Creative Approaches to Reading from a Textbook: Clue Cards

index cards

I occasionally encounter catechetical presenters who claim that faith formation should be done with no books because they consider reading from a book to be boring. I, on the other hand, have always been an advocate of teaching “beyond the book,” which means that we use the book as a critical resource but not as the be-all-and-end-all of a faith formation session.

The fact is, we have important content in our faith tradition, and it is our job as catechists to make sure that those we teach are able to articulate the beliefs of our faith. Textbooks go through rigorous scrutiny by publishers like Loyola Press and the Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catechism conformity review process to ensure that the content of our faith is being transmitted faithfully and comprehensively. It falls to us catechists, however, to make the sure that the content on those pages comes to life! In this four-part series, I will share with you some creative approaches to reading from a textbook that make it, not only more engaging, but also more effective. The first approach I offer is “Key Word Clue Cards.”

Key Word Clue Cards

  • In this strategy, you look over the text ahead of time, identify key words, and write the key words on small index cards—one word per card.
  • You then randomly distribute the cards to your participants and explain that, as the text is being read aloud during the session, as soon as they hear one of their clue words mentioned, they are to yell, “Time Out!”
  • The child then tapes the clue card on a word wall for all to see as you or a volunteer explains the importance or definition of the word.
  • If a participant fails to call “Time Out!” when his or her clue word has been read, that participant must stand for the remainder of the reading (or whatever amount of time seems reasonable without being cruel or unusual punishment!).
  • When the reading is completed, you can go back over the cards taped on the word wall and invite participants to recall their understanding of each word.
  • This strategy encourages participants to pay closer attention to the text that is being read and enables them to be actively involved, even when they are not the one reading aloud.
  • This strategy also requires us catechists to look over the text carefully ahead of time to identify key points, something we should always do but at times may not do as thoroughly as we ought!
  • The result is a more fully prepared catechist and a more thoroughly engaged participant.

Try out this creative approach to reading from your Christ Our Life textbook from Loyola Press.

About Joe Paprocki 2739 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

10 Comments on Creative Approaches to Reading from a Textbook: Clue Cards

  1. I really like this idea and it keeps the students engaged. Though, one tweek, I would NOT have the student stand if they missed their cue. That’s just wrong on so many levels. We have no idea what kind of day that child had and this may be their first time to actually be in a calm safe place. If the child repeatedly misses time after time, speak with the child after class as to why they are missing the cue.

    Check it out. I would love to see word walls in the classrooms.
    It’s active learning at it’s best!!!

  2. I do not use a book right now but when I did, I would send an email to each parent & have then ask their child to read the lesson & look it over on the way to class, Then books were closed & I taught the lesson.

  3. Index cards are a good idea. I am going to try that at my next class. Thank you Bernadette from St. Michael the Archangel Church, Hudson Fl.

  4. I do something similar and just have the child stand up at their desk when they hear their word. Then after the reader is done reading the section, we go back to their word to further discuss. After each section when I know a word was read, I say “did anyone hear their word?” Then they will all look at their card and scan the section again quickly. So sometimes they get two reads out of a section 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.