New Approaches in the Classroom

happy children in school hallway

I’ve had a nagging restlessness regarding my lesson plans. I’ve used them for some time, and they’re as comfortable as my favorite slippers, but I found myself wondering if I’m really bringing the same level of enthusiasm and preparation to my classes as I did when those lesson plans were fresh.

I tried some new things last year, like hallway shepherds and prayer cubes, and they went over well. Those activities required extra preparation and more dedicated focus during class, but I felt fresher. I liked that feeling, so I decided to spend some time over the summer looking for some new approaches for my first-grade class.

Since church renovations are requiring Mass to be in a different location a few blocks away, I already knew that some changes were going to be necessary. To keep children engaged while waiting for the inevitable latecomers, I decided that I will make use of the online lesson resources that accompany our Finding God text: the interactive session reviews and the Fishers of Faith game. I’ve always resisted using these resources, because I felt like the children would be disconnected from one another, but since I am fortunate enough to have an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, children can work together just as easily as they can at their desks.

Our archdiocese has reworked our curriculum guide slightly, and it now has a glossary that goes along with the curriculum standards, so I am going to have a “word of the week” for the class to focus on in the coming week that we can review the following session. It might be a word from the glossary, from that week’s lesson, or it might be a word that’s related to something going on in our parish. For instance, when the renovations are complete and we get to return to our usual worship space, I will make “church” the word of the week. This fall, our parish is celebrating its 225th anniversary, and the children will be hearing the word “parish” a lot, but that isn’t a word we normally highlight in first grade. This will be the perfect opportunity to introduce it.

After seeing how my students responded to praying with their hands last year, I started learning how to sign Catholic prayers in ASL. I’m still learning, but as I get more comfortable signing these prayers, I plan on teaching them to my class.

When I embarked on this plan to breathe new life into my lessons, it was really to update how I had been presenting lessons for many years. As a result, I find that I have a new level of excitement about the coming year and a fearlessness about stepping out of my comfy-slipper lesson plans to create a refreshing experience for my students.

How do you create refreshing experiences for your students?

About Kathleen Butler 22 Articles
Kathleen Butler is a long-time catechist at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC, where she freely admits she falls in love each fall with a new group of first-graders. She also mentors and trains other catechists in lively, interactive sessions.

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