Difficulty teaching youth catechumenate


#1

Hello,

First, I would like to ask the mods to move this thread if this section isn’t the proper section for such topics. Thank you.

Now to the main issue:

I am one catechist among three or four who is responsible for teaching a youth catechumenate at my parish. It’s an extremely small catechumenate with currently only one eleven year old in attendance. We’ve had other children in attendance, but there are always complications at such a young age with committing to something like this. At any rate, this eleven year old has been in attendance since the beginning and says he is ready to stick with this until the end.

I’m *very *new at being a catechist. I was only confirmed into the Church during Easter 2007, and my time since then has been beset with spiritual weaknesses galore, but I still consider myself a Catholic Christian and I volunteered to be a catechist because I thought it might help me understand more about what I believe and why I believe it.

Unfortunately, however, I can’t help but think that I’m doing a horrible job and that I’m failing to properly teach this kid about what the Church believes and why it believes it as such. For one, even though I prepare way in advance and attempt to become very familiar with the material, it seems like I whiz through the material in 15 minutes during a session that is scheduled for 45 minutes. Secondly, this young boy acts *so *bored when I’m teaching. I watch as his eyes glaze over, as he looks out the window, and other things which suggest to me that I’m not presenting the material in an interesting manner, which may be true since my style of teaching is to lecture. I have tried asking him questions and getting him involved, I’ve tried sounding more upbeat, but it’s all to no avail it seems. I’m not the best catechist in the world, I know, because I have a tendency to repeat myself, to forget words then get totally disoriented, etc., but I just want to make sure this kid understands what I’m telling him…and sometimes I wonder about that. When I ask if he has questions, he says no.

His mother is in the classroom when we teach, but she remains uninvolved. There are also no other catechists in the room. It’s always a one-on-one deal; therefore I have no idea how the other catechists are faring.

While I want to make sure that he is understanding what I’m saying, I also want to make sure that I’m doing a good job. I kind of feel as if he doesn’t particularly like me – as if I’m that horribly boring history teacher who puts you to sleep.

I just really don’t know…


#2

I’m teaching RICA for kids for the first time also. I’m up to 7 kids, 2nd-6th graders. I’ve taught other stuff, before, but this seems to be pretty unique and I do think there has been a learning curve! :smiley:

Teaching one kid can be really hard sometimes. You do get through stuff a lot faster than with a group. There aren’t as many questions, not as much having to stop and settle other kids down, and just not as much interaction in general.

But this also gives you the opportunity to present the same thing in many different ways to account for different learning styles. Each week I try to have some read and discuss time, some more active game or craft time, and have some kind of puzzle that they either work on at the end of class or that I send home with them. That way they are getting more or less the same info in different ways.

Find out what kind of things he is interested in and that will give you clues about how to present things. If he is more the active type or the quiet type or the artsy type or whatever.

What materials are you using? Do you have a book or just topics?


#3

We’re currently working from Francine M. O’Connor’s “Journey of Faith For Children,” which consists of two-page worksheets with summaries concerning weekly topics. It’s an okay workbook, but it requires a great amount of extra discussion to fill 45 minutes.

Apparently we’ll begin an actual textbook in January.

He’s a quiet kid, it seems. He says very little, even when we’re not discussing the topic at hand. He’s interested in sports, but unfortunately I’m not. He also has difficulty reading, so…that’s all I’ve been able to pick up.

I want to just throw my hands up, say what I have to teach and then let it go, if he picks it up then he does, it not then oh well – but I don’t want to be like that, I want care, and I want to teach even just this one child what God wants him to learn…it’s just that I feel like a failure no matter what.


