Assembly point - Sleight of hand or magic

21st November 2008 at 00:00
Use a few clever tricks to get your pupils thinking about spirituality, says Angela Hindle

A little bit of magic, a fair amount of deviousness and a lot of panache help create an assembly for pupils to reflect on their spiritual dimension. They enter the hall to the song "Do you believe in Magic?" by The Lovin' Spoonful.

Ask as many pupils as time permits to write the name of any child or member of staff on a piece of paper and then get them to put it into the A4 envelope that you are holding out to them. What they don't know is that you have created an inner divide. As their hand reaches out to put their paper in, the only option you offer them is the side you have left open.

Ask them to consider that our brains are too limited to explain everything. Things aren't always what they seem, you can say. "I'm now going to get one of you to draw a name from the envelope."

Briefly explain what the pupils completing the slips were asked to do. The volunteer pupil can only put their hand into the other side of the divided envelope where you have placed lots of slips of paper all inscribed with the same name - of the member of staff or pupil whom you have previously hidden.

"I am now going to conjure up the person whose name you have drawn from the envelope," you declare. Amazement fills the hall as the person appears. It's your choice where from - a suitcase, chest, from behind a screen or box suitably prepared with air holes.

"All I ask from you in today's assembly is that you reflect for a few minutes as I play the next piece of music, 'The Great Pretender' by Queen."

This is an assembly aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds and the thought you want them to reflect upon is: "Can we trust the judgments of our minds? Should we use our intellect or our spirit or soul to look for a god? Just because we can't see a god or soul, does it mean they don't exist?"

Play the music and say: "For my next trick I need 20 pupils." As hands rise, go down the aisle choosing at random. Lead them on to the stage where they stand in a circle. Give them a small bouncy ball.

As you leave the hall, out of earshot (let them choose somebody to accompany you to check you don't spy) tell pupils that you want them to throw the ball around the circle. Ask one of them to press play on the CD player and another to press stop after two minutes ("Heaven for Everyone" by Queen). Whoever is holding the ball when the music stops must place it in their hands behind their back. Ask pupils to then stand in a line with their hands behind their backs.

You return to the hall and get each pupil to announce their name while you look at your plant, a member of staff in the audience, or a pupil you can trust. As the ball holder announces their name your plant scratches their nose, straightens their tie, or whatever your pre-arranged signal is.

When all 20 have given their names, announce who has the ball and listen to the gasps of amazement. "Can we always rely on logic to explain things?" you ask.

As pupils leave the hall, continue with the theme of magic by giving each child a duplicated playing card with the thought of the day written on it for them to ponder, such as: "Hope is searching for what faith has already discovered."

Angela Hindle is subject leader for RE at Selby High School in North Yorkshire.

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