One of my favorite films to watch with our sons is The Endless Summer. This is a fun film about some California surfers who live the dream of traveling around the world in search of the perfect wave. They go from beach to beach, island to island, ocean to ocean and continent to continent, including places where there is supposed to be no surfing, but they find surfing. Time and again, when they arrive and explain to the locals what they are doing, someone says, “You guys really missed it. You should have been here yesterday!” or “You should have been here last week!” The locals describe the perfect wave that was there earlier.
I got that feeling today when I saw a paper delivered by Pastor Rolf D. Preus at Conference XVII of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, July 11-13, 2017. The conference theme was “Classical Lutheran Education: A Pedagogy of Truth.” Pastor Preus titled his paper “Raising our Children in Truth.” Man, I should have been there. That was the perfect wave.
So LutheranCatechism.com presents it here for all of you surfers who should have been there too. To access this paper in PDF format, click here.
Facebook group member Leif Halvorson uploaded to the files area of the group the Green Light pre-confirmation curriculum that he and his wife, Kim Halvorson, developed for their congregation. The curriculum now has been uploaded to this site also, and you can access it here.
Leif and Kim both are certified teaches and it is obvious that they brought their knowledge of elementary education to the task of creating this curriculum.
LutheranCatechism.com invited Leif and Kim to provide our readers with an explanation of how they use this curriculum. By putting the following explanation together with the curriculum download, you’ll have a ready-made plan to prepare elementary children for confirmation instruction.
This is a little background on why we created the Green Light program, and notes on how we use it at our church as a Wednesday Night grade school curriculum.
The Green Light program for our church was born out of the desire for a Wednesday Night program for the elementary children of our congregation, a lack of teachers, and the realization that the confirmation age kids were coming into confirmation as 6th graders with remedial knowledge of our church beliefs. Our church elders requested a program for our elementary age kids and as the Sunday School Superintendent; I wanted to make sure the teaching was solid.
At the same time, while talking to the Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor, it became clear that our confirmation students were coming to confirmation with virtually no knowledge of the catechism or even basic Bible knowledge.
Leif and I were tasked with putting something together. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and combining good resources seemed like the best way to go, so Pre-Confirmation was born out of existing CPH materials.
After compiling our plan, it was suggested that the name “Pre-Confirmation” sounded a little boring. I didn’t want to come up with a meaningless name, so I searched for synonyms of “confirmation” and found the phrase “green light” as in, go ahead. We ran with it and created green pennants out of felt to collect the pins each student earned, and larger versions of each pin out of felt for reference. We also picked up large format Small Catechism posters from CPH to adorn the room.
The Green Light program was put together as a Wednesday Night Church program for elementary students. The program is designed as a type of confirmation preparation course using My First Catechism and the study materials that go with it, as well as the The Story Bible for the core curriculum.
The curriculum was split up into a 3 year plan to fit with our Wednesday Night church schedule. It is designed to have coordinating memory work for grades 1-5, with Confirmation beginning in 6th grade. Any student starting in 1st grade would have to repeat two years at the end and would have harder memory work as they got older, building on what was taught before.
Each student has a study guide binder. Each binder has a title page with the student’s name and the first page inside is the Student Schedule for the year we are on. We use this to have the teacher initial each completed study guide page and keep track of the progress.
In order to get all the lessons in the three year rotation, we had to pull the sections out of order. To help with this, we took the My First Catechism Activity Book to the local print shop to have the binding removed and all the pages three-hole punched. The books were then reassembled into a binder in the order of the curriculum. I then inserted the Earned Pin Pages to the end of each section in the binder, and split up the years with construction paper. The kids can keep a single binder through the entire program. Each student also has a My First Catechism book that stays at the church to follow along. Our intent is to let each student keep the book when they move on to Confirmation.
We begin each class by reciting/reading Luther’s Evening Prayer. This is usually followed by singing a hymn. We usually pick one from My First Hymnal, because they are shortened for the children and have accompaniment CDs. We usually choose one specific hymn for several weeks and like to coordinate the hymn to the church season.
After we sing the hymn, we take attendance with stickers and a chart I create for the church with our specific Wednesday schedule.
Attendance is followed by our motto, “God’s Word Does Stuff.” We have the kids say it several different ways (shout, whisper, like a monster, …) to make it more fun. As Lutherans, we want our kids to understand the power of God’s Word and to cling to His promises. God spoke the universe into existence because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Genesis 1). We believe that God’s Word creates faith because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Romans 10:17). We believe that God saves us in the waters of baptism and we can cling to His work baptism for assurance because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (1 Peter 3:21) We believe that through communion God works forgiveness of sins because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that in Confession, whether public or private, God works forgiveness of sins because “God’s Word Does Stuff” (1 John 1:9). The motto is so simplistic yet speaks volumes.
