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.