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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Our students (five) were lively and engaged last night, even on an evening when their teacher was not at the top of his game.

We continued our march through the faith assessment as groundwork  for serious Confirmation prep starting next year in seventh grade. If you would like to see the information we are using as our guide this year, you can find it on the parish Website here.

Our subject last night was the Sacraments. I would have thought that it would be a fairly easy topic, seeing as we spent all of last year (5th grade) covering them. We distributed a quiz that asked the students to define grace, and then to list the seven Sacraments by category (Initiation, Healing and Service of Communion) and provide a short definition. We then discussed the results, which were mixed. We had a fairly wide ranging discussion with questions like…

“Can a person receive all seven sacraments?” (Yes)

“Can a person receive Annointing of the Sick more than once?” (Yes)

And so on.

We then played a short (about three minutes) video about grace and the various types of grace. After we watched it once, we told the class, that we would play it again, and this time, they should really try to pull at least a couple of concepts or ideas out of it. After our second viewing, we discussed the ideas the students pulled from the piece. It went well. Since the idea of playing the video twice came to me on a whim, I’m glad it worked out.

The overall message of the class was that the Sacraments are a means God uses to convey grace. As our final exercise, we divided the class into a group of two (boys) and three (girls) (self-selected, by the way) and asked them to draw a picture of one of the white boards that depicts he conveyance of grace through one of the Sacraments. They could pick whichever Sacrament they want. Both groups did well, and the girls even did a short skit to complement theirs.

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We only had five students in attendance last night, which is a shame because we had a fairly good class.  This was our second-to-last class of the year and the last one in which we would teach a normal lesson.

The focus of last night’s lesson was prayer. After an opening prayer, we asked the class to break into partner groups and read the first few paragraphs of the text. We provided a sheet of paper with three columns. They were to seek the answers to three questions found in the text.

–What is prayer? (A conversation with God.)

–How can we pray? (alone or with others; aloud or silently; scripted, like a Hail Mary, or just whatever we want to say)

–How did Jesus pray (many different ways)

We introduced the five different types of prayer. We discussed each one and tried relate them to our fifth graders daily lives.

Blessing – like a prayer before a meal

Petition – asking God for some help

Intercession – asking God for help on behalf of another

Thanksgiving – thanking God for all his gifts

Praise – praising God for his greatness

We asked the class to make themselves comfortable and to close their eyes. We asked them to remain quiet and to think about having a conversation with God. We told them God would hear anything they wanted to silently tell him. They should talk with God and then to listen. We let this go for about sixty seconds.

We asked if anyone heard God talking back to them, but to no surprise, no one did.

We pointed out that God hears all prayers, but does not necessarily respond in the way we want.  We used an example of a student praying for an “A” on a test for which had or she had not studied. God may respond by not helping with the grade. A poor grade may be a better lesson in the long run to teach the student he or she needs to work for their grades. We also read a short fictional account of a conversation between a person and God. The person complained that he had a bad day and God had not helped by answering his prayers. God responded with reasons for all the supposedly bad things that had happened.

We talked a little about looking for opportunities to regularly pray daily.

We discussed scripted prayer. Most of the students agreed that when they prayed a scripted prayer like the Hail Mary or the Our Father, they were just reciting words without really understanding the purpose or meaning for the prayer. We introduced a match-column exercise from the text that broke down The Lord’s Prayer into its individual components. The students were to match the right hand column with the appropriate line from the prayer. For example. “We ask God’s forgiveness” matches up with “and forgive us our trespasses.” And so on. We then discussed the answers. We allowed only a few minutes for this, but most of the class completed the exercise and, for the most part had very good matches.

We left them with a homework assignment. We asked them to identify some time or action that is a part of their daily life, like brushing their teeth, taking a shower, waiting for a school bus, or whatever. They should note that daily event as a “trigger” for a daily prayer. Next week, we’ll ask them what they decided would be their trigger.

Next week will be our last class of the year. Monsignor Costigan will visit. He will talk about his life as a priest and answer a number of questions that arose this year that were beyond my or Mrs. Rudolphi’s ability to answer. We will also have a pizza snack. It would be very nice if you would send me an email or call if your child is not going to be able to attend. I don’t want to buy a bunch of pizza and have no one there to eat most of it.

