Five Reasons to Learn Catechetics and Dump the Textbook

learn catechetics Five Reasons to Learn Catechetics and Dump the Textbook

[This is a part of the Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis series.]

Catechetics is the art and science of handing on the Faith.

It is the theory behind the craft of catechesis.

This theory is mostly found in the Church’s magisterial documents on catechesis.

In terms of the fundamentals, this is the basis behind everything we do.

Now you’re probably thinking you don’t need theory. After all, you’ve got the textbook and it tells you what to do.

Well, here are five reasons why catechists should learn at least some catechetical theory and dump the textbooks–well not completely but at least not rely on it so much for lesson planning.

1. Textbook lesson plans suck

Let’s face it, sometimes the textbook lesson plans are really bad. Textbooks are useful as source material but they often need some fixing up in how they present the information.

Early in my conversion, I volunteered to teach CCD.

I was so excited to pass on all the great stuff I was learning. I wanted my students to get fired up for God and the Catholic Church. I was handed the textbook and told to do what it said. Everything I needed to know was in there they said.

The kids were bored out of their minds reading out loud all the time. The lessons plans lacked focus, and there was too much information. It got confusing for the kids and for me sometimes. The result? The students didn’t learn.

2. Lessons will be better because you control them

Catechetical theory helps you understand the elements that go into a good lesson. If you understand this, you can figure out your own lesson plans.

You’ll understand what to focus on, where you want to draw them out into discussions and how to use the Bible, the liturgy and stories to engage students and bring out their faith.

Your lessons will be incredibly more engaging because you created them and will be more enthusiastic about them.

3. Theory is fascinating when you’re interested in the application

I’ll admit, theory is usually not appealing. That is, until you’re excited about something and want to do it well. Then, the inner workings become fascinating.

I struggled through physics in college. It was just too boring to study. But when I became a Navy pilot, aerodynamics become infinitely fascinating.

Why? Because I was interested in the application. It was why the plane flew! That helped me fly it better.

Theory is only dry when you’re not interested in the application.

4. It really works!

After my initial failures, I realized I needed to learn more! I ended up becoming part of the Catechetics program at Franciscan because I wanted to be an effective catechist. I wanted to convert people and make a difference.

And the best part–it worked! People began responding to my teaching. It touched their hearts and changed their thinking. I became very effective and I wasn’t always sure why!

But let me tell you, I’m not a natural teacher. If I could get better, anyone can.

5. It will set your heart on fire

I want to give you some of the background I learned in catechetical theory. When I learned this it opened my eyes and set my heart on fire!

Learning this stuff will energize you and make you on fire for being a catechist. When you see the improvement and the response from your students, it will change your attitude completely.

Catechetical Takeaway

Understanding catechetics, the theory behind catechesis, helps you grow as a catechist. It will enable you to go beyond the textbook presentation, the lessons will be more interesting and you’ll enjoy them more.

Plus, the increased success with your students will seriously motivate you.

For more reading on catechetical theory and what the Church says about catechesis see:

This was the first part of Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis series. Stay tuned for more installments in this series as I flesh out more of the method.

Let’s talk about this in the comments!

  • What frustrates you about textbook lessons and planning?
  • What are your biggest problems with engaging your students?
  • Do you have success stories to share?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Marc Cardaronella

Church worker by day, blogger by night. I'm passionate about the most effective ways to transmit the Catholic Faith and spread Christ's Gospel to the world. Join me? Find me on Facebook, Twitter, and for the catechetical ramblings of the day.

Comments

  1. I’ll bite, Marc! 
    What frustrates me about textbooks? Activities that do not speak to the culture of the youth in my class. A concentration on “read and discuss” methodology: “Have a student read paragraph 3 out loud, then ask _____”.

    I have difficulty engaging my students in ways that matter to them, that make faith relevant to life. 

    Success moments:  liturgical catechesis around the baptismal font, use of short videos, use of direct affirmation.  None of these have anything to do with the text!

    • Thanks for biting Joyce! Actually, there was a problem with the code in the post. I think you only saw the questions at the end. I fixed it now if you want to go back and read the whole post.

