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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

Posts for Activities

Word Clues

January 28, 2019

Scripture Spiral: After Easter Exercise

April 10, 2017

Here’s an activity for your students when they return to school after Easter.

Reflections on Christian Patriotism

February 03, 2017

Ask students to say aloud words or phrases that come immediately to them when you say the word “patriotism.” List the words on the board.

Distribute a handout with the following quotations and questions.  Read the first quotation and have the students write their reflections on the questions that follow. Repeat the format for sections 2 and 3.

Finally, ask the students to answer in writing the two “Final Items.” To conclude, ask the students to share their reflections either in small groups or with the whole class.

Thinking about the Beatitudes

September 19, 2016

For any lesson you are doing on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11), you may wish to combine this discussion activity that helps students think about how the Beatitudes apply to their own lives.

Understanding Facets of “White Privilege”

July 08, 2016

Conduct a discussion as a way to allow white students in your class to be aware of some preferential treatments they experience because they are white. Likewise, allow students of color to discuss their perspectives of some of these experiences.

End-of-the-Year Review

June 02, 2016

While the following “50 Questions” are part of the Send Out Your Spirit high-school Confirmation program, they serve well as a general review for students enrolled in just about any Catholic high school theology course.

Opening Week Lesson

August 17, 2015

This lesson—created by Sr. Kieran Sawyer, SSND—or an adaptation of it serves well for a first week introduction to your class

Memory Game: Names, Titles, and Symbols of the Holy Spirit

April 24, 2015

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly outlines how the Holy Spirit is represented in names, titles, and symbols:

God, Faith, Religion on Social Media

April 14, 2015

Lead a discussion or assign the following items for your students to work on individually or in small groups on the topic of how social media is used and can be used more effectively to evangelize and inspire others around the Gospel message.

Getting to Know New Students & New Names

August 11, 2014

Remembering and using someone's name is a simple gesture that goes a long way. How, then, can we learn students names quickly and correctly?

Working with Bible Study Aids

July 14, 2014

Your school may be embarking on Elective Course A, Sacred Scripture, of the USCCB Doctrinal Framework. Even if you are not, Scripture study plays prominently in each of your school's required and elective courses. Correspondingly, making sure students are familiar with Bible study aids (e.g., Bible dictionaries, one-volume Bible commentaries, and Bible concordances) is an essential prerequisite for this task. Use the following exercise to introduces students to these tools.

Bike Rally/Movie Event for Summer Fun

June 16, 2014

If you have occasion to work with teens in the summer through a parish-sponsored Youth Ministry program, here's an idea that works well with both younger and older adolescents.

Advent Ideas for your Classroom

December 02, 2013

Ave Maria Press editorial assistant Barbara Brutt reminds teachers of some traditional Advent ideas appropriate for classroom additions and students of all ages.

What Is in a Name?

May 13, 2013

What is in a name? We all know that first names are meaningful and that parents choose them carefully. It is interesting to note how many parents choose biblical names or saints’ names whether they choose them for that reason or not.

Preparing Junior High Students for High School

April 08, 2013

Invite at least three or four high school students to form a panel and share with younger teens—either at a parish religious education class, at a Catholic elementary school, or as part of a visit of eighth grade students to your school—some basic information on what to expect when they go to high school.

The Institution of the Eucharist

March 25, 2013

Read the words of the institution of the Eucharist from Luke 22:14-20. Take some time to explain more about some of the key words in the passage.

Teaching with Pope Benedict XVI's Message for Lent 2013

February 19, 2013

Before announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI released his message for Lent 2013: "Believing in charity calls forth charity." Each year, the Holy Father shares some thoughts to focus the Church on certain virtues and practices during Lent. This year, in honor of the Year of Faith, the he invites us all to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity. 

Using Different Colored Highlights to Increase Reading Comprehension

January 16, 2013

One of the important advantages of eBooks for education is that highlights don't have to be final. When you highlight a book with colored ink, the highlight is there forever. It is a static experience. You highlight, then you review. You can't change it.

The highlighting experience for eBooks and eTextbooks can be a much more engaging experience. One of our responsibilities as teachers is to use the tools to effectively teach students how to be better independent learners. The highlighting feature, when it allows you to have multiple colors, can be used in exciting new ways.

Catechism Scavenger Hunt

August 22, 2012

One of the main goals of the Catholic Year of Faith is to promote awareness and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on its twentieth anniversary of publication. Reading and using the Catechism can be a challenge even for adults. Use this Catechism scavenger hunt as a class activity to help familiarize your high school students with the layout and format of the text.

Honoring Mary in the Month of May

May 01, 2012

Your students likely know that May is the month of Mary.

Do they also know that Mary also has her own day dedicated to her in each and every week throughout the year? The tradition of honoring Mary on Saturdays goes back to the very first Holy Saturday, the day that Jesus lay in the tomb.

Teaching with the Kony 2012 Video in Schools

March 19, 2012

Odds are good that your high school students have already seen the Kony 2012 video. It went viral in the first week of March being viewed roughly 80 million times in only five days. In fact it is now considered to be the most viral video in history defeating the likes of Susan Boyle, Lada Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus.

