Engaging Young People with Active Learning Strategies

doing a craft project

Professional educators know that, for learning to be effective, it needs to be an active experience. Active learning ensures that learners actively engage and participate in the learning process by doing something other than simply listening and then, of course, thinking about what they are doing. Active learning is learner-centered as opposed to teacher-centered. I talk about this in my recent post: Shining the Spotlight on Those We Teach.

What this means for us as catechists is that, in our planning, we should not be asking, “What will I be doing?” but rather, “What will my learners be doing?” The following chart illustrates the various levels of “doing” that a catechist should strive to elicit from his or her learners, each level being more complex than the previous.

If you want your participants to… Use key words such as the following in your learning outcomes Example: After this lesson, the participants will be able to…
Recognize or recall facts and information and knowledge
list                  describe

define            repeat

fill in              label

name             identify


list the seven sacraments.
Demonstrate an understanding
paraphrase       explain

review               match

discuss              interpret


explain the meaning of the symbol of water in Baptism.
Apply what is learned to new situations
apply               construct

draw                simulate

sketch              predict



draw a picture of an experience of reconciliation in their lives.
Pick out important points
classify            distinguish

differentiate   compare

contrast           categorize

separate          break down


categorize the seven sacraments into Sacraments of Initiation, Healing, and at the Service of Communion.
Combine concepts into something new
combine           relate

put together    integrate

assemble          collect


assemble a prayer aid for the celebration of one of the seven sacraments.
Judge and evaluate ideas based on standards
judge               argue

assess              appraise

decide             defend

rate                  debate

evaluate          choose


evaluate a sample homily for a Confirmation Mass in relation to its use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the symbols of the bishop, or the symbols of the Rite of Confirmation.

To get a solid overview of a variety of active learning strategies that work for specific age groups, I strongly encourage you to view my archived webinars on Getting Started as a Catechist.

Also, be sure to take a look at this wonderful kit of activities called Expand the Experience.

For your next lesson, what will your learners be doing?

Prepare your catechetical sessions with the Christ Our Life Online Lesson Planner, which incorporates the learning outcomes for each chapter to help you focus your sessions.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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