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We had a fun class last night. At least Mrs. Rudolphi and I enjoyed it.

We finished up our coverage of the Ten Commandments with a group exercise that the students really seemed to get into. You may recall that last week, we sent them off with a homework assignment. Their task was to imagine that Moses went back up Mt. Sinai and asked God for a second set of commandments, this time focused on issues relevant to 5th graders. They were to imagine they were God and to come up with those 5th grader Commandments.

We broke the class into four groups of 3-5 students and gave each group a poster board and marker. We have them 15 minutes to come up with as many Commandments as they could. They went to work diligently. They were a little rowdy and noisy, but each group produced very nice, well thought-out Commandments. We had each group present their work product to the rest of the class, and I quizzed them a little on what they had developed.

It is our goal each week to try to get the students to actually think and not just listen or read. Hopefully, something they have to think or do themselves, will be more likely to stick with them after they leave the room. That is the idea behind an exercise like that. Mrs. R and I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are that the students in this class are generally behaved, engaged and manageable. We don’t expect them to be perfect little angels, and they are not. They can be a little chatty and sometimes boisterous. But we do not have any students who are actively trying to sabotage what we are trying to do, and that is not always the case. The up-side for the students is, that because of their behavior, we are able to present activities like the one last night, which they seem to find interesting and enjoy. You can’t do that if you are worried about who is setting the trash can on fire. (Just kidding.)

We had only about 20 minutes left in the class period when we finished the Commandments exercise, not enough time to even start another lesson. Our opening prayer was the Lord’s Prayer and that gave me an idea. After a quick consult with Mrs. R, we decided to walk the class through the Lord’s Prayer and help them understand what they are actually saying to God when they recite the prayer. As we suspected, the entire class admitted that they didn’t understand the prayer, and they simply recited the prayer because they had memorized it. We took each line, analyzed it and discussed it. Again, they were very engaged and seemed to develop some understanding through the process.

We have no class for the next two weeks, but there are Wednesday evening activities to which we encouraged the students to ask their parents to bring them. Next week is Ash Wednesday. Mass and ashes at 7:00 pm. The following week is the Book of Kells program. Information is available here.

When we come back on March 4th we will begin a two-week lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and prepare the students for the CCD Penance Service on March 25.

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I thought we had a good class on Wednesday, but maybe not the “home run” we are always striving for.

The topic of discussion was the Ten Commandments. We began by distributing a sheet with the Commandments listed, and a photocopy of one of the chapters in Exodus where they are presented. We gave the class some of the background surrounding the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt, Moses, Mount Sinai and the stone tablets. Then we had six students read the biblical passage.

During this exercise and a subsequent discussion about taking the Lord’s name in vain, some of the children were very cute. The student assigned to read the passage with the tenth commandment stopped short. The passage contained the word “ass,” referring to an animal. He looked at me and said, “I’m not allowed to say that word.” I told him in that a context, the word referred to a donkey and it was OK to say it. As expected, it produced a round of giggles from the rest of the students. Likewise, during our discussion of using the Lord’s name, I had to grant them a “special exemption” so we could use examples and have a discussion.

We then discussed the first three commandments. We discussed what “false Gods” meant in the context of the Exodus story. However, we also brought the concept forward to the 21st century. We broke the class into three groups and asked them to brainstorm a list of false Gods in modern times — for both adults and children. We defined modern false gods as anything in life that can become more important than God, or can get between a person and God. As an example and to start the process, I suggested that for many people, money is a false god. The students caught on to the concept very quickly and all three groups produce very interesting and thought provoking lists. If they got nothing else out of the class, I hope that is one concept that will stick with them.

We then progressed into a discussion of misusing God’s name and of keeping the Sabbath. We spent some time discussing why most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week rather than the seventh.

All and all, it was a pretty successful class. Next week, we will tackle the remaining seven Commandments, and have the class develop a set of Commandments for modern-day 5th graders.

What follows below is simply a repetition of the email I sent out earlier this morning. If you have already read it, then this will be redundant.

Mrs. Hubert, Mrs. Rudolphi and I share a concern we think we should bring to your attention.

After class, some of our children have been heading out to meet their rides in the parking lot. This is difficult for us to control. In addition to sorting through the mild chaos of dismissal, frequently the children are being “picked up” by an older sibling. We don’t know if they are going to meet a parent in another classroom or in the parking lot.

