Friday, August 16, 2019

Back to School Printables: Monthly Devotions and Lesson Planning

Here we go! It's back to school week for me, and I know that many of you are starting school and religious ed over the next few weeks.  Today I've got some basic printables for you to help enhance your classroom, whether in school, parish, or home.

I have been working on growing our rhythm of living the liturgical calendar in my classroom over the past few years, and just added these monthly devotion signs to our calendar area. Each month has a traditional Catholic devotion, often associated with the season or a particular feast day.  We typically remember that October is the month of the Rosary, but I thought with some signs right in our calendar area, we might be a little more intentional in celebrating the devotion of every month, even by simple things like the prayers that we say at the beginning or end of class.

I have the signs, two per page, ready to print for you in both cursive and manuscript. I cut mine out and put them in a 8.5x11" page protector, folded the page protector over, taped, and stuck it on my white board.  Now all the months are stored right in my calendar area, so on the 1st of a new month, I can just slide out the new sign instead of scrounging to find where I stored them. ;) (And I've got a fun project planned for the new calendar year to help bring these devotions into your home.  Hopefully I can get it all finished before December!)

 Click here for the monthly devotions signs in cursive:

Click here for the monthly devotions signs in manuscript:

I also have a couple of new pages to use for planning religious ed in your classroom.  This annual planner lists the main nine months of the school year and gives you space to choose a prayer and Saint to focus on each month, as well as a place to list the key content you plan to cover.  It's a great idea to start with a big picture like this, even if the plan has to deviate from week to week.

Click here for the Catechesis Annual Plan:

And I also made up a basic lesson plan for a single class, giving you space for big picture planning, as well as listing supplies and steps.  It would be great to have a blank stack of these in a binder and fill out as much of them as is helpful each week.  Not only will it be good method for planning your class, but also could be a source of reflection for coming classes or even the next year if you are teaching similar material.

Click here for the lesson plan:

May the Lord guide us and give us the tools to draw our students' hearts closer and closer to His Sacred Heart during this coming school year!

Monday, August 12, 2019

JMJ Printables and Fulton Sheen Bulletin Boards

“As a custom which started in kindergarten, I always wrote ‘JMJ’ at the top of the blackboard, as I do on every piece of paper before I write- and which I hope will someday be on my tombstone. In answer to many letters, the public finally recognized me and the words Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
From “Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen”

You can read about Fulton Sheen's practice of writing "JMJ" at the top of his chalkboard in my upcoming Sheen Corner article in the Catholic Post.  I think that it would be a great habit to bring back in our Catholic schools, writing JMJ on our smartboards and teaching our students to write it on their homework as a way of dedicating our work to the Holy Family, asking their guidance and protection in all we say and do.

I've created a set of printables for you that have "JMJ" in Fulton Sheen's actual handwriting.  I've printed one and hung it in my classroom about the smartboard here, but I think they would also be great to hang above a family calendar, glue inside a student's school notebook, etc.

I also wanted to use Fulton Sheen to decorate my door as I welcome my students back to school in a few days, and thought I'd share with you how I made this quick sign that would easily double as a bulletin board decoration.

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.)

Black poster board (or black bulletin board paper)
Woodgrain Contact Paper or Woodgrain washi tape or duct tape (I already had some contact paper from the dollar store and it worked perfectly)
JMJ printable (pdf at bottom of post)
Favorite picture of Sheen (ideas and links at bottom of post)

First, I laid out my supplies to see how everything would fit. I cut one length of the woodgrain contact paper a few inches longer than the length of the poster board.  Then I split the contact paper into four equal sized strips (with the convenient grid marks on the back). I folded them over the edges of the poster board to create clean edges that were fairly even.  

Then I glued on the JMJ and photo of Sheen, and lettered on one of my favorite quotes.

This concept can work for a door decoration like mine all the way up to a large bulletin board.

You can print and piece together a favorite photo of Fulton Sheen, or order a poster of Fulton Sheen.  A few of my favorites from these shops:
Catholic Paper Goods

And we haven't started yet, but for CCD, I plan to use these cute little chalkboard labels and mini chalkboards for the kids' names and for a "JMJ" craft: 
I'll post more pictures once we're all decorated!

