The Powerpoint presentation I did last night on Church history went very nicely. First, I would say that the kids were intrigued at the notion of a “high-tech” religion class. They got a very clear message that “something was up” for that night’s class. It’s always good to communicate the message, as they arrrive, that “there is most definitely a plan for this session and I need YOU to fit into that plan ASAP!”
Second, providing the young people with a note-taking sheet (fill-in the blanks) was absolutely crucial to keeping them active instead of passive. All they had to do was fill in some names and dates that I left blank on the sheet. Knowing that they had a task to perform while I was performing my task kept them on focus and well-behaved (for the most part…remember, kids are kids and I absolutely DO have to stop every once in a while to get their attention back). I found it interesting that, even though we do not grade in our program and there will not be a test (and I never told them that I would collect the note-taking sheet), they felt compelled to complete it properly, even asking at various points if I could clarify a certain item that they missed.
Third, the presentation was not a straight lecture. I did a lot of back-and-forth throughout, asking them questions and inviting them to guess what some of the slides are talking about. With this interaction, we were actually only able to get through three-fifths of the timeline. I could have done a bit more but they kept reminding me to save time for our guided meditation. (I’m not so naive as to believe that they are all begging to meditate. They like the idea of getting out of their desks, spreading out on the floor, turning the lights down, and having some quiet time. For some, I’m sure it’s just a chance to zone out. But I know that the Holy Spirit is reaching them in some way, shape, or form. The bottom line is, if 8th graders are insisting that we include time for prayer, I’ll take it!!!) Anyway, we will finish the timeline next week.
Finally, doing the Powerpoint created a bit of a stir that I’m sure the kids noticed. Our DRE stopped in to observe for a while and to add a few thoughts of her own. That made an impression on them. Then, one of my 8th grade catechist colleagues arranged to have the DRE watch his class for a while so that he could sit in for about 10 minutes to observe. Again, I can’t help but think that the young people take notice of adults showing such great interest in catechesis. I think that speaks volumes. They see that we are committed to finding the best ways to proclaim the Gospel and that we have enthusiasm for this ministry.
I’ve decided that the best way to make the Powerpoint available for download is to invite anyone who is interested to send me an e-mail requesting the file. I’ll also be happy to send you the note-taking sheet. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be aware of the fact that the Powerpoint file is large and may take some time to download depending on what type of service you have.
Again, I want to reiterate the fact that I’m not proposing that all catechists need to be creating Powerpoint presentations for their sessions. Few of us have time to do so and many of our parishes do not have the equipment. However, the technology is available and can be used effectively and I know that some catechists are very computer savvy and can utilize this approach very easily. The overall message is that we commit ourselves to sharpening our techniques, whatever our style may be, so that we can engage our young people in the most effective manner. We’re working with the best material available – the Gospel! – so we need to devote lots of attention to how we are transmitting the message!