      What’s interesting to me is that you identified some of the same things I said in the post so I know I’m not the only one. ;-)

      Yes, the read and discuss methodology is THE most frustrating thing. It’s boring! I bet you had a lot of problems with the activities not speaking to the culture of the students with your latest confirmation class huh? I can definitely see that.

      I think you’ve hit on something crucial talking about the difficulty in making faith relevant. I’m really experimenting with that myself. I’m thinking that strategic questioning and discussion is the only way around that. Entering into dialogue and wrestling with issues, real life issues, and dialoguing about them is the only way to make faith relevant to them. But a lot of that ideally needs to be done in the family. That’s the privileged place for that. It’s very difficult to have the kind of relationship and rapport needed when you only see them once a week. Those are the kinds of questions addressed within the context of everyday life with people they trust.

      Yeah, your liturgical catechesis around the baptismal font was pretty darned cool! That’s the perfect example of what I was talking about in the post. That activity wasn’t part of the text but was a perfect compliment that came from your creativity, imagination and experience with liturgy. I bet they’ll really remember that too because it was so concrete. That’s the kind of awesomeness that can happen when you venture away from the textbook sometimes.

  2. What frustrates you about textbook lessons and planning?  I agree with Joyce about the problem with the read and discuss methodology.  That is why I’ve created outlines with a methodology that encourages less of the “read and discuss” method (but it still depends on the catechist).  What also frustrates me about the textbooks is it so often encourage a step by step approach that is not dynamic: do this and then do that and say the following.  We need to get catechists outside the box of teaching that we have gotten use to over the last number of decades. 

    What are your biggest problems with engaging your students?1. If catechists keep them behind their desks too long.2. The need for catechists to develop a rapport with their students. This is vital since they only meet once a week.  Do you have success stories to share?Providing opportunities for our students to interact with our priests, Sister’s that are in our area, time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation for our students and Mass – all so that students can come to see their faith as a way of life not just something we talk about in the classroom. 

    • That’s so interesting that you say the read and discuss methodology as well. It’s funny because at the time I didn’t know any different. It seemed right to me. Maybe that’s why it’s there, because it’s kind of a natural way of doing it without needing much skill.

      But yeah, I think the step by step thing is not dynamic at all and stifles the art and flow of a lesson. I have to say that I also understand why they do it that way. Walking you step by step through the lesson is kind of comforting for the complete beginner.

      I also agree that rapport is so important. I think engagement is more than getting the students to respond but to get them into discussions that matter to them. What do they want and need? What do they think is important? Rapport is the first key to this.

      Thanks for these comments William!

  3. First of all let me just say that this frustration is the exact reason I started my website and jumped at the chance to work for a Catholic textbook publishing company. When I taught social studies and religion in a Catholic school I was appalled by the lack of resources for the religion book vs. the myriad of resources in the social studies book. There was also a huge disconnect between what I was learning in my MEd program and the teacher’s manual lesson plans. I still cringe when I see a page full of teaching “activities” that say things like:
    – “read together. . .”
    – “say. . .”
    – “discuss. . .”
    – “say. . .then do. . . then. . .”
    – “ask. . .”

    I still have that frustration with some resources I am given as a catechist. I speak only on my behalf, but I can share that at Ave Maria Press we are constantly looking for new ways to present the teaching material that accompanies a student text. We are supplying numerous online resources as supplements. In some newer books, we are trying to move further away from the step-by-step dictation of a lesson plan. However, many catechists and teachers are only interested in a plug and play methodology and like that approach.

    Marc, I’d like to read a more detailed description of what you refer to as “catechetics” and “catechetical theory.” I tried to offer a practical and effective methodology to lesson planning in the free ebook at The Religion Teacher and looked at a number of different approaches to catechesis. Can you go into more detail either here in the comments or in another post?

    • Thanks for the comments Jared.

      You know, I can honestly see why the textbooks have that kind of lesson planning. I’m sure it’s a great comfort to the complete beginner with no training to look at the teacher’s manual and see that the lesson is laid out step by step for them. I know it was for me when I first started. The only problem is that comfort quickly fades when you start doing the lessons and get frustrated with the lack of success.

