This is a guest post by my wife, Jennifer Dees, who currently works for the Alliance for Catholic Education. Jen taught fourth grade in Nashville for four years and since then has helped out with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our parish.
Like every good parent, when my kids jump into the car after a morning at daycare, I ask the question, “What did you do today?” The response is almost always the same, either silence or a simple, “Nothing.”
Although I’m discouraged I don’t give up. I follow my original attempt with a series of more pointed questions: “Did you read a story today? Did you play with so-and-so today? Did you sing a song today?” Sometimes these spark some conversations, but most of the time all of these followup questions are answered by, “No. No. No.”
At this point I usually give up and turn on the Veggie Tales CD. Even my twenty-one month old has already learned that this is the format for the post-school conversation and just demands the music as soon as she gets in the car. She doesn’t have time for the formalities.
Getting Kids to Talk to Their Parents about Learning
As a parent and former teacher, this exchange always frustrates me, but the other day a heard a great idea on the Today Show for helping parents and children overcome this seemingly unavoidable dead end in conversations. The solution: the “Ask Me About” sheet.
An “Ask Me About” Handout is a simple way for teachers and catechists to inform parents of what is going on in their classrooms, for kids to demonstrate what they have learned, and to spark some meaningful conversation during those often silent car rides.
The idea is simple; after each class give students an “Ask Me About” sheet to give to their parents when they jump in the car. Or if you teach older students, have students give the sheets to their parents when they get home or email it directly to them yourself. Give your parents fair warning ahead of time to expect these handouts. You might even ask them to sign it and hand it back into you the next time you meet.
This sheet can include terms and topics covered in class, as well as topics that will be covered next time. The questions are less about being right or wrong, and more about jogging students’ memory.
Sample Ask Me About Printables
You should be able to make your own Ask Me About sheets very easily. Below you can find two simple sheets based on some lesson plans here at The Religion Teacher.
- what purple has to do with Advent.
- what an Advent wreath looks like.
- what my favorite part of the Nativity scene is. (Share yours with me.)
- why the Church celebrates a time of preparation before Christmas.
- what I’m giving up for Lent this year.
- what I think will be hard about giving that up.
- why we wear ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday.
- what ashes meant in the Old Testament.
These sheets are a great way to review what was taught in class, empower parents as the primary educators of their children, and strengthen the connection between catechesis and the home. You will also find that when you create these sheets yourself, you’ll be challenged to find the top three or four most important lessons of the day. If your objectives didn’t already help you clarify what was most important, these few summary points will definitely help. You can also have the students create their own Ask Me About sheets. This way you can get an idea of what they remember the best (great for formative assessment) and you can make sure they have an awareness of day’s lesson objectives.