Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach: High School

teens planting a tree

Today we continue our series, Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach, in which we look at the developmental stages of our learners. St. Ignatius of Loyola said that, when teaching or speaking to a group, it is always best to “enter through their door, but be sure to leave through your door.” His advice is that we need to take learners where they are and move them to the next step in their journey. In our previous installments, we looked at early childhoodprimary grades, intermediate grades, and junior high. In this post, we explore the development of young people of high-school age (grades 9–12), or ages 14–18. These young people are in the midst of adolescence, a time of rapid growth, excitement, confusion, and often turbulence.

In general, young people at this age:

  • are moving from concrete to abstract thinking.
  • are developing the capacity to be self-reflective.
  • are experimenting and exploring, in search of identity.
  • are influenced by peers and by popular culture.
  • fluctuate between a demand for independence and a need for guidance.
  • experience mood swings as well as swings from restlessness to fatigue to increased energy.
  • have a developing sexual awareness.
  • are preoccupied with changes in body size and shape.
  • are eager for change and impatient with the pace of it.
  • often perceive their own problems, feelings, and experiences as being unique to themselves.
  • often lack impulse control and make decisions based on feelings rather than a rational thought process.

With that background in mind, consider using the following activities and methodologies, which work well with young people of high-school age:

  • graphics and other visual learning techniques
  • technology, AV, and digital resources
  • guided reflections of 12–15 minutes
  • case studies, simulations, and role-playing
  • think-pair-share and other small group/peer/collaborative learning techniques
  • supervised “clinical” practice/field work
  • mini-lectures combined with small group discussions
  • Q & A / Socratic method
  • individual research
  • contemporary music
  • educational games such as Name That Tune, Pictionary, or charades

I began my career teaching high-school students, and I continue to believe that this is an absolutely crucial time for adults to play a significant role in their lives, especially in their faith development. While it is challenging, it is extremely rewarding and most-needed! Most of all, it takes great patience and compassion.

In addition to what I provided above, what other characteristics would you add to describe young people of high-school age? What other activities or methodologies work best with this age group?

Explore Scripture with young people using Six Weeks with the Bible for Teens.

About Joe Paprocki 2741 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.

2 Comments on Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach: High School

  1. I have found that by 7th, 8th, 9th grade, the students have been jaded by hearing the important repetition of themes throughout Faith Formation. What I do is study the catechist manual and then prepare a list of discussion questions, using slides with images I prepare as prompts. In this way, I have the students relay the messages of the chapter, instead of us taking turns to read the paragraphs.

    I also have an arsenal of activities. Skits are very important, not as I write them but as developed by the students. From the 8th grade Finding God manual, I took the lists of scenarios on page 66, and it took me about ten minutes to scribble or type up better prompts. For example, for the first scenario, I typed: “You and your friend discuss why your crush ignores you. Your friend suggests you need to go on a diet. You agree, and talk about how after the diet works, things will go better. READ the article & choose which Counsel (Poverty, Chastity, Obedience) is BROKEN by this scenario.” Then I left space on the worksheet for each table to write a quick dialogue to get the rest of the class to guess which Counsel has been broken. This is very successful and a nice energetic close to the class.

    Group activity is also important. For Confirmed in the Spirit, chapter 5, I took the associated blackline master and cut out the first column that prompts an individual doing a match. I assigned each person at a table one or two of the virtues (I took the trouble of making and cutting up copies of pages 51-52 so that each student has handy just their assigned virtues.) The groups worked as mini-communities to figure out whose virtues belong to each scenario. We then reviewed as a class, with additional modern-day discussion prompts. The first scenario of that BLM is mine-laden: few teens want to “snitch.” So I ask, What SHOULD Raphael do NEXT? Who would actually do that? And this leads to wonderful debates.

    I also use the videos and enriching activities in the wonderful resource database at loyolapress.com for each textbook.

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