Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. ~ Proverbs 16:3
Step Four: Shine Things Up
In the last column, I advised you to mark any activities in the current week's lesson that seem dry, confusing, or overly academic. This is a subjective decision—and it should be. Since you've already looked up the concepts in your Catechism, it's not a matter of not understanding what's required; you just don't want to be stuck using activities you can't relate to. You need to find better ones and fast. What's "better"? It's very simple: activities that are more exciting to you. If you're having fun, your enthusiasm will be contagious and the kids will catch your spirit.
I'll talk about lots of great ideas in future columns, but here are some guidelines to help you find or create great activities right now:
- Do what you're good at. If you're good at crafting, by all means incorporate crafts.* If you are musical, use music. If you are funny, find a way to incorporate humor (used reverently). If you dance, use creative movement. Are you intensely logical, a good storyteller, an avid reader or researcher? Look at your hobbies, your talents, your interests, and bring them into your planning. They can make your lessons thrilling to your students by helping you personalize the lesson.
I can't stress this enough; you are an individual and your teaching should reflect that. No matter what works for anybody else, you're going to have to pick and choose and find your own ways of bringing this incredibly important material to life. If it's joyful for you, the lesson will be remembered. God can use that. (In future columns we'll talk about learning styles, which offer great insights into teaching styles, as well.)
- Does this craft help the children process important concepts?
- Do I have time to properly prepare and organize materials in order to avoid wasting class time?
- Is the resulting object something attractive and/or useful that parents will want to save?
- Try new things. Jesus said, "Be not afraid." He meant it. So don't be afraid to take risks when you're planning exciting new ways to present your lessons. Of course it's scary doing something new, but that's the way creative work is. Don't rule out the possibility that the Holy Spirit may be inspiring you to do something truly unique in your faithful presentation of the Church's teachings. Trust in Christ. He knows just how to use you to wow your students with the Truth. (In the coming weeks I'll be sharing some of the creative ideas I've nervously tried—that worked wonderfully!)
- Use online resources. I love Catholic Icing for creative arts and crafts that follow the liturgical year. Catholic Mom is an excellent source for free on-line Catholic coloring pages. Kids like crossword puzzles and word searches, too. You can find them by doing subject-specific searches. But if you want to make your own, Armored Penguin is a very cool website that makes it easy for you to input your own vocabulary and create word searches and crossword puzzles in minutes! (Answer keys are generated automatically.)
- Find a mentor. Veteran catechists are great treasures. Ask your DRE to put you in touch with someone with experience at your grade level and then take detailed notes of their favorite resources, teaching tips, and classroom stories. Most folks who stay on to teach year-after-year care a great deal about the quality of religious education and they're willing to share what they know.
- Put it all in God's hands. If you're asking for His help and working to remain faithful to the Church's teachings, He will uphold your efforts and make them fruitful, completing what you leave unfinished. If you remember nothing else from this column, this is the most powerful advice I can give you.
Next Week: Activities that make your lessons memorable and fun!
Homework: Send me your favorite classroom activities! I'd like to share them with our readers.
*Note: All scriptures quoted in this column are from the Ignatius Revised Standard Catholic Edition.
11/23/2010 5:00:00 AM