Quick Question: How Do You Teach the Beatitudes to 4th-Graders?

I need your help. Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm, I begin teaching the Beatitudes to fifteen ten-year-olds, beginning with arguably the toughest one of all: “Blessed (or Happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” How do you teach that to a fourth-grader? What does poor in spirit mean to you, and what can it possibly mean to a child? Our textbook is all about teaching the children that we should not be attached to material possessions, what we wear, the toys we have. But is that all there is to it? Anyone have any good ideas? I’m scratching my head here.

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  • Maybe this will help? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Poor in spirit" means to be humble. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. When we are an empty cup and devoid of pride, we are humble. Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, allowing one to do the will of God. He who humbles himself is able to accept our frail nature, to repent, and to allow the grace of God to lead us to Conversion. It is pride, the opposite of humility, that brings misery. For pride brings anger and the seeking of revenge, especially when one is offended. If every man were humble and poor in spirit, there would be no war!The Eight Beatitudes of Jesus

  • Lucas “Lucky” Trevor

    I am 10 years old.First, I would of course read the Beatitudes to your class. Then, I would ask "what is Jesus trying to say?" Then, on the board I would write "Beatitudes" in a rectangular box and make a web of what the Beatitudes mean, using their feedback. Then, I would click the marker, turn to them and say "The Beatitudes are one of the most famous things Jesus said and it is important you realize what they are. Do you realize why it is so important that Jesus said these? Now, what do you think he meant when he said them?" If they have anything additional add it to the web in a different color. Here is how I would explain the Beatitudes to the class: Jesus tells us that material possessions are not important and that if you are merciful or give peace or are strong in spirit you will be rewarded when you die. Christianity is something that is not taught in everyday life. The values of everyday life are fun, being yourself, buying things, owning possessions.

  • James

    To my mind 'poor in spirit' translates as humility. That in itself (if correct) is a difficult concept to grasp for adults let alone ten year olds. I just covered the Beatitudes with 15 year olds and honestly, you'd think some of them were hearing them for the first time. But I think for ten year olds the notion of recognizing that our abilities are gifts from God and being grateful to Him for them is a good starting point. Developing talents and interests and sharing them with others without being a braggart is a means of being humble and showing gratitude. As our text pointed out" We are poor in spirit when we recognize that everything we have (intelligence, health, talents, possessions, and so on) are pure gifts from God." Thanking God in prayer and being unselfish are also ways to develop humility. As for illustrating these points to ten year olds in a meaningful way that's another challenge altogether. Your certainly more creative than I am but with the Olympics fresh in mind gifted athletes who developed their God given abilities could be a jumping off point. I had my guys write up gratitude lists to help them be more aware of all we take for granted. Good luck with the "Great Eight"…I'm sure that your kids will have a better grounding in them than mine seemed to have.

  • Webster, here is the direct quoted interpretation of my 5th grade daughter in response to your question: "It means not bragging, being humble and making yourself invisible — instead of putting yourself wide out there. It means stop trying to be something you are not. This will make you more holy and heaven-worthy." How's that idea, right from the mouth of the babes?Pax Christi.

  • mm. I dont know much bout teaching ten year olds bout it, but I do remember in Ratzinger's book, Jesus of Nazareth, he takes the Beatitudes as a re-formulation of the Ten Commandments.

  • Webster Bull

    I am so happy to get answers from Lucky (age 10) and Mujerlatina's daughter (age 11). @Lucky, I think your visual presentation of the Beatitudes is a stroke of genius. I'm going to use it tomorrow. Tomorrow night, if I don't post on it, I'll come back here to the comments section of this post and tell you what happened.@Mujerlatina's daughter, Thanks for this very clear explanation. I like the ideas of "not putting yourself wide out there" and "stopping trying to be something you are not." I'm only 47 years older than you, and I'm still learning these things! 🙂

  • Here's my idea: First have 'fun' with the word "Beatitude", in an Ebonics hip-hop kind of way. For example, I often tell my children "Watch the 'tude' or I don't like your attitude." I might also say "Don't get an attitude with me." Sometimes I praise them with "I'm so happy you got your attitude together…" Finally there is always the "Don't BE giving me A Tude!" Once the kids can relate to today's notion of 'attitude', then you can segue into the Latin root of the word 'Beatitude' or "beatitudo' or 'beatus' — meaning 'blessed.' The root 'bea' or 'good' comes into English as 'beautiful' or 'beauty' or 'beau' or even 'bounty' and 'bountiful.' Then you're home free because the 'attitude' becomes 'beautiful': 'beatitude.' Then the kids can call out the various ways they are blessed and a blessing for others. Then and only then can you really begin to speak together about the first of the Beatitudes…

  • Lucas “Lucky” Trevor

    Thanks for the lovely compliment. I am a strong visual learner and it really helps if I can see the words.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Oldonariel:I started reading that book, which is so great; I love the comparison of the 10 commandments with the Beatitudes.I also checked out your blog. So introspective and comtemplative. Neat!

