Circle Time: Talking, Testing, and Teens

And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." ~ Mark 10:26-27

Lisa MladinichTaking it to the next level with personal responses to the lesson.

Circle time can take place as part of your prayer time, or it can be a great way of ending each class and touching base. I'm of the opinion that written tests will show you who your top students are; they'll indicate which kids are being supported at home. But tests aren't as helpful with the others—the kids whose parents don't take them to Mass because soccer practice is on Sunday morning—so you have to augment your testing by giving them a chance to share what they're learning with you, to ask questions, and to feel that you care about them.

A word about teenagers. Don't despair if they are slack-jawed and dull-eyed. You know the look. It's just a defense. They're so vulnerable. So be yourself and keep your sense of humor. Give them faith and morals without flinching or watering down. They're a stone's throw from adulthood. Challenge them to something greater than themselves; they are hungry for it, though they may not know this at first. Get their questions answered even if you have to say, "I'll get back to you next week." And then do it. Every question is a good question. Capitalize on their urge to fight by teaching them to defend the Faith and their urge to laugh by keeping your own sense of humor lively. Show them the transformative power of the sacraments through the lives of the saints and your own witness. They are bombarded with immorality and relativism, so call on the Holy Angels to support you and give your students the antidote.

  • Gather them around you. Proximity helps them open up, especially with young children. If there's a rug in the room, get right down on their level.
  • Share eye contact with every child so no one feels left out.
  • Make sure that they understand what you're trying to say and that they can verbalize it themselves.
  • Share your own stories. There's nothing like the drama of a personal witness.
  • Listen and be patient. Kids sometimes stammer and hesitate when it's their turn to speak. The compassion you show might mean a lot to that child and will set a good example to the other children. If somebody's feelings get hurt during circle time, make it right.
  • Strictly enforce good manners to keep your circle safe and nurturing, so even the shy children will feel comfortable sharing.
  • Getting off track. We only have an hour or so a week, and circle time can really get sidetracked. Tolerate a little of this, because surprising and very bonding and enlightening discussions can arise unforeseen. Even if they're off topic, be flexible. You may be the only one helping them to understand their lives in the light of faith.