Six Ways to Involve Learners
Do the children you teach seem happy to be there? Are they enthusiastic about your lessons and activities? Do they participate? Check out this article for help.
Our work as catechists is a lot like taking a picture. To take a good one, we need the right equipment and the right setting. But ultimately we need to engage our subjects in order to get what we’re looking for.
As catechists, even with all the right equipment and preparation, our success depends on our ability to motivate and involve our children. While we do all we can, we also have to trust that God will carry out the development of these children into beautiful images of Jesus.
Learn Their Names
One of the first things to do when teaching a group is to learn the children’s names and call them by name. When you do this, you engage them at a personal level. In this way you recognize and honor the fact that each child is created in the image of God.
Interact with Them
All of us can probably think of catechists or teachers who were engaging when they talked or interacted with us. We felt captivated by them, drawn in. They had a way of holding our attention. Jesus must have been such a teacher because the Bible tells us that his crowds were spellbound and amazed at the way he taught with such authority. For some people this is a natural gift. For others, it takes work. However, we can all learn some basic skills to engage our learners by getting their attention and keeping it.
Take a Good Look at Yourself
If you can see yourselves as you really are, you are better able to grow and improve as persons. One concrete way of doing this is to make a videotape of yourself teaching. Then sit down with your DRE, CRE or a colleague and view the video. You will be able to see both your strengths and your weaknesses. While you may be self-conscious during this process, you will also be encouraged to hone your strengths and improve your teaching skills.
What to Look for
What are some of the things to look for as you watch yourself on video?
- How you move or don’t move around the room. One of the best ways to hold attention is to move around often. Stand near the children so they are forced to keep contact with you visually.
- Watch your eye movement. Look directly at those you teach.
- Listen to your voice. Are you communicating with interests and enthusiasm? Listen to your pace; see if you are speeding ahead of the learners or losing them because you are too slow. Are you speaking too loudly or too softly?
- Watch your face. Do you look bored or do you communicate joy and genuine interest in your children?
Get Attention Immediately
Engage the attention of your learners the minute they enter your meeting space. Hand them a worksheet, a puzzle, a picture to color, or something to read. Have a focus object ready, something related to the lesson, and ask them to write or draw about it.
Another effective way to gain and keep the attention of your learners is to ask good questions. Jesus regularly asked questions to engage his audience: “Who do people say that I am?” “What did you go out to the desert to see?” By using questions, he challenged individuals and whole groups of people to reflect on the deeper meaning of his teachings. Ask a variety of questions. Know how to ask the questions. Phrase them so as to avoid simple yes or no answers. Challenge the children to express more fully their understanding and beliefs.
Guidelines for Discussions
- First, always be sure you have introduced the topic well so your learners will know what they are being invited to discuss.
- Second, be aware of your pace. Don’t get bogged down in one issue for too long, and don’t get caught in a one-on-one exchange with a learner.
- Third, give feedback to your learners. Praise and reward play a big part in motivating and building self-esteem.
- Finally, bring your discussions to a clear conclusion. Remember, too, that discussion is not an end in itself. It is a tool for teaching something about our faith.
Many creative activities can engage and motivate your learners and help them grow closer to Jesus. Isn’t this, after all, our primary goal as catechists?