Living the Lesson – Applying the lesson to students lives

In the past three posts we have been discussing the Ecclesial Methodology. We have discussed Preparation, Proclamation and Lesson Explanation. The last two steps, Application and Celebration will finish our discussion.

Application is simply, or maybe not so simply, applying the lesson to the students daily lives.  In other words, how does a fifth grader live the Beatitudes, etc.  We can teach the students all the truths of our Faith but if we don’t teach them how to live those truths, we have only completed part of the job.

In the Image of God series, most lessons of all grade levels have an Application or Living the Lesson section.  The idea of living the lesson covers issues such as how does a second grader follow the sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery);  how does a fourth grader follow the Corporal Works of Mercy and as we mentioned above, how does a fifth grader live the Beatitudes. As examples of how to help our students apply the lesson to their daily lives, we will look at these three examples.

So how does a second grader follow the sixth Commandment? If we look at CCC 2331 – 400, we will see that this Commandment speaks to the seriousness of the promise that husbands and wives make to each other.  Second graders know about promises. This commandment also speaks to modesty. This is a chance to discuss modesty in dress and actions with second graders.

Teaching fourth graders to follow the Corporal Works of Mercy is a little more obvious. Feed the hungry and Give drink to the thirsty. There are many service projects available that illustrate feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. Get your students involved!  Cloth the naked. Have the students collect new hats, gloves, or socks to give to a charity. Talk about taking care of the clothes we have and not making fun of other’s clothing. Visit those who are in prison. While we don’t necessarily want fourth graders visiting prisons, there are many homebound people who are imprisoned in their homes. Usually a parish has a list of homebound parishioners, have the students write letters or send cards to these people. Shelter the homeless, This also can be lived through service projects.  It also provides a great opportunity to speak about gratitude for our homes and helping around the house. Visit the sick. If there is a nursing home nearby, have the students visit, play games, and entertain the elderly and the sick.  Bury the dead. Most students have experienced the lost of someone in their families. Have the students make cards for the families who have recently lost a love one.

How do those fifth graders live the Beatitudes? We teach them that “poor in spirit” means that material things should not be as important to us as people; that when we are “mourning or suffering” w can turn to Jesus to help us; that we should “hunger and thirst” to be holy to do the right thing; we teach them to forgive others; we teach them to be “pure of heart” that is, modest and careful of the movies that we see or music we listen to; we teach them to try to being peace to tense situations and we teach them that when we live the Beatitudes, we may not be the most popular but we are living as we are made, in the image of God.

As you can see it takes a little thought and planning to really help our students truly live their faith. We do a great disservice to our students if we only teach them the truths of the Faith but not how to live those trusts.

The last step of the Ecclesial Methodology is Celebration. It is usually in the form of prayer – prayer services, formal prayers of the Church, spontaneous prayer, etc.  This step allows the students to celebrate and praise God for the wonderful things He has done and revealed to us. All lessons should begin and end with prayer.

This concludes the explanation of the Ecclesial Methodology. I would enjoy any comments or questions you might have regarding this method.  I will be taking a break from writing for the month of July. When the blog begins again in August I will be discussing classroom management, giving some activities for the classroom, and how to add saints to your lessons, just to mention a few topics.  If you have any suggestions on topics please let me know.  Have a great summer!


Teaching the lesson – Lesson Explanation

In the past couple of blogs I have been explaining the Ecclesial Methodology found in the Image of God series.  The steps of this catechetical methodology are effective ways of presenting a lesson  no matter which series you are using.

We are now at the step which is the heart of any lesson – the lesson explanation.  To stimulate the children and to appeal to the “visual” learner, try to have a prop which reinforces the lesson. For example, if teaching a lesson on the Trinity to primary age students cut out a large triangle or clover leaf to show the idea of three in one (these examples do not come close to explaining the Trinity but it does offer us a small comparison to use in teaching).  With older students, show a picture of the Trinity such as Albrecht Durer’s Adoration of the Trinity (a “search” on the internet will provide a copy).

Active participation on the part of the students is particularly important. Participation is encouraged by the use of storytelling, questions and answers, role-playing, art, music, etc.  Anything that the students can respond to and be engaged by. The story of a saint whose life corresponds to the lesson is always a to engage the students. The Vision Book Series, offered through Ignatius Press, are perfect for stories on the lives of the saints.  My Catholic Family DVD series offers animated lives of the saints for younger students (also available through Ignatius Press).  Talk to the students about the topic, stir their interest with music, art, and stories.  As Msgr. Francis D. Kelly said, “The power of image, story, and symbol to help the Word have its fullest impact on the believer [our students] must never be underestimated. Jesus’ own example in His rich use of parable and story should be the inspiration for the catechist in designing creative explanations of the Word.” (The Mystery We Proclaim, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1993)

The Lesson Explanation should also include a definition of any words in the lesson which are not familiar to the students.  For example, covet, prodigal, absolution, reverence, consecration, etc. should all be defined for the students. Vocabulary words are common in most of the other subjects the students study.  Becoming familiar with a “religion vocabulary” is important so the students can better understand and increase their retention of the lesson. The Image of God series has a list of vocabulary words and definitions in all lessons of the primary grade levels.

One last thing about the Lesson Explanation step. The use of memorization should not be overlooked. In St. John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae, he tells us: “A certain memorization of the words of Jesus, of important Bible passages, of the Ten Commandments, of the formulas of profession of faith, of the liturgical texts, of the essential prayers, of key doctrinal ideas, etc., far from being opposed to the dignity of your Christians, or constituting an obstacle to personal dialogue with the Lord, is a real need.” (CT, no. 55)

I am sure you are getting the idea – don’t just read from the teacher manual. Teach from your heart and from your love of the Faith.