How does celebrating Pentecost remind Christians that God is

How does celebrating
Pentecost remind
Christians that God is
with them always?
Key Stage 1 RE
The EMMANUEL Project: Teaching Christianity effectively in Key Stage 1
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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Background Information
Religious Education requirements: This unit of work has been written with church schools in mind but can be used by all primary schools. It
fulfils requirements for the KS1 Learning Theme ‘Celebrations: what celebrations are important in religion and why’ (Suffolk Agreed Syllabus for
RE 2012 p.26-27). A unit on Celebrations in Christianity could cover many areas but here the focus is the festival of Pentecost, the Birthday of
the Christian Church. Christmas and Easter are explored elsewhere in this series under different Learning Themes.
Whole school celebration of Pentecost: This unit can be used to prepare younger children for a whole school celebration of Pentecost or be
used as part of an RE Theme Day on Pentecost. The use of art, craft, music, dance, poetry and drama alongside members of the Christian
faith community will greatly enhance the educational value of such occasions and will deepen children’s understanding of the importance of
Christian faith to believers.
There are several excellent resources which could be used to set up such an occasion:
Festival Matters – a folder full of material for teaching all the major Christian festivals from Reception to
Year 6, and designed to promote progression in understanding. Lessons on Pentecost are provided for both
Year 1 and Year 2. Purchase from
Pentecost Pause Day – downloadable lesson material for Reception, KS1 and KS2 on Pentecost which
offers space for children to reflect and pray as well as engage in high-level thinking RE. Cycle 1 and 2 are
available so the ‘Pause Day’ can be run twice. Download from:
Experience Pentecost – a set of 6 interactive reflection and prayer stations which tell the Pentecost story
and also explore its significance in the lives of Christians and the church today. Purchase from Jumping Fish
pubs (Gloucester Diocese):
The Promise: A Pentecost Musical – a musical written in Norwich Diocese with a series of simple songs
and a short play supported by CDs and RE lessons. Excellent for KS2 but KS1 pupils could learn several songs
and watch the performance. Watch a song being performed at
Purchase from:
A focus day on Pentecost could also include a special service in church / school to tell the story of Pentecost, maybe
including Christian songs in different languages. Pupils could dress in flame colours (red, orange or yellow) and hold a
Pentecost Party for the ‘birthday’ of the church – even better maybe a local church could stage the party and invite the
school. Party ideas for Pentecost abound on the internet.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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INCARNATION is the traditional Christian belief that God entered the world in human flesh in Jesus Christ. The first Christians did not believe Jesus was just a good man, healer, teacher
or prophet but somehow fully human and fully God.
Incarnation is about God’s Son becoming ‘one of us’, a human.
The early disciples discovered what God was like through him. Jesus was, as the
prophets had foretold, God with us – Emmanuel (The Bible: Matthew 1 v.23;
Hebrews 4 v.15-16; John 11 v.27, 19 v.7) The Emmanuel Project units all add to
this understanding of Jesus as ‘God with skin on’ or God ‘incarnate’.
When Jesus was arrested, killed and then raised from death, the disciples’ sense
of ‘God being with them’ was sorely tried. He was taken away, returned for 40
days and then said he was returning to heaven – was God leaving them?
Jesus told his disciples he would be with them always (Matthew 28:20); when he
returned to heaven, God the Holy Spirit would come as their helper / comforter /
strengthener (John 14:20). If Jesus stayed on earth, he would be restricted by
time and space. The Holy Spirit would remind Christians of all Jesus had said and
done, how he had revealed God to them (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit would
convince people of their sins and the need for repentance and a fresh start (John
16:8). With the Holy Spirit filling their lives, Christians would know God was with
them wherever they were and for all time.
Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for
the Holy Spirit to come. Then they would be his witnesses from Jerusalem to the
ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) and the Holy Spirit would give them courage.
St Paul, an early Christian missionary, wrote that the Holy Spirit transforms
Christians from the inside to make them more like Jesus. The nine ‘fruits’ of the
Spirit (e.g. love, joy, peace - Galatians 5:22-23) grow in each believer so others
meet God in them – like identifying a tree by its fruit. The Holy Spirit also gives
everyone a gift for serving God – faith, healing, teaching, administration (1
Corinthians 12: 4-11) and every gift was for the good of all.
