Changing It Up with a Craft

It was the week when all the students in Texas had to take standardized tests. Even on a good day, my third-grade faith formation class is a squirmy bunch. After being at elementary school all day, doing nothing but taking standardized tests, I knew they would be extra squirmy. I needed to do something different to keep their attention this time. I wasn’t going to follow my regular class plan, so I needed a hands-on […]

Hidden Gems the Holy Spirit Hides

When I think about how I teach my class, I tend to highlight those lesson plans that were spectacular or sessions when I left feeling confident that that my students truly understood the lesson. I tend to forget—or ignore—those times when I felt “off,” when I didn’t prepare as much as I would have liked, or when I lacked confidence in my own understanding of the material. However, I have found that those classes are […]

Dear Pope Francis in the Classroom

As we were finishing up faith formation class the other day, I showed my class a new book: Dear Pope Francis. It is a hardcover, colorful book of letters and drawings from children around the world to Pope Francis. The best part of the book is that Pope Francis answered each of the letters. His answers are not one- or two-line answers, but thoughtful, multi-paragraph answers that an elementary-age student can understand. I fell in […]

Priests Who Visit the Classroom

Twice a month, my students look forward to a visit from our associate pastor, Father Vincent. I am so glad my school makes it a priority to have a priestly presence in our halls. In my 12 years of teaching, three different priests have taken the time to visit my classes. Their 20-minute visits offer my students three benefits: the priests bring their unique perspectives, they are very good with show and tell, and they […]

Will God Wipe Us Out?

In my third-grade faith formation class, the story of Noah’s Ark came up while we were discussing another topic. One of the girls asked, “If God punished the whole world with a flood and wiped everyone out because of sin, could he wipe us all out as well? We are all sinners.” My immediate thought was, “Wow, what an incredible question!” I loved that she remembered a previous lesson when we had talked about how […]

The Challenges of Teaching Holy Week

Teaching Holy Week to second graders is a bit like herding cats: daunting, if not impossible, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I’ve made many mistakes when teaching Holy Week. In the past, I’ve attempted to cram the principles of the Triduum and Easter on the last Sunday of class before Easter break (which happens to be Palm Sunday). I did this because I wanted to make sure I had enough time to prepare […]

A Simple Way to Choose Volunteer Readers

My third-grade class likes to read aloud during our faith formation classes. Fortunately, I have no shortage of volunteers: they all want to take turns reading. While this is a good problem for a teacher to have, it’s not without its drawbacks. I struggle with how to be fair in calling on students to read aloud. Whenever I ask for a volunteer to read, they all squirm and jump around, calling out, “Me! Me! Pick […]

Taking to Heart the Apostles’ Creed

Each year, the Archdiocese of Omaha requires all third-grade Catholic-school teachers to teach the Apostles’ Creed. Teaching young children to memorize a prayer involves some traditional and non-traditional methods. I am always looking for new methods to help my students since every class is different. What worked with one class may not work with another. I dedicate two weeks to teaching my class the Creed before giving them a test. During the first week, I […]

It’s All About Jesus: Children and the Mass

This week’s lesson for my third-grade faith formation class was about the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Most of my students celebrated their First Holy Communion less than a year ago, so the previous lessons on the Eucharist are relatively fresh in their minds. They seemed confident in knowing that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and they all understood the mechanics of receiving communion. As we got deeper into the lesson, […]

Teaching Second-Graders the Beauty of Lent

The beauty of Lent offers a time for the Church to relive salvation history. By practicing the penitential disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, many adults savor this transformative season. But how does an untrained teacher who meets only briefly with her wiggly second-grade faith formation class communicate the beauty and relevancy of Lent in language they can understand? The short answer: by acting out Christ’s desert experience in a way that highlights how fasting, […]

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