Thursday, March 27, 2014

Write Your Story on My Heart Narrative Project

If you are a homeschooler or Catholic school teacher (or even a Catechist), you know the tug of trying to give kids quality learning opportunities covering a breadth of topics in a limited amount of time.  Time.  There never seems to be enough of it in any kind of classroom.  Hence why cross-curricular teaching makes so much sense.  In college when I was assigned to create cross-curricular sample lessons, I sometimes felt like I was just putting two separate lessons on the same sheet of paper.  I have honed that skill quite a bit since then, and now see teaching more than one subject in the same lesson as both being practical and effective.

I am blessed to still have my 5th graders all day in my classroom, which gives me more flexibility than departmentalized teachers to teach across curriculum areas.  I am grateful for this chance, and would like to share something that we are working on in my classroom right now.

I spend a lot of time on the road, so music and good talks are necessary to keeping me sane while driving.  When I first heard this song on the radio this winter, I didn't really like it- it was a little "pop" for my usual tastes.  However, I didn't switch the station, and listened to the words, and got one of those A-HA moments. 

The song is about allowing God to reveal who He is through the everyday events of our lives, and to make His story our story.  It was catchy and meaningful and I knew that I could use it in the classroom.  We were about to branch into our narrative writing unit, and I knew that it would be pulling teeth.  I have been working hard with this group of kids to improve their writing skills, specifically using the 6 Traits of Writing to hone in on specific ways to become a strong writer.

I decide to wrap up the skills that go with the 6 Traits, the structure of narrative writing, and the idea behind this song in a unit that would allow the kids to express themselves and show how they see God working in their lives.  Writing & Religion, all in one.

I focused on this verse, explaining to the kids that to know our faith means to know who God is as well as who we are as His children:

“Keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; 
bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

~Proverbs 7:2-3
I set the goal of writing five narratives in this unit, some longer and more involved, and some short. I came up with five topics that fit in the narrative category that would also allow the kids to explore their faith:

o   Seeing God in the Sacraments: Write about receiving a Sacrament or witnessing a Sacrament and how it helped you to see God.
o   Knowing God through His People: Write a story about a person who is/was important in your life and how they helped you to know God better.
o   Finding God in His Creation: Write a story about a time you spent in nature and how you see God’s creative power in the world.
o   Seeing God in the Hard Times: Write a story about something hard that has happened in your life and how God was there to help you.
o   Writing God’s Story on Your Heart: Write about knowing that Jesus is a part of your life.  You have lots of choice with this topic!

I created several graphic organizers to help with brainstorming and organization, as well as pages to take notes on dialogue, sensory details, main ideas, time order, and connections:

I also included the rubric that would be used to grade the essays:
Along with each narrative, the kids are creating some kind of visual element-an art project, a drawing, a photograph- to illustrate the essay.  I am keeping all of the different pieces, and when we finish in a couple of weeks, we will bind everything together so that each student has a book containing stories of their faith.  I think that it will be a cool keepsake as we wrap up their 5th grade year.

Click on the image below for a copy of the 12 page document with all of the ideas, instructions, graphic organizers, rubric, etc.

Click here if you would like a copy of my packet.  It is a bit messy, but it has filled in notes, suggestions, lists of brainstorming ideas for all of the topics, etc.  If you want to see how we used this packet to get the project rolling, you will want to look through this.
Coming soon, I will post ideas and examples of the art projects that we created for each of the narratives.  Happy writing!

Click here for ideas for binding student books, which is how we "published" our project.
Click on the titles below for ideas for five Faith Filled Art Projects, all which match one of the topics in the Write Your Story on My Heart project.
1. Mixed Media Sacrament Art
2. Finding God in Nature Art
3. Word Cloud Art
4. Black Out Poetry Art
5. Finish the Picture Art


  1. This is awesome. If we decide to homeschool I'm just going to come here and use all your ideas!! I love this!

    1. It is fun to picture Abigail as a middle schooler bent over a notebook, isn't it! :)

  2. Katie Anne, thank you so much for sharing. You are a talented teacher and a woman deeply in love with God. I have used your materials with my prayer club, mostly fifth graders but I have altered the materials or have re-made to use with my own first graders. Again, I can not thank you enough.

    Sister Helga in Texas

    1. Wow! Thanks so much Sister Helga! Be assured of my prayers for you and your students!

  3. Katie Anne, I am in awe of what you have created - I hope I can impact my students the way you are. I plan to try this narrative project this year - I can't wait to share the results with you!

    1. Thanks, Jami! This was a great project. I just updated this post to include links to the posts that explain how we "published" their work and about the five art projects we made to correspond to the five topics in the Write Your Story On My Heart Series. If you do end up using it, keep me apprised! I'd love to hear how it goes and get your feedback. If it is easier to stay in contact, my email is katherine (dot) bogner (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

  4. Hi Katie Anne, I just want to take a minute and tell you what a difference you have made in my life. When ever I have to plan any thing, and I do mean ANYTHING, for religious education students, I turn to you as a source of inspiration. Thank you for being so generous and sharing you talent and devotion to God with all of us. I may not post comments every week, but I visit your blog multiple times a week. Thank you.

    1. I'm sorry that this comment got buried and I am just now reading it! Thank you so much for your sweet words! I'm so glad you frequently stop by my little corner of the internet! :)

  5. I've utilized your own supplies along with best ideas here prayer membership, mainly 5th graders however I've changed the actual supplies or even possess re-made to make use of along with my very own very first graders. Once again, I can't thanks sufficient.