Saturday, September 26, 2020

Month of the Rosary- Editable and Sharable Activities to Send Home

October is the month of the Rosary, so it's a perfect opportunity to share this beautiful prayer with our kids and students. Rather than just pull out a Rosary and start reciting the prayers, I think we need to slow down and first share with them the why and the how and the meaning behind this tradition. With that knowledge, its much more likely the Rosary, whether prayed completely or a decade at a time, will impact kids and help them know the major stories from the life of Christ.

If you are teaching in the classroom, some of these printables or links hopefully will help you as you pray together with your students. If you are teaching virtually or providing support for at-home catechesis, this schedule is ready to email and provides guidance for how to learn about the Rosary. All of the linked printables and videos are free to access. I'm sharing three versions of the schedule- one that is date specific to October 2020, one that is just broken down by a four week period, and one that is editable and can be used how ever you like.

Click here for a schedule of activities with dates marked for the four weeks in October:

Click here for a generic schedule with no dates:

Click here for a printable with all the prayers of the Rosary:
If you print two sided, cut in half horizontally, stack, fold, and staple, you've got an easy little mini book.
If you can't print two sided, just cut all the cards apart, stack, and staple.

Click here for a set of cards with all the Mysteries and where to find them in the Bible:
If you cut this page in quarters, they will fit just right with the Rosary prayers mini book above.

Want to design your own schedule but not start from scratch? Click here for a version in Google Slides that you can make a copy of or edit and make your own: 

Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for us!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Celebrating the Archangels with Older Kids: A Bible Study (Paper and Digital), Prayer Cards, and a Bulletin Board

The Feast of the Holy Archangels is coming up on September 29th. My students might be able to name the three Archangels (maybe?) but I don't think they know their stories. So between now and the feast day, I plan to work in this Archangel Bible study to help them grow in devotion to these mighty servants of God. 

Today I'm sharing a variety of resources with you, mostly inspired by these lovely images of the Archangels I found in the public domain. I printed them in black and white on bright paper to make this quick bulletin board: 

Next up, here is a Lectio Divina style Bible Study covering one story from the Bible for each Archangel. Each angel has a one page study. I would recommend either letting the students choose one of the three to complete (and then sharing with classmates) or working on them over three different days, allowing them to focus on one story at a time.
Click here for the the pdf version of the three Bible studies:

If you'd like to be able to assign the Bible Study to your students digitally, I also created this slide show version. Again, you can assign this over multiple days, allow the students to choose just one angel, or delete unnecessary sections. Click here for a digital version of the Bible Study using Google Slides. You can download them to use in PowerPoint or assign to students using Google Classroom:

While I was at it, I also used a few of the printables for some Bible Journaling. (I included a small version in the bulletin board set that would be great for making prayer cards, etc. Here I printed them on clear sticker paper and stuck in the margins of my journaling Bible).

Also in the bulletin board set are these quotes/Bible verses for the Archangels. Click here for the prayer cards:

Click here for the Archangel Art printables in three different sizes:

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

New Editable & Shareable Resources for the Catholic Classroom

Hello! I hope you are hanging in there with whatever back-to-school looks like in your neck of the woods. ;)

For school, I am back in person in the classroom while also teaching some students virtually. At my parish, we are still finalizing plans but are looking at creating at-home whole family catechesis resources (and I'll certainly share what we end up making!).

I've heard so much feedback from many of you across both school and parish work how helpful it has been to have editable, shareable resources, allowing you to tailor them to the needs of your students and families and send over a digital platform. I shared six different sets of Google Slides with varying topics in this post in May, and I'm back today with a few more to add to the collection. 

The Details:

-Topics today include the Sacred Heart of Jesus, American Saints, and prep for the Mass

-Target age for the Sacred Heart and American Saints is junior high, but of course can be modified to go up or down. These two are actual projects/assignments that could be used for an individual study/grade. These could be taught in the classroom, assigned remotely, or used as a back up set of plans if you need a sub.

-The Mass reflection slides have choices that are intended to span across grade levels. This is a resource especially for those that might be watching the Mass via a livestream or in unusual circumstances to try and provide reverence before, during, and after the Holy Mass.

-These assignments were created in Google Slides with the intention of being assigned in Google Classroom. You can certainly download them in PowerPoint and send them through email, or whatever tool you are using to communicate with your students.

-They are totally editable. You just have to make a copy or download before making any changes. Delete, change, add-- make them work for your kids.

