Monday, September 29, 2014

Built on the Rock: Awesome Posters

I was finally able to "finish" decorating our CCD hallway for our Built on the Rock theme this year.  I have had my eye out for posters and decorations to match this bulletin board and signs and our theme colors.  I ordered some awesome posters from Steubenville Press, and had to share them with you!  (You can click on any of the pictures below and go straight to that poster on their site. No money for me, but I want you to be able to find these great resources!)  The business is family owned, and after receiving the posters I was impressed by their quality.  While not super cheap, the high quality and strong Catholic influence made this a valuable resources site for me. 

It all started when one of my catechists recommended I check out their site because she had seen this great explanation of the Vatican Flag:

I also found this one that has our theme verse for the year and lists all of the popes from Peter to Francis:

 They look great in the hallway right next to our Papal Flag!

I also got this one with the disciples on a ship in the storm to match our fishers of men decorations (this boat and this fishing net).

With our emphasis on St. Peter and his authority given from Christ, we will be using lots of info on popes of the past, including displaying this info board on St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. I was able to find several great posters with recent popes.

So here we have St. John Paul II...
 And Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI...
 And Pope Francis before a crucifix.

 And then I threw in this graphically interesting Nicene Creed for good measure!

Head on over to Steubenville Press to find some great posters or prayer cards for your home or school!  I am sure you will find some great things!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Built on the Rock: Youth Group Object Lesson

When I think of San Francisco, hilly roads, Cable Cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and earthquakes come to mind.  (and Full House- I've gotta admit Full House makes the list!)

Don't ask me why, but a San Francisco earthquake story that I heard at some point in high school history came to mind while planning a Youth Group lesson based on "Built on the Rock." 

Many of us remember learning about the earthquake and resulting fires that devastated San Francisco in 1906.  An interesting tidbit that many might not know is that much of the rubble from the city was pushed into the Marina District, forming a landfill to which sand and more debris would be added to over the years. 
Not quite ten years later, when San Francisco wanted to show the world that it was "back" as a cultural center and successful west coast city, it hosted the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  The Expo was built on none other than the previous pile of earthquake rubble in the Marina.  Quite the statement, don't you think?  They were not going to let an earthquake stop them. 
After the Expo, the fairground-type buildings were torn down, and the land was purchased by developers who built family housing in the new Marina District.

Moving ahead to 1986, another earthquake of nearly the same strength hit San Francisco.  This time the city is better prepared, and buildings and infrastructure are better suited to handle the natural disaster.  The most terrible damage and loss of life occurs primarily on double-decker roadways and bridges.  One exception, however, is the Marina District.  Because of its rubble/sand/landfill base, the area actually experiences liquefaction of the soil- and great damage is done to houses and apartments in this residential area.

When you think about it, our lives are a lot like San Francisco.  We get to decide the foundation we want to build on.  Pushing our messes and mistakes and sins into a neat corner and covering them up can be mighty tempting.  We want to keep up appearances, move on, and sometimes even take the short cut.  However, we are called to something greater.  We are called to form our lives on a firm foundation that doesn't move and doesn't change. That foundation of truth can be found in Christ and His Church, and it can withstand whatever life throws at us.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” ~Matthew 7:24-27

I used the story of San Francisco as a practical example of living our life built on the Rock with a group of teens.  If you would like to use this idea for a lesson, below you will find a more comprehensive outline and other resources.

Click here for the outline of the lesson, including discussion questions, additional Scripture references, and printable photos from the two earthquakes:

Here are two Scripture cards you can use as reminders for the kids:

Click here for the printable for Psalm 31:3:

Click here for the printable for Matthew 7:25:

The sources for pictures (which are all in public domain) and more information on the earthquakes can be found at the end of this document.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Graffiti Walls as a Teaching Tool


I love using graffiti walls as a teaching tool in my classroom.  They are easy, adaptable to many subjects, and great for any subject or age.

The basic idea is that the students are creating a layered and creative visual representation of what they are learning.  Just like most graffiti, there isn't a definite plan, it is more impromptu than planned out, and has layers of overlapping additions.

