Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sacrament Graffiti Walls

I originally posted about using Graffiti Walls as a teaching tool in this post.
Here are the tips I shared about creating Graffiti Walls:

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.

In the past, I had only used graffiti walls in relation to a literature unit or a read aloud book.  This year, I decided to try this technique as I taught about the seven Sacraments.

At the beginning of the year, I started with seven large sheets of bulletin board paper in seven different colors.  I wanted to have them hanging in our classroom all year so they could be added to as we learned more and more.  However, I don't have wall space for seven large posters, so decided to layer them.  I reinforced the paper with duct tape and punched holes in three spots along the top of each paper.  I then connected them all with binder rings and hung them from the cover over our radiators.  It would work just as well on a flipchart stand or sturdy clips on the wall.

When I first introduced the Graffiti Walls, I split the students into groups and had them lay a foundation of knowledge for each of the sacraments.  We hung them all up, and then waited to study each Sacrament individually.

As we studied each Sacrament, the kids then each added one or two artifacts to the Graffiti Wall about new things that they learned. 

Some of the items that we added included:
  • the definition of the Sacrament
  • Scripture verses about the Sacrament
  • hand drawn illustrations of the Sacrament
  • pictures cut from magazines/books/etc.
  • symbols of the Sacrament

We added all of those items, and then when we studied the next Sacrament, we flipped the Graffiti wall over and added more layers to that page. Throughout the year as we were working on religion projects or the kids were completing homework, it was normal to see them reference the Graffiti wall for something that they had added or some of the other collective knowledge that had been created by a classmate. 

At the very end of the year, I hung all seven walls in the hallway (the only place I had space for all of them at once) and the kids grabbed markers and got to add any last information.  They had to read over everything that had already been added and then could write or draw any additional info that they thought was missing based on out studies from the year.  It was a great wrap up activity and a review for the end of the year.

And here is the Baptism Graffiti Wall when they were all finished with it:
And the other six Sacraments:

Now, what to do with these great Graffiti Walls?  A year's worth of work, contributed to by an entire class?  I couldn't just throw them away, and I also wanted some way for the kids to remember the activity and the learning gained from it.

So, I took down the walls, layered them on top of each other, and cut through each layer.
I cut the walls in strips and then into smaller rectangles so that there would be enough of each for each student.  (I cut through the walls while they were upside down like this- it make it easier to cut through all of the hard work and detail.)
When I had divided them into enough for each student, I stapled the seven pages together and made a book with a piece of each Graffiti Wall.

I then surprised the student by saying that I had cut up their Graffiti Walls...and they were a little confused and unhappy.  When I pulled out the books and said that I had cut up the Graffiti Walls so that they could each keep a piece, they were super excited!  I randomly gave each student a book, and they loved flipping through them to identify what information had made it onto their pages.  We then attached their Graffiti Books into their Fulton Sheen Notebook.

It was a great activity, and one that I plan to try again next year! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Vocations + The Blessed Trinity Activity

This Sunday we celebrate the glory and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  

A few weeks ago as I was teaching about the Sacrament of Marriage, I realized that I was missing something.  We had read the chapter in our textbook, had completed a good class discussion and filled in these notes, but they needed more.  With the current attack on marriage in pop culture, media, and politics, my 5th graders needed more depth to explain the meaning of marriage.

As I planned the lesson, I thought about some of the things that I have taught and explained to students I have had in Youth Group over the years.  I thought about how I could bring more of this lesson into a 5th grade classroom.  I thought about my emphasis with the kids this year that they are all called to a Vocation, and those vocations are about love (the real kind) and service.

And then I had a duh! moment.  While trying to bring the lofty topics of vocation and marriage down to their level, I had unintentionally watered it down a bit.  I didn't want to make it too confrontational, or introduce them to mis-truths about these Sacraments.  And it hit me that I could use a simple but profound model that I have used with both teens and adults- it would work with ten-year-olds, too.

"We love because He first loved us." ~1 John 4:19

A love is modeled after the Trinity.  The complete gift of self between the Father and the Son yields the Holy Spirit.  This union is founded on love- true communion- and we are made in the image and likeness of this model.  That means that our Vocations are called to be life giving unions that bear fruit and are created by self-sacrificing love.

