Hooking Your Students – An Idea for Lent

I’m a firm believer in doing short transitional activities (3-5 minutes) in religious education that engage the students and act as segues into the “meat” of the lesson. They act as attention-getters or “hooks” that make a connection for the students. Here’s an example of one such activity that can be used to introduce the season of Lent:

Select 4 or 5 students and hand each of them some paper plates, paper cups, and plastic ware (or anything else that is unbreakable and lightweight) so that their hands are full. Then, bring out a foam ball and begin playing catch with the entire class, randomly throwing to various students, including those with their hands full. Observe how they attempt to catch the ball with their hands full. After a number of tosses, point out how difficult it is to catch the ball if our hands are full. Explain that, in a similar way, it is very difficult for us to receive God’s grace if we are holding on to sin. Point out that, during Lent, we practice letting go of things (i.e. fasting, giving things up) as a way of opening our hearts to receiving God’s grace. 


About Joe Paprocki 2172 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 www.catechistsjourney.com.

8 Comments on Hooking Your Students – An Idea for Lent

  1. Great idea Joe, the only problem I have with this is that I teach that Lent is not only about letting go of things or giving something up (of course that’s part of it) but also it’s about adding things to our lives. Adding things such as extra prayer time, increasing our almsgiving to the poor (depends on age), service to others…Our catechists and classes are organizing “Soup and Bread” meals for the parish on every Friday night of Lent. Lent is about renewing our minds and hearts. That’s the “meat” of the Lenten lesson, IMO. How would you “segue” into that?

  2. Actually, Lauretta, I don’t see this as a problem at all. You are absolutely right that we try to add things on (prayer and almsgiving) during Lent. I’ve always taught that fasting and giving things up was a way of making room for more prayer and almsgiving. I think that the 3 disciplines of Lent are intimately connected. If we give up watching TV or engaging in certain other activities, we can and should replace that time with more prayer and almsgiving. That’s the whole idea of tossing the ball which can represent God’s grace or the other disciplines of prayer and almsgiving. Let me know what you think.

  3. Hi Joe, I think I understand the concept better now. Thanks. How do you think we get it across to the kids that they should hold on to this grace (ball)? What do we do with the ball now that we have it? The giving up (negative) part helps us to add something (positive)that should be permanent and transformative. We shouldn’t, for example,return to our pre-lenten prayer habits. We don’t stop helping the poor because Lent is over. That’s the challenge to me. Helping the children understand why the Church encourages these disciplines in Lent.
    Are we on the same page?

  4. Absolutely, Lauretta! Part of it is our belief that the “something new” WILL be transformative and something they will not want to let go of. Another part is the recognition that Lent, like every liturgical season, highlights or magnifies something that should be part of our ongoing spirituality…we need to emphasize that with our young people. Finally, the fact that Lent is annual is recognition that, try as we might, we DO tend to drop the ball! We need this intense season to re-prioritize and try again. I’ll be interested in hearing from you and others what insights you come up with to share with your students when discussing Lent.

  5. Joe,

    I like your idea. I can see the students having a lot of fun with this as well as “getting the point’ in a very concrete way. Below is an activity I have done with my students during the Lenten period. It is similar to the one you suggest here.

    I filled a clear glass with pennies to the very brim. When I came in the class, I placed the glass on the desk so that all the students could see it.

    I asked them how much water could go into my glass full of penny? If I were stuck in the desert and very thirsty, what would I have to do with the pennies in the glass before I could put water in it to drink?

    I concluded by telling the students that sometimes we need to leave some important things behind in order to find even more important things. For example, we need to think a little less about ourselves to be able to welcome others in our lives, to make friends with them. We need to make a “space” in our lives for others, or else we will never have friends and we are “thirsty” for friendship just as much as we can be thirsty for water. In the same way, we need to make a bit of space in our lives so that God can enter into it. We have to give a bit of ourselves – a bit of our time for prayer, for going to mass, for thinking about God – in order for God to have space to enter our lives a bit more and be our friend. Giving something up for Lent or at any other time during the year can be thought of as making a bit of space for others – people in need and God. We need to let go a bit of ones self to make space for others and for God.

    You can find an expanded version of this activity on my Web site at http://www.silk.net/RelEd/01042001plan.htm .

    By the way, I really love what you are doing in your blog. I will take every opportunity to let others know about it.

  6. Gilles, I love your idea. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the affirmation about my blog. I am equally impressed with your online resources and have included them on my list of links.

  7. Thank you very much for the idea! I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students, and it worked great!! I started the class with the activity. Many of them were curious to find out what the whole purpose of the activity was.
    Again, thank you for the great idea!!

  8. Cinper, I’m glad the idea worked well with your students! Anytime we can arouse curiosity in our students, we’re on the right track!

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