Catechists in Action: Nick Prepares for His Lesson

Welcome to the first segment of Catechists in Action as we watch fifth-grade catechist Nick Yonto prepare for and teach his lesson. In this segment, watch for the following things:

  • Nick arrives 30 minutes before his class begins. Like most catechists, he has had a very busy day, working his full-time job, commuting over an hour to get home, and grabbing a quick bite to eat before flying out the door to get to the parish. His DRE requires catechists to be present 30 minutes before teaching the lesson so that the catechists can prepare and center themselves.
  • Nick goes through all of the unglamorous things that catechists do to get ready for class: checking his mailbox for missives from the DRE, hiking down hallways and stairwells to get to his classroom, taking chairs off of desks, arranging materials, reviewing his lesson plan, and getting the prayer center ready.
  • Observe how calm Nick is. Despite rushing through a very hectic day, the fact that he arrives early and has time to get his room, his lesson, and himself ready, he is able to maintain an attitude of calm so that when students begin arriving, they will be greeted by a catechist who is wholly present to them and not distracted.


  • What kind of preparations do you go through to get your yourself and your learning environment ready?
  • How early do you arrive for your lessons?
  • What part of your routine is similar to Nick’s? What part is different?
About Joe Paprocki 2748 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

14 Comments on Catechists in Action: Nick Prepares for His Lesson

  1. I recognize that lesson planning template (yeah!

    This series is a very cool idea, Joe, and great work so far Nick. I really like the idea of giving students ownership over the prayer cloth. I’m sure the children see the prayer table as something much more special because of that!

  2. “What kind of preparations do you go through to get your yourself and your learning environment ready?”

    Prep starts with listening to the recording of the previous class. Based on that, I write down what should be reviewed (or what I forgot completely) at the start of the present class. Then I review the lesson plan and stickytab relevant passages in my Bible.

    I’m in an urban parish with security concerns, so our building isn’t opened until all the kids, catechists & helpers arrive at the locked door en masse from the gym, where we all assemble. I arrive about 15 minutes early to help with collecting kids from the cars, etc. I don’t alter the classroom from how I find it.

    While the kids find seats and the bouncer takes roll, I look at the review items & the lesson plan, open the Bible to the first passage, and am ready to open with a prayer as soon as roll is done.

    After class I check the DRE folder for any stuff that was put there before we arrived in the classroom.

  3. Our class begins 15 minutes after Mass, so I try to get there before Mass to arrange the table and chairs, set out the sacramentals, and open to the material I’ll be using.

    We assemble on the fly in the narthex, where fellowship is taking place, when Deacon rings the bell, head back into church to learn the words of a hymn, then go to our room, take attendance, open our books, bless ourselves and say a prayer. We spend a few minutes as a review or to catch up a child who didn’t attend the last class, and move into our current assignment. At the end of class we pray for the week ahead and bless ourselves. It’s a small class, 3rd and 4th grade boys.

    I wish we had more time, but don’t we all:)

  4. If I saw correctly, Nick seems to have some storage space available to him although the classroom does not belong to him. That was a great sign of cooperation for me. Acknowledgement that the regular classroom teacher and Nick have talked about sharing space. Very important when this is the situation.

    Would have liked to see the DRE somewhere, greeting catechists as they went to their boxes, down the hall, somewhere just to be “present” / supportive

    • Mary Pat, yes, the RE program and school have an agreement on the storage space. The DRE did make an appearance but had laryngitis so I did not record her! She does make a regular habit of greeting students and catechists when she has her voice!

      • I was DRE in a parish that also had a Catholic School. Each of the classrooms did have a cabinet or shelf space that was for the materials for the Religious Education class. It was very helpful and worked well. There was a sign on the door to the cabinet that indicated that Religious Education class materials were in that cabinet.
        I am now the DRE in two rural parishes neither of which has a school, so each catechist has her own classroom. Encouraging catechists to arrive early (ideally 30 minutes before class) is a yearly struggle – but I keep trying!

        I am looking forward to the rest of your visit to Nick’s classroom and future episodes. Thanks, Joe, for all you do to help and encourage catechists! May God continue to bless your ministry.

    • Nora, much of what Nick is saying at this point is quiet talking with the kids as they enter and I gave them space. As he teaches, you should be able to hear him more clearly.

