So, farewell to the spring term. It’s always interesting seeing how the year 6s move from the exam focus in the first few weeks as they take their entrance exams to the somewhat broader curriculum of the second part of the term, with extended projects, visits and theme weeks, such as ‘life skills week’. The end of term itself went very well, with the informal concert, which I always find quite a humbling experience, hearing just how talented some of the cildren are; our market day, in which the Year 6’s sell off the wares produced through their young enterprise type businesses, and raise some money for charity in the process; the Easter egg hunt; and the talent show, which this year featured some cutting edge experimental drama.
This time it fell to me to take the final assembly of term: not an easy one to pitch right for Easter, but I feel this was a good one, even if I do say so myself. Inspired by John Drury’s sermons back in Christ Church days, I took four paintings of parts of the story as the structure, which gave some visual focus to the assembly, and, I hope, got the pupils thinking about the Easter story from a fresh perspective. They’re good at joining in my assemblies now, and I was delighted that they were happy to ask questions as well as answer them, including those from one another. OK, there was still a good deal of input from me, but it was good to move things closer to social constructivism in assemblies as well as lessons.
We started off with Da Vinci’s last supper, and talked about the meal itself, Jesus’ prescence in the bread and wine, and the way Christians have re-enacted this ever since. Despite the poor state of the picture, they just about figured out which one was St John (or Mary Magdalene, as Dan Brown has it), which was Judas, as well as checking that there were the right number of apostles. One girl was quite taken aback by how big the table was, and another thought Da Vinci had painted the room well, which got us on to the topic of perspective. They were struck by how all the apostles were on the same side of the table, which could have just been artistic convenience they thought, or might have been Da Vinci’s way of including us at the table.
We moved on then to Honthorst’s paiting of the trial before the high priest, from the National Gallery, with the clear contrast between the apparent authority of the seated high priest, and Jesus’ own inner strength. Their view was that Jesus seemed more sad than worried, and they had no diffiuclty with the idea that he knew what was going to happen to him, and had accepted this, even if he perhaps was a bit scared as well.
I used Raphael’s painting of the curcifixion itself, in part becuase I wanted to avoid some of the more gruesome portrayals with my young audience, even though one of the Year 3s wanted to know all the details! One of them asked ‘so why was he crcucified?’, which allowed us to examine the story from Roman, Jewish and Christian perspectives, and I think I got over the idea of His death being a sacrifice for us all, as well as an example of putting other people’s needs before your own. One of the nursery girls (who hadn’t quite got the hang of putting your hand up first), asked about the X, ie the cross, but I thought she’s said eggs, which rather threw me, as you can imagine! Someone else wanted to know about the ‘fairys’, ie the angels – some thought they were trying to put more clothes on Jesus, but they quite liked the notion that their concern was His blood, especially as this linked back to the last supper. I did draw the contrast between the male apostles present at the last supper, and the mainly female group who’d stayed with Him to the end.
We finished off with the resurrection, and it was much harder to find paintings of this to use than the other events, interestingly. Again drawing on the National Gallery’s collection, I found one by ‘an imitator of’ Mantegna for this. They were much amused by the English flag, and again by the lack of clothes, but the triumph of the resurrection was an important contrast with the desolation of the crucifixion. The tomb, of course, is not really as one imagines from the text, and I’d made it clear that these were paintings, a long time after the events, inspired by the stories in the Bible. One girl thought there’d been an earthquake, and the ground had split – signifying how the world would never be the same. I was asked ‘so why do we eat chocolate?’ – I think the idea that chocolate is as good a way to celebrate as any was one that they could relate to.
I’m hopeful that they’ll have taken away a better grasp of the Easter story, but also might be more willing to spend time looking at paintings, and might even make it up to the National Gallery over the holiday; I popped in myself the following day, and good as it is to be able to share art like this via wifi and a projector, it’s really no substitute for the real thing.Share