Lisa Mladinich recently reviewed Christian LeBlanc’s new book, The Bible Tells Me So: A Year of Catechizing Directly from Scripture, and as I mentioned in her combox, I agree 100% with her. Excellent book. I wanted to mention today some of the reasons I think this is a particularly good tool for catechists, regardless of what grade you teach.
1. Learn how to use the Socratic method. The “Socratic Method” is code for, “teaching via discussion, by asking questions to the student that lead them towards what they need to know.” And it’s easy to mess this up. Have you ever tried asking a question that begins, “Who can tell me . . . ?” and the question totally bombs out? Either the kids have no idea what you’re asking, or they are on a completely different track, or the question makes no sense . . . yeah, I’ve done that.
The text of Christian’s book is literally a walk through a year of 6th grade Bible History. You don’t just see what he teaches, you see how he teaches. In the introduction and in the conclusion, he offers some specific suggestions on how to use the Socratic method effectively.
2. See how to weave in side-topics. The Bible Tells Me So is a Bible History course. So why are his students learning about apologetics, the Theology of the Body, the sanctity of marriage — any number of “off-topic” topics? Because everything is connected. Just because your curriculum this year calls for students to learn just the Sacraments, or just moral theology . . . doesn’t mean you ignore everything else. Christian shows you how to stay on-topic, but still tie in all the other aspects of the faith that students need to review.
3. Learn how to connect Scripture and Tradition. In defending ourselves against the wider Christian culture, it’s easy to get boxed into a corner. We unintentionally defend Tradition by downplaying Scripture, or fall for the premise that Tradition is only validated by Biblical text-proofs. Neither of those are true. A truly Catholic Bible study shows how Scripture and Tradition fit together. Where do we find the seven sacraments in the Old Testament — and why seven? How does the miracle of the loaves and fishes connect to the priesthood?
I found that having the whole view of Biblical history in one place really helped me understand how Scripture fits together as whole. Though I’ve followed Christian’s blog posts for some time, the book was much more accessible, because I felt like I was getting the bigger picture at a more comfortable pace.
4. Use it as a refresher before teaching. Who’s going to use this book? someone asked me the other day. Our curriculum doesn’t do the Bible in a year. Well, no, most of us aren’t going to pick up a book like The Bible Tells Me So and decide that we’ll adopt it wholesale as our class for the year. (Though you could.) But I do cycle through all the topics that the book covers. If I’m preparing a class on the Eucharist, or marriage, or the Ten Commandments, this is a great place to turn for ideas. I wish I had read through the book the first time with a highlighter in hand a pile of sticky notes to mark it up for teaching.
I’ll be doing that this year and next as my 7th-grader and I work through his Bible History course for school. And that’s my final reason for recommending this book to catechists:
5. You need to know your Bible. If you’re intimidated, this book is an excellent place to start. Highly recommended.