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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

April 6, 2009

Rules for Drills and Games in Religion Class

In her resource for religious education, Faith Facts for Young Catholics, Sr. Kieran Sawyer SSND offers five principles to guide the use of drills and games in the classroom. They are:

1. Everyone Pays Attention. Learning games should be structured to keep every person engaged in the learning process. Everyone should be able to see and hear the entire activity. The team that is not "up" should be learning as well as the team that is. The persons not called on should be thinking along with the one who is. If the class should become unruly or disrespectful, stop the game, review the rules, and begin again. If that fails, change to a quiet activity.

2. Every Minute Is Learning Time. Keep the mechanics of the game simple so that as much time as possible is spent in actual learning. Memorize the directions for the game in advance so that you are sure to now how to play it. Ask questions in such a way that they themselves are part of the learning process. Give clues to keep a game from bogging down when someone doesn't know the answer. Use time between rounds or games to study or review. Keep a supply of study cards and flash cards in a prominent place and encourage students to study them together before class and at breaks.

3. Everyone Is a Winner. Learning games should be planned so that every student feels that he or she is succeeding. Avoid situations that always allows the brighter students to win. Avoid choosing sides in a way that would leave the slower student to be chosen last. Pay special attention to problem students, giving them extra clues, allowing them to shuffle cards, keep score, etc. Give reading roles to better readers who will not be embarrassed by mistakes. If a game is faltering because few people seem to know the answers, stop for a few minutes of review and study time, then resume the game, or switch to one that is less challenging.

4. Everyone Works Together. While learning games need a certain amount of competition to be enjoyable, the focus should be on cooperative learning rather than competition. Build up team spirit with cheers, chants, and small rewards for the winners. Encourage teams to cheer for their teammates and for other teams. Give teams time to review together, which encourages the brighter students to help the slower students review the content. Switch teams often, trying to keep them balanced, and giving the students a chance to work with all of their classmates.

5. Everyone Has Fun. Learning games should be fun for the teacher as well as the students. Keep a positive,k upbeat attitude. Use a game or two to live up a difficult or dull lesson, or to reward the class for especially good behavior. Don't play any one game too long. Once the class has become acquainted with several of the games, allow them to choose the one they want to play. Do not allow cheating, booing, or other unsportsmanlike activities.

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