Preparation is a key to effective teaching. Lesson planning can be so much more than creating a list of activities for students to do. Take a look at the following questions and consider them a process by which you can lesson plan each week.
Ask yourself the following questions when you create your lesson plans:
- What do I want students to learn?
- How will students show me what they have learned? (How will I know if they have learned what I have taught?)
- How will I get them there?
1. What do I want students to learn?
In my first year of teaching, I was told “just teach the book.” This can be a good starting point, especially if you are new to teaching or catechesis, but do not limit yourself to teaching the only the book. It is one teaching tool among many others. However, without following the textbook how will you know what to teach? Many dioceses and schools have followed the public school system by turning to standards. Many high School theology departments have recently looked to the USCCB’s High School Religion Curriculum Framework as a new guide for the development of curricula. Some schools and parish religious education programs have turned to the NCEA’s Assessment of Catechesis/Religious Education (ACRE) to guide and assess their instruction. Many dioceses have developed their own standards for religious instruction, which can be very helpful for teachers (See the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Office of Catechesis, Diocese of Pittsburgh Secretariat for Education, the Diocese of Erie, and the Diocese of Harrisburg for examples). Whether your DRE, department chair, or principal asks you to teach the book or teach the standards, be sure you are challenging students to learn about topics that are meaningful, important, and applicable to their faith. Also be careful not to teach something they won’t understand without prior knowledge.
2. How will students show me what they have learned?
Once you’ve chosen a topic for your lesson, you will need to establish what you want your students to do with what they are learning. In other words you will need to develop a lesson objective or goal for your students to reach by the end of the lesson. The emphasis is not on what you will teach on a particular day, but on what your students will learn. This requires some sort of assessment of their progress toward the lesson objective/goal. This doesn’t mean that you need to give pop-quizzes and tests every day and every week, but you will need something in place to check on whether or not the students are learning. Keep in mind that teaching religion and catechesis is different from any other subject because you will want to teach skills that extend beyond the cognitive (learning) domain to the affective (emotional-relational), spiritual, and moral domains.
For more information visit:
Creating Lesson Objectives
Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Create Lesson Objectives, and
How to Assess with No Test (Formative Assessments)
3. How will I get them there?
Here is where that list of activities comes in. Make sure that everything you plan for students in a particular lesson is leading them toward accomplishing the lesson objective(s). It is ok to answer questions that get off topic, but make sure you are always keeping your lesson objective/goal in mind. Try to find the balance between “teachable moments” and staying on task. Also, be careful not to let students intentionally distract (or antagonize) you. Do not lecture too much. Direct instruction can be effective, but you must use a variety of learning activities to keep students engaged. Keep in mind that experienced teachers are able to adapt their lessons as they go along so that if some activities are not going well, they have students learn in another way to get them to accomplish the goals for the lesson. One way to make sure you are using a variety of activities is to teach to different learning styles. And finally, be sure to include prayer and other opportunities for your students to experience what they are learning on a personal level. To effectively teach the faith, you must have students experience the faith.