Arts and Crafts in the Classroom for the Non-Artist Catechist

Arts and crafts are not my specialty. I am upfront about this with my students, but I don’t want my lack of art skill to mean that we don’t have any artistic activities in our sessions. I certainly appreciate fine art. I have asked young people to draw pictures as responses to themes we’re discussing. And I do find some projects that I can lead that appeal to the artistic side of young people. What’s […]

Story, Art, and Prayer in Holy Week

Holy Week presents a perfect opportunity for catechists to change what might be the usual format for the session and create a retreat-like atmosphere to explore themes from this climax of the liturgical year. I do that in my seventh-grade classroom by focusing on several prayer experiences and activities aimed at helping the young people grasp the story of Jesus’ Passion and Death. I’ve written before about Preparing for Holy Week in Junior High, but […]

Six Ways to Keep the Message of Lent a Focal Point All Season

How can we catechists keep the message of Lent a focal point in our classes for six weeks? Beyond keeping a purple cloth on the prayer table, here are a few ideas for keeping Lenten themes the focus of every session for the entire season. Challenge young people to silence. I started this last year with my seventh graders. At first they had a hard time settling themselves for a few moments of complete silence […]

Making Space for Questions

A recent class discussion showed the importance of building trust over time, which allows young people to feel free to ask hard questions. We were talking about the miracles of Jesus (Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 12) and how they showed his love and respect for all people. That led to a discussion on how we are also called to respect the dignity of all life according to Christ’s example and Catholic social teaching. The […]

Improvising in a Different Space

After a few weeks in a different classroom space, I was happy to return to my regular classroom. We had spent several weeks in the parish center across the street from the school while some maintenance issues—most notably, a broken furnace—were addressed. During this time, I had to improvise on a few things. I didn’t have access to Bibles for each young person. I carried over a couple of Bibles, one to display in our […]

Evaluating the Marian Learning Stations

When I wrote about the Marian learning stations, I might not have been realistic about what we could accomplish in the time allotted. Because I wanted to keep working groups small—three or four people per station—I went with more stations than I should have. As a result, we ran out of time before everyone could get through all the stations, especially since each activity took a different amount of time to complete. The idea, you […]

Marian Art, Advent, and Learning Stations

With both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (a holy day of obligation) and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, and the readings in the second half of Advent telling Mary’s story in the days before Jesus’ birth, this is the perfect time to teach the children in our classes about Mary. I realized in my planning my Advent arc of activities this year that the Finding God art prints […]

Are We Still Sharing Stories?

As a starter activity for a recent session on parables, I asked the young people in my seventh-grade group to think about some of their favorite stories. A few people asked for clarification: what kind of stories? Wanting to keep the activity broad in scope, I told them, “Any kind. Personal stories, family stories, or a favorite story you read.” The kids turned their heads to their papers, and some of them jotted some notes. […]

Relaxing Prayer

I prepared my students to pray with a guided reflection, telling them that using their imaginations to have a conversation with God might take some practice. I gave them permission to “not get it” the first time. This was important for establishing trust and tone. I then played the “Called by Name” prayer track from the CD that came with our Finding God program and sat down with my students to participate in the imaginative […]

Four Ways to Meet Them Where They Are

By now we’re all settling into our routines for the year and getting to know our students. Inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who advised “meeting them where they are” as the starting point for conversation, I’m wondering, do we meet them where they are? In order to take this Ignatian approach, we need to get to know them. Beyond playing a few get-to-know-you name games, which have their place, how do we go deeper […]

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