  • Webster Bull

    @Lucky, I bet that's true of many kids in my class too: visual learners. Your generation does watch a lot of video!!

  • Allison Salerno

    http://www.rainbowcastle.org/beatitudes.htmlHere is a Christian website that has some ideas on how to explain the Beatitudes to kids.

  • Webster Bull

    We've got a great discussion going here and everyone's being a great help. @Mujerlatina, "Tude" is a connection I wouldn't have made, but my kids are about 15 years older than yours, so I missed that one, I guess.

  • Webster Bull

    @Oldonariel, Interestingly, our entire syllabus this year can be boiled down to the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes, so this is an important connection.

  • I used to listen to these tapes when I was ten called "Lawrence and the B Attitudes." They're not Catholic or anything, but they have LOTS of catchy songs…I can still sing most of them. They are available on iTunes if you have it, or here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lawrence-and-the-b-attitudes/id338515431

  • When I first started as a catechist, I worked with fourth graders and struggled with teaching the Beatitudes. Similar to what Mujerlatina said, the book suggested writing out the word as "Be-attitudes," and explaining them with that as the starting point.Here's another idea for introducing the Beatitudes. I actually like the primary grade activity better than the middle ages on this:http://www.loyolapress.com/fourth-sunday-in-ordinary-time-a-sunday-connection.htmMujerlatina, your daughter is wise beyond her years. Webster, good luck tomorrow!

  • Anonymous

    Go get the Pauline Publications (Daughters of St. Paul.) Beatitudes posters. They are great and totally age appropriate. They have the contrasting "Me-Attitudes" too. Kids love them.Kids also like the David Haas song "Blest Are They". I'm not crazy about it, but my students for the last several years like it, sing with it, and sort of memorize the text without knowing it.I define "Poor in Spirit" as knowing that God is the source of everything. That everything we have is a gift from God. And if it is all a gift from God, we can't be selfish with what we have been given.

  • Let's ask the reverse question — who are the "rich in spirit"?The "rich in spirit" are those who think they already have everything they need spiritually, such that they have no need for, or want of God. They think they know it all.As stated above, the "poor in spirit," on the other hand, are not those who are spiritually deficient, but those who humbly are in need of God, who are detached from worldly things and rely on Him, unlike those who have no want or need for God. They admit to themselves that they do not know everything, and that they are in need of God very much.Even by age 10, children know other children who are pushy know-it-alls who don't think that they need to or should listen to mom and dad or to their teachers. And they know that these other arrogant kids are fools.On the other hand, those kids who admit to themselves that they are still just kids, that they don't have all the answers, and that they are very much in need of mom and dad, as well as their teachers and other grown-ups, it is they who are blessed. They are blessed because, in their humility, they are willing and able to listen to their parents and teachers, and be taken care of by them, and prosper, which are a kind of symbolic "kingdom of heaven."On the other hand, the kid who knows everything and runs away from home because he thinks he doesn't need his parents, ends up being cursed, not blessed.What is true regarding kids and their parents on earth is true regarding kids and their Parent in heaven.

  • Wendy C.

    I just recently taught the beatitudes to my Jr. High journey class and the cirriculum I used gave a great summary of each one and then we also brainstormed together people we could think of that that beatitude might describe. The Blessed Mother for pure in heart, Dorothy Day for hunger and thirst for righteousness, they could also name people in their lives who modeled a particular beatitude for them. Then at the end each of them picked a beatitude that they would like to nourish in their spiritual life. I was very pleasently surprised at how well this discussion went and how well they seemed to comprehend the material.