  5. I get to the classroom 30 minutes early and enlist the help of my three kids to set up tables and chairs, pass out worksheets I’ve prepared, put up newsprints I’ve drawn up, etc. Two things I want to highlight about seating.
    1) Sometimes I let the kids sit where they want, so I leave their textbooks on the counter so they can choose seating.
    Sometimes I assign seating to break up cliques. I do that with name tents made of folded paper that I’ve had them make their first day, or I do that with their labeled textbooks.
    It depends on the nature, maturity, and talkativeness of the class, and it depends on the lesson’s activities. Some group tasks, I don’t mind if buddies work on, and some, I’d rather they work with more unfamiliar students.
    2) I change up the configuration of the seating as well. Most days, I have tables of 3-4 seats. Some days, I organized the tables into a U shape or a circle or a square shape. It depends on what I’m teaching.

    Something as basic as seating can gently and quietly support my authority, important in a setting where you are seen once a week and the lack of grades may remove an important motivator.

    I have been lucky to have very few behavioral issues over 10 years of being a catechist with classes sized 6-16 aged 8-14 and I partly attribute this to seating!

    • Third item re seating: I never have classroom style, that is, teacher in front, rows of chairs facing forward. I mostly have groups of 3-4, with paths in between so I can walk around as I talk or as I monitor quiet or group work. That way, groups are already established for group talks and I can see all kids with one sweeping glance.

      Having each table with a number of chairs I pre-determine means stragglers can identify the empty chairs. I would not encourage a kid pulling an empty chair from one table to drag to another because of my wish to keep the tables evenly manned; it has not come up for me yet.

      Really, I’ve spent more time talking about this just now than I do actually implementing it.

  6. Love this series. It is great to learn from other catechists and share ideas. Our program does not allow for much time before and between classes as there is only a 15 minute window of time before/between classes and all children must be signed in and out of their classrooms by their parents. I try to get to my classroom 15 minutes early so that I can go in and start prparing as soon as the previous teacher vacates the room. This usually allows me enough time to set up a prayer space and lay out my materials. Our classrooms are set up with large tables and individual chairs and there are usually more chairs than I need for my class so I remove the extra chairs to give the children a little more space. Since children arrive both a few minutes early and a few minutes late I have a “do now”, usually an activity page related to the current lesson or a few simple questions that review the previous lesson. This keeps the children quiet while everyone is being signed in and allows me a simple introduction or review at the start of class.

  7. Aloha! Very interesting series, Joe. I’m looking forward to the next posting & I’ve shared this series with my DRE & fellow Catechist – some have said they are very interested in watching. I really appreciate the suggestions and the demeanor of the Catechist – Nick Yano. I desire to be MUCH calmer when I arrive to the classroom,too. 🙂 Often – unfortunately – I’m rushing in late 🙁 I should arrive 15min before class begins, which is ususally a good time since Mass has just ended ( 1200pm Sunday – class begins 1230pm)our DRE gives us the same advice – arrive early -atleast 15min early to setup and greet the children. I’ve been praying that I will be more prompt! 🙂 As far as the questions : I have a fantastic ConfirmationII aide who sets up the space for me (chairs, tables,whiteboard,etc.) – because, our lessons are taught in the Sanctuary,as we don’t have classrooms or an area large enough to accommidate the amount of students
    ( I currently have 19 registered and regularly attending my 6th grade class)- the area has to be rearranged from the Mass. Therefore, when I arrive Mass has just ended and the transformation of the Sanctuary has begun – i’ll have either spent some quiet reflective time in my car reading a prayer or I’ll go into the Chapel and kneel before the Tabernacle while praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance in sharing God’s wisdom with the children. I enjoyed seeing that Nick & I have very similar routines – setting up the prayer space. I like how his student’s will be creating the prayer table cloth,too. We have a very creative Catechist – who has sewn cloths based upon the liturgical season colors for each grade level with Hawaiian print cloth. The beauty of the culture is displayed with God’s word, and sacramentals. I ask a student to setup the prayer space and open the Bible to the Gospel for the day,too. We Catechists are so blessed to be able to teach God’s children. Thank-you for all you do! Blessings!

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