This school year, our third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students all received their own copy of a children’s Bible. This has been a great experience. In the past, each classroom only had a few copies of the Bible, and the students had to share them. But with their own Bibles, students have ready access to look up verses on their own, which is something that they really enjoy. With this added flexibility, I decided that we would read the Sunday Gospel every Friday.
There are so many resources on the Web to help explain the Sunday Gospel readings. Loyola Press offers their Sunday Connection. The popular Web site, Catholic Mom, has a Sunday Gospel activity. Two popular podcasts are Sunday, Sunday, Sunday with Mark Hart by Life Teen and The Word on the Hill with Fr. Peter Mussett and Scott Powell. There is no lack of resources for a teacher to help him or her understand the Gospel reading from Sunday and explain it to students.
We just finished a chapter on the Greatest Commandment and how Jesus teaches us how to love. After we read and discussed the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday, we looked up Mark 12:30‒31. After reading the Greatest Commandment from the Bible, I asked children to act out the verses. Adding movement to a lesson can be really helpful to the student and the teacher! This seemed to help them make a connection among the textbook, the Bible, and themselves.
To reinforce this lesson, we followed it up with a special activity. I shared with my class what I knew about the Jewish mezuzah. The word mezuzah means “doorpost,” and I told them that inside the mezuzah is a scroll with the words from Deuteronomy 6:4. I explained that my sister had one on the doorpost of her home. I explained that she is Catholic and her husband is Jewish, and I shared a photo of the mezuzah my sister has in her home.
Next, I explained that I have a plate that has the IHS logo of the Jesuits near the door in my home. I had found this plate when I was cleaning out my mom’s house after she died. Every time I leave my home, I walk by the plate and it reminds me that I should spread God’s goodness, kindness, and love all around. At that moment, I had an idea: I decided that the students would make their own mezuzahs with a Catholic twist.
We took a piece of paper and wrote the Greatest Commandment on it. Then we decorated the paper and rolled it up. My school has an AccuCut machine and I punched out a box for every student. They took it home, decorated the box, and put the scroll inside.
The next day, several students shared that their parents thought this was a unique item to add to their home. One student even excitedly shared that she has her grandpa’s mezuzah and wanted to bring it in to show the class. I think this lesson was successful for a couple of reasons. First, it connected the words from the Bible to their home and to their life. Second, it also connected our faith with the Jewish faith—my third graders got some basic information on how many Jewish people express their faith. I hope they will keep in mind the Greatest Commandment by gazing at their doorposts as they leave their homes everyday.
Barb, the Mezuzah idea is outstanding and I like the fact that all of this flowed from the fact that your parish presented children with their own Bibles! I think this is a crucial element of a child’s faith formation – to have their own Bible in order to grow more familiar with God’s Word and to deepen their relationship with Jesus. Kudos to you and your parish! By the way, for parishes that do present their children with Bibles, here is a link to a PDF of an outline for how to facilitate a parent-child Bible presentation (introduction to the Bible).