Post-Webinar: Keeping the Conversation Going

27118edurgb600As promised, we’ll keep the conversation going from our Catechist Training Webinar by addressing the many questions that we did not get to address while live. I’m going to do so by using the COMMENTS feature below. Click on the word COMMENTS just below and to the left and you’ll see comments from Joe, each representing a different question. You can then click on REPLY to add your thoughts. Let’s talk!

About Joe Paprocki 2747 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

35 Comments on Post-Webinar: Keeping the Conversation Going

  1. William asks…

    As a first year Catholic school teacher – I am teaching religion class – how much and what type of homework do you typically give your students?

    • William, as a Catholic school teacher, you have more leverage than a religious education program catechist in terms of giving homework. I would think that you would take advantage of the opportunity to assign homework a couple of times per week. I’d like to hear from some other Catholic school teachers on this subject.

      • Joe and William,

        Homework should be used for reinforcement of your in-class lessons. You should not try to have students learn something new through their homework assignments. So the “types” of homework may include textbook reading related to your lesson, textbook questions that ask about something you have taught (again not something new), worksheets that give students the opportunity to practice. You may ask students to do some reflecting or journalling, but in my experience students tend not to give these assignments the amount of time you may hope they will.

        How much? If you are in middle school, then work with your fellow teachers to coordinate the amount of homework. Try not to assign work that will take more than 20 minutes for your religion class (20 minutes x 6 subjects = 2 hours which may be more time than they actually have after sports and other obligations). For the younger grades, keep it under an hour total and integrate religion homework into your other subjects. So have students practice their reading and writing skills with a homework assignment.

        Joe – thanks for the webinar. great tips!

      • I have been teaching in Catholic 5 day schools in the Midwest for over 25 years. My major subject area is the social sciences (I think that was Joe’s original area, too.) I still teach in that area and I will be teaching religion this year for middle schoolers (which is the first time in 20 + years although I have done some adult rel ed and run several retreats.) I detest “busy work homework” and never forget if you assign it, you must correct it in a timely manner. I use the “15 minute rule” which means on average, if I give overnight homework I feel it should not take the average student more than 15 minutes. If it will take longer I try to give the students more lead time such as assign it on a Tuesday due for Thursday. This alleviates MOST of the time management problems. I played sports, did scouts, had a paper route, did farm chores, etc. and so did my own kids so I understand the situation.

  2. Joe V. asks…

    What do you do when the teacher guide does not have enough information to teach with? Meaning, you will have dead time left after using the 2 activities and the kids are still saying say what? namely 5th and 6th grade level.

    • Joe V., I suggest that you check your publisher’s Website for more activities. I know that Loyola Press offers more activities Online for catechists who use Finding God or Christ Our Life. I know that other publishers do likewise.

    • As for the teacher guide not having enough information, I would speak with your DRE about the possibility of looking into a different publisher. If that is not a possibility, then when you are preparing your lesson, you might need to get other resources to supplement. CD w/music, a DVD about the topic, bring in a speaker, bring in “props” etc. If you are finished with the lesson and are looking to fill time, you can always fill time by having a Saint book handy and randomly choose a Saint to tell the students about. With that age group, they might like time at the end of class to visit each other. When my middle schoolers are getting chatty, I tell them I will save time at the end of the class for them to visit.

    • Another great idea is to prepare the Sunday Reading so that they can connect it with the class when they attend mass and then when they come for class ask them about the mass they attended this previous weekend. Mass attendance goes up and there is a connection with 6th graders and the Bible. Have a great Year.

    • Joe V. I was a first year catechist this past year and I ran out of material ONCE….and that was the LAST time. A terrible experience which I won’t go into….;-) . I’m learning to keep some things in my “hip pocket” just in case. Could be a group activity or a devotion (alway great in my opinion) or a story about some modern saint (or beatified person) that doesn’t get much coverage in text books. I will gather this info myself in the next couple weeks which will probably take 2-3 hours but at least I will be covered. Based on my past experience in other areas, if I find that I don’t get to use this stuff that was meant to be used in emergency situations, I will probably be disappointed. Good Luck to you.

    • When I was a public school substitute teacher in grades 7 – 12, I ALWAYS had sponge activities on hand. I found those most effective were those with which the kids could easily relate to their own esxperiences. In September 2009 edition of Catholic Digest (And The Award Goes To. . ., 46), Alice Camille compiles a list much like you might find in a middle school yearbook: “Dumbest Boyfriend,” “Most Unappetizing Dish,” with book, chapter and verse(s) cited. This seems to be a good activity to get those kids racing through the Bible to find the rest of the story.