My favorite way to use graffiti walls like this is in literature, especially with a read-a-loud or in lit circles.  They of course would be great for teaching a topic in religion as well.  I plan on using them as I continue my introduction of the Sacraments this school year. You can add anything to them, but here are some basic ideas:

1. Start with a large piece of paper.  It can begin on a table or floor, but then should be hung up and continued to be added to as more learning happens.
2. Group work is best.  The ideas and contributions of many students are better for a graffiti wall than just the work of one.
3. There isn't a plan- even from the teacher.  There is no "right" final graffiti wall.  It grows and changes as the learning continues, and represents important parts, new ideas, connections, etc.  Teaching even the same topic in the same way will result in very different final walls.
4. Layer, layer, layer.  Just like the ideas in our heads, the representations on a graffiti wall are not stand-alone, neatly organized, or perfect.  We start at the beginning of a new topic add information as understanding grows and changes.
5. Use both words and pictures.  Visual is key with a graffiti wall.  Pictures are important, but so are words.  However, the words that are chosen to be added should be fewer and boldly represented.

The graffiti walls that I have in this post as an example are from reading the book Esperanza Rising.  We started with plain paper at the beginning of the book (a different color for each group makes identification easy as they work over days or even weeks).  During the beginning part of the book, students would add names of characters, images of the setting, pictures of events, and even (short) direct quotes that impacted them.  Sometimes they would do this while listening to the book be read out loud, and sometimes it was after reading on their own.
We would go back and add as we continued to read the book, lending to the messy, busy look that you see on the original paper.  We also added more info on top of the wall by gluing or sticking on more paper.

Some activities that I can see here include:
-drawing of an object from the book that held great symbolism for the main character
-sequence of events quick comic strips
-adjectives that describe the main character as she grew and changed
-quick questions, using post it notes
-themes seen throughout the book

 Oh, and graffiti walls are a super fun activity to do outside as well!
Anything goes!  Maybe a graffiti wall would be a good formative activity for you to try in your classroom- pick a topic and give it a try!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Built on the Rock CCD Theme Printables

This year our CCD theme is Built on the Rock.  You can see our decorations and bulletin boards here and here and here.

And now for some free printables!

Click here for a coloring page with the theme and scripture verse:

Click here for a printable folder cover:
Click here for stationary/blank sign:

Click here for classroom signs:
(Everyone organizes their programs differently, so there are individual signs for Kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as Preschool, High School, First Communion, and Confirmation)

Here is an example of one of the room signs on a classroom door, complete with students' names written on keys:
You can print the small keys here:

And you can find the matching large keys and bulletin board sign in this post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Built on the Rock Decorations- Fishers of Men & St. Peter

Back here and here I have already shared ideas for decorations and bulletin boards centering around our CCD theme of "Built on the Rock!"

Here are a few more ideas:

Honoring St. Peter's transition from being a fishermen to becoming a fisher of men:
I inherited this poster but have never used it for anything special, so it got pulled out this year.
I added another cheap fishing net ...
...and added some evangelization fish.

We already had St. Peter painted on our CCD walls, but this year he will be an interactive teacher.  He was ready for the first day with some questions for the students and a poster complete with a marker for them to answer.  Who knows what he might become as the year goes on!

If you like our St. Peter mural, you can get a matching coloring page here.

You can get  more printables for a Built on the Rock theme here and here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sheen's Cause for Canonization Suspended

I firmly believe that it would be a great good for the Catholic Church to declare Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen a Saint.  His life and teachings are relevant and increasingly important for our culture to hear.  Through his example, I am convinced that many souls can continue to experience conversion and deepen their relationship with Christ.  Sheen's model of devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, and powerful evangelization is a force that we would be remiss to ignore today or in the future.

I also firmly believe that a great good was done through Sheen's intercession by the work of Christ in the healing of James Fulton Engstrom.  This alleged miracle's investigation, which is was being wrapped up at the Vatican, has been a powerful, life giving story that has touched hearts and moved thousands to prayer.  James' story has convinced many that Jesus' power to heal is not merely a storybook idea found in the New Testament.  This miracle should continue to be shared so that hope can be renewed in the strength found in prayer and our connection to the Communion of Saints.

