Margaret Felice is a religion teacher, music minister, singing-actress, and blogger based in New England. She blogs at felicemifa.wordpress.com, and you can find her on twitter at twitter.com/margaretfelice
If you’re like me, one of the things that keeps you in love with Catholicism is its richness and depth. Spanning from theology to history to literature to fine arts, there is so much to explore that one could spend their whole life plumbing its depths and never be done.
So it’s natural that when we’re teaching we might want to take a more-is-better approach. With so much for our students to learn, shouldn’t we fit in as much as we can during the time we have together?
In short, no.
It is important to ensure that each lesson period have one distinct focus. Think of it this way: when your students’ parents ask them at the dinner table what they learned in religious education that day, will they be able to articulate a clear theme of the session?
Doubtless you have a full “toolbox” of activities and resources that you use during your classes. These may include games, Scripture passages, parables, and crafts. While planning each session, as you’re reaching into your toolbox, think about whether what you are about to include will help you maintain that one focus.
You might be lucky enough to have strong textbooks and teacher guides to help you with your planning. As you’re preparing with those resources, put your plans to the same test: can you identify the thread that is holding each unit and lesson together? Will you be able to say to your students “Today we are learning about forgiveness” rather than “Today we are learning about chapter 3?”
Clarity is important to all learners, but especially to young learners. Maintaining a focus in your lessons will help your students to fully grasp discrete themes one at a time. Even though we might be tempted to offer them the whole richness of the faith right away, doing too many things at once is a recipe for confusion.
When we present the essentials we accomplish more than when we try to squeeze in more than we need. The seeds that you plant will hopefully blossom into lifelong curiosity about the faith, so that your students will keep learning long after you’ve played your part.