      I’m sure you’re right that many don’t care to move out of that plug and play method. I know some teachers that are just fine with presenting the minimum. And, perhaps they have enough savvy to spice it up enough to get by. I’d just like to make people aware of the alternatives that could take it up a notch!

      This post is the first in a series that will explain more of the catechetical theory I’m talking about. Hopefully, it will become clear as the series progresses. My goal is to present the basics of this system. Actually, what I’d like to do in this series is present some ideas that will supplement the textbooks and help people to move beyond them a bit. I think the textbooks are useful as source material and they give a curriculum to work from. I want to give a little help in going beyond. Let me know if you need clarification on things as it goes along.

  4. Lots to react to. I’ve taught 6th grade catechesis for 7 years, after 3 of adult/RCIA; so what I say about my class won’t necessarily apply to new catechists.

    1. Kids read their books at home and don’t bring them to class at all. 98% of class reading is me from the Bible, and only in short bits, rarely more than 3 sentences without a break. They will tune out very quickly; I don’t give them the chance.

    2. The textbook lesson plans are useful, but they and the chapters are for a 180 day schoolyear, i.e., a chapter/lesson plan per 5-6 class meetings, not 1 class meeting. Using an edited plan is ok until the catechist has a feel for what’s doable, and writes his own.

    3.  Yes. Part of the fun in teaching is making the knowledge your own, and then figuring out how to get the kids to enjoy knowing it too. This affects your lesson plans, because they will be very personal depending on your interests, personality, kids’ level of catechesis, their age,  maturity, etc.

    4. Writing your own lesson plans is a huge step toward being in charge of the teaching instead of being the textbook’s assistant. I modified my lesson plans every year after I wrote them the first year, and man, they are terrific, IMNSHO. They were like a living thing, like a bonsai tree that is constantly refined. I never have a dead second in class. It’s like taking a recipe out of a book, and developing your own perfect version that suits you and your family.

      

    • That’s a good idea to have the kids read ahead of time. Then you’re not presenting blind when they come in. They already have a little familiarity with what you’re talking about.

      I think getting the lessons personal and targeted to the kids personalities and interests is one of the keys to engagement and a benefit of breaking out of the book a bit.

      These are all excellent points Christian. Thanks for sharing your strategies!

  5. (In addition to the youth catechesis below, I was also on my parish’s RCIA team for three or four years, and that was a blast! I had such an awesome presentation for “Who is Jesus”, which is hard to explain here…)

    I was a catechist’s assistant for half a year for 8th graders; our textbook was “The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth”.  It has its flaws, but when I would teach, I would simply use it for the general idea of the material to cover rather than to have the students (or myself) read it aloud.  I was also there to answer the questions the book didn’t cover (and teenagers ALWAYS have questions that the books won’t cover, or cover well enough to satisfy a teenager’s curiosity).

    After that, I was a catechist for 6th graders, and the topic was the Old Testament.  Again, we had a textbook — I don’t remember the name right now, and it’s at home (and I’m at work) — but I was not very keen on it.  For starters, it began with Genesis 11, not Genesis 1, and it categorized at least Genesis 1-3 as “myth” without explaining what it meant by that.  So I decided to distill the Great Adventure Bible Timeline study (which I’d been through a year or two prior) and develop my own curriculum, taking the kids through the OT in much the same way that Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins have been gushing about (with good reason) for many years now.

    It was rather successful. Instead of reading paraphrased Scripture from a textbook, we actually opened our Bibles and read straight out of them.  And I asked the kids questions (and they asked me questions) that no textbook had scripted.  And the overwhelming majority preferred it that way — I solicited anonymous feedback from the class, and only one or two students (of a class of 18 or so) said they’d prefer to just go through the textbook.

    The textbook does not know the students in my classroom, and I did (at least, I got to know them as time went on), so I was able to make things relatable to them (as best a late-20-something can make things relatable to pre-teens).  And I got them hooked, especially a “transfer” student who had to sit in on my class because she wasn’t able to attend her normal class one week… a week or two later, she transferred into my section for good.  (Part of that was because, since she was new to the class and my technique that first week, I made her feel particularly welcome and made a point to interact with her.)

