This page contains all the strategies for reshaping practice in full, for convenient printing.
1. Change the layout of the room
Teachers can change the layout of the room to support their new way of seeing a subject—for example, arranging the chairs in an arc around a painting that is displayed high up to communicate the importance of coming with humility to learn. It could involve changing the seating arrangements so that students work together when learning about communities.
- If discussing a poem about a girl looking out of a window and learning to love the city she sees, the teacher can change the layout of the room so that students face the window, so that experience of the learning space reinforces the effect of the poem.
- If presenting a Bible story with small figures, the teacher can have students sit on the floor in a circle to draw them in and encourage them to engage with the characters.
In these examples, changes in the layout support the teaching approach and encourage a different engagement on the part of the learner.
2. Make tangible changes to the environment
Teachers can make tangible changes to the environment to support new perspectives. This may include creating spaces for different uses such as reflection or hanging thought balloons suspended from the ceiling to stimulate curiosity. A tangible change can signal a deeper change. For example, temporarily removing books at the beginning of book week can stimulate students to change their attitude toward books, which in many parts of the world are a luxury people are grateful for.
- For a lesson on creating designs that bring delight to others, teachers can add fun objects to desks.
- Teachers can litter the floor with paper for a lesson on the environment or in civics when discussing our responsibility for the environment.
These instances of tangible changes actively work with the new perspective of the teacher. To ignore the role that tangible changes make can mean missing out on an aid to our teaching.
3. Change or create displays
Displays are a use of the physical space that often is taken for granted, but displays have huge potential for teachers when making changes. Displays can include unexpected elements such as art images and poetry in a science display, breaking down subject barriers so that God’s world is seen as a whole. Displays can be places where learners respond to big questions and curiosity is stimulated.
- Teachers can add a title to a display that clashes with the images; for example, one could place the title “‘Just’ Salt” on a poster with amazing images of salt crystals and salt formations in chemistry.
- Teachers can add arms and legs to an image of a computer on a display for a computer class with a thought bubble saying, “How do we differ from computers?”
As these examples show, displays can become active partners in teaching, helping to create a new outlook on a subject rather than being background material.
4. Embody the class ethos and outlook in concrete forms
Developing a class ethos is about by embodying values in concrete forms. This may take displaying expectations of behavior or teaching some basic sign language so that learners can say a silent thank you to each other without disturbing others. It could include arranging desks and expecting certain expressions of respect, such as raising hands rather than interrupting each other.
- Teachers can develop a collaborative community in math so that all can achieve. This can include high expectations of behavior and work, and supporting each other. It involves accepting that it is OK to make mistakes, ask questions, and make suggestions. Seating can be changed to facilitate this shift.
- Teachers can display a class photo frame to display work that shows effort and to applaud the author; a certificate can even be sent home to encourage and acknowledge progress.
These examples include some basic expressions of ethos and show that it is important to be intentional, making sure ethos is embodied in some way rather than leaving it as something that is just assumed.
5. Use body language
Teachers’ body language can communicate values and a perspective on a subject. Excitement is contagious and can be communicated both verbally and through the body—for example, excitement over the wonders of magnetism. Similarly, talking to students while grading work and not actually looking at them can communicate disrespect.
- Teachers can work at showing respect through their body language, by making eye contact, turning to face children, and joining in with younger students at their level.
- Teachers can change their body language to suit the material they are teaching. For instance, when delivering a poem about a view from a window, stand in front of the window so that the students can see the view as you speak.
Examples such as these show the difference body language can make. Sometimes a simple move, such as standing in front of a window, has impact.
6. Create the appropriate atmosphere
Creating an atmosphere is about creating the “feel” that matches what is learned. A lesson on delight would be ruined by a dull ambience; a lesson on peace needs a calm mood. Anxiety over tests can be reduced by shifting to a celebration of what the students already know, creating a celebratory atmosphere by use of language such as “Wow, look at what you know!” Atmosphere can be established through the intentional use of music, noise, silence, lighting, color, images, body language, and posture.
