Once, just before Easter, I was visiting a primary school during assembly when the sound of an old song wafted down the corridor: "Sing hosanna, sing hosanna, sing hosanna to the King of kings."
I groaned. Despite its catchy tune, "Give me oil in my lamp" is a pretty meaningless lyric. But this time, it sounded different. I put my head round the door to see these words on the projector:
Jesus rode down the hill on a donkey.
Someone shouted "Here comes our King!"
All the people ran out waving branches.
Very happy, they began to sing. Sing hosanna, sing hosanna (chorus continues)
Jesus sat with His friends having supper.
Then He blessed both the wine and bread,
Saying, "Do this each time you are able,
To remember everything I've said." (chorus)
Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday.
Only Mary and John stood near.
For the rest of His friends had fled frightened,
Hiding secretly away in fear. (chorus)
Jesus came back to life on the Sunday.
Now His friends laughed and smiled once more.
For He told them He would not forget them,
But would be with them for evermore. (chorus)
My mind started racing. These updated words brilliantly summarised the Easter story for children in four short verses. What is more, the chorus now actually made sense. The head explained that a local church organist had tried to think of a coherent way for the Easter story to be passed on to children and had shared the results with nearby schools. His words were finding new audiences, but he had also crafted a rather useful lesson resource.
Using his lyrics, pupils could be set a range of tasks, such as summarising each verse in seven words or fewer, or annotating a set of the lyrics with simple drawings conveying the message of the words. They could discuss which lines might be left out without disturbing the narrative flow, or they could study the original Easter story to work out what events had been included or omitted by the author, and to what purpose.
They could consider what key Christian beliefs or traditions were being celebrated, or devise the most interesting or challenging questions that might be asked about the story. They could even write another verse describing what happened next, at Pentecost. A lot of good RE can be delivered by exploring the workings of a sacred song.
As I left the school, I wondered at the way this simple gift was taking on a life of its own. There are worse symbols for Easter.
Chris Hudson works for Barnabas in Schools (part of the charity BRF), which supports, encourages and equips primary schools for teaching about Christianity as part of the RE syllabus. www.barnabasinschools.org.uk
Break with tradition and get your class singing along to redheadmusic's spirited Easter song, Hey! Here Comes Jesus. bit.lyHereComesJesus
A chatterbox activity shared by chris1962 is an engaging way to help children learn more about the people and events connected with Easter.