    So now, to follow suit, I’ll give some bullet-points…

    What frustrates you about textbook lessons and planning?

    * The bias of the textbook’s authors.  I’m not talking about something-isms or agendas, I just mean that they have a particular angle or intention, and it’s not always the one which works with me as a teacher or with the kids as students.

    * The questionable content.  It’s awkward to have to tell your students that the textbook is wrong.  First, why should they believe ME over what they’ve read in a book?  Second, does this mean they can’t trust books anymore?

    * A lack of imagination.  Sometimes the direction a lesson takes, or the activities provided, are not very interesting or inspiring.  It can be quite boring to do the same SORT of thing for every chapter.  Mix it up a little!

    What are your biggest problems with engaging your students?

    * I don’t have any right now!  I’m not a catechist at my present parish… but they did just put an announcement in the bulletin for them, so maybe I should get back into it.

    * Age — sometimes it’s a pro (I’m older, so they assume I know things), sometimes it’s a con (some kids at certain ages have trouble interacting with adults of certain ages, either because of an attitude problem or because there doesn’t seem to be any common ground to start from).

    * Silence — it’s great during the liturgy, but not so great when I ask them questions.  Maybe they don’t know the answer, and that’s okay.  But maybe they do know the answer, but don’t want to guess wrong, or don’t want to speak up (again).  Silence goes along with timidity, which sometimes has to do with age again.

    * Interest — sometimes, the Old Testament just ain’t that enthralling to a 6th grader.  And nowadays they all have smart phones and some attention disorder (in high definition, no less).  So there were some lessons where I really needed to dial up the creativity, but it was not always a success.  There were some classes I went into with such high hopes, and went out of with such a headache.

    Okay, I’m done dominating the combox.

    • Wow, what an extensive comment! I just want to respond to one point you made:

      “The questionable content.  It’s awkward to have to tell your students
      that the textbook is wrong.  First, why should they believe ME over what
      they’ve read in a book?  Second, does this mean they can’t trust books
      anymore?”

      Most Catholic textbook companies take great measures to ensure that there are no theological errors in the books. In fact they are required to submit texts to the USCCB catechism committee for extensive review. After sometimes a year’s worth of analysis, the committee returns the book with required and suggested changes to conform the content to the Catechism. Once changes have been made and approved, the committee adds it to the list of approved texts. Publishing companies also submit their books to the local ordinary or the bishop of the diocese in which the author resides for an imprimatur. This isn’t to say that some authors might present things in ways that differ from a teacher’s approach.

      • I don’t think I’ve ever run into theological errors in a book. But sometimes I don’t like the angle of the presentation. Sometimes I wish the textbooks were a little less academic in the way they present the material and more oriented to increasing faith. I know that sounds a little stupid. After all, it’s a *textbook*. Still, there’s already a bent towards a too heady approach to catechesis. I don’t think this helps. 

        For instance, I had a 7th grade text on the Bible once that talked all about dating, authorship and authenticity of some of the stories. It even called into question whether the Gospel of John was actually written by John the apostle. Those aren’t the kinds of things 7th graders need. They need to understand how the Bible is useful for their faith lives, how to read it within the context of the Church, how it dovetails with doctrine and is its driving force and how to pray with it. Those things will increase the students faith and trust in God, the Bible and the Church. Not undermine it. 

        • Theological Errors: I have not seen errors in recent years (Tkank you CCC!), more under emphasizing parts of truths. Example: About a year ago I reviewed all of the stand alone texts on First Eucharist and First Reconciliation that I could get my hands on. As a whole, there was a strong emphasis on “the family meal” but rarely on the “True Presence.” Many books never even used the phrase “True Presence.” They certainly didn’t directly contradict the faith, but they did not present complete catechesis on the Eucharist. 

          In the past there were a lot more problems. I took Catechetics at Steubenville in 1993 (before the catechetics program was developed) and we had to each take a popular catechetical program and critique it according to the norms found in a number of Church documents. Nearly all were found lacking and a few were found to be in error in a number of areas. 

