Think back to when you were at school….. What were assemblies were like?
Rows upon rows of children all facing the all-mighty teacher that had happened to sign up to that assembly. Imparting knowledge they had learnt from google/book they had read that morning when they remembered while in the shower it was their turn to do assembly just an hour later. Touch and go with how many children were actually listening and how many suddenly had a real interest in the Velcro on their shoes, flicking the bit of hair of the child in front or catching up on the sleep they missed the night before.
I remember doing my first assembly in my last school as an NQT, looking over the room of 300ish children and I would guess that about 30-50 were interested in what I had to say… and even then I am probably been optimistic!
So why is it that if you were to walk into many schools in the UK this is exactly what still happens? Surely it’d be better to get rid of the assemblies and have extra learning time? I mean at School 21 we have at least 2 hours of assemblies a week, before you even start considering the class assemblies and P4C lessons that take place… what a waste of time right?
Take a good look at the photo above (This photo was taken in the assembly I facilitated 2 weeks ago)… What do you notice? There’s no rows and children are talking to each other. You might also notice I used the word facilitate. As teachers we facilitate learning all the time so why should assemblies be any different? In my opinion they shouldn’t!
So what’s different about what actually happens in assemblies here?
Well you will notice children are in circles- this allows children to share ideas more effectively. Talk partners, trios and thumbs in discussions are just a few talk protocols that are used in assemblies. Topics are chosen very carefully to develop well-being and to develop the whole child and are built upon throughout the week; Key stage assembly, year group strong circle and P4C lessons. Talking points and questions are used a lot to generate discussion between groups and to provoke opinion. Children are given roles to stimulate discussion; they might be asked to summarise, challenge or clarify thinking. Sentence stems are used as readily as they are in lessons. We’re not afraid to get children moving about, to be controversial to provoke deeper thinking, to stand back and not be the one to talk the most; in fact in the most recent assembly I did the balance was 80:20 with children talking 80% of the time.
And what’s the point in all of this?
At School 21 assemblies are elevated to the same importance as lessons. They are planned to push thinking, they allow exploration of ideas and they give a safe space for children to discuss how they feel. Assemblies provide new thinking for children. Thinking back to the traditional assembly in rows and that first assembly I did (not facilitated I may add), so many children used that time as a brain break, their thinking was not challenged and their input was not valued!
If we as educators want our children to be the change in the world, how can they be if we don’t give them all the tools they need… assemblies are perfect for doing this and I strongly urge you to step out of your comfort zone and try a new way of thinking with assemblies… I promise you’ll be amazed by the results!
(Please feel free to contact me if you would like ideas on how to transform your assemblies)