Grabbing the attention of young people can be challenging when they go straight to their classrooms after being dropped off. With young people arriving in staggered fashion, straggling in one at a time, we need to have something for them to do as they arrive. Enter the gathering activity.
What’s What? Page—Finding God Grade 7 includes a review page at the end of each chapter. Sometimes I use these as a pre-assessment before the session to help the young people start to think about themes we’ll cover once the session begins. This works best when the chapter covers material more familiar to the young people from previous years.
Activity sheet—Worksheets of various sorts can be great gathering activities. Crossword puzzles, coded phrases, or word searches all work to get the young people thinking about something we’ll cover that evening in a way that most enjoy. One activity sheet I’ve used includes a maze with the deadly sins. The instructions call for young people to find the definitions of each term and write those down before doing the maze, which leads the young people away from the sins. Of course, the maze gets a lot more attention than do the definitions, but for a gathering activity, it’s OK if the students follow the tangent; they’ll get the meat of the lesson once we delve into class.
Question—Often I write a question on the board and invite the young people to think about their answers. By writing it for all to see, I don’t have to repeat it with each arrival, but I do like to repeat it after every few students sit down to call their attention to the question. I say the question will “get their brains moving” so we can get started. After opening prayer, I’ll discuss the question with the young people as our lead-in activity to the rest of the session.
Game—I haven’t used this technique much but plan to try it in my next session. I’ll provide copies of the Sacraments Matching Game and pair up the young people as they arrive to play a round or two as their classmates gather. This should be a fun activity for those who come to faith formation a few minutes early. Because of its nature as a gathering activity, a simple game that’s appropriate for younger children works just fine—little explanation needed for independent play but thematically relevant.
When the bell rings, I’m ready to welcome the young people and call them to prayer with them already having a hint in their minds as to the day’s theme. Gathering activities have been effective for my groups. What successes have you had with gathering activities?