If you are a teacher who wants to help children

Slow down the pace Listen and wonder Make connections Be creative and imaginative Build community

Then Godly Play could be for you! Use it as a tool for

Religious education · Collective worship · Spiritual and Moral Development · PSHE · Citizenship · Emotional and social competence · Creativity

Godly Play provides an imaginative approach to religious education that …·

  • Promotes knowledge,skills empathy,values, spiritual growth.·
  • Develops the needs of the whole child: mind, body and spirit·
  • Provides a multisensory approach to learning·
  • Develops language and communication skills·
  • Gives everyone the opportunity to speak for themselves·
  • Develops thinking skills·
  • Provides depth and reflection in every session·
  • Gives time for learning·
  • Promotes originality, independent choice and decision making·
  • Uses visual, auditory and kinaesthetic approaches to learning

Creating a special time and place

Godly Play involves creating a special time and space in which children can encounter and engage with religious story. The teacher and the children create a circle that becomes a safe place for learning in which new ideas and experiences can be share. The pace of the lesson is slowed down to allow time to appreciate and explore the story in greater depth. Using a quiet voice creates a calm and reflective atmosphere.

Well designed materials

The materials used to tell Godly Play stories are well designed, simple and beautifully made many from different natural woods. The storyteller models the careful handling of the materials for the children. Keeping eyes on the materials and not having eye contact with the children may seem hard at first but by trusting the process the materials tell their own story and by focussing on the story the children’s attention is also drawn and held.

I wonder

When the story is finished re-engaging eye contact with the children invites response to the open question ‘I wonder’. The replies are endless as the children are encouraged to explore beyond the immediate responses – all responses are valued, and so begins an interplay of creative and imaginative thoughts and ideas.

Responding creatively

Following time in the circle the children are given a range of art materials to use to think more about the story and their response to it. This enables the wondering to continue helping them to think things through for themselves. This may involve painting, drawing, reading, using the computer or even retelling the story by using the materials for themselves. It is important to stand back and let the children explore their own ideas and to make meaning for themselves.

Beginnings and endings

Endings are as important as beginnings and by re gathering the children in the circle an opportunity is given for children to share their ideas or their work. Sharing simple food together becomes a feast and helps builds the sense of community.

Godly Play and the RE Syllabus

Godly Play is not an evangelistic tool, it encourages independent thinking and the sharing of ideas. It clearly meets the two attainment targets outlined in the locally agreed syllabus for R.E.

  • Learning about religion
  • Learning from religion
Godly Play offers the ideal environment for children to explore the Christian faith. Key stories from both the Old and New Testaments are introduced through the medium of storytelling, using artefacts that help the children focus and visually play out the story.
In tune with the question focussed approach to R.E. the use of reflective questions, are key to the ethos of Godly Play methodology. Following the story the open ended questions help the children to tease out the meaning and personal significance of the lesson. This is an atmosphere where all are valued and where sensitive listening to each other’s thoughts is of paramount importance.

Godly Play works with four genre –

  • The Sacred Stories – both Old Testament and New Testament
  • The Parables – the teachings of Jesus
  • The liturgical lessons – including the pattern of the church year, baptism, holy communion, festivals
  • Silence

Godly Play Lessons for Key Stage 1 may include:

  • Creation
  • The Great Flood
  • The Great Family – Abraham and Sarah
  • The Exodus (or one other OT story)
  • Advent
  • Holy Family
  • Epiphany
  • Baptism
  • The Good Shepherd and World Communion
  • Symbols of the Holy Eucharist
  • Faces of Easter – The birth, baptism, temptation, work, death and resurrection of Christ
  • Parables
  • The Lord’s Prayer

Godly Play Lessons for Key Stage 2 may include:

  • Creation – The story of difference – Adam and Eve
  • The Great Family – Abraham and Sarah
  • The 10 Best Ways – Moses and the 10 commandments
  • The Ark and the Tent
  • Solomon’s Temple
  • The Prophets
  • Jonah
  • Advent
  • The Holy Family
  • Epiphany
  • Holy baptism
  • The Parables – including some of the parabolic titles given to Jesus
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Pentecost
  • Paul’s Journey

In Oxfordshire pupils study Christianity and two other World religions. The lessons for Creation, Abraham, Moses and the 10 commandments are equally applicable to the study of Judaism. Lessons on the synagogue may also be included. All the lessons are geographically correct in their lay out.

Evaluating the use of Godly Play in Schools

The National Society instigated a project, funded by the St Christopher Trust, to enable teachers from a group of Community and Church Primary schools to explore Godly Play approach through controlled, classroom-based research. The Godly Play method has had a profound and often surprising impact on teachers involved in the project. They have found, for example, that they are not just rethinking how they approach religious education and Spiritual development; this experience is making them rethink the whole process of teaching and learning.
To find out more about the teachers and children who piloted this work at the National Society Website.
Here in the Diocese of Oxford those Head teachers and teachers who have visited the Godly Play classroom for training have been very positive about the benefits of Godly Play in both the spiritual development of children and the teaching of Religious education.
As well as the benefits of using Godly Play for delivering aspects of the RE curriculum in schools I believe there is also significant scope for the development and use of Godly Play in Educational visits to churches. At Trinity church (the home of the Godly Play classroom) children visiting the church to see the font as part of their work on Baptism are told the Godly Play Baptism material giving a broader understanding and context for their visit. This pattern could be repeated with other Godly Play Liturgical materials such as the Liturgical clock and the Holy Communion materials. This could give opportunity for significant links between schools and churches.
Opportunities for Godly Play
Oxford Diocese have extensive resources available for training adults in the ethos and methodology of Godly as well as offering Godly Play experiences for children.
INSET Training and Godly Play experiences for children in the classroom are available, contact the Children’s’ Adviser for details.
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