There’s sometimes a tendency to assume fewer words = less orthodox when looking at catechetical materials. “I don’t want to send my kids to religious education at Parish B because they use Just the Basics instead of Super Detailed Textbook Series. Their materials are less faithful to Church teaching.”
While I realize that sometimes the problem is trying to water stuff down to keep it nice and groovy for the kids, there is also a legitimate question of how much information kids are ready for. A tenth grader who reads at a sixth grade level and can’t name any of the Ten Commandments is not necessarily ready for an intensive examination of the contributions of Natural Law theory to the modern legal system.
Consider two different religious ed. classes:
Parish A: The class consists primarily of students who attended the parish school up until eighth grade and are now enrolled at a nearby public high school. 80% of the students attend Mass at least three times a month, and many of the students are also very involved with the parish youth group.
Parish B: Students are from a variety of economic circumstances and many come from single-parent households. Families move in and out of the parish frequently, so you will have significant turnover in your class over the course of a semester. Half of the students have not attended religious education classes since receiving their First Communion. 80% of the students have not attended Mass in the past three months.
I don’t think there’s a perfect textbook out there that will meet the needs of every possible group of students. My own approach is to aim for the middle and supplement with other resources for students who have more background knowledge than their classmates.
Recommended Resource: Fr. Alfred McBride’s Teen Catechism is a good, basic text that could easily be supplemented. With 36 chapters, it could be used over the course of a year to give a general overview of what we believe as Catholics. Each chapter is detailed enough to give a decent explanation of the topic at hand without being so lengthy that it couldn’t be covered in a class period.
How do you go about meeting your students “where they’re at” when it comes to materials for your class? Are there particular textbooks or resources you’ve found to be successful in a variety of settings?
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. Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.” Click here to read previous entries in the series, and be sure to follow Catechist Chat on Facebook!
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