You’re used to differentiation in the classroom, but how can this apply to your assembly plans? It’s not just about learning, it’s about encounter…
What allows children to be able to access worship and feel welcome and included? In the classroom you might think of this in terms of making sure every child has the best possible opportunity to learn in a way that makes sense to them – for worship, it isn’t just about learning – it is also about encounter. We are welcoming children into a space where they might think, discover and reflect on who they are and on the transcendent – a sense of being in the presence of God.
That can sometimes be a difficult thing to achieve in collective worship. Especially when you consider the different stages – it’s like teaching Maths in Year 2 and teaching Maths for SATS in Year 6, the different Key Stages need different approaches to help everyone get the most out of worship. KS1 and KS2 aren’t the same so why treat them like that?
Here are a few ideas for when you plan your next assembly:
Is your content clear? Do your words paint pictures that make sense to the children? Are you using concrete language as much as possible with KS1 children; if – essentially – delivering the same content to KS2 are you including more abstract thought and imagery to make your points? The key here is not to “dumb down” worship, but to apply some of the principals that we might when teaching in the classroom – what are aims and objectives – it is good to have high expectations.
What media are you using – if words are being shown on a screen on a PowerPoint, are they accessible to all with an easy to read font and a background that compliments the text? If you are showing a video are there flashing images? Loud noises? Songs? It is often helpful to ex-plain to the children where you are going, what you will talk about and show – then do it just that – and then recap. This gives you three times make sure the theme is clear.
3. Learning Environment
Anything larger than a class of children and we have a different learning environment than usual. The space is different – much larger than a classroom. The temperature might be different – this might seem a small thing, but if children have walked from a warm classroom and entered a chilly hall it will have an impact! Often halls have large windows, if you are using screens and it is a sunny day is your projector bulb bright enough to deal with that or do you need to pull screens or curtains across the windows. Plan in advance and think about any changes you might need to make to the environment.
4. Mystery and Wonder
Having a clear plan with your content – aims and objectives – is one thing, but when we come to worship there is also mystery and wonder. In worship we invite the presence of God. As we remember what God has done, is doing and will do – we enter a holy mystery. Albert Einstein says, “The Important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” In our worship is there space for what we cannot explain? For open questions with no easy answers? Is there space to wonder? There is a difference between being clear with what we say and explaining everything. Children are exploring and questioning – collective worship is about giving them the space to do that for themselves, without being too prescriptive.
Finally, although you have gathered for a time of collective worship – in our worship it is good to acknowledge that our lives are to be worship. How we think, speak and act towards others in our daily school lives in response to our time of worship. What simple “Take Aways” can you leave for the children? What clues might you leave them with that lead to further discovery? Something to explore in the classroom? Images related to the theme of the week on the walls of the corridors? Part of enabling the worship of students (and staff) is to create a “walk around faith”. A sense that – although collective worship is an act – it points to the kind of community and ethos you want to see embedded in the whole school.
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This blog was written by Ali Campbell from The Resource. Ali is an experienced educational practitioner and advisor on collective worship to the church of England and community schools. He is experienced in training head teachers and clergy in delivering fun and engaging assemblies. Ali is also one of Big Start Assemblies contributors, helping develop a large number of the walkthrough scripts. The Resource is full of ideas resources for those working with children and young people.