Engaging Children Online

Like many others, my parish has turned to virtual faith formation classes. Last spring, we had a few virtual sessions to close out the year, so I got a sample of what was in store. The difference this year was that I had never met any of my students in person, and I wondered how I could engage them. I mailed each child a postcard to say welcome to the class. I e-mailed each family […]

“Flat Catechist” Encourages Faith Activities at Home

Like many catechists, I found myself in a strange, new place this spring when the coronavirus closed our parish and required us to suspend all activities. I was determined to find ways to stay connected with my first-grade class. I knew the parents were already feeling overwhelmed, so I wanted to create easy and engaging activities that would make them want to participate with their children. I also wanted to create something that had a […]

Teaching Children to Pray the Rosary

I love teaching the Rosary to my first graders. The Rosary helps them learn important prayers, highlights Scripture stories, and keeps their hands occupied when we are sitting together in a circle. In May I hand out rosaries to each student, usually a week after they learn the Hail Mary. I explain that they were blessed by a priest earlier in the day. (One year, I actually took a photo of our pastor with his […]

New Approaches in the Classroom

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 […]

Silent Prayer Circle

I like to vary how my class prays partly to give everyone more tools in their prayer toolbox, but also because not everyone learns or prays in the same way on a given day. When I teach about the Holy Family, I teach my first-graders simple signs in sign language (ASL), which we practice together. Thanks to YouTube, you can easily teach yourself signs and phrases in ASL. I have learned how to sign “thank […]

The Good Shepherd and Hallway Shepherds

When I pray with my first-grade students, I often tell them they have to listen for Jesus’ voice not with their ears but with their hearts. Granted, it’s an abstract concept for young ones to understand. This year, when I taught a lesson on the Good Shepherd, I decided to try something new. Before class, I slyly arranged for two of the fathers to wait in the hall and asked them not to tell their […]

Prayer Cubes for Lent

There are many opportunities to engage children during the season of Lent. I like to use this season to encourage the children in my class to develop a new prayer habit, especially a habit that they can bring home to their families. Last year my class used Lenten prayer sticks, which were very popular. I wondered why, and it dawned on me that having something tangible made prayer time hard to ignore. Parents could more […]

Inviting Parishioners to Help

“The more the merrier!” is my philosophy about volunteers in my religious education classroom. I’m always on the lookout for adults who will share their talents with the children. (I’m fortunate that the parents I ask rarely say no.) I ask my parents at the beginning of the year if anyone has a talent or skill to share. Parents who sew or play an instrument are good allies. Having a different person in the class […]

Praying with Little Ones

Last fall, Joe Paprocki provided 20 tips for catechists. The ninth tip stuck with me: as catechists, we are not teaching a subject, but we are facilitating an encounter with Jesus. All of us encounter Jesus in different ways on any given day, and our students are no different. Offering a variety of prayer experiences for children can open up new ways for Christ to work in their lives. When I’m praying with my first-grade […]

Letting Things Go in a Different Direction

Lesson planning is critical to the success of any class. With a solid plan, I walk into class more confident, but I build in flexibility in case an activity doesn’t work or if we run short (or long) on time. So, last year, when my Nativity lesson went off track, this flexibility allowed me to let go of my plan and respond to the needs of my students. The result was a powerful message about […]

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