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.

30 August 2018

Do you create courageous classrooms?

Yesterday I had the absolute joy of listening to Shauna Gallagher speak about her work in the area of mental illness. Shauna, a mother, a nurse, an author and a public speaker, spent half a day working with religious educators exploring anxiety and resilience in our students and in ourselves. Shauna’s fabulous first book is called “Take a Big Breath – 20 Relaxation Exercises for Kids” and is something every teacher could use!

Her work on resilience reminded me of a brilliant talk that I listened to again the other day by one of the most inspiring researchers in this area, Dr Brene Brown. If you care about your classes, take time to watch this.

There is so much fabulous information in this talk on Daring Classrooms. As Brene Brown says, “Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

The exciting take home for those of us who are teachers or parents is that Brene tells us that ‘courage’ can be taught. Of course, Dr Tom Harrison, Ian Morris and John Ryan in their book, “Teaching Character in the Primary Classroom”, confirm for us that ‘courage’ as a character virtue can be taught.

Brene Brown talks about the Four Pillars of Courage
*       Vulnerability
*       Clarity of Values
*       Trust
*       Rising Skills – The Ability to Get Back Up

As Brene reminds us, ‘If you are brave enough, you will fall.’ Courage requires us to have vulnerability. I think we need to create a safe space in our classes to explore these ideas with our students to equip them to become resilient and successful students. We need to let our students know that without vulnerability, we are not able to experience love, joy and belonging fully.

As teachers we need to look at the latest research from Brene Brown – and this is what is says. Learning requires vulnerability. If students do not feel safe to be vulnerable they will ‘armour up’ and this will prevent learning from taking place. What is worrying is that 85% of students can remember a shaming incident at school that affected them as a learner. I know I can certainly remember many instances of being shamed and humiliated at school. Teachers need to understand shame, courage and vulnerability. We need to appreciate that empathy is the antidote to shame.

Just think about this in terms of your classroom. These things require our vulnerability.

Hard Conversations
Problem Solving
Ethical Decision Making

If you want to empower your students to be ethical decision makers who can problem solve and display creativity and innovation, then you will need to allow them to be vulnerable. If you want them to understand love and joy and experience a true sense of belonging – let them be vulnerable.

Do not ever question the power you have over the people you teach. 

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!