by Lee Danesco
The last session of the learning year can reveal a disconnect between what you are ready to offer as a concluding review and what your students seem most interested in doing—daydreaming about their summertime fun. Connecting faith and summertime fun becomes less of a challenge—and can even be fun—when you meet your students where they are by using their summertime dreaming as a backdrop for your final class session.
Create a Summertime Glow
Before class begins, hang colorful summer vacation pictures around the room: posters of beaches, mountains, woods, exciting far-away places, and summer-fun activities. These images can set a happy, carefree mood for what is to follow.
Start the lesson with directions your students will be only too happy to follow: “Sit in small groups and chat.”
Yes, really. You want students to chat informally about their summer plans and dreams. Help them frame their chat time with questions like:
What are your favorite summer activities?
What travel plans or day trips are on your mind?
What special occasions will bring family and friends together this summer?
What one thing are you most excited about doing during the summer?
Ask one member of each group to record six to ten fun activities mentioned during the chat session, making the list as concrete as possible. For example, “playing baseball with friends at the park” is more specific than “playing baseball.” Allow time appropriate to the needs of your class.
Working together as one group, list on the board several ideas from each small group to make a composite “Summer Activities” list.
Invite students to take a ten-minute break from thinking about summer and, instead, return to their small groups to reflect on the year’s religion classes. Once again, have a member of each group jot down six to ten ways the lessons of the year taught them how to follow Jesus.
Explain to students that a lesson about the Beatitudes, for example, taught them that one way to follow Jesus is to become peacemakers. Give other sample ideas drawn from the class curriculum. Allow students to use their texts to prime memories as needed.
From the small-group lists, complete a second composite list on the board titled “Following Jesus.”
To avoid losing the vacation feeling during this more serious segment of the session, keep it brief. Also, with the permission of the DRE, you might reinforce the light mood by providing a simple snack during this second small-group session.
The Faith Connection
Use the remaining time to help students discover for themselves that what they have learned in religion classes about their Catholic faith is going to directly intersect with their day-to-day summer vacation activities.
Direct students to gather again in their small groups and to look for links between the items on the two lists on the board: “Summer Activities” and “Following Jesus.” Assign two or three specific “Summer Activities” from the board to each small group. Ask groups to imagine how ideas from the “Following Jesus” list might positively influence the way they go about participating in their “Summer Activities.”
Clarify by continuing with an example from above. The group might consider “playing baseball with friends at the park” from the “Summer Activities” list. They can envision an intersection of this activity with the item about the Beatitudes on the “Following Jesus” list when they realize that they could help find a peaceful solution (being peacemakers) if an argument occurs during the game.
Invite groups to create short reports or present brief skits that show how “Following Jesus” connects with “Summer Activities.”
This activity helps students connect what they’ve learned throughout the year to what they are dreaming about for their summer months—giving them the start to a truly blessed summer.
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.
Copyright 2012, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, March 2012.
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