A few years ago, I started using a new technique for getting the young people’s attention: call-and-response. When I would say, “God is good,” the young people would respond, “all the time.” Then I would say, “And all the time,” to which the young people would respond, “God is good.”
I borrowed the idea from another catechist and the specific phrase from a priest who served at a local parish. The technique’s effectiveness has been mixed. I like that it’s a way to grab attention when kids are chattier than they should be, and it reinforces a basic faith idea at the same time. But sometimes the young people forget the response or miss the call altogether.
This year my group keeps forgetting what their response should be. To my call, “God is good,” a few people respond, “God is great.” While not the expected response, the message is certainly right! This has now happened two weeks in a row, but at least we are reinforcing that the call deserves a response, even if it’s not a coordinated one at present. Fortunately, this particular group of young people is well-behaved overall, so I’ve used the call-and-response mainly to draw their attention back to the front of the room after a partner activity or art activity.
The technique is one way to practice classroom management in a friendly way. We know that most catechists don’t have formal training in classroom management; the call-and-response technique is an easy way to grab young people’s attention that works at any grade level. It also allows young people to practice responding to something in a way similar to our liturgical responses at Mass.
You might want to vary the call-and-response throughout the year. Changing the message can be good for keeping the idea fresh and reinforcing ideas from class (depending on the phrase chosen), but I like to use the same message all year. Once the class learns the phrasing, we can skip it for a few weeks and still come back to a familiar phrase as needed during our time together.
Have you used a call-and-response technique to help in classroom management? What other ideas do you have for getting young people’s attention when it wanders?