Incredibly theological? Yes.  A mystery that can't fully be understood this side of heaven? Yes.

But something that can't be shared with children?  I think not. CCC 237

So I decided to try a new activity and see how they responded, if it helped them understand the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders, as well as the call to be a Religious Sister.  CCC 260

  • We started with each student taking four blank triangles.  I asked them to name the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  We wrote their names in each corner of one triangle.  I then asked them how the Trinity was united and we were able to summarize it as a communion of love.  We drew a heart in the center and drew the arrows between each person.  I told them that it was a great mystery, but that the love between the Father and the Son is so strong and so real that it actually revealed by a third Person, the Holy Spirit. CCC 243-248
  • I then asked if they could represent the Sacrament of Matrimony on the next triangle.  They wrote husband and wife in two of the corners.  I then asked them to draw a heart in the center and arrows between the couple.  I asked what would be revealed if the couple shared self sacrificial love, and they said "children!" We wrote that down, but also talked about how some couples are unable to have children, so together they are able to become spiritual fathers and mothers and share their gifts with the Church. CCC 1601-1620
  • Next up was the Priesthood.  We wrote down the priest, and following the model of marriage, the kids figured out that the other corner would be the Church, the Bride of Christ.  (this is also a great example to talk about why men are called to be priests and not women).  I asked what the fruit of this Vocation was, and the kids named things like the gift of the Sacraments, grace, and Spiritual fruit. CCC 1544-1553, 1577-1585
  • Finally, we included the vocation of consecrated single life, specifically nuns and sisters.  The kids were quickly able to figure out that the sister's Bridegroom is Christ.  They mentioned again things like grace and Spiritual fruit as the revelation of this Vocation. CCC 922-933
  • We then glued the four triangles onto a notebook page and added the title "All Vocations are Modeled After the Trinity."  I also had them add the Fulton Sheen quote "All love tends to become like that which it loves."
By using the model of the Trinity, I think I was able to show the kids that Vocations are not something that humans make up the rules for.  It helps show why marriage is between one man and one woman.  It explains why couples must be open to having children.  It reminds us how real love really requires sacrifice.

It was a great discussion, and a memorable teaching lesson for me.  I hope to continually find ways to share great and glorious and mysterious truths in meaningful ways with the students in my classroom.

The students had the freedom to arrange their notebook page however it made sense, so we had some different set ups, like this one:

And this one:

You can get the quote cards by clicking on the image below:

If you don't want to do the cut-and-glue thing, you could also use these printable notes and have the same discussion.

Click here for a blank version of the notes:

And click here for a filled in version of the notes:

What do you think?  Do you have any great resources or lessons about sharing the truths of marriage and vocations with kids?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fulton Sheen Family Day (the 2nd!)

Do you live in the Peoria area?  Do you want to learn more about the Catholic faith?  Do you love Fulton Sheen?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to be at the Second Annual Fulton Sheen Family Day!  I am helping plan it along with Bonnie of A Knotted Life, the Sheen Foundation, and St. Mary's Parish, El Paso.

This fun event is open to all ages, but is especially designed for families with kids.  You can read more about last year's event in this post.

Click on the picture to download (and share!) the event flyer:

This year's day will be open house style Fulton Sheen Pilgrimage in the town of his birth and at the parish of his baptism, including:
-Fulton Sheen activities for all ages from 2:00-3:45 p.m.
-Family friendly Holy Hour from 3:45-4:45 p.m.
-Invitation to attend the 5 p.m. Vigil Mass at St. Mary’s
-Snacks, giveaways, and door prizes!
-Suggested donation of $1 per family member

You can keep up with the details and RSVP at the Facebook Event here.

If you have any questions, would like more info, or would like to volunteer or donate towards the event, please contact me in the comment box or at katherine (dot) bogner (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Meaningful Student Gifts for the End of the Year (or anytime)

Our school year is 7 6 5 days away from coming to a close.  There are many to-do lists to complete, shelves to clean, supplies to pack, and (large) stacks of paperwork to file.  I am sure that all my fellow teachers, DREs, and catechists are in a a similar state of busyness.

But a more prominent item on our minds is saying good-bye to our students.  For some it is just a formality, because we will see them around in the parish or school or community.  But for a few kiddos in our classrooms, it might be more serious good-bye due to moves or transfers.