Activities to Help Students Prepare for Lent

February 01, 2012

The season of Lent always come so fast! Before we can really get the Christmas season out of our minds, it's time to begin our Lenten fasts.

We're probably all a little guilty of waiting to the last minute to declare our Lenten commitments for the year. Prepare your students for Ash Wednesday by getting them to think about their Lenten commitments ahead of time.

Assigning Oral Histories to Your Students

January 03, 2012

Julia Letts, a former BBC reporter and producer, has facilitated many oral history projects with students. In addition to the value of the information gained from the interviews themselves, she has seen oral history projects create rapport between generations, teach various skills, form friendships, and promote goodwill. Oral history need not be technical but rather involves creating an opportunity for students to speak with people from different generations.

Introducing a Course with a Plot Structure Diagram

August 29, 2011

During an introduction of the topic of Salvation History, review the plot structure diagram with students. Connect this story diagram with salvation history. Invite students to fill in as much as they know of the story of salvation history.

Nine Textbook Reading Strategies That Will Engage Your Students

July 12, 2011

If you use one of the Ave Maria Press Teacher Wraparaound Editions, you'll notice that most of the time we suggest that teachers assign reading for class as homework to free up valuable class time. The problem, as most teachers know, is that it is a challenge to get the kids to actually do the reading. This list of reading strategies should go a long way in helping students read and comprehend their textbooks. The strategies should give students concrete ways in which they can engage with the textbook.

3 New Classroom Icebreakers

January 07, 2011

Three New Classroom Icebreakers. Icebreaker for Lesson on Discipleship, Icebreaker for Lesson on the Trinity, Icebreaker for Lesson on Communion of Saints

Social Justice Lessons and the 7th Commandment

November 12, 2010

“Thou shall not steal” is an important commandment that has broad implications in both one’s personal life as well as society at large.

Old Testament Timeline Activities

October 28, 2010

There are many events in the Old Testament for students to keep track of in a course on Scripture. Consider using the following activity suggestions for creating timelines and the websites that might provide helpful information.

Teaching the Rosary to High School Students

October 07, 2010

As the Month of the Rosary, October is an excellent month to catechize teenagers with the Rosary.

Blessed John Henry Newman Lesson Plan

September 20, 2010

On Sunday September 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, Catholic convert and exceptional apologist.

10 Challenges for the Church of the Twenty-First Century

September 17, 2010

How can you help teens have handle on some of the large issues facing the Church today while also considering ways to participate in some solutions for change? Share with them these 10 Challenges for the Church of the Twenty-First Century.

Beginning of the School Year Sentence Starters

July 28, 2010

Listed below are some sentence starters (from Time Out: Resources for Teen Retreats by Kieran Sawyer, SSND) for the start of a school year.

Encountering God: A Demonstration

June 28, 2010

Listed below is a short demonstration to help teens understand more about how they can encounter or meet God in their lives.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 23, 2010

John the Baptist is connected with the prophets of the Old Testament while at the same time he acts as a model for the new Kingdom of God.

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

June 10, 2010

The following lesson is an adaptation of an activity that appears in Our Catholic Faith, a textbook for Introduction to Catholicism courses.

A PowerPoint Alternative: Prezi

May 27, 2010

Prezi ( is a creative alternative to your typical run-of-the-mill slideshow presentation.

Use Wordle to Spice-Up Your Theology Lesson Plans

May 18, 2010

Wordle is a fun web tools that allows you to create “word clouds” from texts that you create or cut and paste into the system.

Teaching Theology with Technology Webinar Follow-up

May 12, 2010

In a Webinar presented in May 2010, Ave Maria Press’s Adolescent Catechetical Specialist, Jared Dees, offers numerous examples of ways theology teachers can implement technology into their religious instruction.

Feast of St. Catherine of Siena Prayers and Activity

April 23, 2010

April 29th is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church.

Teaching about the Book of Revelation in Catholic Schools

April 16, 2010

Here are some tips and activities for teaching about the Book of Revelation and its symbols and meaning.

Easter/Resurrection Lesson Plan: Compare and Contrast the Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection

April 01, 2010

What can we know about Jesus’ resurrection based on the Gospel similarities and differences?

The Health Care Reform Law and Catholic Social Teaching

March 23, 2010

Below are some suggestions for teaching about the new Health Care Law in the context of Catholic Social Teaching.

Catholic Colleges in March Madness 2010!

March 15, 2010

Enjoy the time of March Madness with your students but also allow some opportunities to talk about the benefits of attending a Catholic college as well as some of the interesting facts and stories surrounding higher Catholic education in the United States and the religious communities that have founded these schools.

3 Classic Icebreaker Games

March 12, 2010

These activities will be nice reminders for most of you veteran teachers and youth ministers, but they are tried and true.

The Signs in the Gospel of John Activity

March 08, 2010

Unlike the other evangelists, John focused on seven of Jesus' miracles, which he calls "signs."

