Most dioceses and/or parishes require some kind of catechist training before they can teach a class each year. By providing assistance and training to all catechists before CCD starts it will prepare the catechist so they can be an effective teacher. Certified catechist should also participate in the training because no catechist can know everything and they could also benefit from new ideas and activities. The veteran catechist can also be informed of new CCD policies and rules that have been introduced as well as any other pertinent information regarding CCD.
Suggestions of what can be in the catechist training:
Guidelines for Catechists- Explain fully the guidelines for the catechist so they will know what they are supposed to do and when. This will help the catechist know what they should do for class management and how to handle certain situations and challenges with students and parents. Catechist should also know and understand what the appropriate behavior of a catechist is and how to address a variety of circumstances that, if not appropriately addressed, may create a risk of incidents, allegations, claims and/or lawsuits.
It is a good idea to have a Catechist Handbook to acquaint volunteer catechists with the policies and procedures in the Religious Formation Program. The Catechist Handbook will clearly define what the responsibilities are for the catechist and the procedures that they are to follow.
CCD Policies- Review and explain the CCD Policies that are in the Parent/Student Handbook so the catechist will know what they are and what the parent and student must follow so there will be no misunderstandings. This will allow CCD to be able to run smoothly and without any problems.
Know Your Curriculum- To ensure consistent progress and development the catechist must read, study, and learn the curriculum. A good lesson depends on how well the catechist understands the material. Providing essential information about the curriculum will help the catechists build their lessons on a strong foundation. The training should provide a concise overview of the curriculum and how to use it properly so the catechist will know what to do.
Tips For Planning and Preparing Your Lessons- Having a well planned and prepared CCD class is essential. Without this your students cannot learn to their fullest potential. A well planned and prepared lesson plan will also help to avoid possible behavior problems that could arise in your class as well. The catechist must write detailed lesson plans and include what is essential to be an effective teacher.
Select what activities you will be doing with your students. Find various activities (crafts, worksheets, games, coloring sheets, puzzles, etc.) that go with your lesson. Review the objectives of your lesson to determine if the activity is appropriate for your students. Remember that the activities must relate to the lesson. Only do crafts, games, and activities that emphasize the lesson and the objectives of what you want your students to learn. These activities make your lessons more concrete and easier for the students to understand and also a lot of fun. Keeping the students busy with relevant activities also helps eliminate discipline problems that might erupt due to the students being bored.
Adjust lesson plan to your students. Be sure to take into account that every year each group of students is different and can learn differently than previous classes. What activities worked one year might not work this year. Take into account the unique needs of your students or how they learn best to make your lesson as effective as possible. Example: If your students learn better when they are in small groups, make sure you have an activity planned for your students to break into a small group and work together.
Have alternative activities. Sometimes what you have planned for the class does not work out so have alternative activities to accomplish your objectives for the lesson.
Have extra activities. Sometimes what you have planned takes less time than expected. Be sure to have other activities to fill in if you have extra time in your lesson.
Discipline- Having a well behaved classroom is critical for proper learning. For the students to learn to their fullest potential they need an environment that is quiet, without distractions, and organized. Discipline procedures must be fully discussed as well as classroom rules. Tips and suggestions on how to keep disruptive behavior down to a minimum should also be examined.
How to Access Student Progress- Since students learn in different ways, they must be tested in different ways to find out if they have learned the information taught in class. Assessment must include a variety of methods that will enable the catechist to determine how successfully your students are learning to live out their faith in their daily lives and in communion with the Church.
Be Prepared- Make sure you have enough materials for all students. Have enough books, pencils, craft supplies, worksheets, puzzles, etc. for each student. Have a few extra for any new students or if they bring a friend to class.
Have materials and classroom ready before class. Make sure you arrive early to set up your classroom and to make sure all the materials and equipment you need are there, easy to access, and ready to go.
Report Cards/Progress Reports- They are usually based on attendance, work, behavior and attitude. They allow the parents and student to know how well he/she understands the material being taught in class. If your CCD program has report cards/progress reports this must be explain fully so the catechist will understand how and when to do them.
Absenteeism- When a catechist needs to be absent you follow the procedure for being absent that is written in the catechist handbook that you signed to verify that you understood what your responsibilities are and the rules that you must follow.
*What else could be in the catechist training? Please leave a comment and add to the list.
Books & Recordings for Catechists:
The Catechist’s Toolbox by Joe Paprocki- is an invaluable tool for catechist to use so that their students can learn to their fullest potential. The book allows the reader to dig deeper into the understanding of what makes a good catechist and what they should do.
Joe Paprocki has also provided recordings (videos on youtube.com) of The Catechist Toolbox Webinar that are quite informative. The recordings revolve around the theme of Getting Started as a Catechist. These Webinars, hosted by Joe Paprocki, will provide catechists, both those who are new and those who'd like to refresh their skills, with an introduction to the basic tools needed to effectively engage young people in faith formation. These videos are one part of a two week event. The videos are divided into chapters for easy viewing.
Part 1 Recording
Joe covers topics such as:
• Your Role as a Catechist
• Lesson Planning and Preparation
• Choosing Learning Activities
• Preparing the Learning Environment
Part 2 Recording
Joe covers topics such as:
• Leading Reflective Prayer
• Polishing Your Technique
• 10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become a More Effective Catechist
Copyright 2010 Laura Grace
About the Author
Laura Grace was a special education teacher years ago and has taught CCD for 16 years. She has been a contributor at catholicmom.com since 2006, is part of the Gospel Reflections Team, and creates lesson plans for religious education and homeschooling. In 2008 Laura started her own blog, The Catholic Toolbox where she posts activities, crafts, games, worksheets, puzzles, lesson plans, classroom tips, etc. for all ages.