For Fourth-Graders Learning the Ten Commandments

For Fourth-Graders Learning the Ten Commandments January 6, 2010

Posted by Webster
I was nervous returning to my fourth-grade religious ed class this afternoon after two weeks off for the Christmas holidays. I was afraid I might have lost my connection with the kids, and like other teachers, I did find them more restless than they had been before the break.

As usual, I entered the class with a bare-bones mission: Spend the next two or even three weeks going over the Ten Commandments. These children know so little about their Faith, their Church and its history, I consider it a minor miracle when they can all recite the Hail Mary.

So I hatched a plan. An unauthorized plan neither provided for in our study guide nor sanctioned by the Vatican. But I thought it might be fun. At the beginning of class, I handed out paper and pencil and asked the class to imagine that the twelve of us (five kids were absent) had been stranded on a desert island. “Oh, Mr. Bull! You mean like Lost?!” “Exactly, J. Like Lost.”

Then I asked them to imagine that they had to come up with rules for living together, so that no one would get hurt and everyone would be happy. I asked each child to begin one rule with the word Always and a second rule with the word Never. Then I collected the papers and chose from their answers our class’s very own Ten Commandments:

  1. Always be nice.
  2. Never leave the group.
  3. Always sleep until at least nine o’clock.
  4. Never chew gum.
  5. Never steel [sic] from one another.
  6. Never pick your nose.
  7. Never kill anybody.
  8. Always take a shower with clothes on.
  9. Never go anywhere without a partner.
  10. Never eat the tiny fish.

Say what you will of my method, I had their attention, at least for a few minutes. We talked about how we had come up with these ten laws. We moved to the way our Congress and President create laws. Finally, we moved to God and Moses on the mountain.

We ended with a simple point. The real Ten C’s begin with three rules about God and one rule about our parents. I pointed out that none of the children’s rules mentioned God, mother, or father. Next week, we’ll see what they make of bearing false witness and coveting.

I love teaching this class.

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