#4

Ya, I understand having to fill in quite a bit. We have little one page pamphlets and even with having to do two in one week fairly often, that isn’t anywhere close to enough to fill up the hour and 15 minutes that I have them for. :smiley:

So I’ve just started adding in other things. I read a Bible story each week having something to do with the theme. Like this week it is Mary, so it will be the Annunciation. I usually have some kind of arty type thing, even if it is just coloring something. They also get some kind of worksheet every week that fills up that last bit of time if I finish, or if not, I send it home. I’ve gotten some good ones from here and made some word searches and such things myself. Last week we watched a couple of short clips on the Saints since that was the topic. I’ve also discovered one of my kids LOVES hangman, so I don’t mind playing that at the end of the class, I just make them use words that have to do with the topic we are covering, Saints, books of the Bible, whatever.

Feel free to tell me what topics you have coming up and I can tell you what I’m doing for them and help you come up with ideas that might work. :thumbsup: :smiley:

And of course, I’m praying for you! :signofcross:


#5

Okay, this kind of thread I like. Let me see if I can offer some helpful ideas.

It’s an extremely small catechumenate with currently only one eleven year old in attendance.

I think that he is the only student does present problems.

I’m *very *new at being a catechist. I was only confirmed into the Church during Easter 2007, and my time since then has been beset with spiritual weaknesses galore, but I still consider myself a Catholic Christian and I volunteered to be a catechist because I thought it might help me understand more about what I believe and why I believe it.

Teaching is indeed a great way to learn. Your instincts are correct on this.

Unfortunately, however, I can’t help but think that I’m doing a horrible job and that I’m failing to properly teach this kid

The answer to this might not be known for years or decades into the future.

For one, even though I prepare way in advance and attempt to become very familiar with the material, it seems like I whiz through the material in 15 minutes during a session that is scheduled for 45 minutes.

Nothing wrong with a video that is related to the lesson. Kids usually like popcorn. :thumbsup:

Secondly, this young boy acts *so *bored when I’m teaching. I watch as his eyes glaze over, as he looks out the window,

A track coach once suggested the idea of always ‘taking the temperature’ of his athletes each day at the start of practice.
Meaning - take a few minutes to ask the kid what he did during the week, ask about his hobbies or studies, etc.

Also, you mention he looks out the window. Can you teach class outside. I know I cannot stand working inside during the summer months - drives me buggy.

other things which suggest to me that I’m not presenting the material in an interesting manner,

Coaching/teaching takes time to figure out. Also, do not be afraid to ask him if it is boring. His imput will be helpful to you.

I have a tendency to repeat myself, to forget words then get totally disoriented, etc., but I just want to make sure this kid understands what I’m telling him…and sometimes I wonder about that.

  1. Have a list of what you want to cover in class. Not a super detailed list, but one that guides you.
  2. Practice your words the day before class.

When I ask if he has questions, he says no.

As teachers we need to be the ones asking questions. So have some questions in mind to ask him.

His mother is in the classroom when we teach, but she remains uninvolved.

Does the mother need to be in the classroom? If yes, can she be involved. Since she is “uninvolved” perhaps her son is simply copying his mother’s behavior. Afterall he is only 11 and you are both new and strange to him.

While I want to make sure that he is understanding what I’m saying, I also want to make sure that I’m doing a good job. I kind of feel as if he doesn’t particularly like me – as if I’m that horribly boring history teacher who puts you to sleep.

I just really don’t know…

This year I am teaching the high schoolers, ages 14 and 15 mostly. I was hoping to have my 8th graders from last year, but most of them are in confirmation class. So this group of kids was all new. The first day of class saw 90 degree temps. I brought ice cream. Nobody took any. I did not worry. Maria (who was in class last year) thought she might belong in confirmation class. She took some ice cream on her way out the door. Still no other takers. Five minutes later Maria pops her head back in the door asking, “Mr. Todd can I have some more?” Still no other takers. What was happening was the kids were deciding if they could trust me. I knew this based on experience. At the end of class we had an extra 5 minutes. The 5 gallon bucket of now melty ice cream was at last doled out and eaten.

Okay, that is all. I hope it has been insightful.
For my part I learned how to use the multiple quote feature.

Oh, don’t forget to pray both at the start and end of class. This is certainly something the mother can do with you and her son.