- Teachers can use balloons in a revision class. These can be labeled “Triumphs” and “Disasters.” Students can pair up, such that one student may find an area difficult (disaster) that another finds easy (triumph). They can then support each other and pop the disaster balloon when the student is confident in that area. When done in a playful spirit, this creates an atmosphere of support and fun that diffuses some of the anxiety and isolation around revision.
- When discussing a painting that is about hope through difficult and uncertain times, teachers can darken the room and put a spotlight on that painting.
The changes in atmosphere in these examples bring what is taught in line with the mood of the lesson and help teaching connect with learners.
7. Give opportunities for practice
Teaching can lead to practice, rather than being kept as something that learners need to pay attention to in order to pass tests or gain information. Teachers can provide opportunities for students to serve each other and the local community. Teaching can turn a class’s vision outward toward the wider world, and teachers can introduce issues of justice and how we bring about change, providing opportunities to engage, for example, with fair trade and how shopping can make a difference.
- Teachers can teach cooking skills that can be used in baking for the elderly, giving learners an opportunity to serve. Math and cooking skills can be taught as a way of raising money for disaster relief. Teachers can use a topic as an opportunity for learners to contribute to the community by making posters for the local community day.
- Teachers can arrange for students to practice supporting each other in PE by pairing stronger tennis players with those with a weaker serve.
Teaching in this way helps learners take learning from abstract information to practice. It does not necessarily mean leaving the classroom or adding a time-consuming project; it can be practiced within the school or in a class period.
8. Change the context/framework
All teaching takes place within a framework of ideas and values, and we can adjust the framework or context within which we teach. Math does not have to be taught within a consumer framework of shopping and spending; it can be about giving. French does not have to be taught in a tourist framework dominated by satisfying personal needs and securing goods and services on vacation; it can be about humbly encountering another culture. A change of image or metaphor can give teaching an alternative framework; for example, seeing the world as God’s playground or garden can promote different thinking about the world and our relationship to it and each other.
- Teachers can use a hospitality context for modern foreign languages, where language is used to welcome the stranger from another time or place. This can lead to using a modern language to welcome a new member of the class.
- Teachers can use a range of biblical images such as a gardener or responsible ruler when exploring our relationship to the environment. Similarly, the image of faith as a cake (containing ingredients such as thinking, feeling, and acting) can be used to frame teaching about the nature of faith in religion class.
These examples show the way in which changes of context and framework can change thinking and create potential for changing behavior.
9. Change examples and illustrations to match your framework
For a change in framework to be plausible and effective, examples, stories, and illustrations need to come into line—thus, math examples should move from getting to giving. And stories can move from focusing on individuals to communities in history when the framework is changed from studying individual reformers to studying campaigning communities. If an environment topic is changed from “our world” to “God’s world,” images of the world from a “God’s-eye” perspective might be appropriate.
- Teachers can change from using cartoon characters to using photographs or images of real people if teaching languages is put in a personal context. Teachers can use different examples of how transportation serves the community to provide a service context.
- Teachers can use stories in math that show the impact of percentages paid for growing coffee. Real stories can be used in geography when looking at migration patterns so that these lessons reflect a relational framework and do not reduce people to lines on a map or numbers.
These examples show how stories, examples, and illustrations can be brought into line with a new framework to create a new way of seeing a lesson.
10. Put skills in a context of values
Sometimes choosing the right framework and context for learning could mean giving skills a new purpose. That purpose can be defined in terms of values. Design can be taught with a service purpose so that students think about how the design will serve the customer and society, rather than how they can showcase their abilities. Math can be taught with the purpose of combating injustice.
- Teachers can present advertising in a values context such as contentment, encouraging students to examine the attitudes some ads create in society. This can lead to creating a different type of ad by using skills to encourage contentment.
