In our RE classroom, more so than the class rooms of other curriculum areas, relationship with students is paramount to drawing the best out of staff and students.
  • Start on time EVERY time – create the expectation that you need to make the most of every second available.
  • Start with a 5 minute session of brain gym or a trivia game with questions based on the last lesson. Make sure you have a small prize for the winner. That way, students who dawdle will know they’ve missed out on something special.
  • Plan the homework and get students to write it down early – part way through the lesson, not right at the end when it may get lost. We all feel better if we’re well organised and prepared, and have had time to clarify tasks. Perhaps have it written in a particular section of the board.
  • This means you can spend the last few minutes of the class time on relationship building games, taking questions about the content.  Make a regular session of the last 5 minutes of each class. Students can pack up and participate in a quiz re-cap of the topics covered, a role play, have a regular appearance from a “guest” puppet who asks students tricky questions, or to whom students can fire questions.
  • Engage with your students when you see them outside the classroom – whether it be playground duty or a school camp. Establish those relationships and take every opportunity to build on them, even small things count – sometimes if you smile at a student, it might be the only smile they get all day.