After the motto, we practice the memory work that the kids are working on or test them on the memory work that is due for the day. We give more than one week to memorize most of the memory work. Then, we move to the Bible story of the day. All the Bible story page numbers listed are from The Story Bible, listed in the resources section. All the Bible stories were chosen to coordinate with the catechism lesson. In some instances, no Bible story from the book was appropriate, so we inserted the coordinating Bible verses or left it blank.
When reading from The Story Bible, I like to read the vocabulary words listed at the beginning and have the kids listen for them while I read and end with the “Ask” and “Pray” sections.
Next, we read the catechism lesson to the class and complete the workbook pages. In our current configuration, half of our class is lower elementary (just beginning to read) and half of our class is in 3-4th grades, so at this point we have the older kids go into another room to complete the workbook page and check it when they are done. The younger kids stay in the room and we complete the workbook page together adjusting to their learning levels.
If we have any time left, we close in prayer, clean up the room, and let the kids play. The Sing the Faith CD from CPH would be a great way to help the kids with the memory work. We use it at home and our kids love it.
As a final note: Ideally, this program curriculum is designed for grades 3-5, but we have had great success with a slightly modified version with children as young as 4. Our major change has been to go through the Activity Book pages orally. When we started this in 2014, three of our five students were ages 4-5 and couldn’t read. I have been constantly amazed at what they pick up and remember through this by just working a little more one on one. The Activity Book has worked very well for our older students ages 7-9 on a more independent level.
In various places in Deuteronomy, parents are commanded to carefully instruct their children. For example, Deut. 6:7 tells us: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (ESV).
Does this mean that we become single-minded school masters, incessantly drilling our children on the 6 chief parts, their meanings, and the supporting scriptures? Surely not. This verse indicates, rather, that these words of God are to be so central to our daily lives that they fit naturally into any part of the day. Not only will we have intentional, direct instruction (“[teaching] them diligently”), but we will also have occasion to consider them as we sit together at the table or around the living room. We will consider them as we drive in our cars, heading to and fro, taking care of the normal business of life. Morning, noon, evening, and night, these most important and holy things are to play a central part of our family conversations.
Teachers call this taking advantage of teachable moments. Although we plan our lessons as carefully and thoroughly as possible, and although we try to time these lessons optimally for students, sometimes a lesson is just not learned completely in that allotted time. For whatever reason, the pupil was not ready or did not fully grasp it. So, we wait and watch for opportunities to revisit a skill or concept. When the student is ready, we are primed to take advantage of that moment to teach and re-teach as the opportunity naturally arises.
As part of a formal, stand-alone lesson, we might teach our children that the Fifth Petition is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We teach them these words and what they mean so that they may recite them back to us when asked. But, then we also watch for teachable moments in which we can see this forgiveness in action and experience it in deed as well as in word. James is upset with his younger brother for breaking a favorite toy. Perhaps this was done on accident. Perhaps it was even done maliciously. In this moment, we can easily return to this petition. “James, your brother has broken your toy. You have every right to be hurt and upset. What did we learn from Jesus about how we treat each other when we are wronged? Do you remember how we were taught to pray? Let’s talk about what it means to be sinned against and still forgive freely … to readily do good even to those who sin against us.” To the younger child, this moment is teachable in multiple ways. What does the 7th commandment have to say to us about negligent treatment of others’ property? What do we learn about making confession and seeking absolution when we do wrong? What do we learn about baptism, a daily life of repentance, and putting to death that Old Adam against which we constantly struggle?
This kind of catechesis – the “as you walk along the way” catechesis – is just as vital as regular, formal instruction. What teachable moments have you recently had in your family? This week, we would love to hear from you about your along-the-way catechesis.
Thanks to Haleigh Morgan, administrator of the Facebook group, Catechumens for Life, for this Guest Post. By request, she shares with us this wonderful way of learning the Catechism, using lapbooks. After explaining lapbooks and how they can be used to teach the Small Catechism, we are treated to a photo gallery of some Catechism lapbooks.
