Monday, August 3, 2015

Teaching Faith Using Fairy Tales


Fairy Tales? you might ask.  Aren't those girly, antiquated, and stereotypical?

This past year, I designed a new unit for fables and folk tales, and for the first time, I included fairy tales in the mix.  On one of my long drives, I brainstormed a new way to connect all of these literary styles together as a lesson in finding our faith in all that we do.  I'm not alone in thinking that fairy tales can be a timeless way of teaching children about the battle between good and evil.  Check out these quotes from C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Hans Christian Anderson:

"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage." ~C.S. Lewis

"Every person's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers." ~Hans Christian Anderson

"Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.” ~G.K. Chesterton

I wanted this unit to promote independent thinking and offer student choice.  I collected a large stack of books from my classroom and our school library and set out with this overall plan:
  • Days 1-2: Introduction, notetaking on genres, class example using book Many Moons.
  • Days 3-7: Student and partner choose five books from approved stack, read, and complete a book study on each, recording observations in their unit booklet (printable and key at end of post).  Goal was to complete one book each day, allowing for some students to move a little faster or a little slower.
  • Days 8-9: Assessment strategy using two previously unread books and having students record observations independently to demonstrate understanding.
  • Day 10 and following: Read aloud of The Tale of Despereaux with class discussion of faith elements within.
 
If you are interested in doing a study like this in your classroom, I'd love to share some more details and ideas with you, as well as a list of some of the books we used.  A free printable of the booklet we used throughout the study as well as my "key" is available at the bottom of the post.

On our first two days of study, we had a class discussion about what makes a work of literature fall into the category of fable, folk tale, or fairy tale.  Here are the basic ideas that we include in our notes:

Folk Tales:
  • story passed down by oral tradition from one generation to the next with no known author
  • folk tales are often specific to the traditions of a culture at a certain time and place
  • Plot-involves challenges and rewards, explains the world, gives a moral or lesson
  • Characters- universal (simple) characters, animals, magical
  • Setting- often in general, non-specific locations in the past ("the forest" "a castle")
  • universal but unique- similar folk tales can be seen in many cultures
Fables:
  • folk literature often with animals as characters that teaches a moral or lesson
  • fables often show quick right vs. wrong situations that are rewarded and punished
  • Plot- explains the world, explains origins, contains moral
  • Characters- animals with human characteristics, tricksters
  • Setting- general and happened a long time ago
  • tricksters are often specific animals in a culture- spider, wolf, rabbit, fox
Fairy Tales:
  • folk literature often using royalty and magical people as characters where good wins over evil
  • fairy tales often show a simple, common, or underappreciated character being rewarded and contains a strong sense of good vs. evil
  • Plot- often involves impossible task achieved through virtue or self sacrifice, and sometimes help from a magical source
  • Characters- royalty, magical characters,  common people
  • Setting- often in a magical kingdom long ago
  • often contains- "once upon a time," "happily ever after," patterns of 3s and 7s, lesson/moral
After discussion those three genres, we had a class discussion about finding our faith in everything that we read (and everywhere else as well!).  This unit was taught towards the end of the school year, so we had a year of experiences and discussions to relate back to.  Here were the notes that we took about looking for our faith in what we read:

Finding Faith
  • you should strive to find Christ & your faith in all things, including what you read and watch
  • look for good vs. evil, reward of virtue, morality
  • Plot- look for patterns of 3s, 7s, 40s (and other holy numbers),  make connections to Bible Stories, connections to Sacraments, and look for messages pointing to a greater truth outside of the story
  • Characters- look for people who remind you of people from the Bible, Saints, and Christ
  • Setting- folk tales are often not specific about setting, so you can connect it to any time and place
After completing our notes and discussion, I read aloud the book Many Moons and we found ways to connect this story both to a genre and to our faith. Using that as an example, the kids then chose a partner and were given the task of reading five fables/fairy tales/folk tales over the next five days.  I didn't have any set requirements, but encouraged them to try some from varying genres, monitored the difficulty level of the books and encouraged them to go a little easier/more challenging, and also kept an eye on the length of the books that they were choosing to make it fair.  Groups with a super short book, for example, might then have to read a couple of short stories from a folk tale collection and verbally compare them for me before going on to their next book study.  Again, we did this unit at the end of the year, so they were pretty clear on my expectations for quality work.
Here is a snap of some student work so you can see how they recorded their observations:

