Getting the most out of visits to places of worship- KS1 & KS2
As an RE teacher, I love visiting places of worship but what I enjoy even more is taking the children that I teach to them. A visit to a place of worship can be a rich experience that sits at the heart of good RE: challenging, inspiring, and thought provoking-a feast for the senses and an event full of enjoyment that can be the springboard for so much rich learning. Having experienced intense, anti-religious sentiments from some parents, it made me even more determined to ensure that colleagues were supported in planning and delivering these rich experiences that help tackle fear and misunderstanding. Even the youngest of our pupils can get so much out of a visit to a sacred space and the effort that you put in is well worth the gains. Here are some ways of getting the most of your visit to a place of worship:
Plan ahead Look at your long and medium-term plan and identify the best units of work for using a visit to support the learning. It should be part of a carefully planned sequence of learning with opportunities for reflection and response to the ‘hands-on’ experience that a visit brings.
Focus Ensure your visit has a clear focus. In the same way that we treat other visits linked to subject areas or topics, we should ensure that the visit has a clear focus on what you intend the pupils to get out of it. This focus will also be different for each year group to ensure progression and linking to that all-important medium-term plan.
Preparation Prepare the children for the visit. Posing and eliciting some questions prior to the visit will hopefully inspire the children to visit with an open and questioning mind. Pupils will get more out of the visit if they know what it is they are looking for and hoping to learn about. It will also give them a chance to come up with more meaningful and relevant questions while they are there.
Support Ensure all adults who will be accompanying you know what the focus of the visit is and have some key background information on the faith that is being explored. Places of worship often have suggested dress codes so ensure the staff are aware of these to save any embarrassment on the day. As ratios are higher with Key Stage 1 and early years, it is often common practice to borrow teaching assistants from other year groups or to enlist the support of parent helpers; if they know what the focus of the visit is, then they can help support learning more effectively.
Build on the new links you have made or the existing links you have strengthened with local faith communities. They are a wealth of help and support when teaching RE. Places of worship come alive when used and faith members are usually more than happy to share their own experience of their lived faith and how they practice what they believe. Use this opportunity to invite them to school to continue what you started on the visit.
Revisit-Whenever it fits into your long and medium-term plan, take the opportunity to revisit and build on the learning. Children need this to ensure new learning sticks and to begin to make those all-important links! The most powerful thing I have witnessed in school is when a faith member became a regular at school-whether through their visits to the school or through visits the children had made to their place of worship that year or in the previous year. It helped the children to see that faith and faith member as not ‘other, but as just another friend and part of their community who they could have an open dialogue with and learn from one another.
Visits done well will keep building on the children’s understanding of the range of faiths and cultures that compromise our society and how they, and themselves, fit within it. See them as an integral part of good RE and an essential way of breaking down some of the barriers that exist within our communities. By removing the unknown and making them welcoming and accessible not separate and ‘other’.
Visit the NATRE website for relevant resources:
Julie Childs, Primary teacher and RE, SMSC, PSHE, and RSE lead at Utterby Primary Academy, Lincolnshire, and Regional ambassador for East Midlands. @JulieChilds12