Sunday, December 13, 2015

Our December 13, 2015 session in the atrium

Oh,  the excitement of Christmas!  I can see it growing in our little ones each week as we move closer to December 25!  But we still try to emphasize that this is Advent, and not yet Christmas!  So, I fill the atrium with 'lots of practical works that involve the color purple.  Again, a subtle way to emphasize that we are in the "purple" season, which they have already begun to associate with "preparation for a feast."  No, we're not at the feast (of Christmas) yet, but we're getting ready!

Such an important message, especially in today's world, which has been talking "Christmas" for weeks now!  I feel sad that our society, as a whole, misses the wonderful season of contemplative preparation!

So, as promised last week, thought I would share some photos of our work table and the various works that the children are doing during Advent.  Some of these works aren't necessarily "religious" in nature.  Their goal is to help the children build their motor skills (especially fine motor skills) while increasing their ability to concentrate for a growing period of time.  As explained last week, this is an essential skill that many of us are losing today, yet it is a skill that is foundational to our ability to pray in a deep and meaningful way. 

So, here are some of the works they will use in Advent.  (I apologize that some of these photos are blurry!  I was trying to quickly take some shots before the children arrived this morning.)

  "Match the names of Jesus" work. These little plastic ornaments, in purple, pink and silver, have the many names of Jesus written on them. (One name on each ornament, such as "Light of the World," "Holy Child," etc.  The children find the name with the ornament and place it on the laminated sheet next to the appropriate word.  We have two sets of this work -- one with small ornaments, the other with larger ornaments.

"Decorate our Jesse tree work."  Children can select small purple garland, beads and ornaments to decorate our little tree.  On the third week of Advent, we add a few pink ornaments to the mix for Gaudete Sunday.
This work was so popular last week that I added a second small tree this week, so more children could decorate a tree if they wished. I also encourage them to make "Jesse tree" ornaments -- we have paper ornaments that they can color and add to the tree. 


"Placing beads in small grooves on a mat."  The children use a little spoon to move purple, oval-shaped beads from the small bowl to the mat.  The second photo is a similar activity--they are moving round beads from the container to the grooved mat using the purple tongs.

 "Learning to spell the word 'Advent" and "Emmanuel"  The children match purple wooden letters to the letters on the Advent mat.  When they have found the correct letter, they place it directly over the letter on the mat. The second photo gives them the opportunity to match the wooden letters to spell Emmanuel.  Both activities also help them build vocabulary and letter recognition.

 "Dry Erase Coloring the Word 'Advent'"     The children use a purple dry erase marker to color in the word Advent, then they use the little included eraser to erase their coloring.  They can repeat as many times as they like.  It is interesting to watch the children concentrate while they do this, and they may repeat it several times, as if they are memorizing the letters!

 "Sorting purple objects."  The children use a little spoon or their fingers to move sort and categorize purple items of various shapes and textures.  Some of the items include tiny purple blocks, sticks, pom-poms and triangles. Because they have a choice of how to move the materials, they are problem solving:  could they move the sticks with the little spoon, or will they need to use their fingers to do it?

As mentioned earlier, many of these works may almost seem "secular" because they do not have any Biblical or spiritual underpinings.  However, they are still building a very important skill for the children.  As their concentration levels and ability with these practical works increase, we find that they spend less time on these materials and more time on some of the more "spiritual" works.  


The other thing we did today:  while the children were working individually on these various works, I pulled small groups of children aside and presented the Annunciation material to them.  I use a small diorama of Mary's home with figures of Mary and the Angel Gabriel.  I read Luke's passage about the Annunciation to them, we discussed the passage, and then I read the passage again, using the figures.  I wish I could have taken photos of the children while I was presenting the material (but that would have distracted them too much!)  The wonder and joy I saw in their faces, at the thought of an angel appearing to Mary and telling her the great news that she was going to have the baby Jesus! 

It is amazing in many ways.  I read to them directly from a regular Bible (not a children's Bible), and as you know, a regular Bible is often filled with big words they don't know.  Yet they remain attentive to the words and their eyes watch me closely as I read from the Bible.  I might explain a few words here and there, but sometimes this seems almost unnecessary.  They may not have the vocabulary to give me a definition of the meaning of the complicated words, but they still understand the story and love it.  I can see it in their faces!  

I feel so blessed to do this work with your children each week, and to watch as they discover the beauty and miracles that God gives us every day! 

