8th Grade Catechism

I just had my first class yesterday. Because we started with an all classes prayer and meeting prior to actual classes, we only had 45 minutes of actual class time.

Being a rookie at this, I followed the lesson plan faithfully. We began with a prayer and the readings for yesterday’s mass. Unfortunately, the DRE did not provide the readings in my daily packet, so I only had my ONE copy of the readings. I had three students come up read each. There were a few issues because of a few tough words. Also I think the other children didn’t follow along very well because they had to listen (I know I didn’t, and I knew the verses). and couldn’t follow along reading. When a word was mispronounced, I took that as a sign of both an unfamiliar word and therefore a lack of understanding. When they had all finished, I concluded with a short summary of the readings that I had proofed by my longtime friend who is a priest. He actually gave me the summary of his homily, which I tried to translate for 13-14 year olds.

When I asked about Sacraments, it was like talking to people who had no grasp of English. Just empty stares. So I asked if anyone remembered their Baptism (thought that might get a “how could I remember, I was a baby!”). From the responses on Communion and Reconciliation (more blank stares), I think it has been “quite a while” since my six students received sacraments or attended mass. Then class was interrupted and two more students walked in who were not on my attendance sheet. I recognized one as the younger brother of one of my former boy scouts.

Next we opened up the text book. It was evident that with only twenty minutes remaining, it was going to be difficult to cover much. To get participation I had each child read one paragraph. At the end of each reading, I tried to get confirmation of understanding by using a few summary statements and asking questions. “So where in the Bible do we find
Original Sin?” and junior boy scout became an instant “star” because he raised his hand and answered “the apple from the tree in the garden.” That broke the ice --slightly-- and a few of the others later chimed in.

We covered only half of the material required, but I saw that only five minutes remained. So I changed the topic to prayers that the students might know by heart. Seemed as if the “Our Father” elicited the greatest response. I mentioned that it was a powerful prayer and could be said almost anytime. I suggested saying the prayer deliberately, but realized that was not appropriate and changed it to “slowly.” I mentioned that I bowed my head in prayer as it gave me a better feeling of honor and reverence for God. So we all began together, but there was a little falling off towards the end–especially. I gave a minimal homework assignment: read chapter 2 once through and underline any words that you don’t understand. I will try to anticipate all those myself as I read the material.

At the end, after I dismissed the class, I really felt that this went (mostly) horribly. I went to Mass afterwards and prayed for LOTS of guidance from the Holy Spirit so that I could come up with a better plan for next week and after. So please give me some thoughts, comments and ideas on how I can help the kids to grow in their faith. In six months they need to be prepared for their Confirmation. I have a long way to go as their catechist; they do too. Prayers and ideas are most appreciated. Thanks!

Have you met with the parents? I am a DRE and that is the first step they do before actual class. Of course I meet with my catechists’ before the actual faith formation year commences and explain what I want them to cover at their initial parent meeting. Parents are the sole responsibility of their children’s spiritual and prayer life.

As for your class. Here is where I think many parishes fail and start off on the wrong foot. Many parishes will dive into the sacraments,doctrine, scripture readings,etc,etc. Yes all are vital and should be incorporated into the process. However, I start off by teaching them **WHO IS GOD? **And I mean from K-12 and adults as well. I have found out at my local parish, parents respond much better and grasp a better understanding of our sacramental and prayer life once they learn and understand our God. Most people only know of God on the surface and at times you will be shocked as to how many distorted views and beliefs many Catholics have about God. So my two cents: Teach first WHO IS GOD! Nothing theologically deep,but the basics. I call it Theology for beginners.

Good luck

That’s great advice. I will be starting as a DRE in a few weeks, the first day of classes. While I have numerous degrees in theology and have been involved in Adult Faith Formation and parish ministry for over 15 years, I have never been a DRE. I am excited about this new adventure.

Unfortunately, I have not met with the parents. The DRE said that WE (catechists) have to approach this as if there will be little support from home. She was somewhat negative in terms of parents’ expectations of support and pretty much downplayed the idea of meeting with them. As 8th graders the parents just drop off the kids at 9:00 and pick them up at 10:30. We are supposed to encourage them to go to 11:00 mass, but it is not required. :confused:

I had asked for the parents’ emails so that I could contact them, but no support for that, a personal intrusion. So I will try on my own next Sunday, and request from the kids themselves. It sure would help to know from the parents how their children learn, what spiritual and faith support there is at home, etc. But as a rookie I thought it would be prudent to follow the DRE’s plan. She has been doing this for 2 years at our parish but for 24 years overall.

So do you have a good primer on WHO IS GOD? for 8th graders? I am all ears thanks! I just know that after week 1, I have to change my approach. I just did too much lecturing. Want the kids do the talking, and I am facilitating with questions and challenges. I really want to help these kids. Their responses (if I can beat it out of them ;)) should be interesting.

I guess I just figured that they would know “concepts” of Communion (Real Presence) but not have a full understanding. Same for forgiveness of sin through Confession. But in trying to talk/walk them through it, I could tell they were more than just a little “rusty”.

