Our parish ends the faith-formation year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, so even though there are still lessons we want to cover, we use the last class as a fun review day. In Washington, D. C., we root for our hometown baseball team, the Nationals, so I tease the last class by telling them the week before that we’ll be playing baseball during our last class.
Before class, I lay out a baseball diamond around the room. I mark off three bases with sheets of construction paper and set up home plate with a chair at the front of the room. The class splits into two teams, and we let them choose a team name with the caveat that it has to have something to do with church. For me, listening to the children discuss team names is the most fun part of the session. I get to see what they’ve remembered from the year. They’ll debate whether “The Herald Angels” sounds tough enough for a baseball team or if they have enough team members to call themselves “The Rosaries.”
I act as the “pitcher,” and my co-catechist is the scorekeeper and umpire. I ask the questions, and she tallies the runners and decides if a team loses a point for being too noisy or calling out an answer from their “dugout” (i.e., their desks). This is a noisy activity, and rarely are the students able to contain themselves in their seats. As long as they do not lose too much control, I don’t mind; I like seeing them cheering for one another or high-fiving a teammate.
I have a pile of index cards I’ve made with various questions from the entire year. We begin with things we learned in the first class right up to the lesson from the week before and everything in between. I include things as basic as the name of our church and the pastor’s name. There are questions on concepts, saints, vocabulary, seasons, liturgical colors, and even some multi-part questions like, “Name three places we can pray.” I call a “batter” from each team to stand before me, and I read the question and show the card. The first “batter” to answer correctly gets to go to first base. This is the one time I let the children answer without raising their hands, and they love that. As the next person gets a question right, the runners move around from base to base to score runs.
Sometimes a question will stump the batters, and I’ll ask the class to answer it, and we have a quick mini-review. I often put that question back in the deck so it comes up again for another batter. If both batters get a question wrong, I give them another question, so that at some point, everybody has a chance to get on base. Some questions have more than one answer (for example, “name a saint”), ensuring that everyone gets to answer a question correctly.
I’m always delighted when the class randomly connects the pieces. For example, I’ll ask a question about godparents, and the batter will answer. Then someone else will pipe up, “But we have to remember our Baptism with holy water when we come into church!” and someone else will chime in, “With our right hand!” and then they all spontaneously make the Sign of the Cross. Little surprises like this keep me coming back to teach year after year.
To end the game, I have the last batters say either the Our Father or the Hail Mary in order to clear the bases. Even if they need a little help along the way, they get to go to base. While the class always focuses on the points scored at the end, I remind the children that everyone wins because everyone has learned something and deepened their friendship with Jesus as a result.
Any catechist will know that the end of the year is bittersweet. Fun moments like my baseball game help make the end of the year a little less bitter. Sending my sweet little first-graders off is sad, but seeing their development over the year—and the joy and excitement on their faces as we play our game—more than makes up for it.
How do you end your faith-formation year?
Lessons in God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist are explored through reading, conversation, prayer, and fun-filled activities that appeal to all learning styles.