#6

The next session (this coming Saturday) is entitled “Catholic Practices” even though the main topic is the liturgical calendar. Any suggestions how I might make this session interesting and intelligible for my young apprentice?


#7

Ya, mine is called the same thing when we do the liturgical calendar, but I don’t have that for a few weeks still. We will be making this. It is fairly simple, but a nice representation of the whole year in one piece of paper.

You could also talk about Saints days, especially if you have already mentioned the Saints, and bring a book or something where you can look up the Saint with his name or his birthday and find the Saint for that day.

You could mention some other Catholic practices and talk about sacramentals. One of my kids today asked about Holy Water bottles, saying has older sister got one once. You could make one, get a plastic bottle at the craft store and decorate with fabric paint.

You could talk about other Christian symbols, cross, crucifix, fish, Alpah and Omega, lamb, dove. You can make a coloring page and color each one as you explain them.


#8

One on one with an 11 year old is a plan for dull as the tombs. Someone at the Parish who cares about kids HAS to have some kids around that age who will come to class. Bring them in.

Do you have a youth group? Get some of the teens to assist in the class.


#9

Karen offers a some good ideas.

You could talk about other Christian symbols, cross, crucifix, fish, Alpah and Omega, lamb, dove. You can make a coloring page and color each one as you explain them.

Boys tend to like codes. You could explain that a fish symbol was a secret code used by early Christians and why they needed to use such a code. Also, the ‘INRI’ above Jesus on the crucifix could be explained.

This is a very interesting topic. Please keep us posted on the boy’s progress and yours too.

God bless


#10

Does anyone know of any good DVDs which give an overview of Catholicism that might be interesting to this age group?

Or, if you happen to have any .wma (Windows Media) files on your computer which I might could use during class, please PM me so that we might correspond by e-mail.

Thanks!


#11

Hi

I’ve been giving this some thought since I first read your post this morning. Not sure how you may take this but - it’s just a thought, or two.

Kids, especially at that age, need to have their imaginations provoked. This gets their attention, and then before they know it they’re involved in a discussion.

Have you ever thought of bringing Miracles into the mix? For example - talking about the Real Presence, bring up the Miracle of Lanciano. For Our BVM, Fatima, or Lourdes maybe. Other apparitions related to the Rosary.

Some things you’re just not going to be able to do this with - but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. As for his mother - get her involved, talk to her privately and ask her if she can participate and ask questions. Sometimes kids are a representation of their parents. Maybe his parents aren’t all the gung-ho about the Church, and they’re kinda forcing him into this trying to break that cycle.

For other things in the teachings that don’t have miracles attatched to them - put it in story form.

Picture this, Jesus is walking down this dusty road, the twelve are with Him as well as a couple hundred other people. They’re all following after because of the miracles He’s performed (name some of them) and he’s fed them all a couple of times now. Jesus knows this - so…what do you think He does? He turns around and tells them “If you want to have eternal life you must eat my flesh and drink my blood!” Not just once, but twice! What do you think happened?

From there - take him into what that actually means, bring up the miracles of Lanciano.

Make him participate - ask him questions like that. With just one, surly, quiet, probably highly intelligent kid - you’ve got your work cut out for you. So attack his weak spot - imagination. Get his imagination involved, describe the biblical stories that accommodate your lessons, keep things as interesting as possible. If that means deviating from the handouts - or making your own, so be it. The important thing is that he gets it, and remembers it.

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano Italy ca. 8 AD

Hope this helps a little. You got a tough job.

Peace and Blessings and Prayers

John


#12

This might be too complicated at short notice, but what I have done in the past is created a board game that is shaped like the liturgical calendar, with 52 spaces (52 weeks - get it?) and colour the spaces in with appropriate colours (purple for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, and green for the rest, with a few sprinklings of red to signify Pentecost, Corpus Christi and other feasts. I got dice from the Dollar Store and used pebbles from the back yard for markers (I washed them first, of course!) - then to play, I just ask the kids questions that are related to the season or square that they land in. With only one kid, you can make it a time trial, where he has to go back a certain number of spaces for every question he gets wrong.


