The ten commandments are such an important topic in Catholic religious education curricula. They have a place in almost every year’s course. This Ten Commandments activity asks students to creatively interpret and understand these great laws.
An important disclaimer: the risk of using this activity is that students lose an appreciation for the Scriptures as the Word of God. Before introducing the activity, be sure to point out that the wording of the commandments come from God’s infinite wisdom. Scripture is not something we can water down with our own words and interpretations or judge for being written in a certain way.
A Ten Commandments Group Activity
Have students work in pairs to rewrite the Ten Commandments in positive language. They should replace the “You shall not…” with a positive statement (“You shall…”). For commandments three and four, students can transform the phrasing into negative statements (“You shall not…”).
The Ten Commandments
(the traditional Catechetical formula from the Catechism):
1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’s Day.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Ten Commandments Worksheet
Shannon Cardaronella (wife of Marc Cardaronella) sent me a great worksheet that she uses for this Ten Commandments activity. With her permission, I’m sharing it here for you to use as well:
Teaching Ten Commandments Vocabulary to Kids
If you are introducing the Ten Commandments to kids for the first time there are almost always some students who will not know the meaning of words like adultery and covet. Rather than asking students to sheepishly come up with explanations for adultery, just provide them with a definition and extend it beyond just married people.
adultery — voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person andsomeone other than his or her lawful spouse.
covet — to desire wrongfully without due regard for the rights of others
To help students memorize and remember the Ten Commandments try using this word search and crossword puzzle.
Discussing the Rewritten Commandments
Most of the time the students will plug in words like “respect” and “honor” into the commandments. Sometimes they might even use the word “love.”
Be sure to point out the importance that we place on “love” over “respect” as Christians. We don’t just respect God by saying good things about him or going to Church on Sundays. We love God.
Point students to Matthew 22:36-39. Note that these two greatest commandments summarize and extend the Ten Commandments. Jesus didn’t ask us to respect and honor our neighbor, he asked us to love our neighbor!
Love, in this case, is not a romantic love but a self-giving love that always seeks what is best for the other person. The Ten Commandments are crucial to the Christian life because they teach us how to love. Christ inspires us by his life to know how to love as well.
More Ten Commandments Resources
Want to encourage your students to go even further in learning the Ten Commandments? Try using the meditations and exercises in The Religion Teacher’s Ten Commandments Worksheets.
The Religion Teacher’s Ten Commandments Worksheets are designed to encourage students not only to know the commandments, but to live them. Through exercises inspired by the process of lectio divina, students will come to recognize how to live each commandment in various ways.