We're off for three weeks for the Christmas holiday.  Our next session will be 1/10/16, when we'll do a meditation on the Nativity.  

Wishing you and your families a joyous holiday season!  



Photos and brief commentary on December 6, 2015 session

Although it is the second Sunday of Advent for the church, it is the first week that we've observed Advent in the CGS atrium, because we were off last week for Thanksgiving break.  The children noticed the changes, from the new "Advent" themed work on the tables, to our Jesse trees, waiting to be decorated, to the purple cloth and the advent wreath on our prayer table.

 We also read Isaiah's Prophecy (9:2) and learned about how "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."  Such deep thoughts these little ones on this prophecy,  from how beautiful the light is and how happy we are see to see the light!  Who is this light?  They immediately answered "Jesus!"

I'll share photos of our Advent work in the 12/13 edition of the blog, but for now, want to share some photos of the children working,  snapped by Christy Sharafinski.  (Thank you, Christy!)

Notice that even when they are sorting things, or using their fine motor skills to place little beads on an indented mat, that they are in deep concentration.  In our hurried, fast-paced world, this is a skill that many children (and adults!) are losing--the ability to concentrate deeply on something for an extended period of time.   I think that is why coloring books have become so popular with adults, especially those coloring books that include images with detailed patterns.  You really need to concentrate deeply to color them.  Our soul yearns for this deep, contemplative concentration!

Several of the children enjoy decorating our "Jesse tree."  I do not call it a Christmas tree.  During Advent, we decorate it in the color of the season--purple for Advent, and they had  the opportunity to color little Jesse tree ornaments and put them on the tree.  (The white pieces of paper are our Jesse tree ornaments.)

If you aren't familiar with a Jesse tree, it is a tree or bush filled with small ornaments that symbolize important people in the Old Testament who are Jesus' ancestors.   Think of it as Jesus' family tree!

Incidentally,  I do not discuss the Jesse tree with the children in Level I (with the 3-6 year olds), other than just tell them it is a Jesse tree.  That's because Sofia Cavalletti, the developer of the program, does not recommend teaching Old Testament stories to the littlest ones.  For the littlest ones, we want to build an image in their head of a loving shepherd who watches over them and protects them.  Sofia found that this is the image that resonates with them the most at this tender young age.  Old Testament stories are often frightening to children, or, to make them less frightening, they are often told in a "fairy tale" way that will later confuse the children and make them associate Bible stories with fictional stories.

Because of this, your little ones won't hear Old Testament stories in CGS until they are older and have reached the age of reason (usually about 9-12 years old.)  By that time, they have already fallen in love with the loving, merciful God and are more able to dwell in the deeper meanings of the Old Testament passages.

Sorry--I went a little off topic, but wanted to explain why your children won't be hearing stories like Noah's Ark, or Jonah and the Whale, until they are older.

Happy Second Week of Advent, everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sharing Photos from Last Sunday

Thank you Christy Sharafinski for sharing these photos from last Sunday!  Look at the intense concentration on the children's faces as they work on the liturgical color and Biblical geography work, use the Saints peg dolls, walk on the line in the procession and set up our prayer table.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

11-15-15 Recap: Articles of the Mass; Defining the Three Period Lesson.

Hi everyone,

It was another fruitful and fulfilling Sunday, both for the children, the catechists and the junior helpers.  That's one of the many reasons I love the CGS program -- the adults and teens who help with this program take the journey of discovering/rediscovering Christ with the children, and often we walk away refreshed and with a new perspective on our faith!  

Children have so much wisdom that is deep within their souls, and this program has a wonderful way of bringing out that wisdom.  It is truly amazing to see and hear them as they learn to vocalize their feelings about our Lord!  

Sometimes it doesn't always happen quickly; each child progresses at his/her own speed. But I always feel the Holy Spirit working in such a strong way.

Today, I did a large group presentation on the "Articles of the Mass."  We talked about how  we  might set a beautiful table with a special tablecloth and special dishes for a party. And how Mass is a special celebration too, so the special table at the front of the church is set with a beautiful cloth, and how we use special items during this celebration.  We worked with miniature replicas of the items used at Mass, and the the children learned these words:

- Altar Table (the special table where Father stands behind during the Mass)
- Altar Cloth (the special cloth that is put on the table, and how sometimes it is the color of the church season:  green, purple, white or red)
- Paten (the brass "plate" that holds the host, which becomes the body of Christ)
- Chalice (the brass cup that holds the wine, which becomes the blood of Christ)
- Crucifix (and we continue to emphasize the difference between a cross and a crucifix)
- Candles 

We discuss how the materials used on the altar, especially the materials that hold the Body and Blood of Christ, are made of precious materials like brass or gold.  Our  miniature replicas are made of brass.  

