10 Ways to Celebrate Advent with Your Class—Without Rushing to Christmas

Editor’s note: We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Catechist’s Journey this week by sharing catechetical top-10 lists each day and giving away Loyola Press prize packages. Enter for your chance to win the Dear Pope Francis Family Kit today; details below. With stores decorating for Christmas as early as Halloween, movie channels already showing holiday flicks, and restaurants playing Christmas music in November, it’s easy for the young people we serve to want to jump […]

When and How to Introduce Advent

The first week of Advent begins on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. While that is usual, it forces me to make a choice in how to introduce Advent: Do I talk about the season early, before Thanksgiving? Or do I wait until after the holiday break, when the season has already started? I’ve alternated my approach through the years, but I usually like to at least introduce Advent before the holiday, inviting the young people to […]

Patron Saints Election Results

At the time I write this, my group of seventh graders has narrowed down the pool of saintly candidates to three as we move toward electing a patron saint for our classroom. The finalists are St. Mary, St. Francis Xavier, and Blessed Miguel Pro. Mary is polling as the current leader, but who knows what the final tally will say. You may recall that when I originally shared this activity of electing a patron saint, […]

Classroom Management Techniques: Call-and-Response

A few years ago, I started using a new technique for getting the young people’s attention: call-and-response. When I would say, “God is good,” the young people would respond, “all the time.” Then I would say, “And all the time,” to which the young people would respond, “God is good.” I borrowed the idea from another catechist and the specific phrase from a priest who served at a local parish. The technique’s effectiveness has been […]

A Plan for the First Session of Seventh Grade

I’m never sure what to expect on the first day of religious education. How many students will show up? What will they be like? How long will the opening prayer service and send-off to classrooms take? A catechist always needs to be flexible, but the first day of sessions makes that quality even more important. This year I had 14 young people on my roster, 13 of whom attended the first session. I expect the […]

What’s Inside My Catechist’s Bag

I teach in a classroom that is in a school that closed a few years ago. While this means I can leave some things at the school, the room is still shared space among two sessions of religious education and a few other groups that use the building during the week. I also like to have my textbook, worksheets, and other learning materials with me when I plan sessions, so aside from the prayer table […]

Electing a Patron Saint for the Classroom

In this election year, I’ve decided to use a general outline of the political process as a multi-week activity for my seventh-grade class to learn about the saints. I’ll frame this lesson as selecting a patron saint for our year together. This will be an opportunity to look to the saints as role models who exhibit heroic virtues worthy of examples of the Christian life. First, we’ll meet the pool of candidates. I’ll help the […]

A Catechetical Year in One Sentence

How would you summarize your catechetical year in one sentence? As I reviewed my year, I found myself reviewing my previous contributions to Catechist’s Journey and ran across that question. I came up with several sentences that described this year with seventh grade. It was better than last year. Last year was one of my most challenging years as a catechist, but this year rejuvenated me by being easier. The room layout worked better, with […]

Sacraments of Initiation Learning Stations Used with Seventh Graders

In the next-to-last session for the year, I used the Sacraments of Initiation learning stations with my group of seventh graders. As the download page for the learning stations explains, the activity gets young people “out of their seats and moving around doing simple tasks to learn about the symbols and signs used in each Sacrament of Initiation.” Overall it was a successful lesson. I was surprised by how quiet the young people were as […]

Four Tips for Making Connections Between the Mass and Class Discussions

One of the boys in my group asked, “Do you go to church?” We were discussing the Mass, and he seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that, yes, I do go to church for weekly Mass. He admits he only goes to church occasionally, and he, like many kids in our programs, is more the norm than the exception. I don’t have the secret formula for how we change this trend and encourage those […]

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