          Today, we are light years ahead of where we were just a few decades ago. I credit teh Catechism of the Catholic Church and the US Bishops work reviewing texts for conformity to be the key element in this progress. Do I like everything about text book series? NO!!!!! I agree completely with Marc’s post. But I am very grateful that the catechists who need to work from a catechists manual exclusively at least have solid catechetical material within it.

          • Craig, your example of the First Communion texts are exactly what I was talking about. Not exactly wrong, but not exactly the emphasis you to have. What’s wrong is more with what they don’t say than with what they do say. 

            I agree though, the textbooks are much better than they were before the Bishop’s committee started their review process. And, at least there are textbooks you can give to a catechist and not have to worry…too much. 

            Thanks for the comments! 

      • We use the Faith and Life series from Ignatius. I continue to be impressed by its orthodoxy and  substance. I can have the kids read the next chapter each week, and not worry in the least about what they’ll be imbibing.

    • Thanks for the comments Jeffery!

      Great ideas for getting into the Bible and really engaging them that way. Sounds like you really had them hooked.

      I know what you mean about agendas and angles sometimes. I’ve run across that kind of presentation on Genesis as well. I don’t think it’s the place for a children’s textbook to get into questions of whether or not the stories are real. That’s better left for much later down the road. I think the Great Adventure approach is much more useful for drawing out faith in the students and teaching them how to view the Bible as God’s Word and revelation to them about how he loves them and has a plan to save them.

      And yes, despite all the great planning, sometimes we flop. We just have to chalk it up to experience and keep going.

  6. “the step by step thing is not dynamic at all and stifles the art and flow of a lesson. I have to say that I also understand why they do it that way. Walking you step by step through the lesson is kind of comforting for the complete beginner.”

    Yes…unfortunately for those with no prior experience, the first year of catechizing is their de facto year of training. Without the step-by-step of a pre-written lesson plan, most neophytes would likely default to lots of reading aloud from the book.

    We have a stable group of (mostly) confident catechists with multi-year experience. Those people just sail along year after year and draw tremendous satisfaction from what they do. The problem is always giving the new people a full year as an assistant before putting them in the lead role.  

  7. Thanks for visiting Joe! You make some valid points.

    It’s not my intention to discourage catechists from using textbooks altogether. My hope is that what I’m presenting can be used by catechists as a supplement to their existing source material. I think these principles can work with any textbook or manual to make the presentation more effective. This is what I said in the introductory post for the series.

    As a DRE, I understand the need to use a good textbook series to set up a curriculum and to give the catechists a guide for what they need to be teaching. No DRE has the time to set out lesson plans and curricula for every grade level in their program. And you’re right, it would be bad if catechists decided to just teach on whatever struck their fancy every week.

    I’m hoping that this will inspire beginning catechists to delve deeper and understand more of what they’re doing. While the textbook can be a great resource for the beginning catechist and a lifeline, it can’t hurt to open them up to the idea of a little more training and the benefits they can receive from this.

    Thanks for the comments and the great work you’re doing.

    • Yes. My impression is that most catechists, even after a few years of experience, still feel like they have to stick to the textbook, not just in the subject matter, but in the way the texbook chooses to teach it. But based on my experiences as a student, the best teachers (and I can remember examples at least as far back as middle school) gave us reading assignments out of the book and then taught in the classroom via the blackboard, notebook, discussion, lecture, and not using the book in class at all (although we had our books & could refer to them as we wished). I’m especially thinking about my glorious 8th grade English grammar teacher, Sr. Helena (St. Thomas More, Baton Rouge, La.). I have no memory of even seeing her even touch a textbook, much less read from one. I hated the subject (love it now), but I learned a lifetime’s worth of grammar in those 36 weeks.

      If DREs have any year-end meetings/ interviews with the catechists, it’d be useful to ask them:

      How did the textbook & its lesson plan work for you this year?

      Are you using your own lesson plans? Would you like to?

      Was there anything you wanted to cover that wasn’t in the texbook?

      Did you want to teach something in a different way then textbook suggests?

      Was there any textbook material you didn’t cover?

      Is there anything you’d like to do differently next year?

