Top ways to embed RE in your classroom
Many teachers would agree that some subjects are easier to embed in the classroom than others. Walking into a classroom, you are likely to see evidence of literacy and Maths learning, Science and foundation subjects. But some, such as Religious Education, can be tricker to embed in the same way.
We have put together some top tips and ideas on how you can effectively embed RE in your classroom with some simple changes.
Classroom displays and practices
Firstly, create an RE display. This could be using a display board, or even on a table tucked in a corner. Engage children in designing a display board linked to the RE theme you are teaching at the time. This could even be given to a different group of children (LKS2/UKS2) every half term to keep the display board updated. You might also like to include a small table displaying books and religious artefacts related to the theme/religion. A big question box is also a great addition to an RE display. Wrap a simple shoe box in wrapping paper and cut a post hole, supply slips of paper that children can write big questions on to do with what they are learning about and how it links to their own experiences. These questions can be discussed at the end of the day or saved for a dedicated lesson.
Religious prayer is a time for reflection. Another way to embed RE in your classroom is to introduce a time each day where children are able to reflect, whether it be on their learning, how they are feeling or something that happened that day.
This could become part of your daily routine. You might even like to link this to a daily question based on a religious story. These could be provided or thought of by the children.
Linking to other subject areas
Rather than RE being a stand-alone subject, try to create links across other subjects to embed the learning further. Some examples you might like to try:
- Geography - link learning about different countries to popular religions, e.g. the most popular religion in the UK is Christianity closely followed by Islam.
- History - comparing Ancient religions to modern religions and how they have evolved and changed.
- English - sharing and comparing different stories from other religions. Why not use one as your guided reading focus?
- Maths - link religious stories in word problems such as calculating how much fish and bread we would need to feed 5000 children.
- Science - when children are learning about animals and life cycles, link this to beliefs about animals in other religions - such as animal symbolism in Hinduism.
- Link religious values to school values.
There are often two strands of objectives in RE - learning about religion and learning from religion. Being able to compare children’s learning to their own experiences is an important skill when learning about other religions.
What does it mean to learn ‘from’ religion?
By the end of KS1 children should be able to talk about and suggest meanings behind different beliefs and practices, including some religious and moral stories as well as being able to express their own ideas and opinions. As children come to the end of KS2 they are expected to build on this learning by being able to reflect and respond to the significance of the meanings of these beliefs and practices in addition to expressing their view on why having a faith may be valuable (within this, understanding that those with no faith also have a belief system).
So how can we encourage this in our classrooms? Here are a few ideas:
- Display key questions around the classroom to encourage children to link their own experiences with learning, such as: How do you feel about this? Can you think of connections between these values and your own? What can you learn from this? How might you apply this to your own life?
- Embed language in the classroom such as: ‘I agree because…’’ ‘I disagree because…’ ‘In my opinion…’ ‘I feel ___ because’ This language can be applied to many different learning opportunities, including Philosophy for Children lessons.
- Create a display with key learning from that term's religious focus and engage children in displaying how we can learn from these values in our lives.
Celebrate religious days
It is important to consider the diversity in your classroom and celebrate a wide range of religious celebrations with the children. Some of these could include:
- Islamic festivals such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Ramadan
- Holidays from Christianity such as Christmas and Easter
- Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi
- Hanukkah and other religious celebrations from the Jewish faith
Of course, recognising children in your classroom who believe in different religions can help you plan to celebrate these religious days, but you might also like to acknowledge lesser-known religious festivals such as Raksha Bandhan and Bodhi Day.