Monday, September 15, 2014

Graffiti Walls as a Teaching Tool

I love using graffiti walls as a teaching tool in my classroom.  They are easy, adaptable to many subjects, and great for any subject or age.

The basic idea is that the students are creating a layered and creative visual representation of what they are learning.  Just like most graffiti, there isn't a definite plan, it is more impromptu than planned out, and has layers of overlapping additions.

My favorite way to use graffiti walls like this is in literature, especially with a read-a-loud or in lit circles.  They of course would be great for teaching a topic in religion as well.  I plan on using them as I continue my introduction of the Sacraments this school year. You can add anything to them, but here are some basic ideas:

1. Start with a large piece of paper.  It can begin on a table or floor, but then should be hung up and continued to be added to as more learning happens.
2. Group work is best.  The ideas and contributions of many students are better for a graffiti wall than just the work of one.
3. There isn't a plan- even from the teacher.  There is no "right" final graffiti wall.  It grows and changes as the learning continues, and represents important parts, new ideas, connections, etc.  Teaching even the same topic in the same way will result in very different final walls.
4. Layer, layer, layer.  Just like the ideas in our heads, the representations on a graffiti wall are not stand-alone, neatly organized, or perfect.  We start at the beginning of a new topic add information as understanding grows and changes.
5. Use both words and pictures.  Visual is key with a graffiti wall.  Pictures are important, but so are words.  However, the words that are chosen to be added should be fewer and boldly represented.

The graffiti walls that I have in this post as an example are from reading the book Esperanza Rising.  We started with plain paper at the beginning of the book (a different color for each group makes identification easy as they work over days or even weeks).  During the beginning part of the book, students would add names of characters, images of the setting, pictures of events, and even (short) direct quotes that impacted them.  Sometimes they would do this while listening to the book be read out loud, and sometimes it was after reading on their own.
We would go back and add as we continued to read the book, lending to the messy, busy look that you see on the original paper.  We also added more info on top of the wall by gluing or sticking on more paper.

Some activities that I can see here include:
-drawing of an object from the book that held great symbolism for the main character
-sequence of events quick comic strips
-adjectives that describe the main character as she grew and changed
-quick questions, using post it notes
-themes seen throughout the book

Anything goes!  Maybe a graffiti wall would be a good formative activity for you to try in your classroom- pick a topic and give it a try!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Built on the Rock CCD Theme Printables

This year our CCD theme is Built on the Rock.  You can see our decorations and bulletin boards here and here and here.

And now for some free printables!

Click here for a coloring page with the theme and scripture verse:

Click here for a printable folder cover:
Click here for stationary/blank sign:

Click here for classroom signs:
(Everyone organizes their programs differently, so there are individual signs for Kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as Preschool, High School, First Communion, and Confirmation)

Here is an example of one of the room signs on a classroom door, complete with students' names written on keys:
You can print the small keys here:

And you can find the matching large keys and bulletin board sign in this post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Built on the Rock Decorations- Fishers of Men & St. Peter

Back here and here I have already shared ideas for decorations and bulletin boards centering around our CCD theme of "Built on the Rock!"

Here are a few more ideas:

Honoring St. Peter's transition from being a fishermen to becoming a fisher of men:
I inherited this poster but have never used it for anything special, so it got pulled out this year.
I added another cheap fishing net ...
...and added some evangelization fish.

We already had St. Peter painted on our CCD walls, but this year he will be an interactive teacher.  He was ready for the first day with some questions for the students and a poster complete with a marker for them to answer.  Who knows what he might become as the year goes on!

If you like our St. Peter mural, you can get a matching coloring page here.

You can get  more printables for a Built on the Rock theme here and here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sheen's Cause for Canonization Suspended

I firmly believe that it would be a great good for the Catholic Church to declare Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen a Saint.  His life and teachings are relevant and increasingly important for our culture to hear.  Through his example, I am convinced that many souls can continue to experience conversion and deepen their relationship with Christ.  Sheen's model of devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, and powerful evangelization is a force that we would be remiss to ignore today or in the future.