Luther’s Small Catechism is a great treasure of the Church, without doubt. It is an invaluable inheritance to all Christians and to all Lutherans in particular. As soon as our children are able to receive it, we pass this inheritance on to them as well. While the catechism is beautifully written in a simple way that even the youngest can grasp, and while we can (and should) teach directly from the Small Catechism, we often look for ways to engage, enrich, and expand upon the basic text. We want ways to help our children engage with the text and its teaching so that it becomes important to them. We want to expand in ever-widening circles and wade more deeply as the child’s understanding and maturity grows. For elementary-aged children, catechism lapbooks may help in this process.
For those who are unfamiliar, a lapbook is a file folder filled with mini-books or other kinds of summaries, developed around one central theme or topic. Each mini-book retells something about the central theme. Many times, the mini-books are shaped or decorated to related thematically to the central topic of the whole folder or to the content of the mini-book. For example, our mini-book for the 7th petition was a life-preserver to help us quickly remember that in this petition we ask our Father to protect and deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor. Inside this preserver mini-book we summarized just that.
Parents or teachers can assist students by providing templates for these mini-books. But, any aspect of the lapbook creation that the child can do, (s)he should do. This type of effort is much more effective for moving the information from the outside to the inside – from the ears, eyes, and hands to the mind and heart.
Children often love these little lapbooks and may ask to read them with you more than once. This is a great way to reinforce learning. Lapbooks make a helpful narration tool as well. For example, after we made and studied our Creed lapbook, I asked my son to “tell me all about it.” He walked me slowly through each mini-book he had made. He read each article of the creed, used his mini-books to remind me what each meant, and pointed out the other notable tidbits he added. One such example of an idea not included in a mini-book was the fact that the explanations use the words “daily and richly” in both the explanation to the 1st and the 3rd articles and how much he liked the fact that God provides “richly and daily” both our 1st article gifts and our 3rd article gifts.
To be sure, methods and programs and elaborate activities are not necessary to teach the catechism. This is one of my great comforts. I have enough to worry about without creating curriculum from scratch where there is no need. But, if you also find you have a need to add appeal to younger children and show that learning the catechism can be engaging and even entertaining, lapbooking may be a worthwhile tool to add to your toolbox.
This is another encouraging video of home catechization provided to us by our Facebook group member, Melissa Sutton.
In this video, we see that young children can learn to memorize the Catechism. A very young boy recites the Third Article and its meaning. He and his older sister recite the Introduction of the Lord’s Prayer, its meaning, and the Second Petition.
All young children need prompts when learning to recite the Catechism from memory. It is interesting in this video how mom uses both verbal and sign prompts.
Melissa is taking advantage of a pedagogical truth that was expressed by G. H. Gerberding in these words:
The child must be instructed. Begin early. Let it learn to pray as soon as it can speak. … We quote again from Luthardt: ‘Let it not be objected that the child cannot understand the prayer. The way of education is by practice to understanding, not by understanding to practice.
H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, pp. 49-50 (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887).
Even quite young children have some understanding of the words when they first begin to memorize them. After they have the words well fixed in their minds by repeated practice, more and more meaning comes to them.
The description of this product at the CPH.org website is not hype. It’s no brag, just fact.
How can that be? Because of an old, tried, and true principle of pedagogy (the knowledge or study of how people learn). “Words paired with music are more easily learned and remembered.” That’s what CPH says, and it’s true.
With Sing the Faith, the words of the Small Catechism are set to original tunes in order to teach and aid memory of these important words.
Each of the 67 upbeat songs covers a portion of the Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, the Office of the Keys, the Lord’s Supper, and prayers.
Sing at home, in the car, at school or at Sunday School. Sing here, there, and everywhere.
But enough with the sales pitch, even though, as I said, it’s no brag, just fact. Here are user comments from Amazon, that track with what my family has experienced.
My son struggles so much with memory work! This has helped TREMENDOUSLY! The elders enjoy him singing these songs to them! 🙂
This is that best teaching tool for the catechism for all ages and the music actually sounds good and is catchy worth a purchase and great for car rides with young children.
I like it, it works for me. We are trying to teach our daughter the Small Catechism and this seems like it will work. She likes the tunes. I hear there is also an accompaniment book that goes along with it. Might not be necessary, but if you are teaching the tunes, it could help.
Every point has its own song. Each commandment has its own verse and song. It’s cheap, get it and try it.
Want to memorize something lengthy and detailed? Put it to music and sing it. Better yet, before you know it, your 6 year old child is learning the catechism by heart, because as the ancients knew, anything put to rhythm and a tune is far easier to retain. This album is a brilliant idea, and it is working to help my homeschooler learn the material far faster than I would have ever hoped.
