EAL + Religion = ?

Last night I attended an induction evening for the new year 7 at my new school. It was brilliant to feel a part of the school and start working with the students and families.

One of the key issues we will face next year is high numbers of EAL (English as an Additional Language) students. We have been told to bear this in mind when planning our schemes of work.

I have worked in a school previously with high numbers of EAL and it was so vital that everything was tailor made to suit them in order for everyone to progress the amount that they should. Every child has potential, even if they struggle with the English Language initially (to be honest, I think I’m still struggling with it now). Every teacher is a teacher of literacy and I have to sync my RE agenda with that.

So, in my reflective mood last night I started to consider all of the ranting and rambling I have done about academia in RE and how this is going to work in my new school with such high numbers of EAL students. I have previously criticised Critical RE for this very reason.

EAL learners need visual aids and cultural context if they are going to access the work I am setting them. Suddenly, my vision of doing in depth exegesis is starting to fade. How am I going to get everyone engaged and understanding the deep theological issues that I wish to discuss with them in the classroom?

I have put together the bare bones of how I want my new curriculum to look. It is centred on a chronologically ordered in-depth study of the Abrahamic faiths. Followed by a shorter look into the Indian religions. The over-arching theme for me is ‘Religion’ and an actual study of religions.

I read this article just recently after somebody at a conference mentioned that Dawkin’s supported Biblical reading:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/may/19/richard-dawkins-king-james-bible

In particular this quote stood out to me; “religious education as a part of literary culture.” Is this what I want for religious education? I’m not sure at this point.

I think there will have to be an element of my teaching during which I approach the Bible as literacy and use the skills needed to read and comprehend to help enhance my students’ understanding of English. However, I will try to factor in their need to understand the cultural context as well as the theological in hope that I can still get them engaging with these texts academically.

I think that the Bible has great potential for EAL students and could actually help them more with their understanding of literacy (analogy, metaphor, etc.). I just need to find the most suitable way of transmitting this to them.

So essentially, I don’t have the answer to this yet but as my journey begins as the RE leader in my school and as I start to get to know my students better I will post more about whether or not my plans are working in practice.

Ideas welcome!

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