I also firmly believe that a great good was done through Sheen's intercession by the work of Christ in the healing of James Fulton Engstrom.  This alleged miracle's investigation, which is was being wrapped up at the Vatican, has been a powerful, life giving story that has touched hearts and moved thousands to prayer.  James' story has convinced many that Jesus' power to heal is not merely a storybook idea found in the New Testament.  This miracle should continue to be shared so that hope can be renewed in the strength found in prayer and our connection to the Communion of Saints.

I also believe that Sheen and his teachings can and should be spread to future generations.  I have had an amazing experience teaching our faith through the lens of Sheen's life.  My 5th grade students  (and now current 6th and 7th graders) have been impacted by this great man and the example that he set for our modern culture, and many of them were devastated when they heard the news today.

The news, you ask?  Please read this press release from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.  Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization has been suspended, based on the burial location of his body.

The Archdiocese of New York put out this statement today.  Here is part of it:

"The Congregation for the Causes of Saints did recently ask the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria to enter into a dialogue to see if there was a way to continue progress in moving the cause forward. Discussions with Peoria centered on two areas: the possible exhumation and study of the body; and the possible collection of “first class relics” of Archbishop Sheen.   Cardinal Timothy Dolan did express a hesitance in exhuming the body, unless the Congregation for the Causes of Saints directed that it be done, unless the process was approved by the family, that it be done modestly and reverently, and that the exhumation met the requirements of New York State law. He consulted with the family, who gave their approval if it would help advance the cause."

Did you see the line "unless the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decreed it to be done"?

That is where you come in.

With all due respect, we need to let the Congregation and Pope Francis know that we want Sheen's Canonization to move forward.  The logistics of these details need to be worked out, and if it takes intervention from the Vatican, so be it.

If you believe that Sheen would be a great example for further generations to follow, if you believe that Christ's power was made manifest in the healing of James Fulton, if you believe that our Church needs more modern leaders who stand up for what is right, please write a letter as soon as possible to the following addresses:

Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Vatican City State 00120

His Holiness Pope Francis
Vatican City State 00120

If you are interested in a form letter to get you started, Bonnie did the hard work for you here
Then get your kids, friends, students, CCD kids, family, and Bible study to write as well.
My students wrote some pretty convincing letters today.

"I heard yesterday that Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization was closed.  Me, my friends and family members are very disappointed."

"I am not the only one who is sad.  My entire school is sad... I think that he is a good role model for my class and school...I bet he will inspire a lot of people.  He has already inspired me."

"Dear Pope Francis, I think that you are a great Pope and I follow your actions...Please keep your great deeds up and reopen Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization!"

"I don't know if you know this, but Fulton Sheen helped raise a baby from the dead!  A family very much loved Fulton Sheen.  They named their baby after him.  But his heart stopped beating for 61 minutes.  The family asked Fulton Sheen to pray, and he came back to life!  Please reconsider opening his Cause!"

"I think Fulton Sheen was a good and holy man, a great priest, and a great Catholic example for others.  He loved Mary very much and wanted to teach everyone about God.  I hope that his Cause for Canonization is reopened very soon!"

Come on Papa Francis, how can you say no my kiddos?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Built on the Rock Decorations- Bark of St. Peter

Back in this post, I shared the idea for our CCD theme this year, which is "Built on the Rock."

In honor of St. Peter's job of being at the helm of the Church, we had to have a boat.  Have you heard of the church being called the Bark of St. Peter?  An interesting read about that can be found here

There is also this beautiful quote from Paragraph 845 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood."

So if you'd like to made a ship like this on a wall or bulletin board, it is remarkably easy.

First, cut a large piece of brown paper the length of the ship, and angle down the sides.  My ship is kind of coming out of a wall, so I only have one angled side.  I named the ship The Bark of St. Peter.  Probably didn't have boat names back then, but oh well.
I also wrote this Scripture verse on the ship:

I created a white sail, added a red cross, and a set of keys to the kingdom.  The cross is simply a piece of 12x18" construction paper with 4x4" squares and 4x8" rectangles cut out of the corners.

