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Posts Tagged ‘sign of the cross’

Sorry for the late posting. Life has been pretty busy for the past few days.
We had a good class Wednesday evening. Mrs. Rudolphi and I had our new photo sheets, so we at least knew the students’ names. It will still be several weeks before we really get a feel for the class and the students for us. As first glance, though, this looks like a good group.

As we did last week, we started instruction with the opening prayer. We emphasize the proper way to pray the Sign of the Cross. Many students are inclined to simply wave their hand in the general direction of their head and shoulders. We are teaching them that the Sign is a prayer and they should recite it slowly, with their hand touching their forehead, navel, left and right shoulders.

The first part of the lesson dealt with John the Baptist, Jesus’s baptism and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We talked about John’s role as the precursor to Jesus. We also pointed out that this scene in the Bible that all three persons of the Trinity appear at the same time. (Jesus, the Holy Spirit as a dove, and the Father as a voice from the clouds)

This lead us to a discussion of what exactly is the Holy Trinity, specifically, how there can be one God, but three persons. We were discussing this and I was about to try to explain it when Monsignor Costigan and Paula Hubert walked in. Monsignor was on a recruiting mission for altar servers. I offered him the opportunity to explain the mystery. He declined but said he was interested in hearing my explanation. Gee, no pressure there. Explain the mystery of the Trinity to a group of fifth graders with the pastor listening and grading. I told the class that it wasn’t possible for us as humans to fully understand this mystery of God, but there are several explanations that might come close. I picked out two students and asked them about the various roles they have in life (brother, student, daughter, sister, athlete, friend, cousin, etc.) They are a single human being, but they have different sides to them depending on the role they are in at any moment. To the same extent, the three persons of the Trinity can be thought of as the different roles of God. The Father is the creator; the son is the savior or Messiah; and the Holy Spirit is the side of God who is with us every day and extends God’s love. It may not be the best explanation, but the class seemed satisfied, and so was Monsignor. Whew!

Our next section dealt with the various ways Jesus shows us God’s love. We passed out a sheet with four questions. We asked the students to read the page silently and find the answers to the questions in the text. Some of the various examples involved Jesus feeding people and curing a blind beggar. We also noted the way Jesus treated sinners. He did not shun them; he welcomed them and forgave them.
Our next section was to deal with the way Jesus invites people to follow him. We broke the class up into four groups of four students. We assigned each group a piece of the chapter. We asked them to read their section and then prepare to teach it to the rest of the class. We ran out of time before they had a chance to present their mini-lesson. We’ll tackle that first thing on Wednesday.

We finished, as we will every week, but going around the room and asking each student what they learned that evening. It took a little “teeth pulling,” but everyone was able to cite something. They were rewarded with a cookie.

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It was great having the opportunity to meet with this year’s 5th grade CCD class last night.  Mrs. Rudolphi was travelling on business yesterday, so my wife, Patty, came along to assist.

We have a fairly large class. It looks like roughly 20 students as of right now. We typically pick up a few extra in the first weeks of class.

We started with opening prayer, the Hail Mary. My first “lesson” of the year was to teach the students how to properly pray the Sign of the Cross. Too many children at this age have no appreciation for the significance of it, or even realize it is a prayer.  They will quickly wave their hand in the general direction of their forehead and chest and mumble a few words. I showed them how to pray the Sign of the Cross slowly, with their handing touching their forehead, navel, the left shoulder and the right shoulder.

The next item of business was to take a picture of each of the children. I use these “head shots” to create a picture sheet of the class with their names. It allows Mrs. Rudolphi and I to connect names and faces a lot more quickly. Before I started doing this, we had to use name tags for several weeks. Remember, we only have them for less than an hour, and with a week in between classes. It’s hard to remember 20 new names and faces without a little help.

We talked about the general curriculum, which for 5th grade is the sacraments.

We discussed the class rules, which are pretty easy.

1.)   Show up.

2.)   Participate.

3.)   Don’t act like a jerk.

We emphasized the importance of respect, for both their fellow students and us, the teachers.