    • You could have a weekly bible search. I had to substitute for a 6th grade class once and I typed bible verses to look up. Ex: Mark 1:16-20. Students can work in pairs, then look up the verse in the bible, give a verbal explanation as to what the story is about, then discuss how this story fits into their life as a 5th or 6th grader. Place slips of paper with the bible verses in a small basket so you are ready whenever their is some extra time. This is not my idea. I found it either in the lesson plan or some other reading.
      As coordinator, I always like to see what ideas my catechists come up with. One teacher would place the bible verses from the lesson on the board with blank spots. All students look up the bible verses and each one must go to the board and write in the correct word. This was also done in 5th grade. Students love to do this.
      Hope these ideas will help you. God Bless,

    • Beth, I need to defer to catechists who teach this age group! I know how to engage junior high students but I’m not quite so sure when it comes to primary age students. Let’s hear from some 2nd grade catechists!

      • I like to do things that are fun for the kids.
        Dressing up and acting out bible stories really helps to reinforce any lesson. It does not have to be perfect . the kids improvise. all 12 of us may be the kings (or queens) on a journey to meet then newborn king. Or we may all be in the crowd saying Hosanna as Jesus enter Jerusalem.
        Music is great to use. You can use noisemakers nstruments or make drums with the kids to use with songs. The Hello, God songs are great but anything that gets them up and moving is fine. I change activities about every 10 minutes. the kids set up a prayer space with a bible, prayer cloth (which we make by tracing all our hands on a piece of cloth), holy water , maybe something seasonal in the middle of class when we have our prayer service. I like to have it in the middle of our class time so we are not interupted by late comers and everyone gets an opportunity to pray .
        At the end of the service two of the kids bless each child by dipping their fingers in the holy water as we all say, “God bless ______ in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. We have a job chart for all the kids to do a specific job–prayer leaders, line leader, helper, faith word (which changes every week and is locked up in a box that the faith word person opens and writes on a poster –a new word each week) , class rules ( which we read each week as the child points to them) (all the rules are positive statements “we will respect each other”, “we will listen to each other”, we will keep our room neat and clean”, “we will share” etc.), maestro (passes out the instruments), wardrobe (gets out dressup box), etc.
        We do a simple craft that introduces the lesson.
        Use activities that engage all of their senses.
        these are just some of the things you can do with the kids. They like repetition. And 2nd graders are so much fun. They are becoming more independent (they change so much during the year) and are funny and cute and say the wisest things when you least expect it. Plan to have fun and as Joe said in his webinar ( and I can say this is so true) overplan and have extra things to do with the kids. I never finish everything I plan but I will NEVER be in the position of standing in front of a group of 7 and 8 year olds with nothing to do!

        • Wow! Dianna, this is wonderfully inspiring! Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas with us. You certainly leave no doubt that what you are teaching is GOOD NEWS!

    • I have only been teaching 2nd grade for 3 years and have only been in the Church since 2005, so my experience is limited but I have tried to bring the Teaching of the Church that we are exploring each week to their level and bring in experiences from their daily lives to bring their faith to life. Since I have grandchildren entering their age group, I often talk about my grandchildren-they act different when they realize I could be their grandmother.

    • Second graders love music, my daughter’s RE Catechist played Catholic music throughout the year and they loved it. Also hands on learning, such as games that teach about the topic, an example is for the 10 Commandments & Church Precepts, a matching game, I listed them on a board, then there are cards with real life scenarios and the children match the scenario to which Commandment or Precept it goes with. DVDs that reinforce/supplement the lesson are good with this age group also.

    • I taught 1st grade last year and will be teaching 2nd grade this year and I found they loved playing games. It was a great way to review and we would have teams. Also, I would read from a Children’s Bible and would allow the children to read when possible. Music is always great as well.

  3. I teach 6th grade and I do something similar. I start off strong and loosen up as time goes on. If things begin to get out of hand, that gives me a baseline to be able to get “strict” again. I let them know that my tone is dependent on their behavior. It’s all up to them.

  4. Something that came up last night was a question around parent involvement. For those Catechists that have been successful at it, how do you manage to get parents more involved in discussing faith topics with their children? What strategies / ideas do you incorporate as part of the year?

  5. Joe, Thanks for all the great work you do. Your website has been a great help
    to me even though I have been teaching Religion for many years.
    In regard to the webinar….It was my first and I was not prepared for the
    download needed to participate. I was ready 10 minutes ahead of time but was just waiting. The website did not notify me that I had accidently mistyped the password and when I finally discovered that and downloaded what was needed, I missed 15 minutes of the event. Please give some more specific details to newcomers who will take part next week. I am sorry I will be away then but hope to hear the rest and also what I missed when I get home.

  6. I have just finished my first webinar this evening and found it very interesting. I am a DRE and also catechize adults in the RCIA process. Of particular interest was the questions asked by the catechists and your responses. I now know more of what challenges my catechists may be facing. This webinar reinforced how I must be available for my catechists to help and guide them. Looking forward to next week. Thank you!

    • Joe, I had submitted my comment earlier and find that somehow it has been deleted. So in order not to duplicate I will simply say thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Webinar for Catechists. I found it helpful and I was able to pinpoint where I can improve in my lesson planning, simply by teaching one idea. Everything presented was simple and to the point. I am looking forward to next week. Thanks to all who have made this possible. I am learning from other Catechists that I am not alone.

