St Michael’s CE Primary Heywood, Lancashire
I currently teach a Year 6 class at St Michael’s and have been the RE Coordinator for nine years. After discussion with the Head Teacher, I decided to make Spirituality the focus for my research. The main aim of the research was to identify different ways in which to address spirituality within RE, enabling children to have time to reflect on their learning and also experience ‘quiet times’ to consider and act upon their own emotions and thoughts. I included an aspect of ‘reflection’ in each weekly RE lesson for 6 weeks. The length of the reflection varied dependent on the activity and how it directly linked to the lesson. Sometimes the reflection was 5 minutes at the end of the session; on other occasions it was the main focus and lasted for the whole lesson.
What did you do?
I used a range of activities, including: music, slideshows, meditations, guided circle time and also experimented with different foci, such as candles, singing bowls, water and pictures. The majority of the activities were successful and the children seemed to enjoy them: they were all willing to trying something new and responded openly in each session.
The classroom set up was very important. I had to think carefully as to whether furniture had to be moved, the allocation of additional staff and ensuring that the children felt safe and reassured at all times and under no pressure to share personal thoughts and feelings unless they wished to do so.
One of the activities had a big impact on the children. For the lead up to SATs and looking forward to the transition to high school, we did a reflection on any worries or concerns that the children had. We looked at the ‘calming of the storm’, discussed the symbolism behind the gospel story and how Christians believe that Jesus can ‘calm the storms’ in people’s lives today. Whilst listening to, ‘Be Still and know that I am God’, the children wrote anonymously any worries they had on post-its. They then had a choice of telling people their concerns (or keeping them private) while they placed a vitamin tablet in a bowl of water and watched their ‘worries’ fizz away and disappear. The bowl and tablets were then placed in the class reflective area for the children to use whenever they felt the need. The children’s responses to the activity were amazing! The session was a huge success and the ‘worries’ bowl remained in use for several weeks longer than planned.
What did you find?
In my opinion, this study has shown a definite benefit to the use of reflective time within RE lessons. It has enabled pupils to:
- develop their own spirituality within a safe and secure environment
- develop their speaking and listening skills, particularly when justifying opinions and listening to others
- be willing to challenge and question
- improve their confidence and believing in themselves.
In this study I focused on RE-based reflections but the skills that can be practised and honed within RE would also be beneficial to all aspects of learning across the whole curriculum.
What difference has it made to your practice?
My initial response to including the reflections within each RE lesson was positive. I felt that the children enjoyed them and also enjoyed the experience of learning and sharing within a ‘different’ setting. Whether it is beneficial to include a time for reflection in every lesson is debatable. I feel that it would depend entirely upon the topic area being covered as to whether it would be necessary. I do not believe in using a reflection for the sake of it – this would make it onerous for the teacher to find a reflection for each lesson and also make the reflection sessions a part of everyday practice. I do, however, think the reflections had an impact on the children’s learning, emotionally and physically as well as developing their own understanding of the topics. I would include the reflections within my own practice next year but I would choose to do them when I felt they would be the most beneficial to the children.