Halfway through Lent is a good time to help students think about their Lenten resolutions and renew the spirit of Lent. So I plan a two-part lesson for my fourth-graders about sin (represented by stones) and Jesus’ Resurrection, when he overcame sin and death and made eternal life possible (represented by the empty tomb and flower blooms).
The Stones at the Tomb
Before class, I tape to the classroom wall pieces of black construction paper in the form of the opening of a tomb. I cut the top edges of the top pieces into an arch. I have 11 students, so I use 14 sheets of construction paper to make the tomb opening fairly large.
Then during class, I ask students to sit quietly and think back to the beginning of Lent when they made their Lenten resolutions. Then I ask them to think about how well they are still committed to their resolutions, if they are living their resolutions every day. This is not a class discussion. Rather, this is pretty personal for the kids so I just have them do an examination of conscience with these questions:
What Lenten resolution did I make at the beginning of Lent?
Why did I make that resolution?
How will I be a better Catholic Christian by keeping this resolution throughout Lent?
Do I feel like I’ve been living true to that resolution these past weeks?
What tempts me most to break my Lenten resolution?
Then we talk about words associated with some of the Lenten resolutions the kids have in mind. This part of the class becomes a discussion. We talk about selfishness, laziness, cheating, lying, disrespect, stubbornness, gossip, rudeness, pride, complaining. I write these words on the board.
Then I give each child a regular-size piece of beige construction paper and tell them to draw a big stone on it, filling as much of the paper as possible. Then, using a black marker, I have them put a bold border around the edges of the stones, write on the stones one of the sins we talked about, and cut out the stones. Every stone is unique, although there may be duplicate “sins.” The kids do not put their names on the stones.
As our closing prayer for this class, we pray the Act of Contrition and tape the stones to the opening of the tomb. The stones completely cover the opening. For our closing prayer at each class until the Easter break, we gather around the stone-covered tomb and pray the Act of Contrition.
Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. Amen.
The Blooms at the Tomb
During the last class before the Easter break in our parish religious education program, the students and I have a class discussion about what the Resurrection of Jesus means to us. We talk about eternal life and what Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection make possible for us. As we have this discussion, I write key words on the board: joy, everlasting life, truth, faith, love, hope, peace, blessings, grace, forgiveness.
Then I give each student the pattern pieces for a tulip (CLICK HERE FOR PATTERN
. For a nice variety, you might want to have students make their own blooms.) They trace the pieces on various colors of construction paper and glue them together. Then they write on the blooms one of the words I wrote on the board. Then I collect the tulips.
Before the first class after the Easter break, I remove all the stones from the tomb and put them in a basket. Then I tape all the tulips around the base of the empty tomb and put the basket of stones on the floor in front of the empty tomb. When the kids come into the classroom, they see the empty tomb—no more stones—surrounded by the blooms expressing all the wonderful things that we believe in because of Jesus’ Resurrection. For our opening prayer, we pray the Act of Hope.
Act of Hope
O my God, with a firm confidence I hope in you, that you will grant me, through the merits of Jesus Christ, the assistance of your grace, and that if I have kept your commandments, you will bestow life everlasting, according to your promises, you who are almighty and whose word is truth. Amen.
I leave the empty tomb, blooms, and basket of stones in place through the week after Pentecost.
Sheila Kearney has nearly 30 years of experience teaching in Catholic schools. She currently teaches at St. Raphael’s Catholic School in Crystal, MN.