- Teachers can show how pie charts can make information accessible and bring about change. Florence Nightingale used a form of pie chart to change the way hospitals were built. Teachers can show students how their math skills can be used in a project to bring about change or bring an important issue to people’s attention.
Examples such as these show how skills can be given a new purpose by putting them in a values framework that can make sense to learners and possibly aid motivation.
11. Focus, identify, highlight, be intentional
As teachers we can focus on the key emphasis by highlighting key words visually and verbally. We can also use objects to focus attention. Focusing can involve identifying what is important, such as a character’s choices in a text and their degree of responsibility. It could include being intentional about teaching self-control in sports.
- Teachers can highlight the creativity in a poem (such as the “Ducks’ Ditty” in The Wind in the Willows) and its connection to faith by the way they present it. They can be intentional about explicitly addressing fears about changing and showering in PE.
- Teachers can use a photograph frame to display learners’ work in order to be intentional about giving encouragement. They can use objects such as bananas in maths to focus on injustice.
These examples show how sometimes all that is needed is being intentional or highlighting what is already in our teaching rather than making big changes.
12. Change the emphasis
Sometimes we need to move the spotlight in our teaching to put the emphasis in a different place. For example, we may have used different map projections before, but the emphasis could be changed to looking at the issue of fairness in map projections. Sometimes we may need to introduce a new emphasis, such as moving from usefulness to delight or from rules to grace.
- Teachers can change the emphasis in civics from creating rules to looking at the people we need to become to live together in the class we would like to be part of.
- Teachers can change the emphasis in languages, moving from first-person responses (“I like…”) to other people’s perspectives (“My dad likes…”).
These examples show how a change of emphasis can reorient a lesson and create a different teaching and learning experience that can begin to reflect a Christian way of seeing the world.
13. Change key words and metaphors
Highlighting a key focus or a change in emphasis can be followed through by a consistent use of language, emphasizing key concepts and phrases, and bringing what is important to students’ attention. For example, teachers can consistently refer to “God’s world” rather than “our world” when teaching about the environment. They can consistently emphasize a key concept such as sin or joy or peace.
- Teachers can draw attention to an African painting in art by introducing it and consistently referring to it as a visitor from another country. The phrase “doing sorry” can be used in history when looking at the repercussions of injustices of the past and how amends might be made.
- A history unit could be planned around the concepts of justice, mercy, and humility, using these concepts throughout the teaching and learning and bringing them to the students’ attention in connection with people and events.
Examples such as these show how a key emphasis can be worked out in language and concepts through the way teachers consistently use them.
14. Change resources, tasks, or activities
Tasks, resources, and activities can be changed to suit a new perspective. Once teachers see a lesson in a new way, old worksheets, activities, and tasks may need to be reviewed. This could mean choosing activities that stress the wholeness of people — body, soul, and spirit. It could mean creating worksheets with questions of meaning and purpose as well as information-recall questions.
- Teachers can encourage students to be involved in changing printed worksheets—for example, changing “our world” to “ God’s world ” on worksheets for a lesson on the environment. Teachers can provide alternative resources such as websites and information sheets. Such resources can be used in history, comparing modern and historical campaigns. For example, a fair-trade site can be used when looking at percentages paid to growers of bananas and coffee in math. Camel-library sites can be used when considering books as a luxury to be grateful for during book week.
- Teachers can create new tasks and activities or adjust old ones, such as involving students in acting out historical scenarios that deal with injustice and forgiveness. They might introduce a math game in health or civics lesson to help students learn to think about others first.
These examples show the difference a change of resource or activity can make. It does not always involve a complete change. Sometimes just a small adjustment is needed.
15. Change your choice of content
Increasingly, teachers have their choices restricted by prescriptive curriculum documents, but where choice is allowed, different content can be used. If a particular author is required, the specific work to cover in class might be up to the teacher, who then could select one that reflects a focus such as trust. If a particular subject is suggested, such as self-esteem, there is still a range of materials that approach it in a different way, such as seeing self-esteem in terms of finding significance and worth through love. If a syllabus stipulates a key figure in history, you could choose a person of faith such as James Madison.