After completing their five books with their partners, we used these two books as assessments.  I have used both The Squire and the Scrolland The Princess and the Kiss for kids' retreats at church (A Princess Celebration and Armor of God Retreat), but had not used them specifically in the classroom.  As could be expected, the boys thought that the Princess one was a little too girly for their liking, but they survived. :)  To gauge their understanding of our unit, we used their Reading/Writing notebooks to record observations from the book as I read it outloud.  They could ask me to pause or reread something, but we did not discuss this book until after they had turned in their observations.
 I could have made a printable for this activity, but their notebooks worked just as well.  The split each page into four sections: evidence of genre, evidence of faith, summary, and opinion/connection.  The two evidence sections could be recorded in list form, and the other two had to be in a paragraph.  Here are a few examples of student work:



And finally, during the end of the unit and then continuing after, I used The Tale of Despereaux as a read-a-loud, and the kids loved it. There is so much symbolism to talk about, and the simplicity of the beauty of the story is easy to enjoy.  I also like how the book tells the story of several different characters and then brings all of the narratives together, which is a good structure to model with kids (as it can often be difficult to follow for lower readers).
How can you not be intrigued by the opening page?

We were easily able to find lots of evidence, symbolism, and themes that connected to our faith in the story of Despereaux.  It was a book that the kids enjoyed and was a nice wrap up to our unit.



I think that a unit like this could be taught in many different ways with different levels of kids.  Here are the printables that I used in my classroom.  If you teach a similar unit, especially if you are at a Catholic/Christian School, I'd love to hear how you teach it, what books you recommend, and how you use it to lead the kids to knowing Christ. Chime in down in the comments!


Click on the image below for the printable that you can use with your own students:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMWnhOZDFueEhNdlU/view?usp=sharing

And click here for a scan of my "key" which contains the notes that we took about the genres as well as instructions that I gave the kids for their book studies.




Friday, July 31, 2015

7QT: Advice for Catechists from Pope Francis

A new school year is upon us, and catechists, teachers, and homeschoolers are making plans and preparations.What would Pope Francis say to us as we are getting ready?  I recently read an address that Pope Francis gave to catechists on September 27, 2013.  His advice is very relevant to all of us, especially because he is reminding us that catechesis is primarily about evangelization.  Pope Francis’ teachings have challenged me to remember that we always need to be reaching out, inviting, and welcoming those around us. 

I’d like to share with you some of the advice he gave to all those who teach the faith.  I also pulled out some of my favorite quotes from the address and turned them into images.  You are welcome to right click and save/print those images to hang up as a reminder for you or to give to your fellow catechists and teachers as the school years starts. 

Here's three main points summarizing what Pope Francis had to say to the catechists of the world:


~1~
Be close to Jesus
We can’t share Jesus with others unless we ourselves know Him and are close to Him (Abide in Him- John 15).  Pope Francis encourages us to spend time in prayer, to be with the Lord, to “ignite the fire of friendship with the Lord.” He reminds us that this prayer looks different for people- we have different callings and vocations.


 ~2~
“Being a catechist is not a title; it is an attitude of abiding with him, and it lasts a lifetime!  It means abiding in the Lord’s presence and letting ourselves be led by him.”


~3~
Imitate Jesus by leaving ourselves behind and going out to encounter others
Pope Francis reminds us that real love is never selfish- God is always at the center and God gives himself away.  When we have life in Christ, we are always open to others.


~4~
“And this is the job of the catechist: constantly to go forth to others out of love to bear witness and to talk about Jesus, to proclaim Jesus.  This is important because the Lord does it; it is the Lord that impels us to go forth.”


~5~
Do not be afraid to go with Jesus to the outskirts
Think of the example of Jonah- he was content with his pious life, and Nineveh was outside of his comfort zone.  But, if we go to the outskirts, we will always find God there.  He is always faithful, and he is always there first in the heart of the person that you will encounter.


~6~
“But really is there such a thing as a catechist who is not creative?  Creativity is what sustains us as catechists.  God is creative; he is not closed, and so he is never inflexible, God is not rigid!  He welcomes us, he meets us, he understands us.”