-The Sacred Heart and American Saints projects are multi day assignments- otherwise they would be way too long! You can use them multi day, split them up, or just delete slides you find less important to create a shorter task

***All of the resources needed for the tasks are readily available- like public websites or docs I've created. If you share the slides with your students, make sure that they can access all of the links as well. For example, if you have a closed Google Domain (many school are) they will not be able to open any of the Google docs I have linked because I am outside of their domain. You will have to make a copy, save in your own Google Drive, and link. (Unfortunately, I get a lot of student access requests to docs shared by their teachers, but I can't even email them back because of domain permissions. It breaks my teacher heart to not be able to help them- so if you are in a closed Google Domain, keep that in mind!)***

Mass Reflection Slides:

These slides were designed to help teachers maintain an atmosphere of reverence before and after Mass even if circumstances are out of the ordinary- like watching a livestream or attending Mass in a new location. For example, right now my class participates in school Mass every Friday, but alternate weeks we are in the church and in my classroom watching a livestream. Immediately following, we are able to receive Holy Communion, but as you can imagine, it is a challenge to create an environment fitting of the Sacrament in a regular old classroom. 

To help, I've been leaving the lights off to keep the focus on the smart board, encouraging the kids to fully participate with responses and postures, and also using these slides before and after Mass, as well as for a time of thanksgiving after receiving Communion. The were created with our whole school in mind, so there are lots of options and needed variety for different grade levels or amounts of time available.

Even after we move past the strange circumstances of Mass at present, I am planning on continuing to use these to set the tone before we walk over to the church and after as well if time is available. It's nice to be doing something differently right now that actually will be fruitful even under more normal circumstances! :) These also could totally be used at home or inspiration for prayers or songs in the car on the way to and from Mass as a family.

Click here to open the Mass Reflection Slides:

America the Beautiful Saint Study:

This study is based on the At-Home VBS I shared earlier this summer, but turned into a junior high level research project with a choice based culminating activity. It is a self led five day project where the students chose four Saints (one each day) to research and on the final day create a project synthesizes some of their new knowledge. In my classroom, I'm supplementing with some short videos, but those are a little harder to share in this format so you can add your own if you think that would be of help. ;) You could adapt this for younger students by choosing which Saints to study as a class and then working together to fill out the biography forms. You could also stretch to last more days by adding more Saints or expanding the final project.

Click here to open the American Saint study:

Sacred Heart of Jesus Study:

This study is based on another At-Home VBS I shared earlier this summer, but turned into a junior high level research project with a choice based culminating activity. It is a self led five day project where the students study different aspects of the Sacred Heart (symbolism, Saints with devotion to, 12 Promises, Scripture Study) and on the final day create a project synthesizes some of their new knowledge. This one does include embedded videos for each day. You could certainly stretch this by adding additional days of Lectio Divina or Saint study (those days have multiple choices) or expanding the requirements for the final project.

Click here to open the Sacred Heart study:

Know of my prayers for all of you, your families, students, parishes, and schools! I was already in the habit of praying for my blog readers daily, but it seems to be even more important now. Don't hesitate to reach out if there is something I can be doing or sharing that might help all of us!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Few Fun Announcements!

So, I don't usually have posts like this... actually I don't think that I've ever done a post like this! I value your time (and space in your inbox) so usually my posts are packed with as much content, lessons, printables, and recommendation as I can give you. But I've got a few things I've been meaning to tell my loyal blog readers and I just didn't want to miss the chance! (I'm way better at sharing things in a timely way on Instagram- I'd love for you to join me there too!) I promise I'll get back to regular posts after this, but here are three quick announcements in growing order of excitement! ;)

1. I'm restocking my Etsy Shop with rubber stamps Thursday! They'll be posted at 9 a.m. CST and typically sell out pretty quickly. All of the stamps in the photo below will be back in the shop and I'll ship right away this weekend. The stamps are great for personal use like Bible journaling, planners, cards, etc. and also are super fun to use in the classroom.

2. I know we've all had some disappointing cancellations this year, but it also has been fun to see the creativity and ingenuity of groups like Virtual Catholic Conference at work to bring people together. I'm super excited and honored to be presenting two workshops for the Atlanta Catechist Conference next weekend. I've loved traveling to Georgia the past few years and am sad to miss the in person interaction, but it is pretty cool that the conference is open to ANYONE for FREE!
You can register here and view any of the talks from August 20-22nd and then I'll be in a live Q&A booth from 11:00-11:30 and 1:10-1:40 EST Saturday 8/22. My talks are on Choosing and Using Good Catholic Books and Object Lessons In the Classroom; Teaching with the Parables. (You can access the resources at those links, but video presentations will only be available as part of the conference.) You can register here (remember it's free and on demand- you can watch as little or as much as you want!). I'd really love to see some of you in the Q&A booth- come say hello and we can chat!