- Teachers can select a particular poem if only the poet is specified. For example, if William Blake is the poet, select one of his poems that deal with an issue of faith and values relevant to learners (such as “Poison Tree,” which deals with anger and revenge).
- Teachers can select people of faith if history syllabi include key people of a period. That might be Christian reformers in the Victorian period, or you could choose a work with Christian imagery in art.
Examples such as these show how a change of content can free a teacher to bring a new perspective to a lesson and still cover the required material.
16. Choose an approach to suit the new emphasis
Adopting appropriate approaches means that we examine the approach we use and make sure that it is right for the new emphasis of the lesson and that it will help students engage with it appropriately. Approaches can be very specific to subjects: in religion class, for example, one can use a conceptual approach or an approach that looks at religion as a phenomenon. There are more-general approaches, such as a storytelling, that might be appropriate if we are emphasizing grace (unmerited love and favor) in a person’s life. It is important to select an approach with the two criteria in mind: appropriateness both to the emphasis of the lesson and to the learners.
- Teachers can use a storytelling approach in math to make a concept more personal, such as the story of Florence Nightingale and how she used a form of pie chart to communicate her findings even though they were not what she had expected.
- Teachers can use a discussion approach in history when looking at the Treaty of Paris, or a cooperative approach in math as students help each other.
These examples show how choosing approaches can serve both the teacher’s new perspective and the students.
17. Adjust your style
Style is a very personal subject, but most teachers are flexible and can incorporate a variety of styles within their repertoire. When thinking about style, we need to consider whether it is right for a particular lesson with its new emphasis, and whether it will serve the students as they engage with this new perspective. Style can be formal or informal, and both of these can have many kinds of practices. For example, if we are exploring sensitive or controversial aspects of sin and brokenness, a formal approach is sometimes appropriate to give students structure and distance. If the lesson is about serving the community by cooking for the elderly and you are joining in, a more informal style is appropriate. If the emphasis is on fostering focused attentiveness, then our general style, whatever it is, might have to slow down to incorporate, say, a slow reading of a text.
- Teachers can use a more formal style when looking at difficult subjects such as locker room anxiety in PE or tackling inappropriate celebrations when scoring. The formality gives structure that can help students engage with the subject in a way that is less threatening. A formal presentation can create the distance needed for students to consider the role of faith in their own lives in relation to a character in a story in English class.
- Teachers can use an informal style if they want to draw children into a Bible story so that they engage with the characters. A conversational style can be used in Bible class and science when talking about faith and reason.
These examples show how adjusting our general style can make a difference to a lesson and can reinforce a new understanding.
18. Change your planning: timing, sequence, and lesson structure
Thinking about lesson or unit planning may mean changing how we introduce or end a lesson. It could include planning in silence if we want to students to have time to reflect and wonder. It can be decisions about what to include or exclude, such as including a faith connection or excluding detail in order to highlight a new emphasis. It could include the pace we set and allowing time for slow contemplation or group discussion.
- Teachers can allow time for students to attend to a work of art rather than merely glancing at it. This can mean returning to look at it more than once during a lesson as a way of respecting the artist. They can plan time in an English lesson for different ways of reading a text, including slow reading, so that students may come to love a text.
- Teachers can change their introductions and endings, introducing a painting as a visitor from another country or ending an art class with sitting before a painting and letting the painting have the “last word.”
These examples show that incorporating a new perspective at the planning stage is more likely to make it happen during class.
19. Check what you give significance to, test, and reward
What we reward sends strong messages about what we value. If we stress meaning and significance in a lesson but then only test for recall of information, we send a message about what is important. Teachers can give significance by what they notice and give time to in class, the questions they respond to, and the behavior they reinforce. For example, do we reward those who win at any cost in sports? Forms of assessment can be adapted to suit a new perspective. Evaluations in history can reflect people holistically and include their spiritual legacy as well as their political, social, and economic achievements.