I could tell from our brief exposure last night that most of the students are fairly well behaved and eager to participate.  However, as expected, there are a few who can be a little rowdy and seek to be the center of attention. We’ll work with them. If that is not successful, we’ll turn to their parents to deal with them.

Parents – Please understand. We do not want to be unnecessarily strict. We like to make the class as fun as we can. And many of our discussions are fairly informal and free ranging. However, we have a relatively short period of time with the students each week. We also feel a strong need to pull everyone, even the quiet kids, into class discussions and activities. We really don’t have the latitude or the patience to compete with students who are disruptive, need to be the center of attention or feel the compulsion to entertain the class with their clowning around.

We still had roughly 30 minutes remaining in the class period, so we taught a short lesson on the liturgical year. We compared the liturgical year to the calendar year and also to other non-calendar years, like the school year and sports seasons. After going through the six seasons of the liturgical year, we finished up with a participation exercise. We read one-sentence descriptions of the various seasons (ie: This season begins on Ash Wednesday.). Whoever first identified the season got up and joined the “team” of other students who had ID’d that season.

We have a smart board in the room and I want to make use of it. Last night, however, there was some password problem that kept it out of operation.

As I mentioned in my last posting, I will not be able to attend the next two class sessions. I’ll be back on October 10. The students should still meet in the classroom at 6:30 pm. Mrs. Rudolphi will be there to organize things. As it stands right now, Father John is preparing a class for next week. Mrs. Cathy Scanlon will take them to the church for a class session the following week.

As I have mentioned before, we invite and encourage parents to sit in on the class at any time.

 

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We decided we needed a break in our routine last night, so we split the session up into two parts.

Before we started, we added about a minute of silent, personal prayer to our opening prayer. We first introduced that last week.

For the first half hour, we finished up the chapter on prayer that we had begun last week. We covered sacramentals. These are objects, blessings, etc. that remind us of some religious concept. Examples we discussed from recent experience and objects within the room included the Sign of the Cross, the Crucifix, a statue of Mary, a Rosary and others.

We briefly discussed the practice of maintaining the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle behind the altar. We talked about how this is tangible evidence of God’s presence in the church. It is why we genuflect and bow to the altar.

We also discussed Holy Days of Obligation. The class had trouble naming more than one of the six (Christmas was the easy one.) until one student found a list in the back of the textbook. Sly dog!

In case you are wondering yourself, the complete list is:

  • Solemnity of Mary Jan 1
  • Feast of the Ascension 40 days after Easter
  • Feast of the Assumption Aug 15
  • All Saints Day Nov 1
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec 8
  • Christmas Dec 25

(I wonder whatever happened to the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25? That was one of the HDBs when I was growing up.)

The second half of the class was a “quiz bowl” that covered material we had taught since September. We split them up into four teams of 4-5 students each. We allowed them to consult with each other and also reference the textbook, but didn’t give them much time to look up something.  It was great to see the class lively and engaged. However, it was also somewhat disheartening to realize how little many of the students have retained from material we have covered and reviewed several times.

For example, there is no good reason why a team of five students shouldn’t be able to name the three parts of the Holy Trinity without having to look it up.

Other “easy” questions that we have covered repeatedly in different forms, but gave multiple teams difficulty,  included:

Name the three Sacraments of Initiation. (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist)

What is the sacrament by which man is made a priest or deacon? (Holy Orders)

Name three of the twelve apostles.

There are four key symbols of Baptism. Name three of them. (Holy Water, white garment, Sacred Chrism and a candle.)

What is the first season of the Church’s liturgical year? (Advent)

What is the only Sacrament of Initiation we can receive over and over again? (Eucharist)

We probably need to re-evaluate our teaching methods. If the students are not retaining the material — even after lively and engaged discussions — then we’re just wasting everybody’s time.

Any ideas?

By the way, we have backed off on our original plan to have the students read the Gospel of Matthew throughout the year. We simply do not have time to review and discuss it in class.  It may (or may not) have been a good idea in concept, but it just hasn’t worked in the roughly 50 minutes we spend together each week.

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