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7 Practical Ideas for Prayer Before Class 03/17/2011 By Jared Dees Prayer before class starts is usually a crucial

part of every religion teachers lesson plan. I included it by default on the lesson planning templates I created to support The Religion Teachers Guide to Lesson Planning. Use the tips below to help you remember to pray before every class session and to offer creative opportunities for prayer. 1. Use a Prayer Book I usually have a few prayer books in my classroom to use for short prayer before class ideas or for a series of prayer sessions with a certain focus. These books usually have a collection of prayers for various moments and needs. There are also a number of reflection guides that you can use for more indepth prayer sessions such as the Sacred Space books. These are some of the prayer books I have used most often as a teacher and catechist: Day by Day: The Notre Dame Prayer Book for Students Praying All Ways The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas Time to Pray!: Seasonal Prayer Services for Middle Grades 2. Student Prayer Before Class: Prayer Partners I have written about student prayer partners in the past (here). Assigning partners for prayer can help foster positive relationships between students and make it easier on you to plan prayers. When I assigned days for prayer to the students, I found that I spent much more time and energy planning the days when I had to plan prayer. This is a huge help for accountability. 3. Create a Prayer Service Most textbooks or catechetical resources includes some type of prayer ideas or prayers services in them. I have found a big benefit in planning separate prayer services for my students as well. I like to follow a simple format modeled after the Liturgy of the Word. Typically it goes like this: Opening Prayer (Leader) Act of Contrition (All) Readings (Readers) Reflection (Leader) Prayer Intentions (Readers, All) Closing Prayer (Leader) Here are some short prayer service ideas I have developed with my colleagues at the Engaging Faith blog and here at The Religion Teacher: Ash Wednesday Prayer Service Catholic Schools Week Prayer Service Advent Prayer Service Ideas

Christmas Prayer Service Beginning of the School Year Prayer Service 4. Incorporate Silent Prayer Lets face it, kids seldom set aside any quiet time for themselves. With cell phones burning holes in their pockets, they are always able to connect with other people instantly. They rarely get the chance for silent, personal reflection. As hard as it may be to take time away from your planned lessons, try to provide students with the opportunity to sit and pray in silence. I would even go so far to suggest that you offer this opportunity once a week. Try it with your students and discuss with them what they experience. 5. Praying Novenas and the Rosary Novenas and the Rosary are prayers that plan themselves. There is something to be said about the consistency of starting each day with a novena or Rosary continued from the day before. I have also found a great benefit of incorporating a reflective element into these prayers to avoid the speedy repetition without reflection. Lets remember that the purpose of the Rosary is to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ, not to see how fast you can say the prayers. These types of prayers are especially good ideas during the Month of the Rosary or major liturgical seasons. 6. Use the Lesson as a Guide for the Prayer I often tried to develop short prayer experiences that coordinated with the lesson of the day. If we were learning about certain events during the life of Christ, we spent some time meditating on the relevant Scripture verses. However, be sure not to make prayer into a lesson at the expense of having a prayerful experience. Let the Holy Spirit work through the prayer rather than trying to work your lessons into it. Try not to make this a requirement for all of your your prayers before class. I fell into the trap of forcing each prayer to be relevant to the days lesson. It is ok not to have consistency the entire lesson. Prayer should be an experience all to itself and it isnt something we can plan with lesson objectives in the same way we do our lessons. 7. Spontaneous Prayer before Class This is one of the best ways you can model prayer. Dont plan ahead. Take some time to let the Holy Spirit speak through you in a spontaneous prayer. I sometimes list a few things I want to pray about, but usually when I pray spontaneously in front of the class I try to let the words speak through me. This is hard to explain and sounds a little cheesy, but I promise you it works. Also, dont let stumbling or stuttering discourage you. It is easy to get self-conscious even as a teacher. Remember that prayer is about God, not you. What other ideas have you incorporated in to your prayers before class? Add them in the comments below if you have some ideas to share.