We would like to strongly discourage this practice. The school parking lot is not a safe place for unaccompanied children. This is especially true during this time of year, when it is dark, and even more so when there is another activity happening at the school like there was this week.

So we would like to ask you, please, to come into the school building to pick up your child. Please do not ask them to meet you in the parking lot. If you have a situation where that is difficult (sleeping baby, older grandparent driver or whatever), just let us know, or instruct your child to tell us. Mrs. Rudolphi or I will be happy to walk your child (children) to your car. Seriously. We don’t mind.

Thank you very much for your cooperation on this.

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I had no update on last week’s class, because I was out-of-town on vacation. Mrs. Rudolphi took over and did a fantastic job, as I understand.

Last week’s focus was on the chapter that provided an overview of the seven Sacraments. This is very important, as it is the overview of the entire year. Among other activities, Mrs. R broke the class into groups and had each group teach one of the sub-sets of the Sacraments.

Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation

Sacraments of Healing – Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick

Sacraments of Service of Communion – Matrimony and Holy Orders

Mrs. R told me it went better than she expected. That’s always a nice surprise.

Last week’s lesson was sufficiently important, we thought it worthwhile to spend last night reviewing and solidifying it. We began by allowing the students to work with a partner and complete two review activities in the text book. One was a word-scramble. The other was a combination of T-F and matching. We then spent the rest of the class discussing the quizzes. This gave us the opportunity to review some more complex terms and concepts. Like…

Sanctifying Grace – No one could really explain this concept, which was no surprise. We described grace as simply God’s love for us as individuals. We compared it to a parent’s love. We asked the class to think of times when they really felt their parents’ love, such as when they are praised, given a hug, and so on. An act like a love and kiss is a parent’s way of conveying love to a child. The Sacraments are God’s way of conveying his love (grace) to each of us.

Common Vocation – Firstly, we described the meaning of “vocation.” The common vocation is essentially our calling to holiness and evangelization. We discussed evangelization a little. We pointed out that it doesn’t necessarily mean preaching. It also means showing you follow God by the way you love your life and the way you treat other people.

We issued one assignment for the week ahead. We asked the students to look for opportunities to serve God by the way they treat other people. Next week, we will ask them what they did in the week that demonstrated service to some other person. We suggested it may be something as simple as picking up a book another student drops on the school bus.

We spent a little more time discussing the meanings of the three categories of Sacraments and why they are called that.

The Sacraments of Initiation are all beginnings of one type or another.

The Sacraments of Healing each involve a spiritual healing.

The Sacraments of Service (of Communion) involve service. We asked the class “who is being served by whom” in Matrimony and Holy Orders. They had a little difficulty grasping that in Matrimony, the husband and wife serve each other. They got the Holy Orders concept of serving both God and man a little easier.

So, this week, please ask your son or daughter, what they have done or are doing to demonstrate they are serving God through their actions towards others. Next week, we’ll start getting more in depth into Baptism.

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We had an interesting class last night. The students responded very well to a group project for the first half of the class, but some were somewhat less cooperative during the discussion phase during the second half. This really is not a surprise. We seem to go through this nearly every year around this time. We have become comfortable with each other, but also the wear of the weekly grind starts to show. As I have said in the past, this is overall a really good group. But the more we engage in a less restrictive, open-discussion kind of program, the tougher it is to keep some of our band focused on the main class activity. We have to work to keep it from degenerating into a total  free-for-all.  Defying gender stereotypes, it is a few of our boys who are the real chatterboxes. For our next regular class (not until March 26), I think I’ll separate the boys’ social club and tighten up a little on our discussion format.

I had not originally planned to milk the Ten Commandments for three entire class periods, but I’m glad I did. Our class last night focused on one activity. I introduced it by telling a story of Moses receiving the Commandments from God with some alterations. When he came down from Mount Sinai, the Israelites realized that many of the Commandments, as presented, had little relevance to fifth graders.

“Do you mean like that ‘covet your neighbor’s wife’ thing, Mr. Sullivan?” asked one student.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean.”

So Moses went back up to the mountain and told God that he needed some additional commandments that would address the issues facing fifth graders. I broke the class into three groups of three or four and asked them to imagine, just for the purposes of this exercise, that they were God. What kind of commandments would God issue that would be relevant to today’s fifth graders? I gave them a piece of poster board and a marker to list their commandments.

