As the start of another school year brings me back into the parish classroom for another year of teaching religious education to 3rd graders, I thought I would share with you my Six Tips to Enhancing your Religious Education Class:
Pray before the start of every class. This is my most important tip, because it helps me calm myself and focus on the reason we will be together in the classroom. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and use us as God’s instrument in leading the children to His Son, Jesus Christ, to open the children to receiving God’s message and for any personal intentions of the day.
2. Make Religious Education Fun
Our kids come to the parish directly after school for religious education, bringing with them a lot of pent up energy from sitting in a classroom all day. Religious education does not have to mean sitting in a chair reading from a text book. Get them moving, sit on the floor, or go outside. Make it fun. Utilize all of the fantastic teaching resources, games, crafts and projects available online to make the bible lesson more enjoyable for wiggly little people.
3. Get Help
As a catechist in a parish, you should have people around you supporting you. Turn to them and ask for help when you need it. As a non-professional teacher, it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed some guidance handling discipline in the classroom. My Director of Faith Formation was instrumental in walking me through the basics of classroom management and made herself available to be present in my class when I needed the support. If you are blessed to have an aide in the classroom, use them. Our aides help with kids’ bathroom trips, checking roll, breaking into small groups, and discipline.
4. Don’t Water Down the Faith
Kids are able to grasp the faith at a level that we adults often underestimate. Don’t water down the bible lesson for them, simply present it in a manner they understand. They are eager to soak in God and want to understand the “why” questions of our faith. Our job is to guide them to the truth and feed their hunger for Jesus.
5. Give Homework
Such a dreaded word, and yet the kids seem eager to be challenged with it. In my 3rd grade class, I might ask them to bring in their favorite bible story, tell me about a Saint, recite a new prayer they’ve learned, choose a bible scripture with the family, or complete the online chapter review. When they bring it back to class, the child receives a trip to our parish “Treasure Box” filled with small faith related trinkets. Kids love sharing what they’ve learned on their own with their classmates.
6. Communicate with Parents
Establish regular email communication with the parents about the lesson completed in class. Each week, share the main focus, describe some of class interaction, offer resources to learn more as a family, and notify them of homework assigned. Don’t forget that parents are the primary teachers of the faith, so it is essential to stay connected with them.
What tips work for you when teaching the faith to children?