Unlike Christmas or Easter, Pentecost is a Christian festival not well-known
or commercialized in British culture today. In the past it was more often
called ‘Whitsun’ and was a national holiday; some celebrated with Whit
walks or parades with new ‘white’ clothes and big banners.
Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter; it commemorates the coming of God the
Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers, the moment they received power to be
witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and started to spread the good news
of God’s forgiveness and the promise of a new start in life in Jesus’ name.
On the day of Pentecost, thousands became Christians and the church began
to grow; it was the church’s ‘birth-day’.
Pentecost is an annual Christian celebration for some when the Pentecost
story is read in church, symbols of doves and flames may be used and red
worn by clergy in Western churches. Prayers and songs thank God for the
gift of the Holy Spirit and the power and strength he gives believers today.
Eastern and Orthodox churches have many other customs.
Pentecost is being rediscovered as a Christian celebration across many less
traditional churches. It is a perfect time for Christians of all denominations
to focus on the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives and worship, while also
commemorating the start of the Church. Pentecost customs from other
countries like kite-flying are becoming popular. Church schools and ‘Messy
Church’ children’s groups often hold ‘birthday’ parties for Pentecost. One
group organises ‘the biggest birthday party ever’ annually
Some churches are particularly known as ‘Pentecostal’ churches where the
power and gifts of the Spirit are celebrated and preached with lively singing
every week as people are exhorted to follow Jesus closely.
NB Pentecost, the fiftieth [day], was the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks in the
calendar of ancient Israel. It celebrated Moses receiving the Law to on Mt Sinai and
today is known as Shavuot. In the Christian New Testament the Spirit is given to the
disciples on the day of this Jewish feast.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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How does celebrating Pentecost remind Christians that God is with
them always?
What is it like to feel alone?
with the
feelings of the
disciples after
ascended to
Have you ever felt alone? Tell the children a story that explores the feeling of loss / being alone e.g. Rabbityness (Jo Epsom) or Badger’s Parting Gifts (Susan Varley). Explore the feelings of the characters at different points in the story and
express these through art, drama or music. Why did the friends miss Rabbit / Badger so much?
Listen to stories
about loss and
being alone and
compare with
Jesus’ followers
‘waiting’ for the
promised Holy
Spirit. The book of
ACTS in the Bible
talks about them
being full of joy!
What did the disciples feel after Jesus ascended to heaven?
Show the children a black box, a mystery box. Open the box and out floats a helium balloon! Catch the balloon’s string
and read Jesus’ promises attached to the bottom:
When I go, you will not be left all alone
I will send you the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will stay with you forever
Wait for the gift I told you about
When the Holy Spirit comes, you will be filled with power and you will be witnesses for me all over the world.
What is going on? Then release the balloon and watch as it floats away. Look into the empty box,
Tom and Tessa can explain. Introduce the two characters as Christians, followers of Jesus (see background information
at start of unit). Produce a children’s Bible from their bag. The words on the balloon are part of the ‘Jesus’ story.
Jesus’ friends (disciples) were confused when he told them he was leaving them. They thought they had lost him once
when he had died on the cross and then he came back alive and had been with them for 40 days. But Jesus promised
he would send a friend, a helper – God the Holy Spirit – who would be with them forever, BUT they would have to wait.
They must remember what he had promised.
Read the Ascension story from children’s bible (Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. How do you think the disciples felt as they waited …. How do you feel if you have to wait for something? Use feelings faces to help children consider this. Look again at the promises Jesus had made his friends. What did the disciples think about the promises? Did
they trust Jesus? Link to children’s own experiences and to the book they read above.
Learn the chorus of John Hardwick’s No More Waiting– the CD could come from Tom and Tessa’s bag. OR get out
musical instruments / percussion for children to create their own simple songs using the words from the balloon.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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into the story of
Pentecost and
why Christians
think this story
is important
What is it like to wait?
