Collective journeys

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Help, It's My Assembly! Spiritual Journeys for Everyone

By Hilary Broomfield and Brenda Webb Whurr Publishers pound;24.99

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Active Assemblies for Every Week

By Jenny Mosley and Ross Grogan

Positive Press pound;16.95

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The best assemblies are home made. They reflect the needs and concerns of a particular community. In an ideal world, well-prepared teachers would take it in turns to come up with something wise, witty and insightful every time. Only it's not an ideal world, which is why there's a booming market in assembly collections.

Help, It's My Assembly nicely sums up many teachers' attitude to the weekly chore, but in fact the book is by no means as hand to mouth as the title suggests. Part one takes a leisurely look at the spiritual and educational rationale behind assemblies and reflects on the implications of different learning styles. Anyone who's been on a few courses will have got this under their belt already. Part two takes 40 themes and - this is the cunning part - offers an instant and a prepared assembly for each theme.

And very good they are, particularly the instant ones that can be put on at a moment's notice. The themes cover the usual issues, such as change, anger and self-esteem, and there are links to stories from different faiths for those planning an act of collective worship rather than an assembly.

Jenny Mosley, the queen of circle time, has been running a series of ideas for assembly in Child Education for years. Now the best have been gathered together to form this collection. They're designed to develop the social and emotional aspects of learning - SEAL in the current jargon - and as such the focus is on personal development rather than religious or spiritual awareness. Their great strength is their clarity of focus.

It's all too easy to baffle children with a song, a story and a Big Think, connected by some tenuous link that exists only in the mind of the presenter. But this collection follows good teaching practice. Each assembly begins with a clearly stated learning objective, develops it in an interesting and child-friendly way, and restates it at the end. When children walk out of the assembly hall they know what they are supposed to be thinking about. And the activities are fun. Children go on a treasure hunt (how we can set out and achieve our goals) and make chocolate milk shakes (to demonstrate how ingredients - like talents - can be combined and shared).

Simple, accessible and imaginative, it's easy to see how they could be customised to provide that individual experience every school deserves.

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