Teaching the catechism to children

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Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
As some here know, I write catechism curriculum for kids. One persistent question from customers involves methods of teaching children--what are good ways, any creative methods, etc.

We are working on producing a brief video addressing some of these questions, offering helpful hints, etc (some parents have never heard of catechism and doubt that children can really memorize that much, etc).

I've taught long enough to have a few of my own ideas, and I can draw more from a friend who has taught catechism to her children and at a homeschool co-op, but I'd imagine that people here also have many excellent suggestions.

What would you suggest to parents who are thinking of teaching the catechism to their children? or to churches who only teach Sunday School once a week and aren't sure how to go about teaching the catechism in that time frame?

Thanks!
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I was quite a pain to my Sunday School class, after it was publicised amongst us that someone would give 100 dollars to any child who could recite the entire shorter catechism. We were supposed to say what we had learned to our teacher week by week. My recitations became quite time consuming (I think my teacher began to dread the raising of my hand at this point) and I became the object of spitballs. Neither did I ever receive the hundred dollars. I don't know if the man who was willing to pay this was actually mythical, or if we just never got vetted to go see him. I would like to say that the catechism itself supported me under the afflictions of my peers and the loss of a reward, but I never understood anything I recited, even though I could say it so perfectly. So I can't help but think that in whatever time a church or someone else might have, helping children understanding the catechism is at least equally important, if not more important than memory (I love your workbooks because of that). Though I can still recite a number of them, I think understanding actually sticks with you longer?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
How Providential. Just today, my wife sent me a link to that very curriculum and asked me what I thought of it. I read through the sample online and told her it looked really good and to buy it. I had no idea it was you. Great work!
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I was quite a pain to my Sunday School class, after it was publicised amongst us that someone would give 100 dollars to any child who could recite the entire shorter catechism. We were supposed to say what we had learned to our teacher week by week. My recitations became quite time consuming (I think my teacher began to dread the raising of my hand at this point) and I became the object of spitballs. Neither did I ever receive the hundred dollars. I don't know if the man who was willing to pay this was actually mythical, or if we just never got vetted to go see him. I would like to say that the catechism itself supported me under the afflictions of my peers and the loss of a reward, but I never understood anything I recited, even though I could say it so perfectly. So I can't help but think that in whatever time a church or someone else might have, helping children understanding the catechism is at least equally important, if not more important than memory (I love your workbooks because of that). Though I can still recite a number of them, I think understanding actually sticks with you longer?

If you repeat the catechism to me, I will give you a hundred dollars, and no spitballs.
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
We've had "candy-chism" for years. One piece per question or whatever restrictions from the parents. Works for littler ones.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
For memory games like flash cards, include pictures. Pictures create associations that aid memory for visual learners, much like songs help auditory learners.

Especially for older kids, be absolutely sure to discuss the catechism, what it means, and how its teaching applies to daily life. In my experience, the chief complaint from those who've been through a catechism course is not that it was too hard or boring, but that it turned out to be useless. You need to show that it isn't.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for the helpful suggestions. (And Rich, I'm glad you like the workbooks. Such feedback is so encouraging.) I will put all the ideas on my list of things to consider, although Heidi, I'm afraid any offer of $100 would be as mythical as the one you described. :) However, we will assure them all the Ruben will pay them. heh.

I have wondered about things like award certificates, trophies, etc. It seems a little silly, but I do remember as a child in Sunday School being highly motivated to memorize Bible verses to obtain a small plastic trophy.
 

Curt

Puritan Board Graduate
it would seem that money is a great incentive.

So is a drivers license. My two daughters each had to memorize the Shorter Catechism in order to be allowed to take the written test for the license. The younger of the two, however, said to dear old dad, "wouldn't it make more sense if I understood it? can we discuss each of them and I will explain them to you?" I agreed. Both girls, now in their thirties, have their licenses. I, BTW, taught them to drive in an old 5-speed Subaru.
 

Joyful Noise

Puritan Board Freshman
Repetition, repetition, repetition!!!! And some more repetition! Especially with very young children. Music is a very helpful way to memorize things- I can still recite most of a Latin mass thanks to college choir and a prof who loved that sort of music (even though it was a Protestant school, but whatever). Thanks to Holly Dutton I know the first 28 questions of the WSC and need to put the second CD in the car :cool: But in teaching the catechism to a very young child I would not play a whole CD but repeat the first 4-5 questions in the car on any drive.