Usually when items are put to music (especially in Christian circles they are…”hoaky.” Maybe too “broadway” or a little too “sugary” for my tastes. While all these cuts are sung by children, and when I first listened to it I wasn’t sure, but the quality of the melodies (as well as the harmonies) convinced me not only to pick it up, but also to advise the parents of my confirmation students to pick it up as well. The next step will be figuring out ways we can include parts of it in our worship service (yes, there is a songbook, too). Highly recommended.
It’s true, the children’s voices singing in these recordings do at first make the songs seem juvenile, but the second time through, when you start singing along, you realize, it was only the youth of the voices, not the composition or arrangement of the music, that made you feel that way the first time through. From the second time on, you realize that this is music you will like to sing even into old age. This is adult music too. This music spans generations. A genius is behind this, and I think I know who.† And that is going to give you the blessed words of the Catechism even when you have become infirm in other ways.
Here’s an entertaining comment that CPH.org has the integrity to let stand on its site:
Great resource – in a convenient 1980’s format.
This really does help kids learn the small catechism by heart. Catechumens who listen to this learn it more quickly, more completely, and more permanently than catechumens who do not. However, few homes even own CD players today. The only one in our house is on an old laptop. I’ve had to rip it to mp3 so the kids can listen on their tablets. CPH should offer it as a download. And they should think about offering a bulk-price so a church can buy it once, and then give the mp3 files to families in their church without worrying about extra payments. This format is almost unusable. You may as well sell the Lutheran Confessions in cuneiform. I pay for the CD and the shipping, to avoid copyright issues, then rip it and give it to families on SD cards so they can actually listen. Downloadable could make this the go-to method for learning the catechism. CD’s reminds me of a quaint bygone era. But they don’t help me teach the faith. (Make it available on MP3, and the rating goes from 3/5 to 6/5) UPDATE: Apparently, it’s available on Amazon as an mp3 download.
Do note, the reason that commenter was critical is that, if only he could have bought these recordings in Mp3 format, he would have rated them 6 out of 5!! This is an A+ product. The criticism was, for such a fantastic product, the CD format is an obstacle. Maybe if a few hundred more of us encouraged them along that line … ? In the meantime, we can get over the obstacle, as the commenter noted.
The Small Catechism is the handbook for the Royal Priesthood of Believers. As such, it is:
1. User’s guide to the Bible
2. Our prayer book
3. Handbook for the baptismal life.
Professor Pless writes:
The Small Catechism is the handbook for the Royal Priesthood of Believers. As such, the Small Catechism fulfills at least three functions for the Christian. First. the Small Catechism is a “user’s guide to the Bible.” In other words, the Small Catechism is …
Second, the Small Catechism is our prayer book. Not only does the Small Catechism teach us what Christian prayer is by unfolding for us the prayer which our Lord gave His disciples, the Small Catechism provides us with …
Third, the Small Catechism is a handbook for the baptismal life. Writing his treatise on The Freedom of a Christian, Luther notes that a Christian ” lives not …
Those are three tantalizing openings. I could not do justice to Professor Pless’ development of them. Better to give you the full article here, from the Document Library. This is worth printing and placing at the top of your stack of things you want to keep handy for reference. The quiet crisis of catechesis cries for regular reminders of the things written in this article.
As Pless says, “Luther prepared his Catechism as an act of pastoral care for God’s people. The Saxon Visitation of 1528 revealed how deeply both the pastors and people were in need of catechesis.” With that heart concern, Luther prescribed three important teaching practices for using the Small Catechism.
Often overlooked in the Preface is Luther’s threefold outline for catechesis. Much to the chagrin of some contemporary educational theorists, Luther starts with the text. He makes three salient points:
First, don’t be so quick to …
Second, after the text has been learned by heart, then …
Third, after the people have mastered the rudiments of the Small Catechism, go …
He had good reasons, pastoral reasons, reasons of love for strictly prescribing those practices. He was going somewhere with all this. Pless says:
With these principles in place, Luther intended that pastors would catechize their people so that the head of the household would be equipped to teach his family.
At that point, the crisis of catechesis is resolved. That is where we are heading with this. We must keep ourselves constantly in mind of our objective.
Print his article and keep it as a handy reminder.
“The child must be instructed. Begin early. Let it learn to pray as soon as it can speak. … We quote again from Luthardt: ‘Let it not be objected that the child cannot understand the prayer. The way of education is by practice to understanding, not by understanding to practice.”
G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, pp. 49-50 (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887).