  • Teaching the faith to kids can be a challenge if only because the faith is about salvation — be saved from something bad — and many kids often have never been in a position to know hardship, much less to think about things like death.It is one thing to go up to an adult who has know misery and say, "I have 'good news' for you, Jesus will deliver you from your misery." It is quite another thing to try to explain that to a child who has never known want, but has been fed, clothed, sheltered, and loved their entire lives.So, teaching the faith to them can be a challenge, including the Beatitudes.As Pope Benedict says in Jesus of Nazareth, the Beatitudes are paradoxes, a transformation of worldly values, which bring hope and joy amidst affliction and hardship.Perhaps some kids aged 10 have personally known hardship, if they have not, then perhaps they have at least witnessed the hardship of others. For example, perhaps they are aware of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, so you can have them empathize with the victims and imagine being in their place.Reflecting on the Beatitudes in such situations can be occasions of hope, as well as a teachable moment. The Beatitudes about being "poor in spirit," mournful, and merciful would all seem to apply here. And the lesson is this –Do not despair in times of hardship and suffering. Rather, have hope by putting your trust in God (be poor of spirit). When everything is gone, when your home is destroyed and you have nothing left, put your trust in God, who will never abandon you. If you do that, if you put your spiritual reliance on Him, then He will save you, He will give you an entire kingdom to replace your destroyed home. Maybe not in this life, but if you humbly recognize that you need Him above all things, and you depend upon Him spiritually, God will bring you to a place where there is no more want, no more tears.They should know that, if ever they encounter hardship themselves, they have no need to worry, no need to cry, if they humbly love and trust in God.

  • Here's an example that even the littlest kid could understand –Who would do a better job cooking dinner: you or mom (or dad)?Blessed is the child who depends on mom to cook dinner because it will taste good and be good for you.The child who foolishly thinks he can do a better job and tries to make dinner for the family himself, on the other hand, is only going to burn everything and make a mess in the kitchen.

  • Anonymous

    I'm not sure if this will work but I think kids are usually good by nature. Ask them to put themselves in God's place. Paint pictures of different situations – one person being kind and merciful and the other not. Now if you were God, who would YOU be merciful to? Or someone who is fighting for justice Vs someone who is unfair. You could do this as a role play as well – making the kids play the parts. Hope this helps. In any case, all the best and prayers for all the children who dont get taught these things. Rose

  • Webster Bull

    Wow, thanks to all for the great comments and suggestions, which keep rolling in. I have reserved two hours before class today to study them all and meditate on them–though I am definitely beginning with Lucky's visual technique. I think that's a winner.

  • Michael Wurzer

    When I think of the beatitudes, I also think of how Jesus said he came for sinners, not the righteous. (Mark 2:17) Jesus came to help sinners (and the poor, meek, etc.) find and trust in God's love. The Way to get from sin and poverty of spirit is to love but that relationship must start somewhere and the Good News is that Jesus came to get the party started, so to speak, by showing his love for each and all of us. Just when we're lowest and convinced no one loves us is when we most need Jesus who can create something new in us by showing us we're loved. Love is the center of relationship to others and so the beatitudes tell us two things: (1) the poor are blessed because they know what it's like to be poor and so they can love (relate to) others who are poor; and (2) Jesus loves everyone, especially those who are poor, and so we all should love them, too. In both these ways, the beatitudes help us find the path toward each other and toward love (the kingdom of heaven).For me, the real key, though, is that the beatitudes just get us started on the path toward love, they don't necessarily mean we'll get there as we can still stray away from it.In terms of your ten year olds, something like this might help them see how the path works:1. Ask them to think of a time when they've been sad or bad.2. Ask them to imagine how it would have felt right then if someone had reached out and told them they loved them and forgiven them. Would that have helped?3. Tell them someone in fact did do that and that someone is Jesus. He loves us, so we no longer need to be sad or bad.4. Ask them if they think they could love someone who is sad or has been bad. This is how the love party Jesus starts can spread from us to others, and what the beatitudes are all about.

  • Our Sunday Visitor has a little book, "The Beatitudes for Children," by Rosemarie Gortler and Donna Piscitelli,beautifully illustrated by Mimi Sternhagen. Perhaps your parish library, or even public library, or Catholic bookstore, has one. Here it is on OSV's catalog web site:https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode;=T821

  • Webster Bull

    To follow up with everyone who was so generous with comments and suggestions on this post, I spent two hours before the class reading all your ideas, including a couple of long links. Then I went into the class and . . . reality took over! LOL First I had to inform the kids of a test I'm supposed to give them in three weeks, which got their attention real fast but also created a rippling nervousness and lots of questions about what was going to be on the test. Then I told them about the "open house" at the end of the school year, for which they have to prepare a presentation on "their" saint (they drew holy cards from a hat to get "their" assignments three weeks ago). Result? More hubbub. By the time that had died down, there wasn't much time for anything else!!But I'm ready for next week, aren't I?!

  • Maria

    Webster:ROFLMAO!!Can we look forward to a status update on their presentation of the Saints??

  • @ Webster:Shall we stay tuned for the news update on how the class went? Hope you were successful!Pax Christi.

  • Webster Bull

    Three comments back from here, I told the story; to be continued this Wednesday (I hope).