Catholic Just War Theory Lesson Plan

February 25, 2010

Based on the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church has set forth the following criteria for a “just war.”

Old Testament Battles and Warriors Project

February 18, 2010

One way to grab the students' attention in a course on the Scriptures is to highlight the warrior-heroes and battles of the Old Testament.

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes Lesson Plan Ideas

February 04, 2010

February 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes who appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in on February 11, 1858 in Lourdes, France.

Lesson Plan: Development of the New Testament Canon

January 29, 2010

This lesson plan is useful for anyone teaching a course on the Introduction to the New Testament.

Youth March for Life - Live News Coverage

January 22, 2010

News coverage of the March for Life rally in Washington DC.

Responding to the Haitian Earthquake in Your Theology Class

January 13, 2010

Listed below are some opportunities for you and your students to get involved in the relief efforts in Haiti.

Thinking about God

August 07, 2009

No matter the subject of your theology course, a good place to begin is to remind your students of the natural and insatiable human desire for God.

Making New Friends

July 13, 2009

As teens begin a new school year, there will be many opportunities, some of them wasted, for making new friends.

Sentence Starters

June 10, 2009

Call on a student to draw a card and share his or her response to the number of sentence that was drawn.

Holy Trinity Activity

June 01, 2009

Read each of the following quotes about the Blessed Trinity. Then write at least two of our own quotations that describe the Trinity.

People Bingo/Awards Banquet

May 26, 2009

As you approach the end of the school year, here is a fun and rewarding class session to engage your students in.

Rules for Drills and Games in Religion Class

April 06, 2009

Sr. Kieran Sawyer SSND offers five principles to guide the use of drills and games in the classroom.

Catholic College Bracketology

March 16, 2009

Here's an annual breakdown of the NCAA men's basketball tournament with a focus on Catholic colleges that have been selected.

Scripture Team Charades

March 01, 2009

This engaging warm up activity from Time Out: Resources for Teen Retreats by Sr. Kieran Sawyer works well as a fun break in any Scripture course.

Warm Up Lesson: Threeees!

December 11, 2008

A lesson plan from the exchange that took place at the Fourth Annual Teacher Enrichment Day.

Pay and Play Olympics

August 13, 2008

In the Olympic spirit and with the knowledge that school and parish programming is upon us, consider this outdoor icebreaker as a way to bring a class or group together, raise money, and have some fun.

Catholic Colleges in March Madness: Part 2

March 18, 2008

Here's a re-do of a post we published last year during the all-encompassing NCAA Basketball tournament.

Our Ancestors of Faith

March 11, 2008

Consider this activity to help the students recall their own Baptism and their own faith ancestors.

Three Scripture Activities

February 19, 2008

Listed below are three short New Testament Scripture activities that can enrich Scripture or faith synthesis courses.

Freedom Simulation Lesson Plan

February 15, 2008

As Catholic Christians we are called to choose the most loving thing in a given situation.

Gift Giving

December 19, 2007

Teenagers should begin to realize that they have more responsibility for making the Christmas spirit come alive.

The Bible Lab

December 07, 2007

Here’s a sample of Dr. Smith Christopher’s favorite Bible Lab sample with a link to two more lessons.

More Chances to Write and Win!

September 13, 2007

My students who took the opportunity to do something a bit different by entering writing contests enjoyed the challenge and the chance to express themselves to a larger audience.

Book Ideas for Summer Reading

June 19, 2007

With most schools now closing for the summer, the lives of many teachers move in a different direction. For many, it's time to sloooooow down a bit!
Once you've had your vegging "fix," you might want to catch up on some reading—for recreation and spiritual renewal. It's a great part of many teachers' summer routine. It's relaxing; it's rewarding; it's recharging.

As the Year Came to a Close

June 08, 2007

As the school year wound down, the students began to get a handle on all the year’s material and prepare for final exams. There was a lot of nervousness and worry. It was certainly a year of fun times and laughter, but also one of hard work and stress. The end of the year is a time when they look back and try to review what they have learned. So one day, as they flip back through pages of notes and seek to piece things together, I asked them to stop and reflect. I asked them to reflect on a topic which we have talked about many times: happiness. I asked to answer this question “What do you feel is the key to happiness?”

One in Four Read Diocesan Newspapers

May 06, 2007

An item in this month’s issue of St. Anthony Messenger reports that, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research (CARA), only a quarter of American Catholics have read their diocesan newspaper at least once in the past six months! And almost a quarter reported that they had read one or more national Catholic publications during that time.

Religion Lessons and March Madness

March 14, 2007

Once again the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is upon us.

Random Acts of Kindness

December 05, 2006

Religious educators and catechists are always looking for good ideas on how their students might translate faith into action. Christmas is an especially good time to remind us of why and how to love

A Letter of Thanks: Thanksgiving Activity

November 20, 2006

I tried this as a prayer exercise in all of my classes the day before Thanksgiving vacation.

Ready to Retreat?

November 15, 2006

There's no shortage of retreats for students, but how often have you heard of a retreat for teachers? This article discusses options for teacher-friendly retreats that can offer a "rehab for the soul."

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