Provide an opportunity for the children to wait (e.g. for a timed cat feeder to open containing something good). Do not
tell the children what is in it, just that it is something they will like. Ask them to share their thoughts. Think again about
their own experiences of waiting e.g. to open Christmas presents under the tree.
Recap, using Tom and Tessa, the story of the Ascension and the disciples having to wait. Sing the John Hardwick ‘No
more waiting’ song and learn the verses. Or sing some of the children’s song creations.
What happened after the ten day wait? (Easter to Ascension – 40 days, Ascension to Pentecost - 10 days)
Start with a variety of images of the Pentecost story. On these children write questions, circle or jot down anything
puzzling. In talk partners they share questions about the story they are about to hear.
Tell or read the story of Pentecost in as exciting and dramatic way as possible. Do you have an ‘Open the Book’ team
(see Resources) who could come for a special telling of this story? Then look at the images again and add information,
answers, etc.
Collect together questions they would still like to ask about the story and decide on the best ones.
NB For Christians, God
the Holy Spirit is not an
‘it’ or a vague influence
even if invisible and not
restricted to a physical
body. Please use a
personal pronoun – ‘he’
is traditional – or the
full term when talking
about this ‘person’ of
What / who is the Holy Spirit? Where did the wind and flames come from? What did they mean? Why was
everyone so excited? What does the Holy Spirit do? Why do people still tell this story?
What is the key question the class must consider?
Look in Tom and Tessa’s bag. Find an invitation to a Pentecost Party – just make you own or find an example on the
internet. What do you think this is? What will they do at a Pentecost party?
The Pentecost story is important to Christians; it is the church’s birthday and they remember it in lots of ways
– pictures, songs, church services, cakes and even parties! And it celebrates Jesus keeping his promise and
sending them the Holy Spirit who reminds them that God is with them always – they are not alone.
The key question is: How does celebrating Pentecost remind Christians that God is with them always? You
could turn this into a question Tom and Tessa invite the class to explore – pulling it out of their bag maybe.
Introduce the EXPRESS task/s e.g. to tell the story of Pentecost in music and dance explaining what Christians
believe, to put on a Pentecost party with activities for remembering the story and why it is important for Christians.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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all the parts of
the Pentecost
story and what
Christians think
is important
about it
In this section, explore children’s questions about Pentecost, ensuring they know the story well enough to discuss it.
Don’t forget Christians believe the story shows Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled - God is always with them.
You could:
Explore the Pentecost story thoroughly by retelling it in different ways using drama, puppets, paint, sculpture,
construction or small world toys e.g.
Teacher info
The ‘flame’ was an
ancient symbol of
God’s presence. A
‘ner tamid’ (eternal
flame) still burns in
Jewish synagogues.
The wind is a
reminder of God
breathing life into
Adam; the word for
wind and breath is
the same.
The symbols
confirmed that the
invisible Holy Spirit
had come: God was
with them as Jesus
had promised.
Play Pentecost Story by C. Ruse from You Tube. Pause at 1:58 to discuss how the children felt when they were
waiting. Use drama techniques such as the children acting out Jesus walking through two lines of disciples, as if
he is ascending to heaven or imitating an image from the film.
In groups form freeze frames from the film, concentrating on communicating feelings with facial expressions and
body language. Other children can question those in the freeze frame asking them how they are feeling.
Create a new commentary for the film using images from it, or their own images. Record their thoughts and feelings and attach these to the pictures using sound buttons. Use PPT to create an interactive story of Pentecost.
Explore the idea of God the Holy Spirit changing people’s lives e.g. making disciples brave to speak about Jesus
Share your work with a Christian e.g. local vicar or members of your Open the Book team. Then interview them:
What does Pentecost mean to you? How do you know God is with you? Have you felt God change you?
Find out about the ‘fruits’ and ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit – see Background Information.
Introduce the story of someone whose life was changed by becoming a Christian.
Explore symbols of the Holy Spirit in the story e.g. making tongues of fire/ flame and wind by looking up and doing
some of the craft activities for church Pentecost parties / Messy Church. Find lots on the internet. Learn about other
symbols of the Holy Spirit e.g. dove, water. Why are the symbols important in the story? i.e. show that God the Holy
Spirit had arrived.
