“Who (BOOM) made (BOOM) you?” (BOOM-BOOM)
“God made me!”
“Who (BOOM) is (BOOM) God? (BOOM-BOOM)
“God is the all-perfect being, Creator of heaven and earth.”
Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the other catechists with whom I share the second floor of St. Veronica’s School in Chantilly, Virginia. After all, we can get a little loud, especially at the beginning of class when we go over the basics of our faith as defined by the catechism questions in our text.
How the Beat Began
I started bringing a tom-tom drum to my second-grade class after using it—with great success—to teach Bible verses during vacation Bible school. If it worked well in that setting, I mused, maybe I could use it for my second-graders during the year.
Second-grade religious education is a tough year. With two sacraments to prepare for and a myriad of prayers and catechism material to learn, it sometimes seems like we’re slogging up a mountain of information that must be learned. It’s hard to keep things fun for students and parents.
So I took the drum to the first day of class.
Learning with Rhythm
We began with an interactive welcome song, and I introduced myself and my assistant. We then opened our text to the page of catechism questions, and I picked up the drum. I read the first one rhythmically, beating the drum.
Everyone in the class sat up straight and looked at me with wide eyes.
I paused and waited for the students to read the answer. They did so, hesitantly. I then read the same answer with rhythm and energy to a drumbeat. This brought smiles of “Oh, I get it!”—and the children bounced excitedly in their seats.
I read the next question, and this time students answered boldly, sounding out their own vocal rhythms.
I repeated the answer to them and we moved on to the next question.
When we got to “Does God take care of all things?” and the children answered, “Yes, God takes care of all things because of his love,” I stopped and put down the drum. “Because of his what?” I asked.
“His LOVE!” the children cheered.
“Who does he love?” I asked.
There was a pause. They considered.
“Me?” offered one.
“Everyone!” said another.
And with the drum set aside, we segued right into the lesson about God’s love for all people.
Unlike many “first days of class,” the students were engaged. They listened closely to the lesson and there was no reticence when it came to participation. At the end of our hour together, we sang a goodbye song and the children bounced out to waiting parents, chattering eagerly.
Attendance that year was high. While I have no scientific evidence to support it, I believe the energy and excitement generated by the drum made a very positive impact in the students’ lives and our regular classes.
Where to Find a Drum
New drums are expensive, prohibitively so. At a local music store that sells used instruments on consignment, I explained my situation to a sales clerk. At first he pointed to some new bongo drums, but I knew they wouldn’t have the right effect. I needed something that looked like it was used in a band. When I explained this, the clerk nodded and pointed to a drum in the corner.
“It’s part of a drum kit that was taken apart, and I’ll part with it cheap.” It was just what I needed, and so was the price. I bought a set of new sticks to go with it, and I was set.
I also looked in a few pawn shops, which often have instruments at good prices.
You can also find used drums on eBay; at musiciansfriend.com; craigslist.org; school music departments (ask for drums that they are getting rid of); garage sales; and instrument rental services (ask to buy an old drum).
Mrs. Dorham is a convert to the Catholic faith and has taught most levels of religious education, from the primary grades through RCIA. Author, essayist, and voice-over artist, Mrs. Dorham lives with her husband and nine children in Northern Virginia.
Source: CATECHIST Magazine, October 2009
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