Prior to starting their first placement, PGCE trainees attended a professionalism conference at one of our partnership schools, Cowley International College in St Helens. Led by the fantastic PM Sue Reed, trainees considered what it means to be professional and chatted with the Principle and Vice-Principle about issues such as social media, attendance and professional expectations. They got to meet the ‘RE ambassadors’ from year 10 and get some inside information on what they think makes a good RE lesson before speaking to ex-Edge Hill alumni about surviving your PGCE and NQT year. A lovely end to a very intense 3 weeks! Thanks Cowley!
Year 1 Undergraduates at Edge Hill study a module on Islam and as part of that spend a day in the Muslim community in Preston. One of the Year 1 students, Katie, reflected on the day.
We began the day with a talk about the aims of the day, and identifying what we already know, and what we would like to have found out by the end of the day. Everyone was so warm and inviting, I felt really comfortable asking questions, knowing that I would get a thorough response that would help me in my Islam module in university.
The highlight of the day for me, was crossing the road to Preston Muslim High School for Girls and being able to speak to actual students about Islam. I felt that speaking to a ‘normal’ person as opposed to someone who was extremely educated allowed me to identify basic points on which to develop my knowledge. All the girls I spoke to were really polite and answered any questions I had to the best of their abilities.
I also really enjoyed visiting the local Mosque and being able to sit and observe one of the daily prayers. It was such an amazing experience seeing a community come together to pray as one. It was also a good chance to see the diversity of Muslims that were in one small area. Their style of dress tended to show their heritage, and our speaker and guide was able to tell us where they were from based on their clothes.
After the prayer was finished, the Imam came to speak to us and answer anymore questions we had. He told us a little bit about what is was like for a child in Islam, and how they can attend a madrassa to help them learn more about Islam. The whole session was extremely informative and useful for me, as I am in the middle of writing my Islam assignment about Salah (the five daily prayers).
We were also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to observe a man perform Wudu – the ritual cleansing and purifying a Muslim must do before praying. Again, this was more useful information to use in my assignment, as well as just being really interesting to witness.
All in all, the trip was really eye-opening, and gave a great insight into Islam as both a religion, but also as how it is a way of life for its followers. It was such a worthwhile trip, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go on it!
As part of their Creative Medium Term Planning Module Year 2 Undergraduates work in groups to plan a small Scheme of Work. We then go into a local school and deliver the scheme – in one day – to year 8 pupils. One of the undergraduates, Joe, reflected on the day.
First I would like to thank those involved who placed their trust in us and made it possible for our class to go into the year 8 classroom and present our scheme of work regarding Judaism.
A few months ago we were tasked with completing a group scheme of work that we would teach to year 8 students who had no or limited knowledge of Judaism. Our key focus within our group during the process of planning was the Shoah and thanks to our lectures, visitors and class trips we gained knowledge regarding how the subject should be approached when teaching. Some key points what our group focused on were the promotion of shared values before moving onto the idea of focusing on an individual story during the Shoah that would allow the students to connect more with the material when considering understanding and empathy.
Basic outline of scheme:
Basic beliefs and practices and shared values
Diversity within Judaism / challenging anti-Semitism
Shoah 1933 – 1945
Shoah part two
We hoped this scheme would first provide the students with the basics, before allowing them to explore the diversity within Judaism to challenge and negative stereotypes and myths. Next we would connect this to the idea that the Nazi Party rose to power presenting negative stereotypes and myths regarding Judaism and this is why it important to recognise and challenge these ideas. Finally we would enable to students to evaluate the importance of the previous lessons and why it is important to remember past events.
So….. How did it go I hear you ask?
Well on arrival as you can see from some of our faces, the plan changed a little. The lessons we had planned would have to be adapted, since there was a high possibility students would not necessarily be the same for each lesson. Straight away this created a problem since each of us planned to be teaching the same students one scheme of work allowing the lesson to flow and connect learning from each. Even though, this was a shock and essentially a problem it was also a blessing in disguise, because it made each of us revise our initial planning on the spot and adapt it were necessary, which we were assured sometimes can and will happen in school.
However the day overall was a success each of us gained valuable experience and confidence before beginning upon our Year 2 Placement.
A few things that went well and key lessons learnt for the future:
Preparation is key.
