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Sounds as though you are encouraging an interest in what used to be termed ’empathy’. Jim
Children need a place where they can ask these big questions without fear of prejudice or fear of being wrong. I have often found that I need to really draw these questions out of pupils as they are worried about being wrong. I’ve tried telling them that many of the topics are subjective and in fact there is often no right or wrong.
Big questions are part of the SOW at the school I am working at and this is a really vital part of the SOW when considering the demographics of the students who attend. Although the school is CoE, it is based in a predominately Bengali community location thus, the school has around 98% Muslim intake. Prior to attending secondary school, religious education is briefly touched on at primary school but the main source of knowledge for these students is derived from family members and places of worship. Throwing ultimate/big questions at them firstly supports with building a picture of this wider concept of God and really hones in the attributes they associate with God. However, what it also does is, it allows them to realise that they have the opportunity ask questions and dwell in questions that they may not have been allowed to do so previously. It forms a foundation on which they can gain deeper and broader knowledge and understanding whilst being reflective and these are the key elements of a young person working towards being religion literate. It builds on tolerance, something that needs to be reinforced many times.
I really love an enquiry approach to RE but one where the children set their own questions. I see so many RE lessons where teachers set the focus and give the children questions that they don’t understand. We talk through the theme that we are going to look at with the children and encourage them to come up with their own key enquiry questions. Obviously there needs to be some teacher guidance with this and it needs to be handled carefully. Through this we alter our plans and then ask the children their own questions at the end of the unit to see if they can answer them.
Hiya Katie – I am new to the role of subject lead for RE in my primary school and am very excited to be given the opportunity to totally change how we deliver the content. I very much want to go down the route of children setting their own BIG question to explore (philosophy is a passion of mine), but have wondered how you prepare for that in advance, not knowing where the children will take it?
If, for example, I was to provide a Year 6 class with an image from the Holocaust and ask them to discuss the themes linked to it, how could I then guide them towards questions about the nature of God, for example?
Interesting thread here. We moved into Big Questions for our Schemes of Work a few years ago. We have had 2 changes of coordinator in 12 months now and the person who wrote the original Big Questions has now left our school. We have also had changes of staff and staff who deliver RE. As coordinator I am finding it hard to understand some of the questions when looking at the whole school overview of them. Difficult to change them as staff are drowning under an expected Ofsted visit. I know we could ‘tweak’ at end of year but the questions I feel are personal to the staff member delivering the curriculum and the children investigating them. I like the previous comment about children designing their own. I might bring this idea to a staff meeting at the end of the academic year when we reflect on my first full year as coordinator and the new assessments I have brought in. Thanks Justine for making me think!
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