~7~
And finally, I think my favorite quote from the whole speech was this:
“If a catechist has an easy time of it, he or she will end up in a museum.”

Isn’t that the truth! This isn’t an easy job, and you and I know that.  We are fighting an uphill battle against sin, culture, lifestyles, media, etc.  The mix of kids in our classrooms have needs that we can’t meet.  We may feel inadequate, ill-equipped, and stretched thin.  But that quote summarizes the work of being a catechist- it isn’t going to be easy.  Embracing the cross and fighting for truth never is.  We weren’t promised easy, but we are promised that Christ will be with us.  We can remember that we are doing His work.  We know that we can trust and abide in him and his perfect mercy. 

Thanks to all of you catechists and teachers of all kinds for being ready to do God’s work again this year.


Linking up with Kelly- go visit her for more Quick Takes!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Love Mercy Coloring Pages

In honor of Pope Francis' Year of Mercy, our CCD theme this year will come from Micah 6:8- "Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly."  I've been busy creating activities and printables to use once the new school year starts up, and today I've got a couple of coloring pages to share.  You can see the rest of the mercy related activities that are already posted under the Year of Mercy heading in the Sharing the Faith Tab above.

Click on either of the images below for a pdf printable of the coloring pages:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMbHVCUW52Si1fX2M/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMNU5PbkRlYW56SWs/view?usp=sharing

You might like to follow the Year of Mercy board I've started on Pinterest to keep up with the ideas that I find and add!  Click here for a link:
https://www.pinterest.com/ktanne85/year-of-mercy/

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Spiritual Works of Mercy Teaching Tools

The Spiritual Works of Mercy give us direction for how to care for the spiritual needs of people around us.  This great article offers inspiration to see living out these works of mercy beyond the basics.  I've created a few teaching tools to help us teach kids about the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and hope that they spark discussion about how we all (those kids included) can find ways to serve Christ and his people in these seven ways.


Click here for a coloring page of the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMVmNmeU9qQ1VKbG8/view?usp=sharing

Click here for an eight page mini book of the Spiritual Works of Mercy with a simple image and label:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMQ1NQTnFpMHc4X0U/view?usp=sharing
This version of the mini book has enough room that kids could write a practical way that they can live out these Works of Mercy.  For example on the "forgive offenses willingly" page, kids could list things like "be nice to my brother" and "take turns during recess."  For the "pray for the living and the dead" page, kids could like things like "light a candle at church for my relatives that have passed away" and "say an Our Father for each of my friends."  Thinking outside of the box can help kids see that they too can help fulfill Jesus' call to Christians to care for each other as if they were caring for Him.


Click here for an eight page mini book of the Spiritual Works of Mercy with a simple image, label, and a Scripture verse or two:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMVklOMzBrLUc5aVE/view?usp=sharing

 And go back to this post to get the same resources for the Corporal Works of Mercy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Corporal Works of Mercy Teaching Tools

The Corporal Works of Mercy as outlined by Christ in Matthew 25 give us direction for how to care for the bodily needs of people around us.  This great article offers inspiration to see living out these works of mercy beyond the basics.  I've created a few teaching tools to help us teach kids about the Corporal Works of Mercy, and hope that they spark discussion about how we all (those kids included) can find ways to serve Christ and his people in these seven ways.

Click here for a coloring page of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMazByR21ZeEU3VUk/view?usp=sharing


Click here for an eight page mini book of the Corporal Works of Mercy with a simple image and label:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMdmdxbzM3YlFHdW8/view?usp=sharing
This version of the mini book has enough room that kids could write a practical way that they can live out these Works of Mercy.  For example on the "give food to the hungry" page, kids could list things like "help set the table" and "donate to the food pantry."  For the "visit the imprisoned" page, kids could like things like "send cards to someone homebound" and "visit my grandparents."  Thinking outside of the box can help kids see that they too can help fulfill Jesus' call to Christians to care for each other as if they were caring for Him.

Click here for an eight page mini book of the Corporal Works of Mercy with a simple image, label, and the text of Matthew 25:31-46:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMbXozWDVlS0doTDQ/view?usp=sharing 

And check this post for the matching coloring pages and mini books for the Spiritual Works of Mercy!