Scripture-Based Classroom Rules 07/30/2009 By Jared Dees When you are developing your classroom rules this year, you may want to consider a couple of Scripture passages to provide a framework for acceptable behaviors. You will, of course, need to create succinct rules such as Follow directions, Seek permission to get out of your seat by raising your hand, Raise your hand to speak to the class, You may not eat or drink in class, Be respectful to yourself and others, etc. The following passages from Scripture might be used as additional guidance for your students. If you use them, post them on the wall with your other classroom procedures/rules. Constantly refer back to them as standards of behavior. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you, and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselvesAdmonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ JesusTest everything, retain what is good. Refrain from ever kind of evil. Activity: Reflecting on the Rules My wife used this verse as a guide for her fourth graders. At the end of the day/class or after students misbehaved, she used these Scripture verses as reflection questions. Did you love your neighbor today? Were you patient today? Were you kind? Jealous? Rude? Quick-tempered? etc. Activity: Weekly Reflection The verses could also be used as a kind of virtue of the week. Each week you may have students focus on patience, kindness, respecting teachers/principal (those laboring among you), cheering the fainthearted, supporting the weak, praying without ceasing, etc.

Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools 05/26/2010 By Jared Dees What makes a Catholic school Catholic? Catholic primary and secondary schools have experienced a number of changes in the years since the Second Vatican Council. Today Catholic schools are staffed almost entirely by lay people while in the 1960s they were staffed primarily by religious sisters, brothers and priests. As Catholics move from the inner-city to the suburbs, inner-city parish schools have dwindled in enrollment filling the halls with non-Catholic students. Some fear that these changes signify a crisis in Catholic identity. Indeed, there seems to be no hotter issue about Catholic schools than the discussion about what it means for a Catholic school to be called Catholic. Unfortunately, the debate about Catholic school identity has gone to two extremes. Neither one is incorrect, but they alone they are not indicative of full Catholicity. On the one side, the single characteristic of a Catholic school is thought to be doctrinal fidelity to the Magisterium. The strength of this view is that it highlights the profound, revealed truth found in the teachings of the Catholic Church, which must be found in a Catholic school for it to be Catholic. The weakness is that it can be alienating toward non-Catholics who now include nearly 15% of the students enrolled in Catholic schools. Cardinal Avery Dulles called this group of people Catholicists in his book The Catholicity of the Catholic Church. Dulles argued that ecumenism was essential to achieve the Churchs catholicity, therefore Catholicism taken in the Catholicist sense, could be the enemy of catholicity (p. 164). On the other side, Catholicity is limited to mean universal as only one of the four marks of the Church (one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic). The strength of this view is that it highlights the inclusiveness of a Catholic school in which all are welcome. The weakness is that it can rob a Catholic school of its distinctness making it no different from a charter school. It runs the risk of reducing Christianity to merely human wisdom (John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, no. 11) I suggest that a school is Catholic in its ability to reveal Christ to the students, parents, and staff of the school. The Church is a sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all men. The Church is the Body of Christ. Its members are diverse but united and equally parts of one another. As sacrament, the Church is Christs instrument of salvation (CCC, 775-776). As a ministry of the Catholic Church, Catholic schools too are a sign of that unity, that communion, in Christ and an instrument of salvation. Im not interested in discovering the bare minimum requirements or standards that make a school Catholic. I am only interested in strong Catholic identity. Strong Catholic identity can be found in schools that point to a reality beyond itself. These schools are clearly given life by Christ. Strong Catholic identity, therefore, can be found in schools that have the following characteristics: Curriculum School has a curriculum that order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith. (Declaration on Christian Education, no. 8) Effective religious education program that not only teaches about the faith, but brings students into a mature relationship with their faith and ultimately Jesus Christ. Religious instruction as evangelization should witness to the faith, but not practice coercion (Circular Letter to the Presidents of Bishops Conferences on Religious Education in Schools, 15).