3. And finally... I'm so excited to finally share with you that I am having my first book published! Coming out from Emmaus Road Publishing of the St. Paul Center, the book is a collection of weekly Gospel stories organized to match the Liturgical Year. Intended to be a tool to promote conversation about the Life of Christ between kids and their parents/teachers, the book contains a Gospel text, Lectio Divina prompts, questions to start everyone talking, connections to Saints, sacred art, and more. I can't wait to be able to share more with you, like the title and when we can expect it be ready to preorder. The best way to not miss the details is to subscribe to my blog (button over to your right when viewing the blog on a computer) or give me a follow on Instagram. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement over the years- my blog readers are a big reason why and how this book has come to life!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Parables: Teaching Like Jesus

Jesus was a master Teacher. One of the most common strategies He used as recorded in the Gospels was teaching with parables. A parable is a short story with a universal message that teaches an eternal truth. All of the parables that Jesus taught center around something the audience can connect to- like a universal character or a common object. Following Jesus' model, we can teach like Him by creating short "parables" to use in our lessons to help the kids connect to more abstract content. 

Often called 'Object Lessons" in education, adding in a short practical mini lesson as part of an overall class or session can be a great way to help kids (or any audience) connect with a topic. If we can relate to a concrete example, our brains have an easier time synthesizing new knowledge about more abstract content. So much of our faith is something that cannot be seen, so providing a parable/object lesson is a meaningful way to engage kids, most especially young children, students with special needs, and kids who thrive as visual and tangible learners.

In this BIG blog post, I'm going to attempt to give you three things all in one place. I considered breaking it all up in several blog posts, but it just seemed to make sense to give you all of the resources at once so you can pull what makes sense in your home and classroom. Read on if any of these areas are of interest:
1. Learning about the elements of parables and how Jesus used them
2. Ideas for incorporating mini parable lessons into your regular teaching, including a blank lesson plan template
3. Lots of printables for diving into studying the parables of Jesus yourself or with your middle school/high school classroom, youth group, or Bible study


Jesus tells the parables to teach His audience by first connecting to what they already know. For example, He often used:
  • Typical, unnamed characters
  • Everyday situations
  • Common objects
  • Black/White and Right/Wrong examples
  • Always points to the Kingdom of Heaven

Sometimes Jesus also breaks down the symbols and meaning after telling the story. This is an important step, especially when using the parable model as a strategy with kids. We never want to leave them questioning what a symbol means or confused about the application. 

The parables always turn our gaze to something more important- The Kingdom of Heaven. The reality surpasses the symbol! A shepherd who protects his herd of sheep from danger is powerful, but not as important Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the Cross to save His people. The forgiveness of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son is wonderful, but only a glimpse of God the Father’s mercy for us when we return to Him. Whenever we use an object, model, or demonstration as a way to introduce or deepen understanding of a concept, we must include within that same lesson the explanation of what the symbol points to. Otherwise the parable is empty and has the potential to be confusing or misleading.

To get you brainstorming, here are some of the common everyday objects Jesus used in His parables. Many of these are still applicable to kids today, but often rely heavily on an agrarian lifestyle not as familiar to them. 

Here are just a few ideas of objects that would be common to most kids that you might connect to the topic you are presenting:

To be more specific, here are a few ideas for teaching about the Sacraments. (Note that these are obviously not the formal signs and symbols of the Sacraments, but are merely objects that can help kids connect to the important real effects of the Sacraments). I've used examples like tools packed in a suitcase for a long journey to teach about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit given through Confirmation. Family photos remind us of becoming part of the family of God in Baptism. Connecting first aid cream to the use of oil as ancient medicine helps Anointing of the Sick make more sense. Erasers and soap can be used as analogies for Confession. The possibilities are endless, and if you think about any topic you'd like to share you likely can come up with a connecting object lesson.

Switching gears, one of the best ways to apply Jesus' parable teaching method is to study the parables themselves. The next set of resources is to help you read and pray with the parables yourself both for personal study as well as inspiration for this teaching method. These resources were also created with middle and high schoolers in mind- I've used all of them in my classroom and with my youth group for lessons and Bible Studies.

When I studied parables with my students, we started with a general study of how Jesus taught with the parables and the patterns they followed. We looked at the commonalities, use of literary elements, and overall themes. Click here for the notes I used to introduce our Parables Study, including a checklist of "all" of the parables and their Bible references (depending on how your organize them). I challenged my students to try to read as many of the parables as they could during our unit, and I had a few make it through the whole list! This is a great little handout to keep tucked in their Bible for further study as well.

