First Session for 2013-14: Off to a Great Start!

I couldn’t be happier with how my first session went last evening, thanks to a great group of kids, a highly organized DRE, and a wonderful aide (my wife!)

I ended up with 9 students having lost one boy and gaining one girl, so now, I have 6 girls and 3 boys. They come from 5 different schools but have “traveled” together through religious education at St. Cajetan for 6 years and have a great chemistry and comraderie. They were very bright, cheery, talkative, and well-behaved, so kudos to their parents and to their previous catechists!

Here’s a brief summary of highlights:

  • The kids tend to straggle in at different times beginning as early as 30 minutes before class (because some of their parents are catechists). That made for some nice chit-chat time.
  • They took to the opening procession as Joanne led them around the room to set up the prayer table. They were excited about bringing in their own symbols next week (one girl raised her hand and shared that she already knows what symbol she’s going to bring).
  • They shared some wonderful intercessions as part of the opening prayer. I attribute that to having them write out their prayer intentions as soon as they find their seat. This year, I am having them jot down 2 things: who/what they want to pray for; what they are thankful for. This went very nicely.
  • They had fun trying to solve the “secret code” in order to get a cold bottle of water! We used that as a way of introducing the notion theme that “God Keeps NO Secrets!” The opposite of keeping secrets is REVELATION and the Bible is a source of God’s revelation.
  • We prayerfully presented them with their Finding God textbooks and Bibles saying, “The Word of the Lord” to each as we handed them their books to which they responded, “Thanks be to God.”
  • We then read from chapter 1 of Finding God which provides an overview of the Bible. I used a ball toss to select the readers of each paragraph (they love doing that) and also used “clue cards” to highlight key words in the text which they then taped to the board to form a “word wall.”
  • They were very energetic as I sent them to the board in teams of 3 to see how many names of Bible characters they could brainstorm in 2 minutes. Each team came up with between 15-20. From there, however, I challenged them to find the story of David and Goliath in under 2 minutes and, as usual, none could. I said that this is one of the problems we are going to tackle starting next week.
  • I then introduced the concept of “sacred space” to them, inviting them to find a corner of the room to get comfortable in as I led them in a guided reflection. They adapted to this extremely well. In all, we did about 10 minutes in quiet, reflective prayer.
  • Following this, I gave a short quiz to see if they grasped the big ideas of the session and Joanne then reviewed it with them. I was impressed with how well they did. They are a bright group!
  • We then distributed their take-home binders and went over their first homework notification sheet which they are to return with a parent’s signature next week.
  • We finished with a brief closing prayer and they blessed themselves with holy water on their way out. They left with a very good spirit and with lots of energy.

I’m blessed to have such a good group of kids and I look forward to spending the year with them!

P.S. In the pic above, I’m sharing information about Illuminated Bibles from the Finding God Art Print Easel…the kids really love the large colorful pictures!


About Joe Paprocki 2742 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


  1. Hi Joe,
    I’m glad you had a wonderful first session! I was wondering
    if I could use the letter you sent home with the children for the parents,
    If you can’t, I completely understand. My first class is next week and I
    noticed a few ideas that are similar.

    Thank you,

  2. Congrats on a great first class – it sounds as though the kids had lots of great experiences to share with their families on the ride home and to build on until they see you the next time. You sound very happy and in your element. Hooray for God!

  3. Congrats on a great first class. We have already had two classes and both went well for me. I was a little flighty in thought last week even though I had my outline but the kids adapted well. I too have a great group of kids this year. Praying for all catechists to have a great, productive, year. Thank you for sharing all of your ideas. They are very helpful!

  4. I would like to share a game we play when first learning to look up bible passages.
    I type out several bible passages, to be looked up, onto strips of paper. For example: Joshua 1:9, John 8:31-32 etc… I try to use inspirational passages and also take from both the old and new testament. I then put one strip of paper into a balloon, blow the balloons up, and make sure I have at least two balloons for each student. After a little practice, each child gets to take a balloon, pop it, any way they want except they can’t use their mouth, then look up the passage. When everyone is done, they share what they found by reading from their bible. Just a fun way to get them up and moving a little bit. Might want to close your classroom door, it gets a bit noisy!

  5. Dear Joe,
    As I start a new catechetical year (and am using your helpful lesson plan outline) I just have to say a personal thank you for all the help and inspiration I have gotten from you in the past few years. I attended a presentation you gave here in Willow Grove PA and that inspired me to change my classes in some wonderful ways. I added in guided meditations with my 3rd graders and they have just always loved them! I am thrilled at the chance it gives them, in our noisy electronic age, to be still and listen to God. My most important ‘takeaway’ was “the big idea”. What is the central idea you want the children to leave the class with I ask myself. Definately keeps me focused as I plan. I believe you said something like, ‘on the car ride home, when mom says “What did you learn today?” think of the 1 sentence you want the children to answer.

    I just started with a new parish this year and I was thrilled to see that their catechist’s manual include copies of “Catechist’s Handbook” and “A Well Built Faith” in pockets in the binder. I have my own copies already but it frustrates me when catechists forego their own formation. This is my neighbor parish and in my home parish unfortunately the catechetical formation of the catechist’s is sorely lacking especially for new volunteers….but I always tell my fellow catechists about you, this website and your books.

  6. Thank you for this blog. It’s a great help to me since this is my second year teaching, and first year with Grade 6.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.