      Let’s say there’s a pool of knowledge my 6th grade class 180-day textbook; the whole pool = 100 points.  There’s time to teach 80, so I cut the least critical 20 before school even starts. Say 60 points are non-negotiable because next year’s class depends on the kids getting that info. That leaves 20 points. I can go ahead and teach the 20 that are in the textbook, but suppose I can teach effectively on a different 20 (or 10, or 5, whatever) that I have a particular interest in? Or teach the same 20 with a different approach?

      Not being a DRE, but a catechist, in my opinion those chances to make the class your own matter a lot, benefitting both the teacher and the students.   

       

      • Great insights as always Christian.

        I agree with you, the best teachers I had always assigned the textbooks as preliminary reading and then elaborated on the material from their own insight or experience. They never taught directly from the textbook. In fact, in college I always thought there was no point in going to a lecture straight from the book. I could read that!

        Interesting set of evaluation questions. Especially regarding what the catechist might have wanted to cover that wasn’t in the textbook. I like that.

  8. Fantastic post Marc. Bill Keimig spoke about this at last summer’s Bosco Conference. My mind has been churning ever since. I have a few catechists who are doing exactly what you describe, and they are my most effective catechists. Bot I have over 100 catechists each year of various backgrounds and motivations. Any suggestions on how to inspire more of them to take the leap and use the text as their general guide rather than a step by step instruction? 

    Keep up the great work! 

    PS. Your blog is further reaching than mine and more focused on catechesis. Have you in the past promoted the Bosco Conference? The DRE track is 5 summers (1 week each summer) and designed to give you the catechetical side of what you had in the catechetics program, but without the theology classes. In place of theology classes, you have to study on your own and pass a portion of the infamous catechism exam to show competency. I am in my third year and it’s awesome!!! This year I will be assigned my project and hypothetical parish.  

    • LOL. I just read your bio for the first time. I think you are adequately familiar with Bosco. Did I pray for humility this morning?

    • Thanks Craig! You’re in the DRE Track at Bosco? That’s so great! Maybe we can meet up this year! I definitely have thought of promoting it. It’s an excellent way of learning this system of catechetics without having to get a whole degree. 

      Regarding inspiring catechists to look at things this way, I think you have to show them the benefits of doing business a little different. It is extra effort but the rewards are much greater as well. The classes are more enjoyable, the students are more engaged, they learn more, respond better and are happier to be there. All of that translates into a more enjoyable time for them as well. CCD is a chore if you’re not having any fun or getting any positive feedback from it. Catechesis is not supposed to be some torturous thing that you hate but grin and bear it because the parish needs help. It should give you satisfaction and help you grow in your own faith life as well. Learning some advanced techniques and putting your own creativity into your lessons will help you do that.  

  9. Allison says:

    Oh my…so much to say, not sure where to start. I’m a relatively new teacher with little official training.  My situation is a little different because my students see me daily. I need/rely on a textbook as a guide. I know some teachers who do a great job without one, but I use it as a framework. My problem is definitely engaging the students. I have tried collecting file cabinets and electronic folders of activities/songs/videos that have worked in the past and I would love to see a website/online repository where teachers could “deposit” activities/songs/videos that were successful around specific themes (even by chapter). If I had a textbook that had a strong online source for me to research before starting a chapter, a place where I could communicate with other teachers and get ideas that would be great. Engaging the students is the challenge. They are tired, overwhelmed, uninspired and often disinterested. We need to get them participating and experiencing the benefit of being involved in their faith.  Thanks for bringing up the subject Marc! 

    • Hi Allison,

      My goal here is not to say you shouldn’t use the textbook completely. You still need it as a framework just as you said. The series is meant to show you the underlying theory behind catechesis so you can understand better what you’re doing. That way, in time, you can come up with your own supplements in your lesson planning, see more engagement and enjoy your work as a catechist much more.

      I think it would be awesome to have an online repository just as you said. I’m often so amazed at the creativity people have in coming up with stuff for their classes. I love to share those ideas when I get together with other catechists in person. Wouldn’t it be great to do that online? Maybe a future direction for this blog? What do you think?

