A thread on our subject’s Facebook page SAVE RE posed this very question earlier in the week. Suggestions included: do something on ultimate questions, guess the artefact, write your characteristics e.g. ‘If I were a car I would be…’ and more. In the past I have also taken a similar approach and done an introduction to RS on Thunks and a lesson on famous religious people and some famous things they’ve said. I’ve never been happy with either in that the aim seemed to be just to get them to do something ‘fun’ and ‘engaging’ rather than something academic and meaningful.
This year I took a different approach. I had 25-30 minutes with a group of year 6 students and in the back of my mind was that this could well be their first ever lesson with a specialist teacher of RE with a Theology degree. So why not challenge them, assess their religious literacy and get them to really think?
The slides for the lesson are below but I’ll take you through how the lesson went.
The first four slides are pictures of the same story and the students had to try and work out what the story was. The first picture is by William Blake and the second by Caravaggio. Why not introduce these great artists to year 6 on their induction day? Why not tell them that ancient Biblical texts have inspired some of the greatest artists in history? One student put his hand up at picture three and said Cain and Abel, which was wrong. Then another brave soul got the right answer. I asked how many in the group had heard of the story? Under a third.
We then went over the pictures again and looked for some of the key images: ram, knife, angel etc. and discussed their potential significance.
I then read the story from the front (Good News Translation) pausing occasionally to throw in questions like: How was Isaac feeling? Did the servants know what was happening? Was God talking only to Abraham or did Isaac hear the voice too?
We then discussed the following questions. I would have liked them to have written their answers down but we did not have enough time.
- In 5 bullet points explain the story (think carefully – what is the key information?)
- If Abraham had killed his son as told to by God would this have been the right thing to do? Why?
Which of these statements do you most agree with? (YOU MUST EXPLAIN WHY)
- This story shows that if you have faith then God will provide what you need
- This story shows that God is all powerful
- This story shows that God is sometimes wrong
- This story shows that religious stories can have a dark side
Some of the students told me it was the first time they had ever read a religious text in this detail and been asked to critically analyse its subtext and meaning.
We finished by looking at Wilfred Owen’s Parable of the Old Man and the Young which for me is his greatest poem. A couple of students had heard of Owen and only one already knew the poem and could work out how it linked to the lesson.
So there you have it. An actual transfer day lesson in RS that aims to develop religious literacy and isn’t about ‘thinking skills’ and introspection. We did that all in 25 minutes. I told the class that at secondary school they would have access to teachers who were experts in their field. Teachers who want to share their passion for their subject, in my case the academic study of religion, with their classes. I hope you’ll think I was successful. I’d be interested in your thoughts?