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> Responses

Responses are opportunities for everyone to join in verbally and are powerful ways of making a point, keeping interest, and providing variety.

On this page there are examples of how responses may be used in various ways.

Choral repetition
A simple phrase or refrain may be used at set points throughout a poem, prayer or time of reflection. It should be simple to learn and use, and this makes it suitable for all-age groups. Strike a balance between the fun of joining in and boredom if the phrase is repeated too often. One approach is to ask for the responses to reflect a different tone each time, perhaps becoming more and more extreme!

The example below has two similar phrases in a light-hearted poem.

Example1

Ask the children to listen to and join in the following poem – the refrain (in a doom-laden voice) is Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

I go to Doomsday School.
It’s just around the corner behind a big wall.
It was built 300 years ago,
You might say its age is beginning to show.

Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

We try to make our school look bad,
Try so hard to make everyone sad.
There are no pictures or work on view,
Just bare walls and a crack or two.

Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

Simon Grime's been in trouble for a while,
The teachers told him not to smile.
'Do you think that's what you come here for?
Now get your eyes back on the floor.'

Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

No parents ever come to see
Us do our work or have PE.
At parents’ evening the place is bare
The teachers all just sit and stare.

Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

I know that school can't all be fun,
But surely I'm not the only one,
Who'd like some life about the school
I'd love to break that golden rule.

Dreary, dodgy Doomsday School – never smile is the golden rule.

Discussion
Talk about the poem, asking the children to think up some more gloomy, unhappy aspects of life at Doomsday School. What about the lunches, sports teams, playtime? How could Doomsday School be made more cheery?

Next, take suggestions as to how we could help everyone to feel more bright and lively when they come to our school. How could we encourage a bright start to the school day? Take and value all suggestions - even those that would break the budget or require a considerable warping of reality! You could throw in practical suggestions (many of which you may well do already!) such as:

  • a different class each week responsible for decorating the entrance with lively pictures;
  • a joke board on the way into school, again with different classes responsible for changing the jokes on a weekly basis;
  • a rolling school song, with a new verse added each week reflecting the events of the week gone by and things to come;
  • a special event organized by a different class each week, e.g. Year 4 selling home-made sweets, Year 6 running a games session at lunch-time; Year 5 running a talent competition.

Read the following with the refrain: Something's happened at Doomsday School – it’s good to break the golden rule.

When I went back to Doomsday School,
I hardly knew the place at all.
The secretary smiled at me,
In broad delight for all to see.

Something's happened at Doomsday School – it’s good to break the golden rule.

As I walked from class to class,
I thought I heard some children laugh.
I certainly saw some happy smiles.
No one looked down at the tiles.

Something's happened at Doomsday School – it’s good to break the golden rule.

Across the door I saw a sign,
'This school is yours, this school is mine,
The school belongs to everyone
Here we work and here we have FUN!'

Something's happened at Doomsday School – it’s good to break the golden rule.

Sound effects and actions
Some stories and poems lend themselves to the creation of instant sound effects and actions. Look for, or write, pieces that make it clear what is expected when joining in. It can be a good idea to have another teacher who leads and demonstrates the responses while you tell the story.

Example 2

This example uses simple and fun responses to a well-known story.

Explain that you are going to tell the story of a special Sunday morning a long time ago and that everyone will need to join in to make the telling complete.

Story

It's very early in the morning – dawn. You’re up and about, but it’s so early …
Everyone yawns.

You’re going to visit a garden and a tomb in the garden. It’s cold and a bit spooky in the early morning light.
Everyone shivers.

Suddenly there’s a huge earthquake.
Everyone jumps and shakes.

And a flash of bright light.
Everyone shields his or her eyes.

Before you know it, there’s an angel standing right in front of you – an angel. There are guards at the tomb and they begin to tremble.
Everyone trembles.

Then they fall down in a faint, as if they’re dead.
Everyone makes a feeble fainting noise.

The angel rolls away a huge stone from the entrance to the tomb – just rolls it away like it’s a football.

The angel speaks to you and tells you not to be afraid. ‘The person you’re looking for isn’t here any more – he has been raised from the dead.’

Then he’s standing right in front of you – your friend is alive again.

You’re amazed, can’t believe it, astounded.
Everyone acts astounded – open-mouthed amazement.

Your friend says, ‘Peace be with you’ and ‘Don’t be afraid’.

Your friend was dead.
Everyone drops his or her head.

And now he’s alive again
Everyone looks up.

Give him a clap, such a clever chap.
Everyone claps.

Shhh … don’t wake up the guards!

Responses in Times of reflection
These can add focus and increase involvement.

Children can write their own responsive prayers, but whoever writes them, teacher or child, ensure that the responses are short, clear and easy to remember.

Alternatively, make the remembering part of the reflection, as in the cumulative prayer below!

Teacher: Thank you for our school.

All: Thank you for our school.

Teacher: And everyone in it.

All: Thank you for our school and everyone in it.

Teacher: And for all our visitors.

All: Thank you for our school and everyone in it and for all our visitors.

Teacher: And for everyone who’s ever been a pupil here.

All: Thank you for our school and everyone in it and for all our visitors and for everyone who’s ever been a pupil here.

Teacher: And thank you for our memories!

All: Thank you for our school and everyone in it and for all our visitors and for everyone who’s ever been a pupil here. And thank you for our memories!

Teacher: Amen.

All: Thank you for our school and everyone in it and for all our visitors and for everyone who’s ever been a pupil here. And thank you for our memories! Amen.


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