We'll be using these room signs on the doors.  They list PreK-8th grade and a few other labels, but if you need a special room sign, feel free to email me at and I'll edit them for you! ;)

Click here for the JMJ printables (in Fulton Sheen's handwriting):

And visit my Etsy Shop for JMJ Vinyl Stickers and coming soon a JMJ Stamp!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Catholic Kids' Book List

After posting on Choosing and Using Good Catholic Books here earlier in the week, I suppose I need to share some of the Catholic books that I use in my classroom and/or DRE work. :)  So here is a list of my favorite books for Catholic kids. Obviously there are tons of books that you could find Catholic themes within (virtue, symbolism, etc.) but these are books with explicit Catholic content and I've sorted them into a "genres" below.

A few notes:
-Some of these books I've inherited, a lot I have purchased, and some were sent to me by the author/publisher, but all of them are books I have used/gifted/recommended in my classroom or as a DRE. I'm only sharing with you what I really like.
-This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
-By recommending these books, I am not saying they are perfect.  Their quality is somewhat dependent on the age and interests of the kids reading them as well as the support and background knowledge they have.  As always, you should preview and make the decision as to what is best for your kids or classroom (possibly thinking about some of the qualities I talk about in this post).
-These lists are roughly organized from youngest interest level to oldest.  They are also far from complete and I invite you to chime in with your favorites in the comments.  I have a feeling that this will be a growing post!

The Gospel for Little Ones- Roche, Maite
Jesus, Son of Mary- Sheen, Fulton
Jesus, Our Savior- Szczebak, Patricia
Soldier of God. St. Maximilian Kolbe- Treece, Patricia (and other comic books on Fulton Sheen, Emil Kapaun, but I can't find them at a reasonable price online.  You can always contact the Foundations for the Causes for Canonization to order them more affordably)

Just Like Mary- Gortler, Rosemarie
Our Blessed Mother: The Story of Mary for Children- Orfeo, Christina Virginia
The Lady of Guadalupe- de Paola, Tomie
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Story Book- Windeatt, Mary Fabyan (and series)
Mary's Story- Boss, Sarah Jane
Marian Consecration for Children- Gress, Carrie
Take it to the Queen- Nobisso, Josephine
Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Graphic Novel- Muglia, Natalie
Our Lady of Fatima: The Graphic Novel- Estrada, Sam

Little Prayers for Little Ones- Jablonski, Patricia
My Superhero Prayer Book- Tierney, Kendra
Mary Holds My Hand- Chronister, Michelle
Sitting Like a Saint- Bottaro, Gregory and Barbra
Loyola Kids Book of Everyday Prayers
Be Yourself! Journal
To Hear His Voice Mass Journal
Catholic Youth Prayer Book
YOUCAT Prayer Book
Manual for Eucharistic Adoration

A Little Camel for Baby Jesus- Gianola, Maria
The Cure for the Christmas Crazies- Hartmann, April
The Birds of Bethlehem- de Paola, Tomie
Angela and the Baby Jesus- McCort, Frank
Jacob's Gift- Lucado, Max
Voices of Christmas- Grimes, Nikki

Stations of the Cross for Children- Douglas, Jerry
Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg- Degazelle, Terri
Walking with Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children- Burrin, Angela
The Way of the Cross: Discovery Mercy with St. Longinus- Sofie, Rev. J. Francis
Mary's Way of the Cross- Furey, Richard
The Way of the Cross- Sheen, Fulton J.
Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens- Prejean McGrady, Katie

A Missal for Toddlers- Lescoat, Ellen
I Went to Mass, What Did I See? - Warner, Katie
Fr. Ben Gets Ready for Mass- Warner, Katie
The Weight of a Mass- Nobisso, Josephine
My First Communion Bible- Groeschel, Fr. Benedict
Little Book About Confession for Children- Tierney, Kendra
Little Catechism on the Eucharist- Coggi, Fr. Roberto
Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids- Griffin, Kathryn
Stories of the Blessed Sacrament- Bay, Francine
Catechism on the Seven Sacraments: Building Blocks of Faith Series- ONeill, Kevin and Mary
The Catholic Field Guide- Chronister, Michelle
Anointed- Pope Francis

Brother Francis Books
Pauline Kids Coloring Books
Jesus Speaks to You Coloring Book

What are some of your favorite Catholic books for kids?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Choosing & Using Good Catholic Books

“Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad. When you take them up again, they enrich you all the more.” ~Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Our Catholic classrooms (whether school or parish) should be filled with good Catholic books.  But how do we find them, and how do we use them?  How do we keep kids reading as a way to both catechize them in the teachings of the Church and engage their hearts to make the faith part of their daily lives?

