Children typically really enjoy Lent. It is a season of the Church when they can set practical goals to give up, give away, and pray more. But sometimes we forget to teach our kids the “why” of Lent. What is it that we are trying to achieve with our Lenten observations? What is the goal of Lent? When I explain Lent to children, I always explain that we are preparing our hearts to meet the risen Lord on Easter. We spend Lent trying to become a better version of ourselves as Christians in order to recommit ourselves as followers of Christ on Easter morning.
One way to put it into perspective for the kids is to lead them through the Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross helps them understand Jesus’ sacrifice and love for us.
In our faith formation classes, we teach the children how to pray the Stations of the Cross during Lent as a way to enrich their understanding of Christ’s Passion. As a group, all of the elementary classes meet to pray the Stations of the Cross at the start of one class during Lent. This is an excellent way to introduce and reinforce the Passion of Christ. However, I wanted to go a little deeper with the kids during my own class time.
Since I’m always looking for new and unique teaching techniques, I turned to CatholicMom.com for ideas to teach the Stations of the Cross. I discovered a Stations of the Cross bingo game. This was going to be perfect for my third-grade students. Elementary-age children absolutely love bingo!
CatholicMom.com provided the questions (and answers) for the game. They didn’t provide the bingo cards, so I had to prepare these in advance. It took a little time for me to make ten different cards for the game, but it was time well spent. I printed two copies of the cards on card stock paper. Hopefully, this supply will last me for at least a couple of years.
As we played Stations of the Cross bingo in class, the questions and answers allowed me the opportunity to teach without lecturing or reading out of a book. Students who knew the answers were able to volunteer material and add to the conversation.
Games are a wonderful way to engage even the wiggliest kids in the learning process. What kind of teaching games do you use in your class?
Image (cropped) by Tango7174 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I like to play memory to learn about the “stuff” in the church.. I made cards with pictures of various things, the tabernacle, altar, the pews, etc, and then we play memory, but they only get to keep the match if they can tell me what it is, or at least what it is for, ie they know that the picture of the tabernacle has the body and blood of Christ even if they can’t remember tabernacle. Like your bingo game, it is a fun way to review all the stuff a couple of times without me sitting up there lecturing or doing worksheets.
This week we also did the Stations.of.the Cross and after we went to the church to pray, we came back and I had little cards with all the stations and the group worked togegther to put them in order.
Speaking of the Stations, that is one of my favorite lessons with my first graders. They are always really interested and ask lots of questions about what is happening, and I can just see their brains trying to process the whole story. I think that this is the first time many of them have seen/heard the story altogether, they know about Jesus dying on the cross and see the crucifix, but they are young enough that they have reaaly heard everything else before, so it is really neat to see.
You made a great point that many younger kids might not have heard/seen the way of the cross all together until Stations of the Cross. I really like your idea of playing memory with the kids to reinforce a lesson. That could work with almost any topic that I could find pictures. Now you’ve got my wheels turning on when and how to implement that in my class. Thank you!
Lisa thanks for sharing your thoughts about teaching the Stations of the Cross. I think that young people’s imaginations are engaged by the Stations because of the visuals and because of the storytelling aspect of this devotion. They easily “get it” when it comes to understanding what the Way of the Cross is all about. The Bingo idea is a nice way of reinforcing their familiarity with the scenes depicted in the Stations.