In anticipation of the Getting Started as a Catechist Webinars that I’ll be doing in just a few weeks, I’m gathering the wisdom of veteran catechists to share with those who are beginning catechists. In particular, I’m seeking your wisdom on teaching to various age groups. I received some great feedback and suggestions for teaching to primary age children but I’m coming back to you one more time for your insights about teaching to intermediate age children (grades 4, 5, and 6). I could use a few more suggestions. I plan to share the best advice in my webinars. Please take a moment to share your insights about teaching intermediate age children…just click here and add your comments. Thanks!
About Joe Paprocki 2759 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.
We all know that kids are active and we can teach them through music, crafts, movement and especially games! One of my catechists, Cheryl, came up with a great way to review with her 6th grade students. She devised a game centered on baseball. She would divide her class into 2 teams. She created a field on a piece of the foam exhibit board. Each team had a chance to bat and field. When batting, she would ask the team a question from the unit she was reviewing. If they answered correctly, their batter took a base, if they answered incorrectly the other team could try to answer it for an out. Each time they gave a correct answer, the batters all moved a base, and hopefully were able to score. At three outs, the other team received the questions. Many variations incorporating fouls, stealing bases, etc. can be added to this simple form of the game. Her class really loved to review each unit!
The one thing I have learned teaching 4, 5, and 6th graders is that they love to hear stories, even from the bible!!! After our 8th grade students celebrated their Confirmation each was interviewed as part of their mystagogia process. Every single student (both from our parish school and parish religious ed. program) stated they wished they had heard more stories from the bible; that they had paid better attention in class; and they had a opportunity to talk about their faith experiences with each other.
If we begin these traditions early…. say intermediate grades,we just may find we have guided our junior high students to know Jesus personally and to be curious about deepening that connection with/to him.
I have also found how much children of all ages love routine/ritual in RE class; they also get into prayer time, if their catechist is patient enough to challenge them to rise to the occasion on a consistent basis.
Wow! You guys really came through with some great insights! Thanks so much!
Yes, I tell stories all the time in class, too; now that I think about it, the whole year is telling Bible stories/ accounts in order to teach Catholic concepts. That is, I try not tell a story without explicitly connecting it to Catholicism, such as relating the Prodigal Son story to Confession; or consciously telling a story in a way that provides background to something Catholic we’ll deal with later. An example of that is getting the kids to act out Shebna & Eliakim during our classes on Isaiah; then later having them recall it when Jesus gives Peter the keys.
Thinking of other stuff:
The kids like variety. Every class will have some combination of reading, storytelling, drawing on the board, acting out with the kids included, art handout, singing, and lots of questions.
They can change directions real fast if one line of discussion isn’t working.
They bore quickly, especially if I read out loud for more than 30 seconds.
They do better if their imaginations are involved, or if they can laugh every now & then.
They like to figure stuff out rather than be given answers.
They are interested in sex, which can be used to the teacher’s advantage, without necessarily discussing sex per se.
They can tell if what you say comes from the heart.
They don’t need coddling, and like to have real thinking expected of them. As a corollary to that, I don’t think they need crafts, movies, or games in 6th grade, either.
I am in my 8th year as a 5th grade catechist.
I give them the same respect they give me.
I take an interest in their personal and spiritual life.
Last year I copied the Gospel reading for the coming week and broke it up into parts. Then in class, the students (6th grade) acted out the gospel and we talked about it. I found that the students really looked forward to this part of class! When they went to Mass that weekend, they were already familiar with the text, and had taken the time to look at the meaning, enriching their understanding of the Gospel message!