Last Friday I posted a #pedagoofriday comment about how pleased I was with my bottom set work on discussion trees. This is a simple method I use to help students consider the strengths and weaknesses of any statement. in RE the discussion of such statements counts for a significant number of marks and so is an important skill for us to work on.
On the desk the students blue tack a prepared picture of a tree that then has a statement printed on the tree trunk. On Friday the statement was “It is reasonable to believe that God does miracles”
Without any ‘fresh’ input from the teacher the students consider points to support the statement – these are represented as roots for the tree, and challenges to the statement – these are represented as gusts of wind.
An important part of the process is getting the students to represent the strength of each argument through the size of the root or gust of the wind. This evaluation of each argument should be achieved as they engage in discussion in their table teams.
I then extend the task by introducing some philosophical arguments. In this case it included arguments from Hume, Swinburne, Aquinas and Wiles, plus a little info on quantum physics. The students decide whether what they are reading is root or wind, they summarise key points and write down accordingly.
The final part of the task is for the students to then discuss and agree on the final state of the tree. They indicate this by using a ruler and drawing a line to indicate if the tree remains vertical, or blown at a greater angle. They may even suggest it has in fact been felled. Obviously they are considering whether the arguments against the statement are more effective than the arguments for the statement, and most importantly, to what extent this is the case.
I then photograph their group work. The following lesson students get a copy of their group work for their own books but also to use as they provide an exam response to the discussion statement that they have worked on.
This approach works well with the whole range of abilities and can be modified based on the material you give each group to work with