We are a few weeks into the new school year, and my third graders are finally settling into the routine of class. Our first lesson focused on the Holy Spirit. My students learned that the Holy Spirit helps guide us to live as Christians.
As we read the chapter in our textbook, my students highlighted important sentences, phrases, and vocabulary words. We stopped several times during our reading to discuss how the Spirit guides us to live as Christians. We seemed to stop more than usual during this chapter. Perhaps they were having difficulty understanding how the Holy Spirit guides us.
How could I help them understand? I could have gone over the material in the textbook one more time (this time more slowly). I could have quizzed them, engaging the class in a fun game to help them learn about the Holy Spirit. Instead I decided to draw from my own experience growing up as a Catholic Christian. I told them a story about how the Holy Spirit guided me. The following story certainly caught their attention:
I was ten years old and my sister Chrissie was eight. We were washing the dishes because the dishwasher was broken. I was washing the plates, and Chrissie was drying them and putting them away. Chrissie wasn’t drying them fast enough, and I wanted her to hurry up. So I slugged her in the left arm!
The look on the faces of my students was priceless! Here I am—their teacher, a person who always smiles and who loves God—telling a story about how I slugged my little sister in the arm. I finished the story:
I felt bad for what I had done. I prayed that night and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me to live as a better Christian. I went to Reconciliation to ask for forgiveness.
This story made an impression on my students. I think they probably saw me in a different light—they probably saw me more like one of them. Since we had attended Mass that day, I reminded the class that Jesus is present in the Eucharist; when we receive the Eucharist, we are saying that we want to become more like Jesus. So I asked my class three questions:
- Was I being like Jesus when I slugged my sister? (“No!” they shouted.)
- Did the Holy Spirit help guide me to be a better Christian? (“Yes!” they affirmed.)
- Who will you ask to guide you in being a better Christian? (“The Holy Spirit!” they proclaimed.)
I have found that sharing the stories about my faith is a useful tool to keep all my students engaged. I have also found that sharing stories helps bring the faith alive for them; they see that our faith is not something that is learned from a book, but it is something that we live every day of our lives.
I’d like to hear your stories. What stories have you shared to help teach a lesson about our Catholic faith? How did the students respond?