Regardless, the end of a school year signifies an end of a chapter and a change in the relationship you have with these kids that you have spent so much time with over the past year. At the end of the school year, I like to give my students a unique book.  I pick out a story book that can be used to carry a special message to the whole class.  On the inside cover, I write each student a letter that talks about the special meaning of the book, as well as specific encouragement just for them.  It takes a long time to write the letters, but makes the simple story book so much more meaningful, and something that I hope the students treasure.

This year, I will be giving my students all a copy of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which is one of my favorite children's books.  (A little note: one way that this is affordable for me to do for a whole classroom is that I save my Scholastic Reading Club bonus points from the year.  If you don't use Scholastic in your classroom, I highly recommend it!)

A couple of years ago, I used the book You are Special by Max Lucado.  In the letter for this book, I included all of the things that I thought were special about each student, but reminded them that they are unique and wonderful because of who God says they are.  It was a perfect book for a tight-knit class that both loved...and challenged...each other just like a set of 29 siblings :).

Last year I used the book The Boy and the Ocean, also by Max Lucado.  The main message of the book (which has lovely illustrations) is that God's love is big, and wide, and never ends.  I thought it was a great reminder for a class that went through a lot of changes and challenges in our year together.

This year's book is not specifically a Christian book, but it has always reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son. (I actually have an activity about it here!) In the letter in this book, I am going to remind the kids of the power of generosity, and that just like the giving tree, our God loves us so much that He gives and gives and gives, even to the point of completely giving us Himself.  Our response should be like the boy's at the end of the book- to want to be with Him always. 

So, that's what I do at the end of the year.  However, story books and letters might not be the right thing for you.  You might be looking for a birthday gift, or graduation gift, or a thank you, or a First Communion or Confirmation gift.  You might be able to spend $0.99 per kid, or $30 per kid.  I thought I round up a few of my other favorite ideas that can be used for varying ages, budgets, and purposes.

Here's my top ten gift list for kids:
  1. a good Bible (that's right for their age/reading level) (like this one or this one) (and super awesome points if you write a message on the inside cover or a slip of paper that you tuck inside.  And get your pastor and other teachers, volunteers, etc. to also write a short message of blessing for the student before you give it to them.)
  2. A Catechism of the Catholic Church
  3. the YouCat or YouCat Prayer Book
  4. a great CD by a Catholic musician (like this one or this one or this one)
  5. a Saint medal or Miraculous medal (a couple of favorite sources are this one and this one)
  6. Catholic coloring or activity books
  7. books on the Saints (this series is one of my favorites for 3rd-6th graders)  ***make sure you keep an eye out for the books you can buy at bulk prices ($2-3 a copy) from Totus Tuus Press and Dynamic Catholic- they have great stuff for both teens and adults.
  8. Blessed Rosaries (or Rosary rings, or Rosary bracelets)
  9. a crucifix (especially great for a graduate moving into a dorm or apartment)
  10. small Saint icon or Mary or other Saint statue (bonus points if you get the patron of your school or parish)
Those are my favorite gifts to give students- what are yours?  I'd love to hear more about the gifts you give your students that are affordable, memorable, and meaningful.

Blessings on the end of your school year!

(oh, and I'm not getting anything out of posting this list- just trying to share some ideas with you that might help you give meaningful gifts in the future.  These items are things that I have all purchased and given to kids and teens over the years.  I hope that these ideas inspire you to find meaningful gifts for the kiddos in your lives!)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Honoring Mary: A Collection of Ideas

Happy Mother's Day!  In honor of the Mary-like Mother's heart in every mom, homeschooler, teacher, catechist, and DRE, I've collected a whole series of posts with tons of ideas for teaching kids about Mary- and through her, modeling Christian life, prayer, generosity, and virtue.

Click on any of the pictures below to take you to a post with more info, ideas, printables, and pictures.  I'll spare you more descriptions...and let the posts do the talking!

And, to every woman reading this, thank you for all of the ways that you mother each soul you meet: the kind word, the smile, the caring touch.  You are what the world needs.  Keep on living that call to be what God has made you to be!
"A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." ~Proverbs 31:30