RE is still associated with the recall of information. Mark Williamson welcomes a focus on skills.
If teachers were asked to make a list of subjects which were skill- rather than knowledge-based, it would be surprising to find religious education at the top of many lists.
Despite the work that has been done in recent years on identifying and defining the skills that are specific to the study of religion, the subject is still largely associated with the recall of information and the understanding of texts. These packs reinforce this work in a practical way by giving teachers ready-made activities designed to develop particular skills, such as the ability to draw meaning from artefacts and symbolism, to reflect on ultimate questions and beliefs and to explain concepts, rituals and practices.
The packs accompany both the core and foundation editions of the popular key stage 3 series Discovering Religions, and the skills on which the activities are based are those derived from the SCAA model syllabuses which have heavily influenced the series as a whole. Each activity, which takes the form of a traditional photocopiable worksheet, is designed to develop specific skills from the SCAA inventory.
Recording and reporting are assisted by an at-a-glance matrix, which would also be useful for planning purposes.
Not all the activities involve writing. Non-liturgical worship is approached through a meditation exercise, and contemporary Judaism through a class debate in which the views of both Orthodox and Reform Jews are presented. Other tasks range from a relatively challenging comparison between the Hindu understanding of God and the Christian concept of God as Trinity, to simple copying exercises.
Colouring-in activities have been mercifully avoided and labelling is sparingly used, and more often than not "things to do" are more accurately "things to write".
All teachers will find activities in these packs that they will want to use in what are usually mixed-ability situations, and the strong link between the activities and progression in skills should make the monumental task of report writing in this subject just a little easier.
Mark Williamson is adviser in religious education and humanities for theLondon borough of Hounslow