You can print the keys here.
Then we added a "real" fishing net.  I got the net here and the fish are just stickers from Dollar Tree.
I held the net on our cinder block walls using sticky clips.  They do wonders.
The water was a scrap of blue plastic table cloth that I bunched up and taped along the floor.
Viola!  Bark of St. Peter!  Visit here for more Built on the Rock theme ideas.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Built on the Rock CCD Theme Bulletin Board

Every year, I have a new theme for our CCD program that runs over into decorations, paperwork, Scripture verses, songs, crafts, books, and patron Saints.  (You can see our "Armor of God" theme here and our "My Soul Magnifies the Lord" theme here.)

This year, our theme is "Built on the Rock!" from Matthew 16:18- "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church."  We will spend the year learning more about the beauty and importance of the gift of our Church.  St. Peter will be our patron Saint, and we will also incorporate activities about other popes.

Here is our main bulletin board.
Printables for the letters and keys can be found at the end of the post.
 The rocks are made from torn black construction paper, highlighted with white chalk. Easy peesy, but gives some dimension and looks cool.

The bulletin board is above a small resource shelf, currently featuring books about St. Peter (and some decorative ROCKS, of course.)

St. Peter's Story, by Marion Thomas.
Follow Me: Peter Lays Down His Net, by Erik Rottmann.
We've got a crucifix hung in a prominent place and a great poster of Papa Francis from our Diocese's Vocations office.
And we've got some Vatican flags hung.  (I got these here for a great price.)

Click here for the multi page printable for the "Built on the Rock!" bulletin board header.
Click here for the keys.  On this particular bulletin board, I enlarged these at 200% to get them to be the right size.

Coming up, I'll have posts with our St. Peter hallway decorations, ideas for bulletin boards, and more printables for the built on the rock theme.  Come back!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy the Home- Ten Ways to Encourage Parent Involvement in Religious Ed

"Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule." ~CCC 2223

1. Encourage parents to pray with and for their children

2. Improve communication with parents

3. Get resources in their hands

  • offer parish book programs or find space for a parish library- movies, videos, etc.
  • give activities for Liturgical seasons to each family
  • send home traveling activity bags like this
  • share great websites like this and this and this
  • give info about what kids are learning at a specific time in a specific class

4. Involve parents especially in Sacramental prep

  • go beyond the meetings  and use the opportunities that you have to evangelize
  • invite to retreats & classes- make the parents participants as well as the kids
  • send home books, videos, etc. about the Sacrament like this or this
  • target Sacrament families and specifically invite to parish programs

5. Challenge parents to grow in their faith

  • advertise parish and regional programs, as well as local religious communities that minister to families
  • offer a parent Bible Study or book group, especially during kids’ class time
  • offer same/similar program/content to both kids and parents
  • ask parents to come last 15 minutes of class and pray for their kids
  • if not available, ask parents to stop and pray for their kids at a certain time of day
  • invite parents to participate in the Sacraments- Masses, Confession times, etc.

6. Encourage fellowship

  • host potlucks or parties just for the religious ed families
  • introduce parents, especially those new in the program
  • invite established parents to invest in parents new to the program

7. Let the kids be the teachers

  • offer programs where the students sing, recite, act, etc. like this awesome program
  • invite parents to participate in a special religious ed class to see what their kids have been learning

8. Help them be hands on

9. Celebrate Liturgical Seasons

  • invite to parish services for Lent, Advent, etc.
  • send home family friendly resources to help the parents and kids learn about and enter into season.  Give the families ideas for living out the seasons and feast days like these for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, All Souls/Saints Days, patron Saint days...
  • host special programs teaching about the Liturgical Season geared towards families  like this or this or this
10. Center on the Eucharist

  • encourage family attendance at weekly Mass and raise awareness of daily Mass
  • involve the kids in special children’s Masses & advertise to the families
  • don’t change the liturgy, invite the children to participate in it more fully
  • offer Adoration times with parents during class time or a Holy Hour that is welcoming to children  maybe offer a resource like this

Click here for the printable handout of the 10 Ways:

Click here for the powerpoint presentation: (fonts and layout will undoubtedly be messed up, fyi)

Click here for a pdf of the powerpoint presentation: