No Happy Medium

Working with eighth graders, I find that there seems to be no happy medium when it comes to their energy level. I can have them simply read from the text, which gets boring and makes them lethargic, or I can engage them in activities (my preference), which gets them overly excited and creates discipline problems! Sometimes, I feel like my own worst enemy: I get the kids engaged, and then I’m doing all I can to contain their exuberance. Frankly, I prefer that over lethargy. I would much rather have myself worn out by the end of class than have the kids feeling that religious education is boring. To me, the words boring and gospel are wholly incompatible. It is unacceptable to have young people equate being bored with learning about the Creator of the universe!

About Joe Paprocki 2745 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

4 Comments on No Happy Medium

  1. I find that directing the energy helps – something simple, like tell them to run two laps around the building when they really start bouncing off the walls; it gives them something to do with all that energy – yes, I know running around the building is not very educational, but when they get back, they’re ready to sit down again.

    Or if they are having a helpless fit of the giggles, I just say, “Deep breath – deep breath!!” and I model for them by taking a very deep breath myself – you can’t breathe and giggle at the same time, so it helps to calm them down – and then have them recite the Creed or the Our Father in unison; that also calms them down.

  2. Judith, thanks for sharing your ideas. I especially like the idea of having them take a deep beath because you can tie that into the breath of the Holy Spirit and help the children to remember that we are alive because of the breath of God within us. I like the fact that you seek ways to channel that energy rather than clamping down on it…we have to let kids be kids but we also have to teach them proper behavior. Discipline is part of being a disciple!

  3. One thing that works really well with this age group is to divide them into small groups and have them invent skits and/or talk shows based on the story of the day.

    We’re lucky to have a fairly large room, with lots of space for a “stage” where they can perform – they come up with some pretty amazing stuff, too.

    One time a few years ago we did “Jerry Springer” interviews of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar – how time flies though; this year’s group has never even heard of Jerry Springer before – probably a good thing, since we had “Hagar” and “Sarah” practically tearing each other’s hair out, before – and I’ll never forget “Abraham” screaming at “Sarah,” “But this was YOUR dumb idea!! What was I supposed to do??” – yep, they not only had fun with it; they GOT it. 🙂

    Last year I did a floor map of the Journeys of St. Paul, using chairs with little travel brochure pictures on them to represent the destinations, and had the kids do a “treasure hunt” – if they got all the clues in the right order, then they got a small prize. We even had little boats for them to take across the “water,” and the shipwreck at Malta got pretty realistic for at least one of the groups.

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