Using workbooks in a multi-age classroom

Student workbooks are an important part of AN SRE lesson, HELPING Students reflect on their learning

Student workbooks are an important part of AN SRE lesson, HELPING Students reflect on their learning

Student workbooks are an important part of an SRE lesson, providing students with the opportunity to reflect on what they have been learning during the lesson. With careful planning, student workbooks can be used just as effectively in a multi-age classroom as in a regular SRE classroom. To get the most out of them, it is important to spend some time at the beginning of each term making an overall term plan.

For example, this year I am team teaching a multi-age SRE class with students from Year 1 to Year 6. There will be 25 children, two teachers and one big room. I will be using Connect curriculum, and there are three things I need to do before I get started:

Read the introduction

Look at the introduction to the Term 1 lessons in the Upper Primary, Lower Primary and Infants books. In the B series, all the lessons are built around the big idea that “Jesus is God’s powerful Son who fulfils God’s promises” and the question, "Who is Jesus?". This makes planning easy for me because I am able to gather ideas from all the Teacher’s Manuals as I plan for my multi-age class.

Work out which lessons to use

There are 10 lessons that it would be great to teach in Term 1. But because SRE is starting late, we will not be able to use all 10 lessons. So I need to choose three lessons that I won’t teach. I do this by reading through the lesson titles, Bible passages and aims for each of the lessons. The Teacher’s Manuals also have helpful suggestions for adjusting the number of lessons in the term. This is most commonly an issue in Term 1 because we always start a few weeks into term. But I find I usually lose one or two lessons from every term due to school events, so it is always important to do this task.

Work out how best to use the student workbooks

With the big plan for the term in place, I must now decide how to make the best use of the student workbooks. There are two main ways that I have used them in the past:

  • Each student works from the student workbook of their level.

  • Each student uses the Lower Primary student workbook.

Here's how each of those methods works:

Each student works from the student workbook of their level

Using the student books in this way takes a bit of thought before each lesson. It is easiest when there is an SRE helper in the room but can be done with only one SRE teacher. Before the lesson you need to:

Identify any activities that need to be done during the early part of the lesson. For example in the Lower Primary B1 Lesson 3, students write information about four clues. This information could be written on large versions of the clue cards during the lesson. Lower Primary students would then copy the words into their book when they were at their desks. Even though some of the students would not be copying the words, the activity would still be beneficial for the whole class.

Identify the activities that can be done alone and the activities that need more teacher guidance.

Encourage your older students to work as helpers for the younger students

Prepare any support material to help students complete their student workbooks. For example, it is sometimes helpful to photocopy a large version of the page to show the students, or project a copy of the page on the interactive white board. This helps students to know the order in which you want them to complete their books.

When it is time to use the Student Workbooks in the lesson you need to:

  • Organise the students to sit in their year groups so that you can work with one group at a time.

  • Hand out the books; an older student can help you with this task.

Wait for all students to be quiet and explain one activity for each level of student workbook. After you have explained the first activity for each year group, they can start working. I usually start with the youngest students, but may change if there are older students who find it difficult to wait their turn.

For example if you were teaching B1 Lesson 3 you could direct students to do the following:

  • Infants students colour in the pictures from the story.

  • Lower Primary students fill in the missing vowels in the Bible verse and complete the four clues cards.

  • Upper Primary students find the words in the word find and then read the comic version of the Bible story. Older students who finish early can also help the younger students.

This then gives you time to move around to each of the year groups and provide guidance for completing additional tasks.

Every student uses the Lower Primary student workbook

This is the method I used last year and will do again this year. I buy a Lower Primary student workbook for every student and teach primarily from the Lower Primary Teacher’s Manual. My theory is that it is the best starting place because it sits in the middle of the ability level of the students. In addition, I buy an Infants Student Workbook for each student in Year 1 or Year 2; and I buy an Upper Primary Student Workbook for the students in Year 5 or Year 6. This does require buying a few extra copies but as my class is only quite small I don’t mind doing this.

I also buy each student a scrapbook and staple a piece of paper on the inside of the back sleeve of the scrapbook where the Lower Primary student workbook can be stored. Each week all students start by completing the page from the Lower Primary student workbook. If I think it will be too difficult for the younger students, I select a few activities from the Infants student workbook for them to do as well. I can also use the Upper Primary student workbook for extension activities for the older students. Sometimes I pair up an older and younger student to work together on the Lower Primary student workbook.

I find the scrapbooks very helpful. They mean that every student has access to extra paper which I occasionally make use of during the lesson. For example I might ask students to work in mixed age groups to brainstorm ideas in their books about something we are talking about, or a student can keep score if we play a game. Students can also use the scrap books to:

  • Create a title page for the term’s lessons

  • Draw something from the lesson

  • Write a sentence about what they are learning

  • Glue in an additional picture

  • Do the additional activities as suggested in the Teacher’s Manual

  • Write out the memory verse.

These ideas have worked well for me as I teach in a multi-age classroom. I hope they will be helpful to you as you prepare your classes this year.