Saturday, 6 December 2014

RS Question of the Week - Can You Commit a Crime Against Someone Before They're Born?

Photo: BBC

This week's question of the week is taken from the sad story of a seven-year-old girl born with severe brain damage after her mother drank up to eight cans of strong lager and half a bottle of vodka per day while pregnant.

Three judges ruled that she was not entitled to criminal damages under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as the damage she undoubtedly suffered was inflicted while she was a foetus, not while she was a person: UK law only recognises crimes against persons.

The key questions I've been discussing with my students are:
  • Can you commit a crime against somebody before they are born?
  • At what point does a foetus become a person?

You can download a poster for this week's question here, and a pdf of a Daily Mirror story (yes, I know) about the case here.

Monday, 24 November 2014

RS Question of the Week - Music to Die For

This week's Questions of the Week come from the news that Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life has become the most popular song at British funerals.

The questions I've asked around this are:
  • Why do people choose music for their own funeral, when they won't be around to hear it?
  • Which song would you choose for your own funeral and why? 

You can download the posters for the QOTW to use in your own classroom here.

My choice would be Otis Redding's Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay, with Nirvana's cover Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam on standby for any encores. What would you choose?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

RS Question of the Week - Ched Evans

Recently, I've been sticking a few questions up in and on the door to my classroom to prompt a bit of discussion and give me an extra starter task if I need it. This week, I've used the Ched Evans news story as the basis for the questions.

The questions and the story prompted some really good contributions from some of my Year 10 and 11 students, and I was pleased that they were keen to share their thoughts (and their own questions) without me having to prompt them. In fact, one of my students brought along a question from one of her friends, who I don't even teach!

The questions I used were:
  1. Do all criminals deserve a second chance?
  2. Does it matter if they haven’t apologised for their crime?
  3. Should criminals be allowed to work in jobs where they could earn £1000s every week?
  4. What is a "role model", and why do we expect sports starts to act as role models?
If you want to use the questions in your own classroom, you can download the poster here.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

New AFL Teaching Toy

I've been thinking recently about how to improve my assessment, and particularly how to make sure that students have actually done something with the scrawly bits of purple ink I leave on their work, rather than just looking at the grade and filing the rest under "sooo not bothered"!
I picked up some ideas from this excellent blog post on marking, and now have a new system:
  1. When students complete their work, I get them to peer assess each other's work (where possible), writing comments in green ink.
  2. I then take in the work and add my marks and comments in purple ink.
  3. Once I've handed it back, the students are then given a specific prep task to add improvements or corrections based on my what went well/even better if comments. They do this using red ink.
  4. Finally I check these corrections, and if I think they've done enough to go up a grade, they get a purple stamp using my new toy, fresh from Amazon.
I also record the improved grade in my mark book, and it counts towards their term grades.

I've only been using the green-purple-red-purple system for a couple of weeks, but my AS class have responded to it very positively. I'm sure the offer of an improved grade helps! It's been an excellent way of starting a dialogue with students about how they think they've improved and where there might still be gaps in their understanding: for example, today I've realised that one EAL student is confusing a "thesis statement" in an essay with an "atheist statement". Definitely something I will now spend some time clearing up next lesson.

I'd be keen to hear any thoughts on my new system, or what systems you have worked for you in your marking and AFL?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Euthanasia - A Few More Resources Added

I've added a few more resources on euthanasia to the Religion and Contemporary Society Resource Page. Added since last time are some worksheets on the sanctity of life and Christian views on euthanasia, plus supporting video and web links. I'll hopefully get the rest of the unit, plus an outline scheme of work posted up in the next week.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Euthanasia Lessons

I've been meaning for a while to start to post some materials and lessons related to the Religion in Contemporary Society AS module for WJEC, with a view to (eventually) building up a fairly comprehensive set of resources to support teaching the whole unit.

Things get in the way (as they do), so I've not made much progress towards so far, but the first couple of lessons on euthanasia, plus an introduction to RICS, are now up. You can find them on the Religion in Contemporary Society Resource Page.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Form Critical Crafting

My budget doesn't stretch to pearls

My Year 12s were looking at form criticism today, and the idea that the gospels are selections and arrangements of pre-existing chunks of oral tradition. I thought it might be fun to test their understanding with a spot of crafting inspired by Schmidt's "pearls on a string" analogy and my junior school "making stuff out of dry pasta" days. 

The students examined two chapters from Matthew's gospel and turned their analysis of the different gospel forms they found into a pasta necklace, with each colour representing a different form. In the necklace in the photo, the six red pieces are parables, the green piece is a pronouncement story, yellow is a "tale", and the brown pieces are miracle stories.

