Religious Education lessons offer time and space for children to reflect upon and grapple with big ideas:
“Why am I here?”
“What does it mean to be ‘good’?”
“Why do bad things happen if God has the power to stop them?”
What is Religious Education like today?
Before we explore how RE can be added into your Home Learning, a quick recap for the parents reading this.
Over the last two years, the way Religious Education is taught in schools has fundamentally changed. The days of labelling parts of a church or learning random facts are gone. As one of my students put it: “RE used to be colouring in on a Thursday afternoon; now we do lots of thinking and not always finding the answers.”
Many schools talk about using three lenses when teaching: theological (thinking through believing and studying sacred texts), philosophical (thinking through thinkers or ideas) and the human & social sciences (thinking through living). Whilst using terms like theological may sound daunting, in practice it simply means that children will spend time looking at the same concept but from different perspectives.
This was a big change for children and teachers as learning can appear to be slower in pace as time is given for reflection and comparison.
Creating Home Learning
Now, how do we deliver this learning whilst children are at home?
In short: by writing it down.
As many areas of learning require good subject knowledge, it is important that children are guided through this new content at the right pace and in the right order. PowerPoint (via Office365) or Google Slides are both great tools for making presentations – and crucially – presentations that can then be viewed in the web browser without needing any special software or apps. I had to rethink how I put presentations together as children will be reading the slides (normally a big no-no), so the word count went up and the font size was reduced by about 50%. I also embedded hyperlinks within the presentation, so it was the starting point for learning.
Apart from changing the delivery method, I found I could continue with the units I had planned to teach with children in school. This has given me some food for thought when the children do return to the classroom.
There are also lots of great resources online to support home learning and more being released by generous teachers and organisations each week. Some of my personal favourites are:
- RE:Online: Their Subject Knowledge portal is my go-to starting point, covering 19 different areas of learning from Baha’i to Philosophy and Zoroastrianism. This subject knowledge is underpinned by the academic rigour of the Culham St. Gabriel’s Trust.
- NATRE: The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education. Whilst you may not have heard of the Association, you may well have seen their excellent magazine REToday. NATRE have released FREE Home Learning packs, which are sorted by Key Stage. They also have an extensive resource library.
- BibleGateway: Whilst there are many places to read the Bible online, I find their Add Parallel tool invaluable. This allows you to put two or more different Bible translations side-by-side. For my primary age readers, I pair the NIRV and Easy-to-Read (ERV) translations. This helps children to read an older translation without losing the meaning of a verse by reaching for a dictionary every other word.
- Radio 4’s History of Ideas: helpful for starting a philosophical lesson, these short clips from the radio show have been put to animations and can be found on Youtube.
What can I do as a parent?
So, what can parents do to support learning at home?
Be there to talk.
RE lessons often have lots of time for children to talk with their partner or table about ideas. In RE we are not expected to have the answers, just well explained ideas. Some concepts have been debated for thousands of years with no absolute answer. This is one of the times as a parent you can be pleased to not have the all the answers, just your ideas and experiences.
Encourage your child to explain their thinking. Why do you think that? What evidence can you take from the Torah/Bible/Quran to support your idea?
If the learning is centred on a religious text, you may well find you are using the same questions and approaches you would when reflecting on any other book with your child.
In these uncertain times, taking a moment to pause, think and reflect is good for the mind and the soul. You do not need to be religious to find RE an interesting and engaging subject.
Children are filled with wonder and curiosity about the world: as teachers and parents we can help them to continue to explore their questions and ideas whilst at home.