Monday, June 22, 2009

Scriptural Catechesis for 6th Graders

I will be volunteering as a catechist for level-6 students (sixth grade, I would assume) at my parish this coming year. The primary focus for level-6 students is: Old Testament Scriptures.

I'm going to pick up the textbook today to look through it. I've already started drafting an assessment for the first day, to find out what the kids already know (or don't know), and what they want to know. It's not a test, it's not a quiz, it's an assessment. It's also anonymous.
  1. What is your familiarity with the Bible? (circle all that apply)
    1. My family has a Bible
    2. My family reads the Bible together at least once a month
    3. My family reads the Bible together at least once a week
    4. I have my own Bible
    5. I read the Bible at least once a month
    6. I read the Bible at least once a week

  2. Place a checkmark next to the books of the Bible that are in the Old Testament. [Alphabetical listing of all 73 books of the Bible]

  3. Place a checkmark next to each person who is found in the Old Testament [Alphabetical listing of 35 well-known Biblical persons, from Aaron to Solomon]

  4. Name two major events that take place in each of these books:
    • Genesis
    • Exodus

  5. How does a Catholic Bible differ from a Protestant Bible? (circle two)
    • Old Testament: A Catholic Bible has more books
    • Old Testament: A Catholic Bible has fewer books
    • Old Testament: There is no difference in the number of books

    • New Testament: A Catholic Bible has more books
    • New Testament: A Catholic Bible has fewer books
    • New Testament: There is no difference in the number of books

  6. What two readings during the Liturgy of the Word come from the Old Testament?

  7. Why do you think it is important for Catholics to know about the Old Testament?

  8. What do you want to learn about the Old Testament?
I plan on having index cards available at every class for them to write (anonymous) questions on as they have them, and place them in a question box at the end of each class. Next week's class would begin with the previous week's questions being answered to the best of my ability (armed with a Catechism and the Holy Bible).

12 comments:

Mike said...

Jeff,

Best of luck in your new adventure!

I've been a junior high catechist at my parish for 5 years now and I have to admit I first approached my assignment with the same assumptions that seem to underlie your questionnaire.

Chief among those assumptions was that all my kids attended Mass regularly with their families. I soon found out that the opposite was closer to the truth. Running a close second was the assumption that my kids all came from non-cafeteria Catholic families.

For example, my second year I had 9 kids in class. Two of them were regular Mass attendees, one showed up only when it was her turn to serve, and he other six were there on Easter and Christmas - if it wasn't too inconvenient.

I have yet to have a class where over 50% were regular Mass goers.

Our 6th grade curriculum is also primarily OT, 7th is NT and 8th is Church history. I've found that I can still stick to the high points of each of those but that I also need to do some things to meet those kids where they are.

I now start off each year by giving the kids a quick outline of the material and then I ask what questions they might have that might not come up in what they understand I'll be covering.

Two years ago I got the following (paraphrased) list from a group of 7th graders: How do we really know God exists? How do we know the Bible isn't just a fairy tale? Why is the Church against women? Why is the Church against homosexuals? Why is the Church trying to control us with all her rules? Why do bad things happen to good people? And one or two more that escape me at the moment.

Well, I did cover a lot of the NT curriculum that year but I also left room to cover those questions. Not too surprisingly, the classes where we took up those topics seemed to be the best and most satisfying ones that year.

And so my (unsolicited) advice is to not limit your index card questions to topics covered in class, but to be prepared to go beyond the curriculum and meet your kids where they really are.

charles pinyan said...

Jeff,
I would add to "Mike"'s observations that it would be helpful for you to do what you can to show connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament; between the OT and Church worship; between the OT and Church morality teaching. They may get excited by some of the stories of the OT but will likely want to know why any of it matters (to them ... right now).

Moonshadow said...

I suppose you are giving them Old Testaments along with their classroom text? Then why do you care whether they have a Bible at home?