      Your comments about engagement are so on the money! One of the keys we all need to work on is keeping kids interested. I think if we can interest them, they’ll learn better and it will be a better experience for the catechists. Maybe another idea for future posts?

      Thanks for the comments!

  10. Allison – there IS a site that does that for religious education/catechesis.  Digital Catechesis http://digitalcatechesis.ning.com/ is a network of people interested in technology and catechesis… 433 members and a good portion of them are Catholic school teachers. Now they just need to share!  There are quite a number of video resources on faith and on technology housed on the site.  Just go there and ask to become a member… then set up your email or RSS reader to tell you when new discussions and videos are added.

    Sister Caroline Cerveny, the site founder,  is the guru of all educational technology… she can direct you to sites that do this for other subject areas, if you ask. 
    Joyce

    • I’m one of the ones in that group that needs to share. :-

      You’re right though, Sr. Caroline is a genius on educational technology. She has so many awesome ideas for that stuff.

      Thanks for the tips Joyce!

  11. Christine Alcott says:

    Just found your blog, thanks to Craig King! Can’t wait to read more. I am a former CRE (now a SAHHM – that’s stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom!). I also have written articles for “Catechist” and a booklet in the Our Sunday Visitor’s Catechist Companion series. The issue of religious ed is one I tackle whenever I can!
    I definitely think “desk time” can be a real killer, especially depending on the program. I oversaw 1st-5th grade catechesis, in a parish with no school. So, kids would come to class on a school day, after being at desks all day. To sit behind a desk again meant they were equating religious ed with school work.
    Sure, you need some desk/table time, but especially for younger people, not too much.
    I would bring things to class – statues, rosaries, Bibles, a Nativity set – and let them actually handle these items. It was a changing thing for many kids.
    Likewise, the real revolution has to begin at home.  If you have a class of 18 2nd graders, you usually have 2 who regularly attend Mass and receive instruction at home – these are the ones who will say,
    “Oh, I heard that at Mass on Sunday”. You usually have about 2 who look confused when you talk about the altar, and you begin to wonder if they have ever actually been inside the church. You do what you can to help them learn how to build a relationship with God in the 24 hours you have them over the year. The majority of the class are in-between, and that is where most people teach to.
    Oh, my mind is too full to continue right now, and I probably make no sense! I need more time to read and reflect! Just wanted to say hi and I like your work!

    Christine Alcott

    • Hi Christine! Thanks so much for saying hi!

      You are so right about “desk time.” After they’ve been in class all day, sitting at a desk just seems like more school with less rules and none of their friends. That is definitely the wrong message to send for religious ed isn’t it?

      I just saw a fantastic methodology for doing biblical catechesis for 7-12 year olds! It’s fabulous! It’s definitely a way to get the kids out of this mindset and into a mindset more conducive for catechesis. Check out http://comefollowme.info/. The materials aren’t available yet but they are knock your socks off good!

      I’m in total agreement too about the family! I think the family is absolutely the key. If it’s not lived in the family and backed up by liturgical experiences and the Mass, there’s much less of a chance it’s going to stick.

      Well, I can’t wait to hear more after you’ve read and reflected! Thanks for joining the conversation!

  12. Marc, I so appreciate the conversation here! What strikes me is that if we are going to teach the faith, it is not like following a recipe that we refer to as a lesson plan. I will look at the lesson plan and figure out how what I know about my students and what is suggested as content I will make this lesson a “passion” topic for me. Once I have the mindset that this is important and why it is important – my passion – I ask myself – How will I engage my students in creatively learning this content so that they will get excited about what I’m excited about! I approach the methods I’ll use like looking through a “kaleidoscope.” Each part of the lesson is related to all the parts of the lesson and needs to be regarded as a whole. Sometimes technology will be used, sometimes games, sometimes questions, and sometimes – other methods! As a faith facilitator, it is important to be like an artist – attending to all the details – so that the students will appreciate and want to learn what I want to teach!

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks for the comments Sr. Caroline!

      This is a great approach. That’s a great strategy to figure out the intersection between what your students need, based on your knowledge of them, and your passion. You get them excited about what you’re excited about based on what they need to know and what they want to know. I like it!

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