A PREP teachers problems


#1

My wife conveyed to me some comments made by a friend whom is teaching grade 6 PREP (does every parish call it that? Parish Religious Education Program). The teacher comments that these grade 6’ers know very little about their faith (after having 6 years of PREP and going through first communion). Here are some examples of the Q/A that happens in the class:

Q: Who were the first people to sin? … silence … one student offers “Mary & Joseph” as an answer.

Q: Who is the Messiah? … no answer.

Q: Do you know the story of David & _____?" (fill in the blank) … silence … the teacher offers a hint “It starts with a ‘G’”. one student answers “Jesus?”

The teacher is quite discouraged. Calling parents about the lack of effort (if any) in homework assignments, usually results in “He’s just too busy”. And these kids will be having their confirmation next year!

Any ideas on how he can motivate these students?


#2

What series are you using?

Our RE/CCD program uses “Faith and Life” from Ignatius. We have the scope and sequence for each year, as teachers, this lets us know what is important to that session.

Your Diocise should also have the guidelines for Confirmation Prep, reading these will help you know what is important.

Sit down with the DRE, put together a plan for the remainder of the year. Meet with the 7th grade Confirmation instructor, maybe have them come speak to the class.

For motivating the kids… 6th graders love competetion, quiz bowl that kind of thing. A speaker who is excited about the topic does help. For some reason, they are also captivated by power point presentations :confused:


#3

You’ve answered your own question with this statement:

*Calling parents about the lack of effort (if any) in homework assignments, usually results in “He’s just too busy”. *

You cannot undo in one hour what their parents teach them in the other 167 hours each week. If their parents place no priority on religion, education, mass attendance, and bible reading you cannot make up for that one class a week.

I also teach a group of 6th and 7th graders. I taught this same group last year as 5th and 6th graders. What they know is pathetic.

So, I just do what I can in one hour a week and leave the rest up to God.

I engage them in interesting lessons, try to impart as much of the BASICS as I can-- after almost two years in my class they can finally respond accurately to these questions (which I ask them every single week):

What are sacraments? Signs institued by Christ to give grace.
What do they give us? Sanctifying grace
Why do we need grace? To get to heaven

Honestly, it’s taken me this long to pound that into their heads. They know a few bible stories now too, ones we’ve read together, but not many. Forget naming books of the bible, major people of the bible, or major events of the bible. Not happening.

Anyway, my advice is to do everything you can for one hour and then don’t sweat the rest, it’s out of your control.


#4

Also, my advice is to forget the book and focus on one thing in depth. Pick the most important things, be it the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, whatever.

For example, I spent two entire class periods on the Twelve Apostles. That’s a lot of time. BUT, instead of reading in the book what I did was give each of my 4 kids a handout on 3 Apostles (stuff I found on my own).

I gave them flip chart paper, markers, construction paper, glue, scissors, etc, and had them each make a poster on their 3 Apostles. Things like occupation, how they were martyred, places they evangelized, any books of the bible they wrote, etc. Then they each presented their 3 Apostles to the class.

While that took two weeks of precious class time, out of that came the fact that they now all know Peter was the first Pope. They all know John wrote 5 books of the bible and which ones, they all know John was the only Apostle not martyred. They can all articulate that the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and the 4 marks of the Church.

So… while I took 2 full weeks on a lesson that isn’t even in our textbook – which I never use anyway-- I imparted more knowledge in that two weeks than I could have hoped to impart from 100 book lesson.

Be creative.

And, Jeopardy is a great incentive for memorizing facts. Kids this age love to play jeopardy. They are still very competitive with each other, especially in boy versus girl teams.


#5

for one thing, these are 6th graders who by definition are often rebellious and uncooperative. You don’t know if they cannot answer or will not answer.

If they genuinely do not know the answers you do not know, unless you have been involved in the program if a) it was never taught at all or b) it was taught and the child just forgot or c) it was taught very well but the child missed so many classes, or horsed around so much, they did not learn the content.

If the problem is lack of motivation is it due to boredom (CCD/PSR/PREP sounds just like school, we just had 5 days of school and don’t want any more). Is it due to lack of basic understanding and practice of the faith because it was never taught. Is it due to lack of basic understanding of the faith because it was taught well in the parish, but not reinforced at home.

first question to ask: do you attend Mass every Sunday with your parents? If the answer is no, I have not been to Mass since my first communion, or last Christmas, or only when my grandma takes me, you know where the problem is. If the answer is, my parents drop me off but don’t come to Mass themselves (or, my mom comes to Mass but not my dad), there is nothing, or virtually nothing the RE teacher can do to overcome parental inertia.

you can attack the problem by buying new textbooks, but the best book in the world does not help if the catechist does not know and understand the content, with heart and lived knowledge as well as intellectual knowledge. Also good textbooks don’t help kids who are reading below grade level, or not at all. third, faith formation is much more than book learning, although that is indispensable. If adults in the child’s life, parents, grandparents, godparents and catechists, are not modelling lived faith kids this age have radar for that lack of commitment and will use it against you.


#6

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