I also believe that Sheen and his teachings can and should be spread to future generations.  I have had an amazing experience teaching our faith through the lens of Sheen's life.  My 5th grade students  (and now current 6th and 7th graders) have been impacted by this great man and the example that he set for our modern culture, and many of them were devastated when they heard the news today.

The news, you ask?  Please read this press release from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.  Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization has been suspended, based on the burial location of his body.

The Archdiocese of New York put out this statement today.  Here is part of it:

"The Congregation for the Causes of Saints did recently ask the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria to enter into a dialogue to see if there was a way to continue progress in moving the cause forward. Discussions with Peoria centered on two areas: the possible exhumation and study of the body; and the possible collection of “first class relics” of Archbishop Sheen.   Cardinal Timothy Dolan did express a hesitance in exhuming the body, unless the Congregation for the Causes of Saints directed that it be done, unless the process was approved by the family, that it be done modestly and reverently, and that the exhumation met the requirements of New York State law. He consulted with the family, who gave their approval if it would help advance the cause."

Did you see the line "unless the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decreed it to be done"?

That is where you come in.

With all due respect, we need to let the Congregation and Pope Francis know that we want Sheen's Canonization to move forward.  The logistics of these details need to be worked out, and if it takes intervention from the Vatican, so be it.

If you believe that Sheen would be a great example for further generations to follow, if you believe that Christ's power was made manifest in the healing of James Fulton, if you believe that our Church needs more modern leaders who stand up for what is right, please write a letter as soon as possible to the following addresses:

Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Vatican City State 00120

His Holiness Pope Francis
Vatican City State 00120

If you are interested in a form letter to get you started, Bonnie did the hard work for you here
Then get your kids, friends, students, CCD kids, family, and Bible study to write as well.
My students wrote some pretty convincing letters today.

"I heard yesterday that Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization was closed.  Me, my friends and family members are very disappointed."

"I am not the only one who is sad.  My entire school is sad... I think that he is a good role model for my class and school...I bet he will inspire a lot of people.  He has already inspired me."

"Dear Pope Francis, I think that you are a great Pope and I follow your actions...Please keep your great deeds up and reopen Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization!"

"I don't know if you know this, but Fulton Sheen helped raise a baby from the dead!  A family very much loved Fulton Sheen.  They named their baby after him.  But his heart stopped beating for 61 minutes.  The family asked Fulton Sheen to pray, and he came back to life!  Please reconsider opening his Cause!"

"I think Fulton Sheen was a good and holy man, a great priest, and a great Catholic example for others.  He loved Mary very much and wanted to teach everyone about God.  I hope that his Cause for Canonization is reopened very soon!"

Come on Papa Francis, how can you say no my kiddos?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Built on the Rock Decorations- Bark of St. Peter

Back in this post, I shared the idea for our CCD theme this year, which is "Built on the Rock."

In honor of St. Peter's job of being at the helm of the Church, we had to have a boat.  Have you heard of the church being called the Bark of St. Peter?  An interesting read about that can be found here

There is also this beautiful quote from Paragraph 845 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood."

So if you'd like to made a ship like this on a wall or bulletin board, it is remarkably easy.

First, cut a large piece of brown paper the length of the ship, and angle down the sides.  My ship is kind of coming out of a wall, so I only have one angled side.  I named the ship The Bark of St. Peter.  Probably didn't have boat names back then, but oh well.
I also wrote this Scripture verse on the ship:

I created a white sail, added a red cross, and a set of keys to the kingdom.  The cross is simply a piece of 12x18" construction paper with 4x4" squares and 4x8" rectangles cut out of the corners.

You can print the keys here.
Then we added a "real" fishing net.  I got the net here and the fish are just stickers from Dollar Tree.
I held the net on our cinder block walls using sticky clips.  They do wonders.
The water was a scrap of blue plastic table cloth that I bunched up and taped along the floor.
Viola!  Bark of St. Peter!  Visit here for more Built on the Rock theme ideas.