#13

been tweaking our children’s catechumenate each year, trying to decide how to do it, what resources to use, whether or not to separate the unbaptized children from the baptized, or to keep them with their peers, whether to catechize families together, or break up into age groups.

one on one is definitely hard, my personal opinion is at that age he would do much better in a class with peers, but you may not have enough children in middle grades preparing for sacraments. Because of logistics, and catechist preference, as much as anything, we put middle graders together in one class, made of of both unbaptized children, and those who are baptized but have never been to RE and need 1st communion. Since they are learning essentially the same thing, it works. The second year, for the rites, the true RCIA group attends an additional half hour, with parents and sponsors, to prepare for what is exclusive to RCIA.

this year we have a class of 3rd-4th graders, one of 5th & 6th graders, who are beginners (generally corresponds to Inquiry), and a mixed class of 12 in grades 3-6 who will be received into the Church this Easter, and have been attending at least a year, and just celebrated Rite of Acceptance, so they are in the true catechumenate.

We also have a junior high class, there are 4 unbaptized in that class of 18, the rest need 1st communion, again, the true catechumens will celebrate Rite of Acceptance and attend with the rest of RCIA at another session when it is time.

High schoolers currently just attend Confirmation prep with their peers, and with those needing 1st communion, and again, whatever is lacking that is specific to RCIA is made up in the general RCIA class, so they have an additional 1/2 hour each week, with the other catechumens.

REsource is the same age-level sacramental series as the other grades use, with additional materials specific to RCIA at the proper time.

we are using a good catch-up program for middler graders who need to start from ground zero, Our Catholic Faith from Sadlier mainly because it comes in both English and Spanish, has a good catechist guide that is helpful especially for someone like you who is new to this, and is easy to use. “handouts” don’t seem to work well for some reason.

try and use the resources you have or find some that are interactive, make him do the work-looking things up in the bible or catechism, fill in the blanks, find puzzles and games, ask open ended questions. For instance this past week we read selections from Paul’s letters, and each child wrote his own letter to the Christians of our town, giving good advice for those preparing to become Catholic.


#14

This next session is supposed to be open-ended and a summation of all the topics reviewed thus far before he actually goes through the Rite of Initiation and formally enters the catechumenate process.

I’m thinking about reading passages of Scripture and discussing how these relate to the topics we’ve already covered in order to show him how biblical our faith is, which I don’t think has been stressed enough. I already have some passages in mind, but I would be interested in getting a feel for what passages you all think might be appropriate for some of the subjects. Here are the topics we’ve covered to date:

Faith
The Creed
The Church
What is Mass?
The Bible
The Saints
Mary
Bishops, Priests, etc.
Prayer
Liturgical Calendar
Sacramentals

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


#15

download a good illustrated liturgical calendar-ask your director she may have already ordered these in packets from LTP or another source. Explain the feasts, seasons and colors. The church in her wisdom builds in “visual aids” with her liturgy. get rubber balls, or paint ping pong balls in liturgical colors (highlighters work well for the ping pong balls). we do this in a circle with a group, but you can make a basket for points for him, be sure you have enough balls for every feast and start of new season (white or gold for Easter & Christmas days are more striking, white for the seasons). you can add a few more for some major feasts like SS Peter & Paul-red for martyrs, so you can work in some more of the symbolism, purple for All Souls day etc.

first go around the calendar in order, call out the feast or season, and he has to toss the proper ball in the basket. When he can do that once, call them out randomly. The first is to teach the order and rhythm, the second to highlight specific feasts.

for Lent, coin toss into 3 pans labelled Prayer, Fasting, Giving. you call out a practice: pray the rosary, give up sodas, bring canned goods to the food drive etc. he tosses a coin into the proper plate (there are no wrong answers here), this comes after a discussion of Lent of course and the reason for penitential practices.

