The following article is an expanded excerpt from chapter 5 of Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for the Heart and Mind, which will help students learn, love, and live their Catholic faith.
Think of the final step in your lesson plans as unassigned and ungraded homework. You want your students to freely choose to act differently because of an encounter with Christ, not to do something to earn a grade or even your approval.
Out of an experience of true encounter with Christ, you hope that they are compelled by the love of God to love one another as well.
For each lesson, think of some ideas for action you can suggest to the students before they go. These suggestions give you something to talk about on an ongoing basis with your students, checking in frequently to see how they are doing in living out what they have learned.
Following are a few ideas I shard in the book, Christ in the Classroom, but come up with your own suggestions tailored to the students as much as possible.
Random Acts of Kindness
I can remember my grade school hosting a Random Acts of Kindness Week. The idea was to do something kind and unplanned for someone who needed help.
The concept increases our awareness of the needs of those around us and encourages us to be kind in a spontaneous way.
You can apply this concept to your lessons. At the end of a lesson on Lent and giving alms, for example, you might suggest that the students be prepared to give money to someone in need sometime in the future. They may not have an immediate opportunity, but they can look out for their chance in the weeks of Lent.
An X-Day Challenge
Participating in a thirty-day challenge has become common among self-help advocates and health seekers. It is a good way to get motivated and make exercise or self-care a habit.
You can apply this concept to class as well:
- The challenge can last for one month, one week, or an entire liturgical season (four weeks, forty days, fifty days, etc.).
- You can attach actions to traditional devotional prayers such as novenas (nine days) or Marian consecration (thirty-three days).
- You can provide students with an Advent calendar, for example, with a single goal or different suggestions for taking action during the Advent season.
Again, the key is to make sure the actions you suggest align with your lesson. The challenge should be motivated by your students’ new understanding of the ideas you have taught them and the experience of encounter with Christ they had in class.
Prayers of Petition
While prayer may not feel very active, the intention to give oneself in love and charity can be appropriately fulfilled through prayer.
After experiencing your lesson, for whom should the students feel compelled to pray?
During one of the liturgical seasons:
- Advent: Who is looking for Christ to come into their life?
- Christmas: Who needs to experience Christ’s presence?
- Lent: Who is carrying a cross that they can share in prayer?
- Easter: Who is in need of the joy of the Resurrection?
Follow Up on Action Homework
The next time you meet with the students, follow up on the assignment you gave to them. They can journal about the experience whether they were successful or not. Help them to see why things were harder to do than they thought.
Having this accountability in the next class is a little extra motivation to get the students to actually live what they have learned.
Read more about integrating action into the classroom in Christ in the Classroom.