My first philosophy is that we should fill our classrooms and homes with Catholic books of all kinds and styles that are true, good, and beautiful.  If the books are readily available, students are more likely to pick them up and teachers are able to use them to enrich instruction. I'll have a list of my favorite Catholic books posted later this week, but in the meantime, here are some things to consider as you grow your own Catholic library:

Consider the source of the book.  Is it's information true and trustworthy? Can you teach older students to discern the quality of a Catholic book?

Does your library contain varied styles of Catholic books, both to engage students with their favorites as well as to entice them to read something new?
  • Biographies
  • Graphic novels
  • Info books
  • Devotionals
  • Journals
  • Picture books
  • Novels

Do you have books covering a variety of Catholic genres?
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Saints
  • Sacraments
  • Church History
  • Prayer
  • Liturgical Year
Does the book contain supplemental info, increasing its value as a resource?
  • Part of a series
  • Resources in back
  • Linked to a website
  • Connected to curriculum

Evaluate the illustrations:
  • True, good, & beautiful
  • Attractive to target age
  • Contribute and add to the story or content
  • Variety of photos, classic art, and illustrations

Can the book be read with more than one sense, adding to the layers of its meaning and depth?
  • Literal
  • Moral (discerning right from wrong)
  • Allegorical (symbols, mysteries, and connections to Christ, Church, the Saints, etc.)
  • Anagogic (pointing to the truth and beauty of Heaven)

Are there symbols embedded within the story or illustrations that have deeper meaning?
  • Sacraments
  • Commandments
  • Beatitudes
  • Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy

When choosing books about Saints:
  • Variety of eras and locations
  • Diverse experiences, interests, and patronages
  • Multiple styles of books (novelization, picture books, biography, graphic novels, etc.)

Are examples of virtue celebrated and vice condemned?
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love
  • Fortitude
  • Temperance
  • Justice
  • Prudence

One way to help expand a Catholic library is to remember that books don't have expiration dates.  We might look at a picture book and assume that it is only good for a young child, but its value can grow and change with older readers.  We might also see a text that is too high of a reading level for a primary student, but can find ways to use it as a valuable resource when they are young.  Here are a few ideas for how books can be used outside of their expected age ranges.

Stretch to older readers:
  • Use illustrations, write own captions 
  • Listen as a read aloud
  • Teach to a younger buddy
  • Use to intro new material
  • Tool for review

Stretch to younger readers:
  • Look at illustrations/diagrams
  • Listen as a read aloud
  • Use in chunks- just one chapter or section
  • Exploration basket or shelf
  • Use as resource book

To help you and your students think about the good Catholic books that you are reading, I created a few printables for you to use.  One page has spots for about 50 book titles (of any kind) to be written in.  The other has shelves that are labeled with six different Catholic book categories. 
Here are a few ideas for the bookshelves:
  • Have students explore classroom books and the library for good Catholic books and make a "wish list" of what they want to read this year. 
  • Write titles on the spines and then color in as they are read.
  • Keep the bookshelves glued inside the cover of a prayer journal or reading notebook for easy access.  At home, they would look great on a fridge or taped on the side of a bookshelf.
  • Challenge your students to read in different categories by using the labeled shelf page.  That way they have to read at least a few books from the six categories.  
  • Use the blank shelf to create your own categories of books to read, or change it to styles (try Catholic graphic novels, biographies, info books, etc.
  • Have a book talk or book sharing time where students use their shelves to talk with a partner or small group about books they would recommend.
  • The shelves are not meant to be a competition- if a students fills one shelf, they can simply start another page and keep on keeping track of the great books they've read.

 Click here for the Bookshelf Sheen Quote Bookmarks:
Click here for the Choosing and Using Good Catholic Books Handout:
(A checklist of the discussion points above, meant to be used by you as you are thinking about adding books to your library, conversations with your coworkers, etc.)

Click here for the Catholic Bookshelf Printables: (all four pages in one pdf)

And here are a couple of other resources to celebrate reading:

Click here for this Fulton Sheen Quote Coloring Page:

Click here for these sweet watercolor bookshelves (in two sizes) to keep track of what you and your students are reading:
Check back later this week for the list of my favorite Catholic books!