I have a confession…I am not a specialist in RE.
Despite having the desire to become a nun at 7 and looking awesome in black, the path I chose was to teach English. Teaching English in America gave me the freedom to be creative and a little bit self- indulgent because I was able to select literature that I loved and I thought would relate to the students. One of my lasting memories of teaching English in my homeland was a lesson where the students made paper glasses with red lenses to support our learning of the red room from Jane Eyre. When I moved to England and started teaching English, a teaching moment like that was few and far between. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was the curriculum? Gradually, I found my creative feet again and was able to establish myself as someone who was creative and carried the label of being creative.
Something was still missing. However, an opportunity came up for a leadership role in RE. I saw an opportunity for me to be able to make the type of difference which I felt couldn’t make in teaching English. Selfishly, I wanted to feel like I was making a contribution to something bigger. Eventually, I became a Curriculum Leader for RE and there was no looking back.
My role gave me the freedom to take risks. RE was not a priority for my school so I was left alone to develop RE over time. I created a brand of RE whose symbol was a buttertub which stated “I Can’t Believe it’s RE.” My brand of RE was not the subject students or staff thought it was, it was so much more. RE created an environment where students could raise philosophical questions, tackle those tough questions, learn independently and make progress.
Sometimes balancing the lessons where you break out the glitter with the drive to show progress is tough. However, I have told myself that I will continue to take risks and take the most boring content and give it the “I Can’t Believe it’s RE” effect(glitter optional). For example, exam feedback lessons are generally pretty boring for everyone involved. I set a challenge for myself which involved a duck clothes peg with a fairground target on it that I found in a store. How could I incorporate this into a feedback lesson whilst retaining my quirky, creative style of teaching whilst showing progress? My lesson was called Getting Your Ducks in a Row.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row:
Students used the AFL information to read through their own exam paper and the mark scheme to work out where you could improve for the future.
Once completed, students will move their duck on the clothesline according to how confident they are after the AFL evaluation activity.
1= I am not very confident in knowing why I have lost marks and knowing how to improve in the exam.
10=I am very confident in understanding why I have lost marks and know what I must do to improve in the exam.
Duck Soup: Part Two
Individually, the students highlighted the strengths of their answer.
The students shared strengths with their group.
I wanted this to be a bit of a bragging session for the students. This is an opportunity to take pride in their work and gain confidence in creating a dialogue about their learning.
As a group, they will compile the ingredients for an answer that would receive full marks.
Use the mark scheme, notes, the strengths of their own answers.
Groups are limited to five words and an unlimited amount of symbols/images. The group must be prepared to share the ingredients with the other members of the class.
It will be suggested that students take on a role:
Each person should take on a role.
A researcher- you use your notes to assist in finding ingredients to perfect an answer.
Mark Schemer- A mark scheme expert.
Artist- You are turning information from the group into a clever and creative way.
Gordon Ramsey- You are listening to the group and recording information for you to share with your group as well as other groups. You are a no nonsense type of role.
Hooked on Quack: Part Three
Students will visit each table of ingredients while making your own notes for improvement. However, they must do it quickly as you must relieve the person who stays behind.
Once the whole team has finished, they must quack to alert the group that you have finished and receive a prize for teamwork!
Students will be making notes for four exam questions.
Students will look at the learning objectives again and move their duck on the clothesline.
1=I am waiting for the mother ship for instructions.
10=I know what I need to do to improve and have a plan of how I will achieve my target.
Plenary: Students will assess the enjoyment, usefulness, challenge and learning of the lesson using coloured stickers. Students will place their stickers(with their initials on them so that I may see what I must do to improve in the next lesson) somewhere on the large target sheet(which is really a table cover). The sheet is divided into the three parts of the lesson: Getting your ducks in a row, Duck Soup, and Hooked on Quack.
Dirty Duck Home Learning: Students will take a question of their choice, use the information gathered from the lesson and improve their answer and submit for a grade.
Sure, the lesson is slightly weird. Yet, the lesson represents that after 18 years of teaching, I still look for inspiration and challenges to keep my teaching fresh whilst retaining the thrill of breaking out the metaphorical glitter and showing progress in RE.
Please see the following resource:
Maureen McDevitt is a former Curriculum Leader for RE and an Outstanding Teaching Coach currently teaching RE in a new secondary school.