Teaching Vocabulary Using the Three Period Lesson

Maria Montessori discovered that one of the best ways to teach children terminology and vocabulary is by using a "three period lesson."   This is the method I used to teach the names of these various articles; it works wonderfully.  The children remain engaged for a longer period of time; even some of our antsy children!  

It is a wonderful technique to use at home with your children too.  This is how I used it with the Articles of the Mass today. Specifically, I'll show you how I used it to teach them the word "paten."

Step 1:  Naming Period.   Using slow and deliberate movements, I gently picked up the paten (which I had in a basket) and showed it to them.  Then I said "this is called the Paten."  I repeat the word "Paten" a couple of times, then ask " Can you say Paten?"  They repeat it.  I gently set it on the appropriate place on our "altar table."   

It's okay if they don't repeat it; some of the younger ones will be a little shy about saying these special words at first.  But soon, they will repeat them because they want to be like the older kids!  (That's one of the strengths of a multi-age group; they encourage each other!)

I did this with each of the items mentioned above.   Then we move onto step two.

Step 2:  Recognition and Association Period.   Our "altar table" is now set with all the items, so I will ask them to help me find various things.  I work backward, starting with the item I named last.    I will ask a specific child to come up and show me "Where is the Paten?"  This gives them a chance to move and also to identify an object with a name.  They can ask their friends for help in locating the item.  We then placed the item back in the basket.

After all the items are back in the basket, I move forward with step three.
Step 3:  Recall
For this stage, I make sure that a child is very confident about the item's name before I call him/her up, and I use gentle encouragement if s/he isn't confident about an item.  I want to make the child feel excited like s/he has achieved something.  So, I might say, "Peter, can you come up and find the Paten for me?"  After he locates it, I gently show him where to put it on the altar table if he doesn't already know.

I'll do this with each item.

Depending on the attention span of the children, I might repeat these steps 2 and 3 again.  If the children are getting antsy, we finish up and move to individual work time. 

There is a great description of the three period lesson here  and a video of the technique here 
if you would like to try using it with your children at home, when you are trying to teach them any type of vocabulary and terminology, from colors, to shapes, to animal names, to much more.  In the video they show you to introduce the names of three different types of fruit. 

The main thing is to work slowly and deliberately.  Not to say too many words.  In the case of the Paten, I don't explain too much about it at this point.  The main thing is that they start associating that gold plate with the word Paten, and the gold cup with the word Chalice.  So whenever they see it, eventually they will only call it Paten and Chalice, not plate and cup. 

The same with the video linked above.  The teacher in the video shows how to teach the words for banana, orange, apple.  One might be tempted to say "oh,  yes, look at how yellow the banana is, and it is a funny shape, isn't it?"  But Montessori found that "less is more" when we are teaching children basic concepts and vocabulary.  It allows the child to see the item, think about it, associate it with its name, and then make his/her own internal observations about the item. 

I encourage you to try the "Three Period Lesson" at home sometime!  You will be amazed at how quickly the children pick up even more complex concepts when they are presented this way.  

For example, during our "individual work time,"  I worked with several children today on our Biblical puzzle map.   This is actually rather difficult work. This map divides the Holy Land (during Jesus' time)  into several different areas with their specific names, like Judea, Samaria, Perea.  Not an easy work, yet after using the Three Period Lesson to teach them the locations of these various areas, even our three year olds were telling me where Samaria, Perea and the Dead Sea were! 


A huge ""THANK YOU!"

Wanted to take a few moments to say "thank you" to everyone who donated gently used clothing and other items to the Nelson and Vilardi families, the two SJA families who suffered a fire in their apartment/townhome complex this week.   Because of the smoke damage, they lost most if not all of their possessions.  They are very appreciative of the donations  given by our generous families and parish.  I didn't count the donations, but I think they received at least 10 bags of gently used items this morning! Thank you too to Angela Fuerst, a SJA Mom's Group member, whose son is also in CGS, for organizing this drive.  What a wonderful community SJA is!


Looking forward..