If you are involved in a Focus day on Pentecost, these will help you explore e.g. Experience Pentecost e.g. setting up
and experiencing some of the interactive stations, or the Pentecost Musical e.g. learning some of the songs.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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Evaluate our RE learning:
Key Question: How does celebrating Pentecost remind Christians that God is with them?
 Sit around a large piece of red / orange / yellow cloth - Pentecost colours! Do we understand why Christians celebrate Pentecost? – the gift of the Holy Spirit given to them, the birthday of the church.
 Now think of all the ways Christians celebrate / remember Pentecost i.e. songs, art work, services at church,
prayers, storytelling and acting. Why do they do all these things?
 Children refer back to their own questions. Have we answered them? What do we do with any left unanswered?
your RE
Making Progress in RE?
What have we learnt about Pentecost and from Pentecost? You could use a large window picture to represent
‘Learning about’ and a mirror picture to represent ‘Learning from’ and display ideas on these.
Check the Assessment level grid at the end of the unit for ideas for checking progress and weave these into the
work the children do throughout the unit and into questions children can be asked when doing activities.
Express our RE Learning – a few ideas
Imagine that Jesus left this box of art materials (like Rabbity did). Use anything you would like to out of the box to
express the Christian belief ‘God is always with us’.
Put on a Pentecost birthday party like the one on Tom and Tessa’s invitation. Decorate cakes, make cards, practise
songs, plan games and crafts. Use traditional colours and symbols of the Holy Spirit in your planning. There are lots
of examples of activities on the internet to get you started but every activity must be a reminder of the Pentecost story and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Remember that at some point in a Christian Pentecost party there will be storytelling and a Pentecost song and prayers. Children will need to work out how to provide these too.
Design and make a Pentecost/ ‘God is always with us’ banner using symbols and appropriate colours. It must be
suitable for display at a local church / several local churches. A notice should be written to go with it – this could be
a joint piece of writing.
Make a Pentecost gift box, maybe out of the black box at the beginning of the unit. Decorate the outside of it with
symbols. Inside children write promises of ways that they will make a difference for others – written on flame shapes
Learning to Learn
Did children cooperate?
Did they show independence?
What did they do if
they had a question?
Did they learn from
their mistakes?
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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Attainment Target 1 ~ Learning about religion and belief
How pupils develop their knowledge, skills and understanding
with reference to:
beliefs, teachings
practices and
forms of
and sources
ways of life
Attainment Target 2 ~ Learning from religion and belief
How pupils, in the light of their learning about religion, express their
responses and insights with regard to questions and issues about:
identity and
meaning, purpose
values and
and truth
I can
I can
I can
I can
I can
I can
remember a
Christian story and
talk about it
e.g. talk about the
story of Jesus’
ascension and his
promise to his
tell a Christian story
and say some things
that people believe
use the right names
for things that are
special in a religion
e.g. use the words
God, Jesus, festival,
Pentecost, Christian,
Bible, correctly in
questions / answers
talk about some of the
things that are the
same for different
religious people
talk about things that
happen to me
talk about what I find
interesting or puzzling
e.g. talk about times
when I feel alone or
lost, or when I have to
wait, or when I feel
really excited
ask about what
happens to others
with respect for their
e.g. talk about what I
find interesting or
puzzling in the
Ascension or
Pentecost stories
talk about some things
in stories that make
people ask questions
talk about what is
important to me and to
other people
e.g. talk about what
helps me when I feel
alone and what I have
found out helps a
talk about what is
important to me and to
others with respect for
their feelings
e.g. tell the story of
Pentecost and say
how Christians
believe God the Holy
Spirit is God with
them to help them
describe what a
believer might learn
from a religious story
e.g. talk about how
people in different
Christian churches
share the Pentecost
recognise and talk
about religious art,
symbols and words
e.g. recognize
pictures of the story of
the Ascension or of
Pentecost and talk
about what I see
say what some
Christian symbols
stand for and what
some of the art,
music, etc is about
e.g. say fire and wind
at Pentecost stand for
God the Holy Spirit;
explain what some
Pentecost art, songs
or crafts are about
use religious words to
describe some
different ways people
show their beliefs
e.g. using religious
words, describe how
Christians show belief
in God at Pentecost
e.g. through worship
e.g. interview some
Christians, with
respect, to find out
about Pentecost and
how they feel God is
with them
compare some of the
things that influence
me with those that
influence other people
e.g. compare how
Christians say the
Holy Spirit transforms
them with who / what
influences me
e.g. talk about things
in the Pentecost story
that make them, or
others, ask questions
e.g. Did their heads
get burnt?