Click here for my key for the notes:

After studying the elements that make a parable, you might want to encourage your students (or yourself!) to study the individual parables, looking for those universal elements and timeless lessons. This printable was designed to be used with any of the parables in the Bible. You can find it in this post or by clicking the image below.

We also did a short study connecting a few of the parables to our weekly school virtue, which are available in this post:

As a concluding project, my students created a story book with their own original parable following the pattern of the way Jesus taught. This checklist is how my students were graded for the final project. If you click here or on the image, it will open as an editable Google Doc that you could adapt for a project of your own. You'll have to download or make a copy in Google Docs to be able to edit:

If you want to continue your own study of the Parables, this post includes a set of printables to use as a guide for an adult or teen Bible Study:

Now with parables on the brain, you can be thinking of way to make connections and use visuals in all your lessons, no matter the topic. You might be interested in these Catechesis Lesson Plan Templates (including a year long outline) which incorporate a place for that "Hook" to help students engage with the content. Click on the image below to go to the post with these printables:

Once you've decided on your connection, you can work in a story or demonstration with a the object during your religion lesson

  • Provide a great “hook” at the beginning to grab their attention
  • Perfect for drawing comparisons between everyday objects and complex concepts
  • Always follow with the truth behind the symbol, just like when Jesus explained a parable.
  • Kids need things in bite sized chunks they can relate to, but they also deserve more than a watered-down version of our faith. Share the fullness of the truth with them.

Remember, the reality always surpasses the symbol. Move from the natural to the supernatural.

Your “parable” doesn’t have to be a craft! Here are are few ideas for how to work it in:
  • Tell a story
  • Do a demonstration
  • Set out a visual
  • Show a picture
  • Create an “experiment”
  • Model with an exaggerated example
  • Show two extremes
  • Chalk Talk- Tell a story with illustrations
  • Guessing game- How is it connected?
  • Have students bring their own object

I hope you enjoy studying the parables yourself and sharing with your students, and also feel inspired to model your lessons after this teaching style used by Jesus!

Click here for the pdf of the presentation file with a few more details and ideas, as well as all of the above links all in one place:

“Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.” ~CCC 546

Monday, June 29, 2020

America the Beautiful: Activities about 14 American Saints {At-Home VBS}

All you holy men and women of America, pray for us!

Leading up to the 4th of July, I wanted to create a shareable resource for your homes and parishes to celebrate and learn about the many, many faithful men and women who have impacted our country. This collection of activities could just be a resource for your home, can function as an at-home VBS, or can be easily shared out to your school or parish as an optional resource. There's even an editable version at the bottom to tailor it to your needs. Included are a few theme printables and then a pdf collection of (free!) links highlighting fourteen American Saints (or soon-to-be Saints) including prayers, biographical videos, coloring pages. etc. There's also a column with resources for parents and older kids to help you research and learn alongside your kids.

Fourteen Saints are included. Honestly, my original plan was for ten and I just couldn't eliminate anyone on my brainstorming list. ;) Included are Americans spanning several centuries, men and women, lay people, religious, and priests, and Saints who are Black, White, and Native American. Each has a powerful and unique story of how they followed God's will and made our country a better place. I think that learning from their example and asking for their prayers is one of the best things we can be doing with our families right now.

There are many, many more Catholic Americans that could have been included, but I hope this starts you down the path of studying them and doing your own research. Theoretically, your family could study a new Saint every day for two weeks. Or you could spread the activities out over the month of July. There are lots of ways to jump in and no wrong method.

Before jumping into the activities about the individual Saints, there are a few overall projects to set the vision for studying these holy men and women both as inspiration and as a challenge to pursue holiness ourselves. First, there is a map of the USA and an info sheet with a list of the fourteen Saints, the main states they lived in, and a symbol to add to the map. This page also lists the other Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God connected to America. Older kids could research them and add them to the map as well!

There is also a Litany of American Saints where your child can write in their favorite American patrons. The America the Beautiful Saints flag would be great to print out and display during the month as a reminder to ask for their intercession.

This resource is set up with a lot of the elements of a VBS (prayer, music, snacks, crafts) but with tons of options so it can work for a wide range of ages. I also pulled A LOT of resources- more than anyone would really use -but I wanted there to be variety and choice. All of the activities  are FREE so hopefully this project is easily accessible and shareable, even on a school or parish level.