In my church's Sunday school classes for the youngest children they have the kids sit around the table with their own piece of paper and drill them all individually after reviewing with the group. They go around the table for each question and each child who answers correctly- or mostly correctly- gets a sticker on their paper. They also have a memory work program with specific goals for each age group. Any child who meets the yearly goal gets a small monetary reward (to be used for further religious education) that is given out right before the next "school year" begins.
 

travstar

Puritan Board Freshman
My wife's grandmother, Joyce Horton, wrote a book on this, entitled How to Teach the Catechism to Children. I don't know if it's still in print, but let me know if you'd like one--I'm sure I can get my hands on some of the hidden cache from the Presbybunker.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I have wondered about things like award certificates, trophies, etc. It seems a little silly, but I do remember as a child in Sunday School being highly motivated to memorize Bible verses to obtain a small plastic trophy.

Caroline, I think that would work for a certain kind of child. Memory is something some children are good at, just as sports are something other children are good at. Those who know they aren't good in those areas tend to be very unmotivated by the glory associated with them. I think that I only made a single bunt in my entire softball career, and I can't say that I ever cared much about the rewards associated with being a great female softball player.

A church probably can't do much with money or comparable 'rewards' (as Curt suggested, families probably know best what might be very important to a child and what they could offer as incentive: in this instance, which may have been completely mythical, the gentleman was supposed to be very rich and very willing to use his riches to encourage children to greater familiarity with the catechism: I think for such a staggering sum one was supposed to be able to say them word perfect, reciting the questions in order, too, though the whole thing could have been exaggerated), but you may be able to do something with 'tickets' which can then be exchanged at some point in some sort of small bazaar? I think my grandparents' church did something like this: tickets could be purchased or earned. Perhaps one could earn a ticket for being able to explain the answer in one's own words (a la Curt's daughter's wonderful suggestion) and another for being able to recite it, etc (you could even do two for perfect recitation, and one for recitation with one or two promptings)? With something like that, perhaps even children who have trouble with memory would have an incentive to pay attention and understand and try?

My mom always repeated the things she wanted us to learn, being careful to emphasis the same words/syllables with each repetition. The patterns associated with the phrases would stay in our heads. I think that is how I could learn answers with words I didn't understand -- the patterns took over. They still do, and I have trouble focusing on meaning, rather than rhythm.
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
I use the Flashcards app with my iPhone. As Jack has said, using a mnemonics is very helpful, and this is what the Flashcards app helps me to accomplish. I create cards with pictures on them.

I have read, and found by experience, that memory is actually developed not so much through repetition, but in the recall aspect of the process; even during the very early stages of acquiring a new verse. Repetition is certainly helpful, but locking a verse or question into the memory comes more from exercising the memory; that is, the act of recalling the information.

Since mnemonics help me to recall verses and questions without having to look at the actual words, it helps me to focus my attention more on the remembering rather than the words as an aid to remembering. After the words have become familiar, looking at them should only be done to correct and reinforce what is memorized.

In other words, memory is developed more through the act of remembering than the act of repetition (even while recalling the words includes repetition), and using a mnemonic is an aid for this process. Repetition will help with short term memory while the act of remembering and recalling will help with long term memory.

Another thing that is crucial is to have a robust plan for review. It is important to review more frequently at the beginning of acquiring a new verse and less frequently as the memory of it is developed. Such a robust plan should include days, weeks, months, and years into the future. Concerning a repetition plan that includes years into the future; sometimes we forget what is actually already locked into our memory, and attending to this in the distant future keeps it fresh and accessible. The participant will also need to correct and reinforce the memory by looking at the words throughout the process. We tend to add and subtract words.

When a new verse is being acquired, and long term memory is being developed, it is important to order the reviewing of the actual words and the recall process in a certain order. In the beginning, the words should be looked at prior to exercising the memory. As recalling the words becomes easier, the words should only be reviewed after they have been recited. This will put the emphasis where it will be most beneficial—the act of remembering.
 

Damon Rambo

Puritan Board Sophomore
That looks great! Do you mind if I link to your site? I have been looking for resources to point parents to!
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
My husband recently read Moonwalking With Einstein, a book about memory. He learned about a thing called memory palaces. He taught me this and I taught my kids this and we did the beatitudes with memory palaces.
Our memory palace was something like, "Ok. Get out of the car and look into our little playhouse and see a poor King (what kind of King's castle would be a playhouse but a poor one?). So, first we see, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.' Then we walk over to the basketball hoop and miss a shot, so we're sad, and we mourn. 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.' Then we look over and a little, meek, mouse is digging under the rose bushes, into the earth. 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.' Then we walk in the door and we see a kitchen table full of ricejuice (pathetic "righteousness" sound attempt!) And we see, 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled...'." And so on.
We picked a familiar passageway in our house and then go room to room, in our minds.

I haven't yet combined this with catechism, but I think it could work.

Moonwalking with Einstein - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
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