- Teachers can work around restrictive forms of assessment, such as required electronic quizzes, fill-in-the-blank exercises, and simple recall questions. These can be limited by using them for just some parts of a unit or lesson. Assessment that requires engaging with meaning and significance or open-ended questions can be used on other parts of a unit.
- Teachers can explore grace in civics or health or English and use a creative assessment such as drama to demonstrate understanding. They can reward effort and perseverance — not just high scores — in class and adjust their own behavior in PE to reward winning well or handling referees’ decisions well.
These examples show that assessment does not have to be a straitjacket; we can adjust it. They also show that the informal way we give rewards and give significance matters.
20. Plan time and space for reflection
Time for reflection and wonder at God’s world can easily get squeezed out with the amount of content teachers have to cover. Reflection needs to be planned in to a lesson. It does not have to come at the end; it can be way of starting, such as by silently listening to the sounds in the environment.
- Teachers can plan time to show short presentations of images in science to evoke wonder when looking at crystals in chemistry, when discussing magnetism, or when labeling plants.
- Teachers can use reflective poems and scripts as part of English or religion class and build activities that will encourage learners to consider thoughtfully what is being expressed.
These examples show that reflection can be built into a lesson at any time as long as it is included at the planning stage.
21. Change the student interaction
Teachers can plan student interaction to match the new emphasis. They can work in pairs or groups, individually or as a class. They can collaborate or work on their own. The interaction should reflect the intended perspective and be appropriate for the students. If the teaching stresses community and interdependence, collaborative learning may be appropriate—for example, when looking at history and the dependence of reformers on a grass-roots community. Students could make food chains as groups, each group making a chain with different children adding a link.
- Teachers can use group work that comes together to form a presentation when looking at abolition of slavery in history and how William Wilberforce and other reformers were part of a group (the Clapham circle) and depended on a grass-roots movement.
- Teachers can use whole-class work for singing in unison and blending sound as a whole, emphasizing interdependence and humility.
These examples show that teachers can change student interaction to reflect a change in perspective and reinforce their new way of seeing a subject.
22. Ask big questions / change your questioning
Teachers can incorporate big questions into their teaching in order to stimulate curiosity. They can ask big questions themselves or encourage students to ask them. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning, and each subject has its own questions and issues that teachers can focus attention on. For example, they can ask whether we can measure everything in math, or whether perhaps there are some things we can’t measure. Do we value these things more or less? Teachers can structure questions to direct learners to important issues such as interdependence in science. Questions can raise awareness and uncover things we take for granted, such as the idea that the world is “ours.” Teachers can pose questions about faith and values in subjects other than religion or Bible class to break down the divide between sacred and secular.
- Teachers can ask questions such as “Where does our creativity come from?” in music and “Can everything be reduced to our genetic make-up?” in science. Teachers can provide a series of questions for a discussion about justice, forgiveness and peace in the Treaty of Paris in history.
- Teachers can stimulate students to ask questions by holding an open conversion with another staff member about reason and faith or by exposing assumptions about the nature of love in German using a German song and a series of questions.
These examples show that thinking about questions can make a difference to how we teach; it can focus out teaching on issues of importance.
23. Provide contrasts and set up dissonance (clashes)
Teachers can provoke thinking by creating contrasts and dissonance. Dissonance is about creating difference or conflict; it might be teaching about caring for the environment in a room strewn with litter, using body language that does not match what you are saying, or playing commercial Christmas music over paintings of the nativity. Including contrasts and dissonance in our teaching can raise awareness of certain issues and challenge learners to rethink, perhaps by considering the spiritual and relational riches of some past cultures in contrasts to modern cultures
- Teachers can use a painting such as Frederic Watts’s “Hope”, whose title does not seem to match the painting. This can help students rethink hope and move away from classifying it as cheery optimism.
