Between theory and best practice

26th November 2004 at 00:00
Representing Religions

Edited by Lat Blaylock

RE Today Services, pound;12

Tel: 0121 472 4242

Reflections: Strategies to support spiritual and moral development

Second edition

Edited by Rosemary Rivett

RE Today Services, pound;12

A to Z, Practical

learning Strategies

to support spiritual

and moral development

Second edition

Edited by Joyce Mackley and Pamela Draycott, RE Today Services, pound;12

Developing Secondary RE:Questions about God

Edited by Rosemary Rivett, RE Today Services, pound;8.50

Picturing Jesus, Pack B

By Lat Blaylock, RE Today Services, pound;14


Questions of Truth, Developing Critical Thinking Skills in RE

By Susanna R Hookway

Religious Moral Education Press, pound;22.95

Tel: 01603 612914

www.scm-canterburypress. co.ukrmep.asp

Getting the subject matter of religions right in the classroom is always a worry for the conscientious RE teacher. Who can be expert in every religion they are called upon to teach? We can't pretend to, but I tell PGCE students to hang above their bed the inscription: "Could a member of the religion you're teaching recognise themselves in your classroom presentation?"

Representing Religions is a sponsored Professional Council for Religious Education project in which RE teachers from six world religions come to the rescue on this and explain how to share these religions in the classroom. Bob Jackson opens the book by arguing for a presentation of religions which doesn't reduce them to discrete belief systems but sees them as complex and changing organisms within cultures. Each teacher then introduces their religion and reflects on presenting it in RE. At the end Lat Blaylock extrapolates key issues for RE teachers. This book will be useful for PGCE students and also experienced teachers trying to gain confidence in those religions with which they are less familiar. The six to eight pages imposed on each religion by the length of the book can sometimes constrain the advice, but it is a good starter and confidence-booster.

Reflections offers a resource bank for reflective and participatory activities for RE or class-based collective worship. "Spiritual" and "moral" are defined as areas and multi-faith examples are offered for the different objects such as egg, clock, bell, mirror that are chosen as the bases for reflection. Six guided visualisations and three guided stories are included.

The A to Z collection to support spiritual and moral development will especially help student teachers and NQTs, not just in RE but more widely, with a set of activities and approaches to adapt to various issues they want to explore with children.

Questions about God takes differentiated activities on the theme into key stages 3 and 4. I liked "When the OfGod inspector calls" - what if the world were to be inspected by God? What various believers and sceptics say about God is presented along with God talk - use of the feminine and other issues. These three books are short, to-the-point resources, presented in an accessible format and are of help especially to the beginning teacher.

Picturing Jesus adds to the existing collection 16 new and sometimes striking images to help pupils explore their presuppositions and to see how culture impacts on how we think about Jesus. All the pictures except three are late 20th-century depictions. The reverse of each glossy colour picture asks questions and provides a brief subjective commentary on each picture.

Among the countries and cultures represented are Cameroon, China, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines and the UK. Detailed background notes and some pupil task sheets are provided in the 24 page booklet.

Susanna Hookway's work on thinking skills can be used across KS34, as her tasks are QCA Level-related. She supplies a method that teachers can adapt to other RE content. This book is based on school trials underpinned by the critical realist approach of Andrew Wright. It defines four stages in the teaching and learning process. These are "problematizing" - what an ugly word. It means identifying the key issue in regard to truth. Then follows "Mirrors", in which students are asked to look at themselves so as to understand their own view of truth. Next, "Windows" examines different approaches to truth. "Microscope" goes for detail and finally "Reflection" enables students to reconsider their answer to the key question and where they stand in the different approaches to truth. Active learning is espoused with clearly stated learning outcomes. The six key topics are Truth, Death, Jesus, Conflict (Jerusalem), Suffering and God.

Truth is presented in the three categories of Theistic, Secular and Post-modern and these are applied to each unit. This is strong stuff, just the sort that pupils should be engaged in, a far cry from the old descriptive days of RE, when religions were the nice "people next door" and Hinduism for example was merely saris and samosas. Whether other categories of truth - like pre-modern - should be included by this book is a big question. But if the new national framework for RE had had the insight to go for a single proactive attainment target, engaging with religions and other life stances, this book would have been the perfect back-up. The challenge now is for those currently involved in the centralisation of RE not just to get with best practice, but to get with best theory as well.

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