Next year I might tinker with the activity, not least by using dyed pasta rather hastily-coloured-in-with-markers pasta, but overall I think the results are quite pretty!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Level Results Day

Good luck, congratulations, or commiserations to students (and teachers!) receiving A Level results today. I'm quite happy with the Dukies results, and it's always good to see where hard work has paid off.

Next stop GCSE results!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

I Don't Think I Even Want To Read Your Book Anymore...

I started reading Robin Lane Fox's biography of Alexander the Great yesterday. The first paragraph contained this nugget of wisdom:
"The Greeks, correctly, saw neither danger nor distaste in a liason with a niece."

Er... Yuk!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

First World Perks

I love those times when you've bought so much stuff off Amazon that something arrives and you genuinely have no idea what it is. This has just arrived and it could be anything!

It's like the elves have sent you an extra Christmas present.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

From Science 2.0 "Scientists Discover that Atheists Might Not Exist".

One of the more interesting aspects of the secularisation debate is the difficulty of explaining why in countries like the UK, levels of religious belief seem to remain relatively high, even though levels of active religious participation are apparently in terminal decline.

This article from the website Science 2.0 suggests that religious patterns of thinking might be hard-wired into our brain. It's well worth a read.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Matrix Jesus Bingo

My Year 12s are currently studying the A2 topic on Religion and Film, and we've just started looking at the theme of religious ideas in film, using the Wachowskis' The Matrix.

I've put together this little game to help my students spot some of the many Neo/Jesus parallels between The Matrix and the gospels.

Created at
Usual bingo rules apply: students tick off each parallel on their card when they spot it on screen. Instead of calling "house", the winner has to shout out "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"

Incidentally, I was surprised to find out that only one of my students has actually seen The Matrix before, and most of them seem to think that a film made in 1999 is  virtually prehistoric.

This makes me feel very old.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

BBC Article on Biblical Films

My Year 12 class has recently started their A2 course, looking at the topic of Religion and Film.

This BBC article explores the history and continuing popularity of Biblical films.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Complete Incomplete PowerPoint on Life, Death, and Beyond

I've been gradually putting together this PowerPoint for the AQA's synoptic unit on Life, Death and Beyond.

It's still not complete: One of the four topics is missing and I've not quite had chance to add in some extra notes I've got in other places, but students studying the unit might find it useful for revision ahead of their exam on Thursday.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

2014 Religion Philosophy & Ethics Essay Competition

Photo credit:

If you're missing Religious Studies after your exams, then the University of Gloucestershire's 2014 Religion, Philosophy and Ethics Essay Competition might be for you.

The competition is open to AS and A2 students in the UK, and the winner will receive an iPad. All you have to do is write 1500 words on one of the following titles:

1)  What is the proper role of religion in a modern, secular, society?
2)  If you had a time machine, would it be wrong to travel back and kill Hitler?
3)  Does science give us an accurate picture of "how the world is"?

Easy peasy, eh?

Even if you don't win, entering competitions like this one is an excellent way of developing your writing skills, and preparing you for the deeper research and reading required at degree level study (and that good universities will look for in UCAS statements).

You can find out more here. The deadline for entries is 24th October 2014.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

RS Honours Board Classroom Display

Outside my classroom I've put up a display board that celebrates some of the successes that students have had in the department over recent years, including GCSE pass rates, A*/A grades, and students who went on to study RS or Philosophy at University.

I think it's worked nicely as a talking point for students and recognition of their hard work, and as way to promote the department to prospective students and parents. A couple of other departments have used it as a template for their displays... although our Maths department has forgotten to remove the religiousy praying figure background, which raises a grin every time I walk past it!

I've uploaded it here (with names of my students changed, of course) for other RS teachers to use and adapt. 

I hope you find it useful. If so, you might also like my Celebs Who Studied RS posters.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Spooner Strikes Again

So today in RS, I discovered that when you're teaching about culling and hunting, you have to be very careful not to get those words jumbled up!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dawkins: Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life on 4oD

In my Year 13 A level class, we're currently studying the AQA synoptic unit on Life, Death and Beyond.

4oD is showing Richard Dawkins' series Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life, which is useful for thinking about atheist responses to ultimate questions. Dawkins is always watchable, even if his tendency to cherry pick his evidence occasionally becomes annoying. The series is available free on 4oD, though you have to register first. Each episode is worth watching if you are studying or teaching the synoptic unit.

Episode 1 considers why we should act morally if there is no God watching us.

Episode 2 explores what science can tell us about death.

