Did you ever have one of those days where teaching religious education made you smile? Today was one of those days. After weeks of difficult and sometimes rowdy classes, we spent this class reviewing the material before the end of the year.
Because I like games and like to teach with games, I decided to make our review into a game. I kept it simple. The children chose teams, and I asked each team a question from the chapter reviews in the textbook. If they got the question right, they earned a point. If they got it wrong, another team got the opportunity to answer it; if they answered it correctly, they “stole” the point. The team with the most points at the end of the review won. (If you wanted to raise the stakes of the game, you could offer a small prize for the team that earned the most points.)
Even though this game was straightforward, we had a lot of fun. I often struggle to get the children interested in class. Reading from the textbook or listening to me lecture about a topic does not always engage them. They seem easily distracted, and I wonder if they learn anything at all. But whenever I make a game out of learning, they soak up the content of the lesson like sponges. And it makes me smile.
As we played the game, I found that I was getting into it myself. I was excited when they answered the hard questions correctly and was often surprised by which children knew the answers to particular questions. I even found myself being wrapped up in the excitement whenever a team managed to steal a point. This was one of my favorite classes, and I absolutely love those moments when I get to share in the kids’ joy and excitement. And we need these moments to remember why we are in the classroom and what it is we hope to pass on to our students.
This class reminded me that it is not just about the content of the class, but about engaging the children and showing them the love of Christ. Who says religious class has to be serious all the time? Smiling, laughing, and playing games can help the kids feel the warmth of faith and fellowship. By making the classroom fun, I brought joy to them; they, in turn, shared their joy with me.
Of course, I want the children in my faith formation class to learn the doctrine of our faith, but they don’t have to learn it only from reading a textbook or listening to me lecture. They learn it from the way I live my faith; my actions speak louder than words. They also learn it from how other men and women live their faith. We are their examples. They see how we practice our faith in class, how we participate in the Mass, and how we treat others, whether at church, in class, or even in the grocery store.
So have a little fun, smile, and teach the faith by example.
How do you make your classroom a fun environment where your students can learn about the faith?