On Second Thought…

ED000418Last evening’s session went OK, however, as I look back over my attempt to walk the young people through the Bible in preparation for the unit on Jesus, I’m having second thoughts about my approach.

Frankly, I think it was a bit beyond them to explore so many Scripture passages (as outlined in my handout)  in one swoop. As brief as most of those passages are and as easy as I thought it would be to tell the story of salvation history by glancing at each of these, I’m not so sure that the lightbulbs were going on. I have to hand it to the kids…they behaved well throughout and we had some nice moments (especially when reading about the giving of the Ten Commandments). However, I think this approach of reading so many Scripture passages in one sitting is better suited for high school students and adults. I think it would have better suited my 8th graders for me to simply lead them through the sections of the Bible as I describe in my book The Bible Blueprint - inviting them to find one or two passages in each of the 8 sections of the Bible (Pentateuch, History, Wisdom, Prophets/Gospels, Acts, Letters, Revelation).

Overall, I think they got the idea of the story of salvation history but I don’t think I was hitting the nail on the head. To top it off, the CD I had for my song of the week didn’t work last night so that threw me off a bit. Luckily, they were very well behaved for the guided reflection (sacred space) and things ended on a good note because of that.

The good part is, they did read directly from the Bible for a couple of weeks in class, and they encountered the wonderful stories of Abraham, Moses, and David. The “bad” is that I’m not so sure that reading certain other passages was very effective (too many unrecognizable names of people and places) and I’d hate to think that they would come away with the idea that reading the Bible is too difficult for them.

We live and learn, right? And, we teach and learn! Each time we teach, we can step back and evaluate how effective our approach was and make adjustments so that the next time we teach that same topic, we can improve our strategies. With years of experience, we learn not to beat ourselves up over sessions that are less than satisfactory but to simply make the necessary adjustments to find the right vehicle for proclaiming God’s Word in the future!

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11 Responses to “On Second Thought…”

  1. Christian Says:

    Live & learn indeed. I like your Nutshell outline, I cover much of the same territory (spread out) in 6th grade. I try to avoid too much reading aloud, as you say. If I were to use your outline I’d have the Bible passages printed together in order, so I’d save time by not flipping through my Bible. Then I’d 1/4 read, 1/4 tell the story, 1/4 act out the story and 1/4 get the kids to tell the story (by asking leading questions) of each passage. I’d adjust how much direct reading to do based on the kids’ expressions, & try to skip lines that weren’t real compelling plot-wise or prophecy-wise or Catholic-wise. I’d have the gotta-read lines highlighted.

    You have 29 passages. If there were 90 minutes, I think it could be done. I’d need two of my shorter classes. It’s an interesting concept: the Story of the Bible in 1 class period.

    Real interesting…..hmmm.

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Thanks, Christian. Part of my struggle comes from wanting to have the kids have the experience of actually flipping through pages of the Bible while, at the same time, knowing how much time this takes and how difficult some of the passages can be to understand at face value.

      Reply

      • Christian Says:

        Yeah you’re right, 8th graders should be able to manage that…there’s no substitute for actually handling the Bible, is there? It does take getting used to, it’s unlike the typical book in so many ways.

        If my 6th graders had Bibles, they’d be playing with them the whole class. I don’t let ‘em have anything, no books/ pens/ paper. So last class a girl brought her own piece of paper & pencil and in short order was doodling Valentine hearts.

        Incredible.

        Reply

  2. Brad Says:

    This year has been an adventure too trying to see what works with an unusually reserved group of 8th graders. After skipping the ice-breaker I usually start the year with because of an aggressive schedule that includes multiple chapters a week, I went back to it in week four. The kids opened up, their personalities flourished and we got through the actual material effortlessly. I’m also going to concentrate more on teaching than just keeping up.

    Yep, live and learn. I stopped beating myself up for the less than optimal earlier classes and am actually looking forward to seeing and teaching these kids again this week. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights – both good and otherwise.

    Reply

  3. Christian Says:

    “an aggressive schedule that includes multiple chapters a week”

    Wow…I have to cover ‘only’ 1 chapter a week and feel like it’s a sprint.

    Reply

  4. Joe Says:

    This comment came by way of an email from CORINA:

    Joe,
    Thank you for this wonderful update. It has helped me in ways I cannot describe in two words or less. I tend to elaborate so I will attempt to simply. I felt compelled to respond to this email because I can relate to this particular experience.
    A walk through the Bible was a great way to introduce and impress on the young how immense the knowledge and wisdom found in Scripture is; even in it’s simplified form. The word ‘Introduction’ brings to mind the fact that it introduces us to new things. Now these young people will someday say, I remember that name. You gave them a banquet. Now it is up to them to choose what they will take and eat. Hopefully it will satisfy and bring them back for more. I personally will stay tuned.
    We truly depend on the Holy Spirit in reference to the CD not working, allowing a detour of or towards humility. This encourages me to prepare another route.
    You are the right vehicle that proclaimed God’s word. I certainly learned much just by reading your update. Isn’t it truly a humbling experience to find that even after a well prepared lesson, it can leave us feeling that it was less than satisfactory? (St. Paul might say, ‘So that we might not become too elated’.) Yet, the beauty of it is that we never truly know the effect it may have on such young people, but we are aware of how God completes the work of our hands. As one of my former students put it, “You think we are not listening”.
    I feel that this was the final nudging of the Holy Spirit to bring me back into Ministry. As a Catechist I miss teaching and learning. Because of health reasons I had not been able to return but God will certainly give me strength as I already have a willing heart.
    A walk through this brief introduction has lead me in the right direction. No more doubts. So again, prayerfully thanking you for doing God’s work and allowing us to walk with you.
    In Christ’s Love,
    Corina

    Reply

  5. Joe Says:

    This comment came by way of email from HENRY:

    i was highly dubious as to the grand swoop of your plan and i am happy to see that you have had these second thoughts. i highly use the bible stories in class but never in such a grand sweep as you tried. god bless henry haefner, s.e. penna.

    Reply

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