Episode 3 asks if there is a purpose to life in a Universe governed by the blind forces of nature.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Features of Fundamentalism Mnemonic

Mnemonics are ways of remembering complex chunks information by linking them to simpler or more memorable words, phrases or images. If, like me, you learned the points of the compass through the phrase "Never Eat Shredded Wheat", that's a good example of a simple mnemonic.
Below is an acrostic mnemonic I've come up with to help remember and revise some of the key features of religious fundamentalism:

If you've already studied fundamentalism, then most of these should be fairly familiar, but if you're not, then here's a brief explanation of each feature:

Science - Rejection of scientific views when they conflict with sacred texts. However, many fundamentalists have made effective use of modern technology to promote their message.
Elect - The view held by some fundamentalists that they are part of a spiritual elite, chosen by God for a particular mission. In some cases, this may justify violence.
Patriarchy - The view that men and women have different roles, with women subordinate to men. In fundamentalist groups this is seen as being ordered by God, not the product of culture or history.
Authoritarian - Blind obedience to authority, as opposed to individual freedom and conscience. This may involve obedience to the teachings of a religious text or a religious leader.
Reaction Against Modernity - Fundamentalism is seen as being a reaction against the modern world. Fundamentalists view themselves as being distinct from, and separate to, modern secular society.
Apocalyptic - The view that we are living in the last days, and that the world as we know it will shortly be brought to a sudden end.
Texts - Belief that a sacred text is inerrant (contains no errors). Fundamentalists hold that their sacred texts are literally true, and are hostile towards attempts at historical or literary criticism of them.
Ethically Conservative - The moral commandments of religious texts are seen as being binding for all time. In practice, this tends to lead to a conservative moral position, for example opposing homosexuality.
Dualism - Dividing the world into clear categories of good and evil, right and wrong, "with us" and "against us". There is little room for ambiguity or grey areas in fundamentalist thinking.

Some of the above might be open for debate, and some scholars might include other characteristics, but if you can use the SEPARATED mnemonic to remember these characteristics, and can explain and give an example of each, you should be well on your way to getting a decent grade in a Part A question on the features of fundamentalism.  
I've also put together a short PowerPoint that (if you're a teacher) you could incorporate into a revision lesson.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Christian Ethics: AQA "A" Spec Revision Workbook and Checklist

I've come across a workbook I put together for the AQA A Specification  GCSE unit on Christian Ethics. I no longer teach the A spec (and to be honest I completely forgot that I'd made the workbook), but somebody out there might it useful.

Looking through the workbook, it's mostly made up of candidate sample answers for peer assessment, plus some past paper questions and a set of key facts to learn.

There also a revision checklist for four of the six topics in the GCSE (I might have put it together for mocks rather than the final exams), which might also be of some use.

You can download the checklist here and the workbook here via google docs.

I am, of course, still hunting for the Year 12 revision booklet I was actually looking for when I found them...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Life After Death Revision Checklist

Photo credit

I've put together a revision checklist/topic self assessment for the AQA unit on Body, Soul, and Personal Identity. You can download it from Google Docs here.

If you're revising for your GCSEs or A levels right now (and if you're following these tips on how to get an A, then you should be!), using checklists can help you identify the areas you need to target in your revision, and avoid the temptation to simply go over the parts of a topic you're already most comfortable with.

I've put together checklists for most of the AQA GCSE and A level syllabuses for RS. If you'd like any others for particular topics, then please post a comment below.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Farsi Beyond Driven - Iranian Heavy Metal

Photo Credit: Danesh Sarouie

The BBC World Service's Freedom Songs programme profiles Iranian metal musicians and the challenges they face in a country where women are banned from singing in public, and rock music is seen by the authorities as Satanic. You can listen via iPlayer here.

If you got the pun in the post title, it's worth a listen!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Life, Death and Beyond - Draft Scheme of Work

I've put together a rough draft of a scheme of work for the AQA A2 synoptic unit on Life, Death, and Beyond, which I'm teaching for the first time this year. It's something of a hybrid, using the AQA Spec, a WJEC textbook, and a template scheme I nabbed from OCR!

If you teach the synoptic unit, then like me you might find the lack of resources and schemes of work a bit of a headache. Any suggestions on how to improve the SOW (or extra resources to include) would be much appreciated! You can download the scheme of work from here.

Edit: If you found this resource useful, you might also be interested in this not quite complete PowerPoint on Life, Death, and Beyond.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Body, Soul, and Personal Identity Revision Games

Photo credit / runrunrun

Owing to popular demand (i.e. one person), I've created some "Articulate" and Keyword Pairs revision games for the AQA A2 Body, Soul, and Personal Identity topic. The definitions are taken or adapted from the Jordan, Lockyer, and Tate official AQA textbook.

You can download the games from here if you have a TES account, or from here via Google Docs.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Evangelical Students Running (or Ruining) Courses?

An interesting article article about the impact that evangelical Christians are having in Religion departments in an era of increasingly student influence:

Teaching religion: my students are trying to run my course

Via the Put RE back into the English Baccalaureate facebook group.