Not separated from the culture, but integrates faith into culture through learning. Faculty and Staff Faculty who work together between disciplines and subjects, particularly between religious education classes and other disciplines. Effective spiritual development opportunities for faculty and staff. Faculty and staff living out their vocations as priests, religious, lay ministers, or non-Catholic teachers in the Church. Teaching is a ministry of the Catholic Church and one that many lay people now pursue as their vocation. Students A school in which all students are welcome no matter what denomination or religion. Students exhibit ownership over their own faith leading prayers, willingly doing community service, and witnessing to their faith. School Culture Prayer is infused throughout the life of the school. Regular participation in the sacraments is offered. Parents willingly participate in the school community and work together with teachers to educate their children.

How to Get Students to Participate in Class Discussions 03/28/2010 By Jared Dees Youve just taught one of the most profound theological lessons of the year. You think your lecture was fantastic, amazing, even inspiring. You finish, turn to the class and ask them a question to discuss this amazing lesson. What do you hear? Nothing. Blank stares, no eye contact, and the sound of crickets in the background. It is not easy to get kids to participate in class discussions. Why? There are a number of reasons. It may be the topic or the presentation. It may just be a group of shy students. The class may be waiting for you to call on the smart kid who will know the answer. They may not understand your questions. And some students have a fear of speaking in front of the class. Below are five tips and ten strategies you should use to effectively lead class discussions. What works best for you? Please enter your comments below. 5 Tips for Effectively Leading Class Discussions: Choose interesting topics. Sometimes students just arent interested in the topic. Lets face it, most of the time students arent that interested. Part of the challenge is to make things interesting for the student by making connections to their lives and the things they ARE interested in discussing. Ask good questions. Even if students are interested in participating, the questions still need to be clear and direct. Good questions connect to the students prior knowledge (things they already know). Good questions are concise. Good questions do not have yes or no answers. Good questions are built up by other good questions. Try to get everyone to participate. Think for a moment about Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter books and movies. She always knows the answer and she is always called upon. The rest of the students expect the teachers to call on her. They may not even listen to the question thinking they wont have to answer anyways. Make sure all the students are engaged and prepared to answer. Call on specific students. Dont set students up for failure. Call on the students who you think will be able to answer or think through the question. Call on their name first then pose the question to make sure they are listening. Then, bounce the question off of other students. For example, Johnny, do you agree? Why? Dont damage their self-confidence. Many students have developed habits of not participating in class because they have consistently been told they were wrong by the teacher. When a student answers incorrectly, pose the question back to them. Have them explain their answers and help them uncover the correct answer. Compliment often. Follow the 4:1 rule. Four compliments for every corrective feedback. 10 Teaching Strategies for Class Discussions: Popsicle Sticks and Note Cards Use popsicle sticks or note cards with the students names on them to call on students randomly. This will keep students listening to the questions if they know they might be