This part of the exercise went pretty well. One group worked well as a team and produced an excellent group product. Another team didn’t work well together, but each student came up with their own list. The third group quickly came up with a list of five commandments, then crossed them out, and spent the rest of the class squabbling among themselves. Sigh.

I was really impressed with what the students came up with. For the most part, they took the assignment seriously and came up with some very interesting commandments.

When that was complete, we went around and had each group present their commandments and discussed them. This was a bit of a struggle, but we got through it.

We spent the last few minutes of the class discussing the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Out next CCD session will be in three weeks, March 19, and it will be a Lenten Penance service just for CCD students and their families. I passed out and briefly discussed a “cheat sheet” for students’ examination of their conscience and the procedure for confession. I strongly encouraged them to attend with their families. (And I extend that encouragement to you parents!)

Mrs. Hubert asked me to send out an email, which I will do, to make sure everyone knows the schedule for the next several weeks.

March 5 – Ash Wednesday.  There will be a Mass and ashes service in the church at 7 pm. We encourage everyone to attend with their family.

March 12 – No class due to the public school system spring break. Enjoy!

March 19 – Lenten Penance Service in the church at 6:30 pm, for all CCD students and their families.

March 26 – Back in the classroom for a regular CCD class.

We hope to see everyone at the Ash Wednesday Mass next week and then back for CCD following the spring break.

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Good class last night. We were very happy to see that ten of our 13 students braved the lousy weather to attend. Thank you, parents!

Our main focus was the Ten Commandments. We had lots of discussion and lots of questions. Those are the best classes.

We started with a story, telling the class the background that lead to God delivering the Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

We had volunteers read the passage from Exodus 20 that is the first mention of the Commandments. (The students were somewhat “atwitter” last night, and references to an “ass” (ie: jackass) and “alien” caused more than a little giggling.)

We distributed list of the traditional “Ten Commandments” that demonstrated how some different religions count them. For example, Catholics count the God-related commandments as the first three, while many Protestant churches count them as four. On the other end, Catholics divide the last two “you shall not covet…” Commandments into two separate statements, while most Protestant sects combine them into one. We pointed out this only a concern if they are talking to a Protestant friend about the 4th Commandment, for instance. A Protestant would be talking about the Commandment to respect the Sabbath, while the Catholic would be honoring his father and mother.

As we walked through and discussed the first four Commandments, we talked about some of these points.

With the first Commandment, we spent some time talking about false gods. In the time of Moses, the issue was not to worship the sun, the Earth, a statue, etc. We asked the students to think about some of the false gods people may encounter today. They came up with ideas like money, drugs, alcohol, fame, celebrities, and so on.  We connected the Commandment to relevant issues today.

The second Commandment, to not take the Lord’s name in vain, was fairly easy for them to grasp. One student did confess she had a lot of trouble with that one. We suggested that it was a challenge she should try to master with prayer.

We talked about the concept of a Sabbath and why most Christians consider Sunday the Sabbath, rather than the “seventh day” (Saturday.) We pointed out that many early Christian leaders wanted to make a distinction between their older Jewish faith and their new Christian religion. Designating Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead, as the Sabbath was one way to do that. We also discussed that in today’s culture, we have largely gotten away from the concept of resting and avoiding work on the Sabbath, and not necessarily for the better.

As we discussed the fourth (Honor your father and mother.) Commandment, we emphasized several points. The Commandment may seem fairly obvious to fifth graders because they are still very dependent on their parents for the essentials of living. However, even ten and eleven year-olds may need to be reminded from time to time to love, respect and obey their parents. We pointed out that the main thrust of the Commandment was not towards children, but rather towards adults, especially adults whose parents are older and may depend on them. Role reversal. At the time the Commandments were written, it was not unusual for older, dependent tribe members who became a burden to be rejected or abandoned to die. While we typically don’t do that today, the Commandment is especially important when parents or grandparents grow older and need the younger family members’ love and assistance.

Next week, we will finish up with the last six Commandments, and they always generate some interesting discussion. How can you go wrong discussing murder, lying, theft, jealousy, adultery, and gossip?  Should be fun. Parents – come on out and enjoy the class. You are most welcome.

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