just about every lesson or concept can be reinforced with a game, as well as with a coloring page or worksheet (which bore me stiff I can imagine what they do to the kids). If he likes puzzles, find them on-line, if he needs some activity after sitting a while, find active games like this.

sacramental signs and symbols–I find everything I need for this at the dollar store, have him help you set up a travelling altar, using a duffle bag or brief case or tote (most of us have some around the house)
stole from wide ribbon and stick on crosses
chalice and plate (try plastic wedding souvenirs, also for the wedding rings, my paten is a candle holder)
plastic grapes and bread, small wine bottle (try party favors)
small bottles of spicy scented oil for the sacraments that use annointing–you need 3, label with sharpie pen or type sticky labels
Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, Chrism
I found plate mats or doilies for each liturgical color, use men’s hankies for corporal (drew small red cross with a sharpie) and purificator
clear plastic bowl and creamer, you may even find a soap dish shaped like a shell for baptism
white candle, with a holder and pocket lighter if you will be lighting it. you can add a cross sticker
small standing crucifix
dove cutout or picture, ditto flames of fire
bishops miter (he can help you make one from construction paper) and staff (you can make these doll size for a travelling bag, full size for classroom).
Missal
bible on a stand
and so forth.

he can help you make them, set up altar with all the symbols, select those for each sacrament as you explain them, if you make yourself a travelling kit in a bag or milk crate you can use it always, anywhere. we use this year round.

take a church tour, with the group is best, but he needs to see these things in place and hear the explanations-altar, tabernacle, sanctuary etc.

more movement and activity, probably a little less of just talking and reading may help. also you are not best buds, but you will be one of those helping to evaluate his readiness to move on to the next stage, so do be perceptive to what he tells you, his reactions etc. also to what he does not say. He should also have a sponsor assigned from his own age group, a baptized child who is preparing for communion or already has it, so a friend who will not be disruptive or distracting, carefully chosen, could also help the class dynamics.

as far as acting bored, they all do it, it is an art form, just keep doing your thing, but ask questions that beg responses.

and yes your instinct is right, bible look-ups of short scripture passages related to theme of lesson are right on and should be part of this process


#16

I’ve started each class with a Bible story related to the subject. We’ve covered most of the same ones you have, so here are the ones I used.

We did these two together, I used the call of Abraham

The Church

Is this what is the Church or what is the stuff inside the church building? For the first I’d use one of the description of the early Church in Mass about how they share everything and worship together. For the second, maybe one of the description of the Temple

What is Mass?

The Road to Emmaus

The Bible

Psalm 119:105

The Saints

Pentecost

Mary

The Annunciation

Bishops, Priests, etc.

Peter’s Profession of Christ

Prayer

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Liturgical Calendar

Creation

Sacramentals

we haven’t done this and I’m not sure of a good story for it…

Maybe you could list all your topics and then randomly pick a story out to read and then ask him which topic it matches with. It will get him thinking and he may find some interesting connections you haven’t thought about.


#17

That’s an excellent idea! And much engaging than lecturing on these passages!

Thank you! :smiley:


#18

Hello,

I was just alerted today that I am teaching the class (after nearly 3 months of inactivity) which is about baptism.

Any ideas how I could present the topic of baptism to an eleven-year old so that he understands?

Any stories/anecdotes I could share?

Any videos?

Any songs?

Thanks :slight_smile:


#19

Take a baby doll in with you and role-play the ceremony with him. Let him be the priest, and coach him through what happens during the ceremony. Dress the doll all in white, and explain to him that the person being baptized wears a white garment to signify that they have now become purified from all of their sins.

By answering his questions (Why is there oil? Why do you have to pour the water three times? What is the candle for?) you can get into the theology behind it, and talk about how the person is becoming a royal priest, prophet, and king in the eyes of God. You can, at the same time, explain the distinction between the priesthood of all believers, and the ministerial priesthood.

Have fun! :slight_smile:


closed #20

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.