Five Ways to Use Manuals to the Max

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Simply providing information does not necessarily assure faith formation. Similarly, simply providing a catechist with a manual does not necessarily assure that he or she will be effective. If a student catechetical text is most effective when guided by its catechist manual, how might you help catechists get the most out of their manuals? Here are five important tips.

1. Note benefits for learners and the Church: As one teacher put it, “I am accountable to the people in front of me and 2,000 years of tradition.” Point out how good manuals honor the dignity of learners by tailoring lessons to a particular phase in faith development. Track a topic, such as the Trinity, across the various levels of the text series to illustrate how a thread of Catholic teaching is developed in a systematic, comprehensive way over time.

2. Use manuals in catechist formation: During a catechist gathering, use background material in the manuals for a common section—such as a lesson on Advent, Lent, or Mary-as the basis of a guided reflection on the faith content, as well as reflecting on the learners’ stages of development. 

3. Develop a rubric: List criteria for lesson-planning that references the catechist’s manual directly. For example, include an expectation to vary activities for each lesson so that different learning styles will be incorporated. Point out any color or symbol that quickly identifies activities within the manual.

4. Introduce online components: Hold a technology session to explore publisher-specific activities and assessments available in addition to those in the printed manual. Invite catechists who do not have internet access at home to use available equipment at the church.

5. Foster teamwork: Create a “planning team” of two to four catechists as a ready-made support system for drawing guidance from the manual and sharing what they have learned about being effective catechists.

Most catechists see only a brief moment in the lifelong development of a learner. Consistent manual use connects lessons together in meaningful ways, increasing the likelihood that catechists’ efforts will form faith well.

Image credit: Kinga, Shutterstock, 153454142

This article originally appeared in RTJ’s creative catechist, October 2013.

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