      • Hi Corina and thanks for your comments and your persistence in making sure they appear. As far as I can tell, your original comment appears in the comments for the post titled “Webinar Success – A Great Big Thank You!!!” Take another look to see if you find it there. Thanks for your kind words about the Webinar…glad you could participate!

  7. One has to remember also that faith is not taught but caught. One does not have to teach everything but listening attentively and giving time to the Big question of the lesson shows the students that they matter as an individual. Many of our students are not listened to in our world with so much noise and busy schedules. Jesus listened to people and we are called to do the same. Peace.

  8. I listened to your webinar last night, and I thank you for doing it.

    Here is one of my issues, and I hope you have time to address it during the next session.

    I teach confirmation to high schoolers, many of whom are from public school, from families who do not actively practice the Faith, but who feel they should have their children baptized, and later confirmed. Most of them know the Our Father, the Hail Mary and not much else. They don’t go to Mass often because their parents don’t. They don’t go to confession. It’s really not their fault because no one has taught them or given them much example. More than half of my class generally falls in this category. By the way, ours is a wealthy parish and these are kids who will all go on to college, often good colleges.

    I don’t try to teach too much doctrine. I want them to 1)believe in
    God, 2) believe that God wants good things for them and isn’t out to “get” them with all sorts of rules and commandments, and 3) develop a prayer life. I figure if I can get them to pray, especially when they are alone, the rest will eventually take care of itself. Most of the prayers in the cathechist’s manual (group lectio divina, alternate recitation of psalms or other prayers, etc. don’t get much response. So sometime we just talk about what on their minds and then I pray out loud, as if I were in their shoes, and then have some silent reflection. I am big on silent prayer, but I wonder if it’s appropriate for high school freshmen and sophomores.

    What do you think of this method? Incidentally, I will be starting my fourth year this fall, and my experience has been fairly consistent on this point.

    • Pete, thanks for sharing your experience with us. The challenges you face are very real and many catechists face them to various degrees. I’m all for silent prayer…I think that teens do not have enough silence in their lives. I would encourage you to do guided reflections with them as well that end in silent contemplation. We are going to talk about this type of prayer next week. One concern that I have is how doctrine fits in to all this. Too often we see doctrine as hurdles or hoops to jump through when, in reality, doctrine helps us know and understand God and God’s will. Doctrine and prayer go hand in hand because doctrine helps us to understand who God is and how God has revealed himself to us so that we can know to whom we are praying. Teaching all doctrine without prayer is not sound, however, teaching prayer without doctrine can be equally unsound. I look forward to discussing this more with you and with others.

  9. Joe,

    Thanks. Perhaps, I wasn’t clear. I do teach doctrine, always covering the material in the assigned chapter, usually in about 45 minutes. Then we have a short break and discussion about the evening’s topic, its application to our lives, and prayer. I try to make it clear that one’s relationship with God (lived out in part through prayer and in part through service to others) is more important than any single point of doctrine. Very often these kids don’t believe too much of the doctrine, don’t see how it has any releveance to their lives, and, frankly, don’t care. But they do care about the idea of God, even when they are afraid to admit it to their peers.

    As I said, though, I often do most of the praying because they won’t, but I have concluded that about five minutes of silent reflection are good for mid-teens. I wanted to know what you think about that; you seem to agree. If not done right it will lead to giggles; if done well we can hope to feel the Spirit.

    I will be interested to hear you next week.

    • Pete, that is a very helpful clarification. I think one of our biggest challenges as catechists is to help people see that doctrine is intended to help us in our everyday lives. Sometimes a good way to approach this is to use the bad news/good news approach: we present a problem, obstacle, or challenge from everyday real life (bad news) and then proceed to show how the Gospel addresses such an issue (Good news). In this way, we show that doctrine addresses real life concerns. A lot of times the BIG idea that I focus on for a lesson is just this: identify a real-life problem/challenge and then show how the Gospel addresses it. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to “seeing” you next week.

      And YES, I absolutely agree that providing silent reflection for teens is a good idea. God can communicate many wonderful things through the language of silence.

  10. I recently learned something that put this into perspective, but I do not know who to give credit to. Teach what is essential. Try to teach what is important and if you have time, teach what is nice to know.

  11. I also registered for last week’s part 1 but was unable to watch and listen to it. You mentioned you would be offering it again. Could you please tell me what day, date, and time the webinar will be? Thank you, Donna

    • Part Two will be offered one last time on tomorrow, Thursday, August 27 at 7:15 pm Central Daylight Time. We will also make recordings of each of them available soon…stay tuned.

  12. Our DRE requires all of our students (Grades 1-6) to report to the Church for a Praise & Worship Service which she directs. Prayers are said, the Gospel is read, a lesson is taught by her relative to the season, etc. Songs are sung. We then have to walk outside and down steps to the school to begin our class. This all usually takes about 30 minutes. It is a challenge to keep the students “in line” and to settle down when we get to the classroom. We then have an hour (or less) to teach our lessons. I wish the students could report directly to the classroom and let us have a prayer service in our rooms. Any comments?

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