Have you thought of using those old stand-bys for teachers, wordsearches and another good activity, matching definintions to words, i.e. a column of terms like Eucharist, Gospel etc, and another column with definitions, but not in the right order so that the two things have to be connected by the pupil drawing a line?
If you get a bit of light-hearted competition going on, with a very small prize, you might find it softens them up for more formal teaching.
There are several good sites for generating puzzles of all types, eg. puzzlemaker.

If you are using a regular-school-year (180 days) textbook you’ll have to cut what you’re going to cover way down. I had the same issue for years, here’s a link to how I dealt with it in making my lesson plans. (You should be making your own lesson plans regardless.)

By the way, the first year is the hardest, so don’t be discouraged.


Thank you for the idea. :slight_smile: I think that will be a good exercise to begin our next class. There is certainly enough content to make this work.

Thank you, I read the blogspot and I think I saw one of your earlier posts when I was doing a search. I hope to refer back to it often in the future.

Our text has 20 chapters and we have 26 sessions of 90 minutes each. There is also a Confirmation Prep text that has 5 chapters and those will each be covered in one class. The remaining class is for a visit from our Pastor which will include confession. That is scheduled during Lent.

Each chapter in the text is about 10-15 pages and should be feasible to cover in class, plus some extras. From that standpoint there is a very good match. I haven’t read the whole text yet, but it doesn’t appear to have sections that are significantly longer than others.

I have a total of eight children in the class. The classroom can seat 24.

For the first class, i could not get into the room until the whole class assembled. It has a traditional layout of 4 rows of 6 each. One side of the room was cluttered, so all the kids sat on one side of the room, from front to back. One group of three from the same public school sat together. The other three kids (all girls) just sat together towards the back. The two kids that arrived late ended up sitting in between these two groups.

I think it would be a good idea to gather this group closer together, perhaps in a circle. Or I could just have them sit in the front two rows. Thoughts? Thank you.

I am a seventh grade catechist preparing students for confirmation in eighth grade. You have many issues, but I have fond matters that are only in my Church, as a great starting point while still covering the material in the curriculum. For me, I have clearly found how ‘teaching, teacheth the teacher’!

Why do all these miracles only happen in my Church? Is someone trying to tell me something? I would pose that question and use the season of the year to interject some of these events. I might bring up the miracle at Fatima on October 13, do your research, yet ask the question during the session, why do all these things happen to this one Church? Yet there a XXXX more as you do your research for the season,…again, is someone trying to tell me something?

My experience has been,… wow,……yet as the students go home and hopefully have that conversation with parents,……parents may not be able to answer or address the question,…but maybe you are strengthening something that needs it.

Yeah, you have less class time due to preparation for confirmation, I pray these suggestions may be of help. :slight_smile:

“I think it would be a good idea to gather this group closer together, perhaps in a circle. Or I could just have them sit in the front two rows. Thoughts? Thank you.”

I’d say 3 rows of 3, 3 & 2 right in front of you.

Thanks I have made a note for Fatima for October 7 as we do not have class on the 14th.
And I will be sure to pay more attention to the Church calendar for their saints’ days etc.

Thanks, would you mind offering your reasoning? And should the seating arrangement be permanent or is that irrelevant?

I appreciate each comment on this thread, thank you all:)

Yes. I want the kids as close to me as possible, looking straight at me and the whiteboard behind me. I let the kids sit as they like when they come in, but want 2x2 until #5 enters, then 3x3 until #10 comes in, then want 4x4 until #17 comes in. I am always after the most square group I can get right in front of me.

We’re to cover St. Bernadette along with others. Her feast day is not until the end of Nov. I’ve asked that they view THE SONG OF BERNADETTE so we can discuss it by the end of that month.

The more they view and read on their own, the better the discussions. There are many excellent old religious movies available.

Fatima has many good movies including the orginal as well as THE 13th DAY. I think the approach of asking why does this happen only in the Catholic Church is excellent.

FOR THE GREATER GLORY is also available on Infinity and DVD. A must. EXCELLENT. OCTOBER BABY about abortion and forgiveness is good too.

“The more they view and read on their own, the better the discussions.”

Yes. I also suggest movies my 6th graders might watch at home. I tell them classtime is too valuable to be spent watching movies.

Ditto on 13th Day.

Because the OP’s class is 8th grade, I’d get the EWTN schedule and see what shows are on that week appropriate to the subject matter being covered. THE JOURNEY HOME is great and there are three or more encore presentations each week.

“THE JOURNEY HOME is great” Yes; old shows are on YouTube. We don’t have TV at my house so I watch them on the computer. There’s a ton of Catholic content on YouTube from EWTN and other sources as well.

I can imagine older kids getting a lot out of Fr. Barron’s short bits.

I think they would get a lot out of Fr. Barron’s CATHOLICISM which can be viewed on EWTN or rent the video. It is beautiful. I’m not familiar with his short bits.

Check him out on YouTube, that’s his bread & butter.

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