- Teachers can contrast how some athletes behave with the way we would like to be treated in sports. They can compare computers to humans and then ask about the differences.
These examples show how dissonance and contrasts can raise awareness and challenge people to rethink.
24. Make connections with faith and life
Teachers can model making connections and show the relevance of faith by drawing on faith sources in subjects like history and by using faith examples, insights, and images. For example, we can use the biblical themes of justice, mercy, and humility as a way of assessing reformers in history. Teachers could use biblical images like that of a gardener to explore our relationship with the environment. We can enable discussions of faith and values where appropriate and connect faith to life rather than keeping it abstract.
- Teachers can arrange a local area study around a church and look at an area in terms of fulfilling physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual needs. Teachers can show different maps and how they tell stories and demonstrate what is important to the people who made them.
- Teachers can link modern foreign languages with being able to respond to people in relationships and show love. Teachers can use stories of people of faith to link subjects such as languages and math to life.
These examples show how connections can be made between faith and life that make appropriate links without hijacking a subject.
25. Make connections with the wider world
Teaching can have an outward focus, engaging with the local community and the world, bringing the wider world into the classroom or taking the learner out. Teachers can invite visitors in to be interviewed or invite church musicians into a music class. Teachers can relate learning to wider issues of faith and values relating to what is going on society. For example, teaching about integrity in science and writing up experiments truthfully can relate to the integrity (or lack thereof) shown in current events. Insights learned in the classroom—such as thinking of people as whole, not just bodies or minds or spirits—can be applied to society.
- Teachers can invite members of the local church community to come share what the church does as part of a lesson on serving the community. Teachers can arrange for students to cook for the elderly and invite members of the community into the school to be served. People can be interviewed about faith in a religion class.
- Teachers can use case studies of real situations in history — such as child workers on cocoa farms — as a way of drawing parallels between campaigns for change in the past and campaigns today. Teachers can arrange for learners to interview members of their family and friends about their likes and dislikes for modern foreign languages so that they can reflect the thoughts, feelings, and choices of people in the community, rather than just their own preferences and opinions.
Examples such as this show the role faith can play across the curriculum and how it can be related to life.
26. Model a new emphasis
Teachers can model what they teach, the ultimate example of personalizing teaching. They can model excitement and wonder in science—for example, over the wonders of magnetism. They can model respect and ways of treating students and other staff. They can model puzzlement and confusion before a text so that learners feel free to express their own confusion. Teachers can model being challenged by what they teach.
- Teachers can examine their body language and make sure they communicate respect by what they do as well as by what they say. They can model serving others by joining in with cooking for the elderly.
- Teachers can model accepting encouragement around the time of tests by sending a card to a fellow teacher. They can model cooperation by working together in a religion class. They can model affirmation in a grammar lesson on complex sentences.
These examples show a few of the ways in which teachers can personalize teaching through modeling so that students can see that what is taught also is practiced.
27. Add the personal touch
Teachers can use personal stories, images, and examples where appropriate. This could involve organizing visitors in a religious class or using real-life case studies of people in modern foreign languages or geography. Such stories can challenge learners and evoke an affective or moral response. Teaching in this way can focus attention on others and on service. For example, just a small change in a lesson about sound can make a big difference: instead of talking about the intricacies of the design of “the ear,” talk about “your ears” and relate it to the students.
- Teachers can provide photographs and images of German students who resisted the Nazis in a German lesson. This enables students to practice their language by relating to real people and situations. Teachers could create activities that encourage students to use a modern language to foster good relationships. Migrants stories could be used in geography when teaching about population movements.
- Teachers can introduce students to real scientists with different views about faith in science class rather than just discussing the issue abstractly. On parents evenings, teachers could focus on the student as a person who is part of a family, and report on that student as whole being. A topic on heroes can be made personal by encouraging learners to look at imperfect heroes who achieved and relate that to how we see ourselves.
These examples show that giving a lesson a more personal slant can be done with small changes that make a big difference.