As a classroom teacher, I used to feel like I needed to make every day a fantastic new learning experience. It was hard for me to acknowledge that my students didn’t always learn the information I’d present in snazzy, innovative ways. I’ve still got 1.5 feet in the snazzy-innovation camp, but I now see the value of repetition. I now see the value of repetition. (rim shot)
I now see the va…too much?
As I make my plan for the upcoming year in religious education, I am focusing on a few key concepts, images, and factoids that I’d really like my students to retain. I think we can assume that our students are going to retain about 10% of what we talk about in religious education classes, so it’s best to pick what that 10% will be and really make it count. I’ll talk more about this soon, but for now I just want to give an example.
I’m going to pick one prayer to really teach them as a class. Now, I know this may not be a revolutionary concept. Lots of times, with the diverse assortment of students in religious education classes, we can end up focusing on the basics (Lord’s Prayer, Act of Contrition, etc.) over and over. I’m going to branch out a bit this time and choose a prayer that I consider beautiful and very related to the class I’m teaching on Scripture. We’ll be studying and praying the Canticle of Zechariah.
Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Israel;
He has come to His people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
Born of the house of His servant David.
Through His holy prophets He promised of old
That He would save us from our enemies,
From the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
And to remember His holy Covenant.
This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship Him without fear,
Holy and righteous in His sight
All the days of our life.
You, My child shall be called
The prophet of the Most High,
For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our Lord
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning.
is now, and will be forever.
(Luke 1: 68-79)
Since we are going to be looking at an overview of salvation history, I think this prayer is a great way to reiterate and explore God’s faithfulness to His people over the generations.
Instead of just reading through the prayer once or twice in class and making comments to explain phrases in the text, we are going to say it together at the beginning of class each week. Repetition. For me, learning the words of these ancient prayers is a way to shift my brain into another space – the repetition of the words calms my crazy brain, while I recall the greater story surrounding the prayer itself and the events through which Zechariah leads us.
As an aside, another reason I’m looking forward to doing this is that I’m just not a good extemporaneous pray-yer. That’s not meant as a snide comment. It’s just not me. I feel terribly self-conscious trying to lead “the teens” in spontaneous prayer, and I think they can tell. It seems to end up with me making veiled comments about Appropriate Behavior During the Prayer.
Recommended Resource: Well, I haven’t yet read Memorize the Faith, but I did listen to an interview with the author, Kevin Vost, via the Catechetical Leader podcast. So I’ve ordered it, and anticipate its arrival in the next few days. The host of the podcast, Jonathan Sullivan, is running a poll on the subject of memorization’s place in catechesis. You should go! It’ll be fun!
Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
Click here to read other entries in the series, and be sure to follow Catechist Chat on Facebook! You can also sign up for my email list, and I’ll send you resources, including non-PDF versions of the activities I post (which means you can edit them in Microsoft Word to customize them for your own students).