Making sure the student had the equipment and things as simple as pens and paper are essential in order to complete the tasks is essential. From my first placement I was advised always put every little thing on the lesson plan and make sure this is ready and available. This advice ensured each lesson during the day ran smoothly and the students began starter tasks as soon as they walked through the door. I observed and helped as a teaching assistant in one lesson and there was no paper in the classroom and this resulted in the lesson getting off to a rocky start and it was difficult to gain control of the class again. This was simply down to lack of organisation, since when teaching the same pupils in the next lesson, on arrival I had a starter task on the board and individual sheets laid out and they began straight away and it was like a completely different class. Therefore, an organised start with a stimulating starter task is essential, you have to keep them busy and give them no time to wait.
Talk Time/ Activity Time.
I admit sometimes I want to say so much I need to consider the balance between me talking and the pupils doing activities. However, there was only really one lesson were I felt I had to do this more and it was the introduction to the Shoah I wanted to give them a good understanding of the events that during 1933-1939. A way that I found effective to do this without the students switching off to me droning on was to give them a work sheet with information boxes with blanks to fill and arrows which they had to follow in connection with the slides. This worked well and all the pupils seemed engaged and completed the sheet whilst asking questions. This was evident since sadly I did make a mistake in one box and the students picked up on it straight away, therefore they had to have been listening. To get around this I told them that it was a test to make sure they were listening, I think most believed me.
I understand that my questioning techniques need improving when trying to engage a full class discussion, however throughout the day the discussion generally went well and comment were made by teachers who said certain pupils who don’t generally get involved were engaged and participated.
Overall I believe the day was a success for all of us, we all survived a full day of teaching and for me personally a key observation was that the second they walk through the door if your starter task is stimulating and organised you are off to a winner.
We arrived on a snowy day in Salford, at Harrop Fold School. Miranda Rathmell, the school’s SENCO met us and explained a little of the school’s background: there are around 100 children on the SEN register, with 16 of those having an Educational Health and Care Plan. There are a large number of pupils who are in receipt of free school meals: 69%.
We did a quiz in SEN acronyms, and learnt that what used to be called a statement is now called a Educational Health and Care Plan. We then tried to match some conditions with descriptions of difficulties. Miranda discussed how the school ‘expands the parameters of what’s normal’ to accommodate pupils learning needs, such as pupils with Autism, or with Operational Defiance Disorder.
Miranda then gave us some more input about the policies surrounding SEN, and some of the types of support that schools can give, before thinking about how we as teachers can make text easier to read. We were then given case studies and asked how we might as class teachers differentiate a lesson to support these pupils .
After a buffet lunch, Miranda spoke about how her career had progressed from her time at Edge Hill, work as an RE teacher, to being SENCO at Harrop Fold. She described how to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and challenging Year 7 pupils, the school had created a special group. We were then invited to think a little more deeply about ADHD. This is often co-morbid with other difficulties, can lead to challenging behaviour. It was stressed that all behaviour is communication.
We finished with a tour of the school including the link room, the behaviour room, the SEN office and the Student development team. This was a great day in school and all students are now better equipped to understand SEN on their first school placement in May.
Final year students spent a day at Carmel College, a large Sixth Form College that Edge Hill works with, to find out more about teaching A level RS, and what life is like in a Sixth Form College, including the compulsory Ethics and Values lessons for all students.
The day began with us being privileged to join in the staff briefing. This was quite unlike briefings in Schools, and much more like a school assembly. It was held in the college theatre and led by the College Principal. Sarah gave a ‘Thought for the day’ and there were a number of other announcements about events going on, special services and some encouraging words about ensuring that teaching staff are not working too much, with the mantra #50isplently suggesting that a working week of 50 hours (including time at college and working time at home) is a maximum.
We then observed Sarah teaching an A level Buddhism class and were surprised that it began with a period of silent reading after which the students were invited to talk briefly about what they had read and what they had learnt.
There was then a key word test on 12 Buddhist terms. These were then peer marked and scores recorded. Students were to work on the terms that they did not know.
Students were then reminded about an upcoming file check and guided as to what was expected.
Next was a kahoot quiz testing how well the students had engaged with their prescribed reading from last lesson which had been posted on the students’ VLE. Sarah was able to use the answers to set relevant homework questions in the future.
There followed a discussion about hagiography in the texts of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and then groupwork on the hagiography of the four watches of the Buddha. At the end students were given a practice question to do at home. The students have a WhatsApp group chat which they shared the question.
After a break in the staffroom we had a tour of the college, meeting the pastoral tutor team and Foundation provision, where post 16 students with learning difficulties are educated in a practical way, with some vocational courses. We also got to see the canteen, the chaplaincy and the whole college.
Sarah then talked about some of the differences between a school sixth form and a sixth form college. She highlighted the way hat the college is trying to develop in their students a ‘Carmel Mindset’, trying to develop independent learners who make progress towards high achievement at A level, based on the VESPA model.
Nathan, a former graduate of our course, then talked about how to survive the NQT year. Some students were pleasantly surprised that it was possible to do the NQT year in a Sixth Form College. He also had some wise advice about not taking the ‘reputation’ of a school too seriously, as sometimes a school with a bad reputation can be a great school to teach, or do a placement in.
After lunch we got to observe and take part in more lessons. In the A2 class there were over 20 students who were working on the philosophy paper. The lesson began by students selecting a lollipop stick that had a philosophical question on it to discuss. Glen then took in the essays that students had completed over the weekend and then introduced students to the Westphal essay. As part of this we were able to contribute brief sections on scholasticism and deism. In Lexy’s AS Philosophy class we helped the students reconnect with the learning they had been doing focussing on Hulme’s criticisms of the teleological argument. Whilst in Glen’s AS RE lesson we gave brief overviews of the three central Buddhist concepts of dukkha, anicca, and anatta. It was interesting to see how he used the material of the subject content about the social setting of the Buddha to teach the academic skill of note taking in a cohesive way.
We were also able to observe and take part in the Ethics &Values lessons, which are compulsory core RE lessons which all students at the College take part in. Nathan was teaching issues involved in IVF, whilst Heather was asking pupils to think about the ethics of France’s burka ban.
“Really Useful in terms of seeing how sixth formers are taught”
You can see more photos from the day on Flickr.
“It made the idea of teaching in a college not as daunting”
Third year Undergraduate QTS students have been regular visitors to Deanery High school for a number of years. The main purpose of the visit is to fins out about teaching A level in a school sixth form, but over the years we have added more features to get the best out of the day.
This year’s trip began with a tour of the school, including the sixth form centre and the portable buildings that the school is temporarily housed in whist a new building is constructed on the same site. Taco – who did his PGCE with Edge Hill a number of years ago and is now Head of department, then spoke to us about the joys of teaching a level. He explained that it was very similar to teaching Key Stage 4, but that teachers tried to encourage the development of independent learning skills as part of their preparation for University.
We could see all this in action as we observed Taco teach his year 13 students – and we got to have a try ourselves! We were very impresed with the quality of the student’s presentations – they were a clever bunch!
The RE department at Deanery is almost totally staffed by former Edge Hill people and we got to observe four simultaneous Year 11 revision lessons taking place at the same time. It was brilliant to see the same thing taught so differently, but in all cases taught very well!
Finally the day was rounded off by Leanne giving us some helpful advice about applications and how to avoid some common pitfalls when applying for jobs.
“I thought the interview advice was very useful”
Our final year Secondary RE undergraduates are are a fantastic group of students and their three year degree has prepared them to teach high school pupils of all ages and abilities. Recently they had chance to show off their skills when a group of pupils from Savio High School’s Bosco Unit visited Edge Hill for a morning of questioning RE.
The Edge Hill students had worked in groups to plan and prepare for three sessions each focussing on enquiring into a a big question.
The first topic was ‘Does God Exist?’ which included a Philosophy for Children (P4C) styled activity examining an image on the board of the Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign and an Auschwitz inmates’ photo. Each pupil had to then choose a question they would ask in response to images presented, and finally (as a group) choose one of their questions to lead the enquiry. By allowing the pupils to take responsibility for this task ensured that they were engaged and made the task feel more relevant to them. By planning a task which focused on pupil led learning with an emphasis on discussing/debating ensured that behaviour was managed effectively as they had something to do at all times. This task produced excellent prior knowledge and discussions regarding the images on the board which contributed to the pupil’s opinions on the lesson focus of whether God really exists.
The second session was helping pupils to think about how people make the ‘right’ decisions, including a real dilemma for the pupils to grapple with as they began to get an understanding of Situation ethics. Pupils were able to articulate their answers and acknowledge other points of view.
Finally we looked at what it means to be religious in the 21st century, thinking about everything from Scientology to Roman Catholicism.
The pupils were superb and engaged with the questions in a mature way, and left us looking forward to a lunch in the hub! One of the students reflected on the morning, noting the well mannered behaviour and attitudes of all pupils present. He wondered if this was mainly down to the change of learning environment that the pupils were able to experience, which shows how this could be an effective tool in managing/helping pupils.
Our Year 1 Undergraduates visited a Primary school recently to deliver a day on Diwali as part of their Hindu Dharma Unit. Here is what one of them, Amy, wrote about the experience:
We then rehearsed the play of Diwali that we had been practicing in class for about half an hour. Soon after the pupils came in we preformed our play which taught the pupils about where the festival Diwali came from and why Hindu’s celebrate it. The play went smoothly and the pupils had engaged in the play by saying things such as ‘boo’ and ‘aww’, they laughed along as well, showing that they were happy and engaged in the play and clearly took things away with them. This was a great experience that I and the pupils really enjoyed.
Later on after wet play, which is when the weather is to bad to go out for play time, I helped them to clean up the classroom before we started the lesson. The lesson which had been planned by me and Hailey was about Brahman the one Hindu God and the festivals in which Hindu people celebrate their God. The lesson started by giving the students a piece of A5 paper and told them to write the most important thing in the world to them, then they screwed it up like a snowball and threw it to the front to us.
We then read it out loud and discussed what they had written, and said our most important thing to us. We then went through the Trimurti of Brahman; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. We then gave the pupils a body template on which they had to create their own Hindu God, what they would be like as a Hindu God. Most of the things that the pupils drew, included things such as a clown as they wanted to make many people laugh and happy all over the world, some of them were the peace keepers which they told me they had based on Vishnu and other people were God’s that made it so that there was a disco everyday. The pupils had a good laugh and we were able to properly interact with the pupils, find out more about them. They then presented their own to the class if they wanted to, which most of them did. We then went through the festivals which celebrate the God’s and then related them to their own Gods that they have previously created. we then did a fill the gaps plenary where the children answered the questions that related to the whole lesson that helped us to understand what they struggled with and what they were good at. When we showed the children a video that was a nursery rhyme for Diwali that had been translated into English. The pupils really enjoyed the short video as a treat at the end of their lesson.
The lesson seemed to go much smoothly than expected with Primary school children, the only hard bit was getting the video to work after a bit. I really enjoyed the experience, however I definitely realized that secondary school is for me and not primary, however I enjoyed teaching Hinduism so much and can’t wait to teach it more in the future.
You can read more from Amy’s blog here: https://amshepherdblog.wordpress.com/
Final year Undergraduate students recently spent a Day in Deanery High School in Wigan. Renya has blogged about the visit:
It was an interesting day as there were many things to learn whilst we were there.
First we watched an A level lesson with Taco Michiels, the Head of RE and a former Edge Hill RE PGCE student, about the cosmological argument. Taco got us all involved and we had to write down what we know about the cosmological/causation argument. It was interesting to see how he used a silent debate to encourage students to contribute. It was also useful as it showed me that I have gaps in my knowledge when it comes to Philosophy and Ethics. Whilst I am preparing for my next placement I will update my knowledge of Philosophy and Ethics. I learnt that the A level is much more rigorous and difficult to teach as it is very vague in the way that the exams are marked.
Applications and Interviews
Leanne Turner, Assistant Head and former Associate Tutor in RE at Edge Hill then spoke to us about some common mistakes that people make when applying for RE jobs, as well as giving us some tips for interview days. I now feel much more prepared to start applying for an RE teacher job, when I see one that I want.
Over lunch some of the pupils in Key Stage 4 talked to us about how they enjoy being part of the Archbishop of York’s Leadership Award Programme. It was interesting to hear how this citizenship scheme could be a useful way of getting pupils more involved in the life of the RE department.
Being a Church of England School
After lunch the chaplain of the school spoke to us about the challenges of being a faith school. The chaplain’s role within the school is a pastoral role. He takes care of the emotional needs of staff and students. He explained that this is not necessarily done from a Christian perspective but through giving advice from his own experience.
The school has a weekly Eucharist service in which every pupil takes part. The chaplain said that he feels that is important to educate the pupils on the meaning of the Eucharist as he feels that some pupils are disinterested and he would like to see them treat the weekly service as a special event.
It was fascinating to see how the support network works in the school. The chaplain showed that the school really cares for its students’ and staff-members’ wellbeing and mental health. I was very impressed with the level of support The Deanery has.
Teaching A Level
To finish off the day, Taco talked about the joys of teaching A level. He enjoys the small classes, and the way that he can make the teaching very flexible to meet the needs of the students. A levels are a blend of giving students the knowledge and skills to be able to pass the exam and be prepared for University. We also discussed the
Overall it was a very productive and interesting day at The Deanery, I learnt some useful things and was able to understand the way a faith school operates.
Year one Secondary RE with QTS Undergraduates had an opportunity, as part of their work on Hindu Dharma, to go into a local Primary School and get their first taste of teaching. Feliciity wrote this in her blog:
We were introduced as ‘The teachers from Edge Hill’ today, we officially became teachers!
I don’t think I could have possibly been more nervous on the drive to the school we were going to, the awful rain and bad traffic didn’t help though. Upon arrival we signed in and got our lanyards to say who we were shown to the staff room where we gathered ourselves, prepared for our assembly and got our lesson plans finalised with our groups.
Then came the assembly on Diwali. From all the practices we had in class, I felt we were doomed from the start, oh how wrong I was! We all laughed together and performed the story of Diwali so well, I could not have been more proud of everyone, we really pulled through as a class and *hopefully* the children enjoyed our performance, especially a blue faced Shannon as Rama and a Monty Python homage from Joe as Sita.
Then came the actual teaching…
In our separate groups we were led to our classroom, where we were about to meet what can only be described as the most lovely, well behaved Year 6 children. To start with we planned a game of Hindu God themed Top Trumps, something I had enjoyed from our first lesson, and the children took to the game so well. I went round all the tables asking the children which God was their favourite and why, with some choosing those represented in our play of Diwali. 3,2,1 and they were silent, tidying up the cards back into the envelopes to listen to the PowerPoint presentation, in turns we began to go through the slides, deviating to ask questions and add in more information. The stop at slide 7 of 14 wasn’t in the plan but if someone else in a group deviates from the plan, you go with it! With the groups they were sat in, we gave each table a body length strip of paper to draw around a nominated child to create a version of a Hindu God that they worked together to draw, name and paint. Walking round and talking to the children was such an experience:
I actually felt like a real teacher!
The children listened and responded so well, with some taking aspects of Gods like Ganesh and Matsya to create their God. I spoke with some children about Holi Day and how Hindus throw bright colours at each other in celebration to help them be as colourful and creative as they wanted. We also spoke more of other different aspects of Hinduism as they were fascinated, I really believe they took in and actually learnt something. The plenary was the final slide and we asked the children questions on Hinduism, Samsara, Karma (which they gave us real life scenarios from their own lives to show their understanding) and Aum. Our final part of the lesson was a small video from My Life, My Religion: Hinduism by BBC2 which shows a brother and sister aged 11-14 showing a glimpse into Hinduism in a child friendly way. Of course the link on the presentation didn’t work, but what would a lesson plan be without some failings and whist it was fixed we spoke about what the childrens’ Gods would be protectors of. Thankfully YouTube gave us our video but we had to show from the beginning of the half an hour programme rather than the selected clip, but I rate this video highly as it is children explain their religion, highlighting key terms and showing it in its real life experience; my life, my religion is also available for other religions too – I highly recommend viewing.
The most valuable thing to take away from today apart from the amazing first teaching experience was how this one morning brought our Undergraduate class closer together, the next day it felt like we all knew each other that bit better, enough where we went from sitting in small groups, to sitting and laughing together.
A huge thank you to MA and Mrs JA for providing this opportunity and experience.
You can read more of Felicity’s blog posts here