For each Saint, there are links for:
-Prayer/Song/Bible Verse
-Short Videos
-Links for Parents or Older Siblings (to help parents feel equipped to teach their kids along the way, and to help older kids participate)

This whole plan is completely free and available for you to email out to your friends, parish, class, school, etc. I always appreciate when people include a link back to the blog so people can find more resources, but the schedule is especially designed to be easy to share as a pdf in a bulk email, school communication system, or parish bulletin. Please share! I'm always honored to be able to help, but especially now when we can't minister to our communities in the same ways we are used to. Click below to open all the resources!

First, here are the overall theme printables. (These are also linked in the shareable activity page as well.)

Click here for the American Saints Map. This helps identify the varied locations of the fourteen featured Saints across the United States, and also gives a list for further research:

Click here for the Litany of American Saints printable. You can fill in ten of your favorite holy men and women from America:

Click here for the American Flag Saints printable to display as you learn:
Click here for the two page America the Beautiful pdf with links for the 14 Saints. This version cannot be edited, but is meant to be easy to share:

Click here for the editable version of the resources. It is a Google Slides file, so you can edit/add/remove to fit your audience. In order to make changes, you'll need to open and make a copy to edit in Google Slides or download and then edit in PowerPoint:

A special thank you to Shari from Catholic Paper Goods for offering a set of her stellar coloring pages for free to help round out the resources! Here are a few of her pages that are included in the links above:

And Kristina Markford (you might remember her super cute Emmaus Road Pegs shop) generously is sharing these awesome mini posters featuring 18 American Saints. You can find her on Instagram here.

All of those activities are free, but I also have been on the lookout for books about these (and other American) Saints both to read myself and for my classroom. I'm still collecting titles and have some reading to do first, but hopefully I'll be able to do a Katie Reads post soon with some book suggestions! Feel free to drop any good titles about American Saints in the comments!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Gifts of the Holy Spirit- At Home Retreat

I know many students this Spring had their Confirmation delayed, but some dioceses are already working on rescheduling Sacraments for this fall! If you are like me, we lost some of our preparation time in the classroom and will likely be unable to spend any time together before the actual Confirmation. I wanted to send something easy but meaningful to the families to help them pray and prepare as the date approaches, especially helping the Confirmands open up their hearts to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that will be received in the Sacrament.

This family retreat is organized around the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and shares a set of links to prayers, music, a Bible verse, Lectio Divina journal, videos, and suggested activities for each Gift. I created it with students just before their Confirmation in mind, but it also would be great for students who have been recently Confirmed to get them thinking about allowing the Gifts to be put to use in their lives. Really the activities would work well for any junior high or high school student- which is nice because a lot of resources for Catholic kids I've seen (and created myself!) for the summer are aimed at younger kids. This could almost function like an at home VBS for older kids! ;) All of these ideas are also perfect for a study of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the classroom when we are back together.

My wording in the retreat schedule is specific to kids who are preparing for their upcoming Confirmation, but I'm also including an editable version so you can add your own dates, specific links or ideas, or change some of the content to be more generalized.


An important part of the retreat is spending time each week in Scripture reflecting on the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I made this simple Lectio Divina journal to act as an aide to that prayer. If your students or child isn't familiar with Lectio Divina, I'd recommend also these Lectio Divina printables to help.

The journal is intended to be printed (two sided if possible, but not necessary) and then folded in half with this as the cover. Click here or on the image to open the pdf journal:

There is a page and a Scripture passage for each of the seven Gifts with room to journal using the four steps of Lectio Divina. Hopefully this is something that could be discussed and prayed over with a parent or Confirmation sponsor, or even as a whole family Bible Study.

The retreat is designed to give a few easy to implement ideas surrounding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit each week, helping open the heart of the Confirmand to be ready to receive His Gifts. All the links are free and easily accessible. The include a prayer (usually offered as both the text and a song or video), the Scripture to pray with that is also listed in the Lectio Divina journal, two videos about that Gift of the Holy Spirit (as well as a whole playlist of Confirmation videos), and a couple of activity suggestions that range from conversations with Sponsors, to researching their Confirmation Saints, to readings that deepen their understanding of the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 Click here for a pdf version of the retreat:
Click here to open up an editable version of the retreat so you can change wording, add links, list specific dates, etc. When you open this version in Google Slides, you will either need to make a copy and then edit your own version in Google Slides or download and edit in PowerPoint. Either way, I then recommend saving as a pdf before sending out to students and families- it usually helps with access and formatting issues.
May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest themselves in our work and in the lives of our students and families. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!