ask important
questions about life;
compare my ideas
with those of others
e.g. compare ideas
about life based on
the Pentecost story
e.g. about waiting,
feeling alone, sharing
e.g. describe what a
Christians might
learn from the story
of Pentecost e.g.
about God
describe some of the
things that are the
same and different for
religious people
e.g. describe some of
the things that are the
same and different in
how Christians
celebrate at Pentecost
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
e.g. talk about an
important message I,
and others, want
everyone to hear and
what message is
important to Christians
link things that are
important to me and
other people with the
way I think and behave
e.g. link Pentecost being
important to Christians
with their beliefs; link
who is important to me
with how I treat them
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Resources for this enquiry:
Tom and Tessa - are imaginary Christian characters who enable you to talk about things Christian children
learn or do. They provide a context for pupils’ learning which is easier to handle than talking abstractly about
religious people. You can create your own Tom and Tessa by enlarging and using our cartoon characters,
drawn by Dennis Buhr. However, you could use persona dolls or any suitable photos of children to create
similar characters. The names ‘Tom’ and ‘Tessa’ are immaterial; feel free to change them.
Sometimes scenarios can be created around their lives to start a discussion. Sometimes they help by bringing in a bag containing Christian artefacts or books! Here are suggestions for this unit:
 A children’s story Bible (see below)
 A CD of Christian children’s songs (see below)
 A picture of the Pentecost story
 An invitation to a Pentecost party or Pentecost Messy Church– or card to make the invitation
Some recommended resources:
The Big Bible Story book -
The Lion First Bible -
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones
34 Songs for All Occasions, -
pub 2012 by author/illustrator Jo Empson (Child’s Play)
Rabbit enjoys rabbity things, but he also loves un-rabbity things! His friends are desolate when he suddenly
disappears. But Rabbit has left behind some special gifts, to help them discover their own un-rabbity talents.
This great book provides both parallels and real differences from the story of Pentecost.
Badger’s Parting Gifts – Susan Varley
Badger is very old and knows he will soon die. He tries to prepare his friends for his death, but they are still
grief-stricken when he dies. Then they remember all the practical things Badger taught them.
An older but much-loved book which also offers good parallels and differences with the Pentecost story.
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
Page 9
Open the Book – a national organization that encourages local churches to work together to tell simple Bible stories
from The Lion Storyteller Bible in school Collective Worship, using a standard script. Many of these teams exist locally
and most are excellent, acting out the stories with costumes and props and involving the children too.
Their website is: For your local representative contact the Diocesan Schools’ Adviser- [email protected]
Ideas for Pentecost art and craft activities
These can be found in many places on the internet. Check out Pentecost ‘pinterest’ boards as a good starter and these will link you to other
sites e.g. If your local church runs a Messy Church group, they may be
able to help with activities. Messy Church has become an important international movement for churches working with young families and
much of the work is done in the context of art and craft. is the main website but put Pentecost Messy
Church into an internet search and you will find ideas.
All the initial ideas for this unit were worked on by Gemma Kingston (St Mary’s C of E Academy, Mildenhall); Heidi Harris
(Norton CEVC Primary) and Victoria Bush (St Mary’s C of E Academy, Mildenhall) at the Emmanuel Project weekend at
Belsey Bridge Conference Centre 2012. Thank you all for your hard work!
Diocesan Schools’ Adviser: Helen Matter / [email protected] / 01473 298570
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