A Workshop for Catechists and Religion Teachers
Session Plan (2 hours)
Theme: This workshop provides an opportunity for catechists/religion teachers to exchange with their peers creative ideas, tips, and activities that have helped them to be successful in sharing faith in the classroom.
Note: If both a parish religious education program and a Catholic school are part of the total parish catechetical effort, the “Swap and Share” workshop can serve as an opportunity to build community between the two groups. Schedule the workshop at a time when both groups can attend—in the evening or on a Saturday morning. Both Catholic school teachers and parish catechists may be able to obtain credits for certification for participating in the session. This is often an incentive for both catechists and school religion teachers to attend. Check with your diocesan office about how to arrange for participants to earn credit for this session.
Plan to schedule this workshop mid-year so that both veteran and new catechists can participate fully.
Two to three months before the workshop, complete the attached “Save the Date” flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The flyer alerts them to the specifics of the workshop and encourages them to begin preparing for it by thinking of a creative idea or tip they can share with others in areas such as arts and crafts, prayer, learning games, music, teaching doctrine, sharing Scripture, or seasonal activities.
Make a poster advertising the workshop and post it prominently in the religious education center or faculty lounge. In your weekly memos to the catechists/religion teachers, remind them of the upcoming workshop and encourage them to prepare by choosing an idea, activity, or tip for teaching religion that they want to share with others.
One month prior to the workshop, complete the attached Invitation flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The invitation gives specific information about the workshop and tells the participants how to prepare for the event. Note that the flyer instructs the staff to write out a description of their creative idea and to bring two copies of it to the workshop.
Some of the catechists/religion teachers may want to share more than one activity or tip at the workshop. In these cases, ask that the ideas they submit be in different areas of catechesis. Assure that in their eagerness to contribute they do not monopolize the session. Keep in mind that everyone on staff should have an opportunity to share ideas with the group.
Select experienced catechists/religion teachers to facilitate each of the three groupings of catechists/religion teachers (primary, intermediate, and junior high). Explain that their main role is to keep their group on task and to give all the participants in their group an opportunity to contribute ideas. Prior to the workshop, meet with the facilitators to go over the process for the session.
Arrange for two or three parent volunteers or junior high students to help throughout the workshop. They can assist in setting up the room, stocking the refreshment table, and duplicating the packet of ideas each participant will take home at the conclusion of the workshop.
If you have a very small staff, consider inviting the catechetical leader of a neighboring parish/school to join you in sponsoring the workshop. Having more participants will generate more ideas and activities for the catechists/religion teachers to share.
Use a large, open room for the workshop. Arrange the tables and chairs into three groupings: one for primary grade catechist/religion teachers (K-grade 3); one for intermediate grade catechists/religion teachers (grades 4-6); and a third for junior high catechists/religion teachers (grades 7-8).
Create an attractive prayer area at the front of the room using colors and objects that reflect the appropriate season of the Church year.
Set aside an area for refreshments. Plan to serve food and beverages suitable to the time of day/evening when the workshop is being held.
Create an “Idea Wall” in the workshop area. Prepare three signs: Primary, Intermediate, and Junior High. Tape the signs on a long blank wall before the workshop begins. Leave enough space between each sign to tape the participants’ written instructions/descriptions for the activities and tips they bring to the workshop. During the workshop, direct your volunteers to photocopy the pages so that each participant will receive a packet for their level (primary, intermediate, and junior high) at the conclusion of the session.
• tables and chairs
• masking tape
• a Bible
• a cassette or DVD of instrumental background music
• a DVD or tape player
• a copy of the Closing Prayer for each participant
• a large, lighted candle, placed on the prayer table
• small individual candles for each participant, placed on the prayer
Part 1 (10 minutes)
• Greet the catechist/religion teachers as they arrive. Have them sign in and make nametags for themselves.
• Begin on time. Direct the participants to be seated in their grade level area (primary, intermediate or junior high). If you have a large staff, you will want to have several tables to accommodate each level.
• Welcome all participants and thank them for attending. Ask if they are all ready to get “fired up” with new tips and activities to energize their classes. Express your hope that the workshop will be an opportunity for creative sharing and community building.
• Pray. Remind the group that the Holy Spirit has long been the inspiration of the Church. The Bible was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guided the first Apostles and the first Christians in sharing the Good News and spreading the Gospel throughout the world. Today, the Holy Spirit guides us as we explain the teachings of the Catholic Church and help our students to celebrate their faith and live it in their daily lives. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit as they listen and learn from one another’s ideas during the workshop. Together, pray aloud the Prayer to the Holy Spirit (found in the Catholic Prayers and Practices section of the Faith First Legacy Catechist/Teacher Guide). If the participants do not know this prayer by heart, pray it as an echo prayer, reciting one phrase at a time and inviting the group to repeat each phrase.
Part 2 (45 minutes)
• Explain the Process. Begin by explaining that all participants will leave with a packet of one another’s ideas to take home. Collect the extra copy of instructions or descriptions of the activity, tip, or project the participants have brought with them. Have your volunteers post these in the appropriate area on the Idea Wall as the groups begin sharing their ideas.
• Group Sharing. Have the facilitators invite volunteers to begin to share their ideas with the group. If the group is initially reluctant to share, facilitators can offer the first idea to get the ball rolling. After each activity or tip is offered, facilitators can stimulate discussion by making positive comments about it and inviting group members to do the same or by offering suggestions for adapting the ideas and tips for different grade levels. The facilitators should make every effort to give each participant an opportunity to contribute. Samples of completed arts and crafts projects can be displayed on the grade level tables for participants to examine during the break.
• Play a DVD or tape of instrumental music as background during the group sharing.
• Watch the clock. After approximately forty-five minutes, invite the participants to break for refreshments, to mingle, and to peruse the ideas posted on the Idea Wall. Before the break, assure those who have not yet shared that they will have the opportunity to do so after refreshments.
Break (15 minutes)
Part 3 (45 minutes)
• Ask the participants to return to their grade level groups to continue sharing their activities and tips. Allow 30 minutes for each group to finish up. While the groups are sharing, have volunteers duplicate the participant’s written idea sheets and create a packet for each catechist/religion teacher to take home.
• Call the entire group back together. Invite a few of the participants to share briefly with the large group an idea they heard that they are eager to try with their class. Point out the creativity and energy to share our faith that you have observed throughout the session.
• Conclude by praying together the closing prayer service (attached). As the participants depart, have them collect their idea packets. Thank everyone for participating. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to continue to share their successful tips, ideas, and activities with one another throughout the year.