Each year, the Archdiocese of Omaha requires all third-grade Catholic-school teachers to teach the Apostles’ Creed. Teaching young children to memorize a prayer involves some traditional and non-traditional methods. I am always looking for new methods to help my students since every class is different. What worked with one class may not work with another.
I dedicate two weeks to teaching my class the Creed before giving them a test. During the first week, I give them the text of the Apostles’ Creed on card stock. I carefully read each line and explain the prayer. I also have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on hand, in case the children have any questions. My third graders can ask some great questions, and while I can answer most of them, having the Catechism nearby gives me the confidence to find the answers to those questions that really stump me.
After explaining the Apostles’ Creed line by line, I add it to our morning prayers. Over the next two weeks we pray the Creed slowly and mindfully. This is the nitty-gritty part of memorizing. I then introduce non-traditional methods of memorization. I told my students that I had read an article about using movement as an aid to learning. Inspired by this article, I have the students form a large circle, and we walk as we pray. Next we form groups of two or three and test one another. One group made up a game called “the hot seat.” The rules to this game were simple: a student recited the prayer while sitting on my stool. Once he or she made a mistake, that student had to give up the stool to another student. Another group applied one of the learning strategies we use in class: highlighters! Since I have them highlight important phrases in their religion books, they figured they should highlight the entire Apostles’ Creed. A bright yellow highlighted prayer stayed on their desk for the next two weeks.
During the second week of teaching my class the Creed, I handed out a worksheet with pictures illustrating the prayer. The students had to match up the phrases to the pictures. They took the worksheet home with them so they could continue studying for the test.
Finally, testing day arrived! I handed out a sheet of paper with the Apostles’ Creed, but with a word box in place of key words. The students had to fill in the blanks. But after having practiced and studied the Creed for two weeks, I knew that they they were ready and confident to recite the Apostles’ Creed. More importantly, they knew the meaning of this important prayer. I know they are proud of their hard work, and I am grateful to see them grow in their understanding of our Catholic faith.
What are some ways you help the students in your class memorize the important prayers of our faith and take them to heart?