And I think you can assume their family never reads from the Bible at home. Any family that does would also likely homeschool their child's religious education.

The last three questions are good ones. The others will be terribly confusing to kids ... and so their answers won't be helpful to you.

Which publisher is used for the classroom text? I would think that you'd want to spend time talking about those OT personages who prefigure Christ: Adam, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samson, Samuel, David; as well as the major prophets.

You'll want them to know the major historical events, and maybe giving them all this bookmark can help.

charles pinyan said...

P.S. In #6, don't expect that they know what "Liturgy of the Word" refers to (sadly).

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Wow, lots of comments (relatively speaking)! I'll go person-by-person.

Mike

"I first approached my assignment with the same assumptions that seem to underlie your questionnaire."

I don't want to assume anything. That's why the assessment is so general and open-ended.

"Chief among those assumptions was that all my kids attended Mass regularly with their families."

I don't know the Mass-attendance demographics at my parish, but I don't think it's that bad, to be honest.

"giving the kids a quick outline of the material and then I ask what questions they might have that might not come up in what they understand I'll be covering."

I'll be doing that.

"not limit your index card questions to topics covered in class"

Already expecting it. Several months ago, I helped out at a nearby parish's teen Bible study group by hosting two Q&A sessions, where I fielded questions on a wide range of issues.

"be prepared to go beyond the curriculum and meet your kids where they really are."

Agreed.

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Fr. Charlie

"show connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament; between the OT and Church worship; between the OT and Church morality teaching"

Agreed. I did something similar for the Confirmation students when I read aloud the Suffering Servant prophecy from Isaiah 52-53 (they had copies in front of them to follow along with). I had them underline (and then explain) which parts of the prophecy reminded them of Christ's Passion.

"want to know why any of it matters"

Yup.

"don't expect that they know what 'Liturgy of the Word' refers to (sadly)"

If they ask, I'll tell them (gladly).

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Moonshadow

"I suppose you are giving them Old Testaments along with their classroom text? Then why do you care whether they have a Bible at home?"

I don't know what year they each get a copy of the NAB from the parish. It probably is this year... but still, it's nice to know if they already have a personal or family Bible.

"And I think you can assume their family never reads from the Bible at home."

I make no assumptions.

"The others will be terribly confusing to kids ... and so their answers won't be helpful to you."

Well, I'll let the assessment speak for itself. I don't think they'll be "confused"; they'll either know or the won't know.

"Which publisher is used for the classroom text?"

It's "Blest Are We" by RCL/Benzinger.

"talking about those OT personages who prefigure Christ"

Yup, good idea.

"You'll want them to know the major historical events, and maybe giving them all this bookmark can help."

I was already planning on getting them the Bible Timeline bookmark. I'll be telling them about the "story"; that is, the 12 OT books that tell a single narrative story: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Maccabees.

Moonshadow said...

Alright, rather than call them "assumptions," let's speak in terms of "the least common denominator": (1) that kids aren't attending Mass and (2) that there's no exposure to Scripture at home.

RCL is the best. Good choice.

I second what your brother says about pointing out parallels on worship and morality to demonstrate continuity across the covenants.

charles pinyan said...

depending on when during the week class takes place, and how you organize the curriculum, it might also be effective to briefly review / preview the OT reading from the previous / upcoming Sunday Mass

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Fr. Charlie

Ah, good idea. Classes are Thursday evenings, so it's feasible.

Moonshadow said...

OT readings preview: that is definitely a good idea. Of course, depending on how faithfully the psalm is proclaimed ...

I guess I'll have to commit myself to pray for you in all this ... :-)

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

I was in Allentown, PA this weekend, and the priest at Mass, in his homily, referred a couple of times to the Responsorial Psalm "as found in the Lectionary", because that WASN'T the Psalm we sang. It's a shame when that happens, because usually the Responsorial Psalm is thematically related to the First Reading. This past Sunday was an excellent example. (Job 38:1,8-11 and Psalm 107:23-31)