called on to answer. You can also use these to make sure all of the student have participated in a certain day. Ball Toss To add a little fun and excitement, use a soft ball (or rolled up sock) to designate the single person that is able to speak. When another person wants to participate, they can raise their hand and wait for the ball to be passed to them. The teachers should also request the ball to speak. Think-Pair-Share Give the students some time to formulate their answers to questions by working on them individually (think), then discussing their responses with a partner (pair), and finally sharing with the class what they discussed (share). Chalktalk Write a word or phrase on the board. Give a few students markers (chalk) to write words or responses that they associate with the word or phrase. Once they have finished, they can give the markers to another student. Warn the them that there is no talking during the activity, only writing. Have the students without markers copy what students write on the board and write their personal thoughts to ensure that it stays quiet. Devils Advocate/Provacation As the teacher/catechist, try to defend a statement that is outrageous or controversial. Make the students really believe that you mean what you say and they will be much more likely to discuss and debate. Rehash the discussion aftwards. Talking Chips Distribute poker chips or tickets that can be used to participate in class. This will make sure that certain students do not dominate the discussions. Fishbowl Discussion Select a group of students to sit in the front of the room in chairs arranged in a half-circle facing the class (shaped like a bowl). Pose questions to the students in the front of the room and allow them to discuss. The rest of the students in the audience may raise their hands to pose a question or take the place of a student in the fishbowl but they may not speak or engage in the discussion while at their desks. Note that this often requires that the students have learned/researched a lot about a topic before they can have a meaningful discussion such as this. Class Grid This comes in handy for larger classes. Divide your seating chart into four quadrants (you dont necessarily need a chart) by drawing two lines diving the paper up. Make check marks or dashes each time you call on a student in that part of the room. This will ensure that you are calling on students in each part of the room and not just the front (or side). Class Discussion Checklist Print out a list of students in a table with days of the week on top of the table (or use your gradebook). Place a checkmark on the day next to the name of each student that participates in class. Note: it can be difficult to recall who participated afterward so make sure you check people off while they speak. This is challenging when you wish to be engaged in the discussion yourself. Discussion Rubric When I graded class discussions my rubrics typically looked something like this: A Paraphrases, acknowledges, or refutes information related to the topic, reading, lecture, etc. B Showed comprehension of topic, reading, lecture, etc. Make good comments/arguments that may not be related to the reading/lecture. C Participates by actively paying attention by listening, watching, and/or taking notes. D Does not participate and shows minimum attentiveness to discussion F Shows unwillingness to participate and disrupts the discussion

Bell Work Activities They Save Time and Keep Students Engaged
01/27/2010 By Jared Dees There is nothing like the sound of students working hard on an assignment the minute class has begun. What is that sound? Silence. I loved it. I was able to recover from the class that just ended and prepare for the class that was beginning all while students were learning on their own. In this post I will explain why Bell Work is effective and provide you with some examples of activities you can use in your classes. What is Bell Work and how do I use it? Bell Work (also called Bell Ringers) are activities posted on the board or distributed to students as they arrive to class that should be started at or before the time the bell rings (or the time when your catechetical session is scheduled to begin). These activities can be a review of previous lessons, practice of current skills, or introductions to the new lesson of the day. You can communicate Bell Work in the following ways: 1. Write the assignments on the whiteboard or chalkboard. 2. Type and save the assignment in a Word document, PowerPoint slide, or SMART Board page ahead of time and project it as the students arrive. (This was my personal preference) 3. Have a designated place in the classroom for students to pick up the days Bell Work (or notes) Some teachers have students keep a Bell Work journal to complete these daily assignments. You may collect them or briefly check them while they complete their work. How to Use Bell Work Time Effectively

Take attendance Check homework Prepare the other assignments for the days lesson Pass back homework, quizzes, and other assignments Say a silent prayer Relax and enjoy the quiet

Effective Bell Work Activity Examples Review Questions You may use questions from the textbook or create your own about the previous lesson. Introductory Questions Use Bell Work to introduce topics and get students thinking about controversial or interesting ideas related to the lesson of the day.

Reflective Questions If you incorporate journaling into your instruction, then the beginning of class is the perfect time to give students the opportunity to journal. Create a question related to the topic of the day, current event, or liturgical year. Reading Assignment In preparation for the days lesson you can have students read (or reread) from the textbook. Graphic Organizers Graphic organizers are ways for students to visually represent the things they have learned. Invite students to use their notes to complete these worksheets. KWL Charts Have students create a KWL chart by folding their paper as if they were sending a letter. Write a topic on the board and have students write everything they know about the topic (under the K column) and everything they want to know (under the W column) and leave the third column blank (what I learned). Concept Maps (Mind Maps) have students write everything they know about a topic (as review or introduction) in concept map form. Entrance Cards similar to Exit Cards, these formative assessments allow you to view quick responses to questions as a review or an estimation of prior knowledge. Photographs and Artwork Pull up a picture or piece of art from the internet or bring into class a painting to initiate some reflection. You may also accompany the picture with some questions. Music songs can be used to introduce the topic of the day or inspire some reflective journal time. What type of assignments to do you find to be most effective as Bell Work? Share your success stories by adding a comment below.