We were welcomed to Haslingden High School by Sally Finney who is the director of teacher training at the school. Then Ben Wood, the Head of RE and Vice Chair of NATRE met us and explained the day.
The first class we observed was a Year 12 class.
Welcomed the class as ladies and gentlemen,
Homework collected in.
Revision questions – as part of the routine. Worked in silence. Numbers are 1,7, 13, 25, 30
Targeted questions by name, can you give me more? Still want a bit more. Did allow others to help fill out the answer….
Work is a continuation, looking at Augustine’s teaching. Last two this week, following on from Prior learning.
Students begin by reading through a source sheet (holes already punched for easy insertion into folders), making notes and drawing to a conclusion.
Students work informally in groups, to put the sources into for or against columns. Ben circulates and is called on by some for help. He is able to ask challenging questions and is clearly expert. He observes what some students are writing, and challenges some to write in more depth or ensure their conclusions are firmly evidenced. He is trying to get them to think beyond the obvious answers. Having already taught the knowledge in previous lessons he is helping to prepare for exam essay questions by debating.
When students have completed their work, they move on to the second question independently. The atmosphere is relaxed with a buzz of on-task chatter.
Work is not completed, so this will be returned to next lesson. Homework is to do 17 revision questions on body, mind and soul.
Ben then explains to us that at A level he is not interested in opinions which are short term, and easily changed. He is interested in conclusions based on evidence.
He outlined our task which is to read about Wittgenstein and language games and think about how they would teach the Year 13 lesson later. We did this, enjoying some breakfast pastries and struggled with both the subject content, and how we would present it to a Year 13 class.
Next we watched Ben actually teach it. As with the Year 12 class, the lesson started with 5 revision questions from the selection the students had done for homework which they first handed in. They have a short amount of time to do this on their own in silence, and they are given a one minute warning. These answers are shared, Ben selects a students to say their answer and rewords the correct answers to emphasise correct terminology. He further questions incorrect or incomplete answers.
The last two questions about Heaven, hell and purgatory being symbols or metaphors directly relates to today’s lesson. Ben begins with a mindmap on the board asking students prior knowledge of Wittgenstein. He uses the two Ideas they remember to draw out the difference between logical positivist, and Wittgensteinl’s later view. He asks if Wiggenstein can be described as a cognitive st or a non-cognivist.
He turns to the prepared information sheet. He stresses that the meaning of a word depends on its use. Words have no fixed meaning. Using Wittgenstein’s chess analogy he shows that meanin depends upon context.Students add to the printed notes.
He compares chess and football are different games and therefore have different rules. In the same way religious language has different rules from other forms of language. This means that the criticisms of the verification principle are irrelevant for the language game of religion.
To illustrate the key term lebensform, the students discussed ‘offside’ in football, rugby and driving, and then the changing meaning of ‘literally’. The understanding of this concept is enhanced and developed by discussion; students are free to answer or ask questions as they wish.
The lesson then turns to reading and interpreting a quote form D. Z. Phillips, suggesting that ‘eternal life’ has a meaning other than an infinite extension of living after death. Pupils are asked to write a paragraph exemplifying this idea. Ben offered help and challenge to students who requested it, or who he noticed needed help.
At the end of the lesson, students were given another set of revision questions to work on at home.
We then had lunch and then spent an hour discussing the theory of how to teach A Level RS.