Recitation, referred to in the catechetical tradition as “catechism,” is a powerful tool, albeit not the only tool, for passing on the faith to young children. Discover my first article arguing for the necessity of its restoration. In my last article on recitation, I examined the first installment of the series Making Recitation a Tool for Success, Part I. That article reviewed the practical steps to initiating recitation within the catechetical classroom. This article will round out the practical tips to making recitation a success in its execution.
Recitation as an Immediate Assessment
The cumulative recitation experience at the beginning of class provides the Catechist with an immediate assessment of their child’s attitude for that day, their overall abilities, and current level of comprehension. The overall recitation should
be the class standing up and reciting a rhythmic harmony. Yet, in each class there should be a few questions that focus on a particular grouping of students in the classroom. For example, the Catechist might have a question that is just for each row, another question that is for boys, and another for girls.
Catechists may notice issues with a student during the group recitation, but the above examples of smaller groups will make it more challenging for a struggling student to hide it from the Catechist. Take note of any students not participating, not saying it proficiently, or overly distracted. Their struggles may be due to stressors at home or in school, but they might also inform the Catechist that the child has learning challenges or is falling behind in class.
You will not know all that is going on with a student from recitation, but it will provide you an idea of who you need to keep an eye on or follow-up with.
Recitation as a Foundation
Conducting recitation is not the same as a lesson. This tool will help your lesson and future lessons. It will provide the class with common vocabulary; everyone will be able to speak the same language and hopefully it will be a language that matches the Church. This is necessary in our age when many kids grow-up without many of the same cultural staples of Catholicism and mechanisms that helps one become accustomed to words like: Mass, Eucharist, Consecration, Confessional, Genuflect, Sacrifice, etc. Many of us have experienced the challenge of students that refer to the Eucharist as the “bread and wine” or confuse “Confirmation” with “Confession.”
Some Catechists struggle with needing to cover too much in the limited amount of time for sacramental preparation. Some communities have students entering into sacramental prep needing the basics as well. Where do you start? What do you do if there is not enough time? Rely on recitation to cover some of the foundational elements in order to ensure the core elements for sacramental preparation are covered.
The Struggle to Make Recitation a Habit
Whether its recitation or any other catechetical component, a once a week catechetical gathering is not sufficient to offer the ideal formation experience. Recitation requires habitual use to actualize its potential. It is a struggle to only have recitation drills once a week. The challenge is to attempt ways to get some or all of the students to review their recitation at home.
Let parents know about the importance of recitation. Provide them a copy of your recitation questions and invite them to review them 1-3 times a week outside of class. You can also provide children a notebook and ask them to copy the new recitation phrase for the week a handful of times in their notebook outside of class. Students can also review their recitation with not just parents but also godparents or siblings; relatives can sign a paper to witness to the practice at home.
Communicate well and communicate often with parents. Let them know what you expect and how it will impact the end of the year event (see below).
A Closing Recitation Event
Invite parents, godparents, and clergy to enjoy a formal last recitation to end the year. Think of it like a RECital or performance of the year’s cumulative recitation. Try to create a true celebration spirit for those attending to see their child showcase their mastery of catechetical formulas and increased memory capacity. The benefits of such an event include:
- Students will have a chance to discover a sense of accomplishment towards their hard work.
- Parents and members of the community get to see an example of something that the kids worked on during the year.
- The buildup towards this annual event may inspire some of the parents and students to review it outside of class and help cultivate the habit.
While I am passionate about the importance of recitation in catechesis, I am under no impression that recitation alone is what these kids need. It is simply a component that assists their overall catechetical formation and child developmental skills.