Seeing is believing
Good RE teaching involves visiting places of worship. However, not everything you want to see will be accessible, and in any case there may not be time or opportunity for proper study and explanation. That means you need to bring ideas and objects into the classroom, to substitute for visits that are too difficult, and to prepare for, and follow up, the visits that you do manage to make.
For example, it's a great advantage to have religious objects in your classroom, where you can respectfully handle them and talk about them. The long-established specialist when it comes to providing artefacts is Articles of Faith, run by people with a professional backround in RE teaching, who know what's needed and where to find it. They have packs of materials for each of the main religions - prayer shawls, seder plates, "Five Ks" of Sikhism - all the items you'll be telling your children about.
There's also a special collection for early years. All of the objects are beautiful to look at, and will give children an idea of the link between spirituality and loving craftsmanship.
Sometimes, though, it's a picture that's needed. If that's so, then it ought to be a good one. The charts and posters from Pictorial Charts Educational Trust (PCET) are always excellent, researched by experts and beautifully produced. There are several RE titles including two interesting Religions of the World resources - primary and secondary - that consider how each of the six major faiths uses sound to express their beliefs.
There's an accompanying CD and a book. Also in the business of charts and artefacts is the Festival Shop, an enterprising and helpful business based in Birmingham, run by people who know the subject.
For books and photocopiables for all age groups, and big books for younger children, it's well worth looking at the Religious and Moral Education Press. Their newest materials are the extensive Biblos curriculum resources, for primary and secondary, that explore various aspects of the Bible - for example, how different people in the Bible encounter God. There are pupil books and teacher books. We've mentioned some new software for RE on page 31. Among established titles are the long running and excellent products from Granada Learning Exploring World Religions for Primary and early key stage 3, covering the six major religions studied at that level, and Aspects of Religion for Secondary which adds Shinto and Confucianism to make eight. Both look at places of worship, holy books and beliefs and, importantly, both place emphasis on the views and thoughts of real people, including children, from the faith communities.
There's a different sort of approach from Birchfield, which has a wide range of RE software, including a Places of Worship series, on double CD-Rom - one with the information, and the other with the virtual tools for children to make a multi-media presentations.
Finally, for general professional help, it's worth looking at RE Today.
That's the title of a professional magazine, but really it's much more than that. There's lots of added value in terms of consultancy, speakers, courses and resources. The emphasis is on helping the teacher, and among the books in their catalogue are A Teacher's Handbook of Religious Education and A to Z: Active Learning Strategies. Although its parent is the organisation Christian Education (formerly Christian Education Movement), it's committed to the teaching of the major world faiths.
Articles of Faith Stand PV54B
Birchfield Stand SW32
The Festival Shop Stand PV135
Granada Learning Stand PV2
Pictorial Charts Educational Trust Stand PV100
Religious and Moral Education Press Stand PV170
RE Today Stand PV196