Teaching the Bible to 6th Graders Last Night

As one of my “catechist-at-large” responsibilities, I did an introduction to the Bible last evening with the 6th graders at Most Holy Redeemer parish in Evergreen Park, IL. It was a very enjoyable experience. Here are the details:

  • There were about 30-35 kids present along with their 3 catechists and 3 aides.
  • Each child had a New American Bible (although there were 2 different editions which precluded me from relying on page numbers. I don’t mind, however, since relying on page numbers is never a good approach to learning how to navigate the Bible!)
  • After a brief opening prayer in which we remembered loved ones who have passed away (the kids readily volunteered names of deceased loved ones), we jumped right into our session, 75 minutes total.
  • I told the kids I would be drawing from my book The Bible Blueprint and one of them asked if it was on the New York Times bestseller list! 🙂 It never fails…kids find a way of cracking me up!
  • I introduced the word revelation and we talked about how we reveal ourselves to others when we want to enter/deepen a relationship. The Bible is one of the ways that God reveals himself to us.
  • Next, I introduced the concept of biblical citation as one of the ways we locate passaged in the Bible. I had some flash cards prepared ahead of time with examples (e.g. Jn 17:1-3) to ask them to identify the book, chapter, and verse, using the Table of Contents in their Bible.
  • Next, I invited them to work in groups to brainstorm a list of characters from the Bible without looking in the Bible. Each group compiled lists of between 15-30 names in about 3 minutes!
  • I then said, “Let’s see if we can find some of these characters and stories in the Bible” and I offered a $1 reward to the first student who could find the story of David and Goliath in under 60 seconds. As usual, the $1 ended up back in my pocket! We tried another: the story of Noah’s Ark. One student DID locate it in under 60 seconds and excitedly accepted his $1 reward!
  • I pointed out that we need some help locating stories, passages, and people in the Bible and that the way to do that was to break the Bible down into smaller parts, namely, the 8 sections of Pentateuch, History, Wisdom, and Prophets in the Old Testament and Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Letters, and Revelation in the New Testament.
  • With the help of the catechists and aides, we identified one of these sections at a time and inserted Bible bookmarks (from The Bible Blueprint) to mark off each section.
  • As we explored each section, I had them locate the following stories which they all accomplished in very brief time (usually under a minute) –
    • Pentateuch – any Moses story
    • History – any David story
    • Wisdom – Psalm 100
    • Prophets – the prophet Jeremiah
    • Gospels – the crucifixion
    • Acts of the Apostles – the coming of the Holy Spirit
    • Letters – a letter to the people of Galatia
    • Revelation – the phrase “Yes, I am coming soon” near the end of the Bible
  • Finally, I told them that they can use the bookmarks at home in their own Bible to get to know the sections a little bit better and then to take the bookmarks out eventually. I said that they will still remember where the sections are and then I demonstrated by asking volunteers to call out the name of one of the 8 sections as I quickly opened my Bible to that section. Last night, the Spirit was with me as I opened my Bible (without looking) to the very first page of the Acts of the Apostles after a student called that section out! That’s never happened before (I usually come close) and the kids were pretty impressed. Thank you, Jesus! I had them call out a few more sections and I quickly found them (not quite the first page but in the right ballpark!) and then explained that it was not magic or a trick but a skill that they can learn as well. I told them to take the bookmarks home and put them into a Bible and then show their parents how quickly they can locate Moses, David, the Psalms, Jesus’ crucifixion, and so on. I can only hope that at least a few will actually do so!

In all, the kids were well behaved and good natured. They had fun, were very competitive when it came to locating passages (and were very excited to correctly locate passages quickly) but also quieted down when needed and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. The catechists and aides did a wonderful job of working with their groups and keeping them on task.

I encourage you to adapt the outline above to your own needs to do a “one-shot” Bible presentation to help your learners to develop the skill of navigating through the Bible so that they can more easily come into contact with God’s revealing word!

About Joe Paprocki 2352 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.

3 Comments on Teaching the Bible to 6th Graders Last Night

  1. Spot on! When one door closes etc etc. Rather than seeing rejection as a bad thing I take it as an opportunity to figure out what I really want and am normally steered in the right direction.

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