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Calling the student roll is a well-established method for simultaneously counting heads and bringing a classroom to order. This simple act of taking attendance also can be crafted to prompt awareness of and conversation about the presence of Jesus in our daily lives.
Who’s Here Today?
Open this mini-lesson by reading the names on your class list and waiting for each child to answer “Here” or “Present.” Read through your entire class list to establish anticipation among your students for the rhythm of a name being called a response being given.
With students fully locked into this cadence, call out the name “Jesus” without changing your tone of voice. Continuing to look at your list, wait for a response. When no response comes, call out the name “Jesus?” again, emphasizing the name as a question. When no response is returned, look up at the students and then around the classroom as if attempting to find the person whose name you just called.
Now That I Have Your Attention
Take advantage of the class’s full attention you now have by launching a follow-up discussion based on the questions and answers below.
1. What did we discover by calling the roll today? Jesus seems absent. We called his name; we looked around. We didn’t see him and we didn’t hear him.
2. When did Jesus’ followers experience his absence? After Jesus’ death and then after his Ascension, the Apostles experienced the absence of Jesus who was no longer physically present (see Acts 1:1-11).
3. How did the first followers of Jesus experience him present in their lives even when he no longer walked among them? They experienced Jesus present to them in his Body and Blood, in their prayers together, and in recalling and practicing his teaching to love God and neighbor (see Acts 2:42-47).
Write responses to this third question on the board as a backdrop for the following activities.
Keeping Jesus Present Today
Explain to students that as Christians we pick up where the Apostles left off, by keeping Jesus and his message present in the world. Then, according to the learning level of your students, adapt and use one or more of the following activities to explore how they can do just that.
l. Have students work in pairs to describe what they can do to make Jesus present in each of these situations:
When someone… …we make Jesus present by …
makes fun of a classmate
tells a lie
is having a bad day
2. Have students use one example from the first activity to create a skit that presents the situation and the response they might use to make Jesus more present in the classroom.
3. Have students work in pairs or as individuals to write on strips of paper things they can do or say that will help keep Jesus and his message present in the classroom. Have students share what they have written and then post the strips on a display board. Take one strip off the display board each class period and place it in a central location so that everyone can focus on that idea for the day.
4. In small groups, discuss how we can help make Jesus present in our families, in groups of friends, and in the community. Depict these ideas on a classroom mural and add to it each week as time allows.
By using one of these activities or one of your own creation, you provide a lasting memory for your students. In the future, listening to any roll call may well remind students of this lesson and the importance of responding positively to the question: “Is Jesus here today?”
Lee Danesco holds a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Brown University. She has served as a DRE and a pastoral associate, and she is a published author. Her first book, Planning a Youth Service Week, was published by Twenty-Third Publications in 2001. The Confident Catechist was published by Saint Mary’s Press in 2007.