Until I sit down with a few of my fellow Catholic educators and write the Canon of Catholic RE (or even a whole school curriculum), we are working hard in my school to right wrongs about what our students do and don’t know.
For a year, with a lot of debate and discussion, I have worked on a list of 100 words that I wanted all of Year 7 to know. There are 75 essentials, and 25 advanced words.
With a little hesitation about how people would perceive the task (“How does this get them excited about RE in secondary school?”), I included my task in the transition booklet alongside English, Maths and Science. Actually most people seemed to think it was a great idea!
For each word, students had to self evaluate:
- I recognise this word
- I understand this word
- I can accurately use this word in a sentence
They then had to write, 'My own definition'. This was just one sentence, of original material, that needed to fit in a concise box.
The expectation was that each student would have at least 75 definitions at the start of Year 7 that they could refer to, learn and be tested on. They would feel more confident about RE, and we'd be able to move faster in lessons.
However, the main aim was to close the gap that exists in Year 7 in a Catholic school. We have some devout families who would be fluent in this vocabulary (and therefore knowledge), while others will join from non-Catholic schools, and be from non-Catholic, perhaps non-Christian families. It is important to recognise the bewilderment a young Hindu, Muslim or Skih has when the teacher starts talking about the Creed, praying the Rosary, attending Mass and celebrating the Sacraments.
Additionally, the religious vocabulary (religious literacy some would suggest) does not link to other data. Scaled scores and SATS results mean little; a student in our higher sets could be struggling in RE, while one in a set with less able students may excel in RE. It’s why our department data sometimes looks odd.
We then decided that actually, we have put a lot of work into this, and we do need to ensure all students in Key Stage 3 have this vocabulary. As such, all students in Key Stage 3 now have their booklet and Year 8 and 9 will be completing over the next few weeks.
The students seem to really like it. We’ve had a lot of positive comments, and they really see the value of it. Many are excited about it - especially about mastering the advanced words!
We will be testing these words at least weekly. 5 a week... and I’ve agreed 4/5 as the pass mark for Year 9. This can't just be a task, it has to end up as a long term learning exercise.
Students really do enjoy knowing things and learning things, and improving their vocabulary, regardless of their own faith position or background, is vital. It may be we look at having different lists / booklets for them to work on in different year groups. GCSE already have their own...
The list is always up for review, even after a year of reviewing, so keep suggestions for improvements and modifications coming in...
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