Next Sunday (November  22) - our last session before the Thanksgiving break.  The children will be given extended time to work with the materials.  I (and perhaps Ms. Mary) will continue to work with small groups of children on the Biblical geography puzzle, Ms. Alyce will continue working on pasting, and the junior helpers and Ms. Susan will work with small groups or individual children on the various liturgical color work, Biblical geography work, and articles of the Mass work.   

I am making some new (individual) work on the articles of the Mass available next Sunday, including some matching and concentration games.  Again, the idea is to reinforce the vocabulary we learned this Sunday.

Next week will be the last week they can work on the liturgical colors work (that is, the work that reinforces the four different colors of our church year.)   During Advent, I'll put it away, although we will have some "purple" work for them, to reinforce the concept that we are now in the season of "purple/preparing for the feast."   The liturgical colors work will return later in the year.

Sunday, November 29 - NO CLASS -- Thanksgiving Break

Sunday, December 6 - First Sunday of Advent, and the children will notice a difference in our prayer table, which will no longer be covered with a green cloth, but a purple cloth!  We will be discussing the "Light" and meditating on Isaiah 9:2   "The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light."  Yes, little children can meditate, and they do it beautifully!  I'll share the observations and insights with you after that class.

The SJA Mom's Group is also holding a St. Nicholas Event after the 9:30 a.m. Mass on that Sunday.  I'll send out more details as they develop, but it would be an easy thing for you to attend, since it coincides with the time that you pick up your children from CGS.    


Looking even further... 

Would you like to observe one of our CGS atrium sessions?  You will have a chance, very soon!  After Christmas, I'll have a sign up sheet available with dates that parents can sit in the CGS session and observe what we do.   And later on, you will be invited to participate in some of our "paraliturgies" during Lent.  More about that later.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sharing a few photos from 11-8-15

Hi everyone!

Last week I began presenting the Map of Israel puzzle map to small groups of children; Ms. Christy helped me with this. Ms. Alyce worked with another group on pasting. The other catechists and junior helpers worked with the remaining children on the Biblical geography sensory works or the liturgical color works. Ms. Mary opened our session with a variety of our favorite praise songs and Ms. Christy led our prayer corner time. Sharing a few photos:

This week I will be giving the "Articles of the Mass" presentation to the children and we will begin learning the names of the various things Father uses during the Mass including the chalice and paten.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Recap and Photos from our November 1, 2015 session

Hi everyone!

The children were a bit more energetic than usual today! I wonder if it was the leftover excitement from Halloween festivities yesterday?   I'm sure it didn't help that we were not in our usual rooms.  When I arrived today, our rooms were set up incorrectly and it would have been difficult to use them, so we moved to a larger room.  Will be checking with the parish office on this so our usual rooms are set up correctly next week.

In any case, we still had fun!  We began the first of our two sessions on Biblical geography, using a globe to locate where we live, and where Jesus lived.  We also used a topographical map, which shows us the terrain of  Israel. (mountainous in some areas, desert in other areas, fertile farm lands in other areas.)  We learned about the four main bodies of water in this area too -- the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.  I passed around little plaques that the kids could feel, which showed them the different "textures" of the land -- sandy for the desert, green/grassy for the farmlands, rocky in the northern part of the country, and "shrubby"  (dirt with shrubs) for some of the other areas of the country.  We talked about how salty the Dead Sea is, and I showed them photos of the Dead Sea, plus passed around some soap made from mud "harvested" from the Dead Sea. 

I also pointed out three important cities in Jesus' life -- Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The point of all this is to help the children realize that Jesus was real and that He lived in a real place on earth, just like we do. Sometimes it is hard for children to realize this, because the stories in their children's Bibles (and other children's books) unintentionally make it seem like these are just fictional stories like those they hear in their other books.  So today's presentation and work is designed to help them situate Jesus as a real person who lived during a specific time here on earth. 

This work lays the foundation for the presentations we will be doing during Advent -- especially the Annunciation presentation (when I will use a diorama to show how the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary) and the Nativity (when I will use another diorama to show how Jesus was born in a lowly place in Bethlehem, and how the shepherds came to see him.)

Here are a few photos of the children during the presentation.  (Thank you, Christy for helping me take photos today!)

There are more photos on our Facebook page; check them out  here.

See you next Sunday!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Notes from our October 25 session; what's happening this week

Hi everyone,

What a blessing it is to spend an hour each Sunday with your children!  Things are progressing nicely as we adjust to the routine and become comfortable with the "grace and courtesy" atmosphere in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium! 

Last week, the children learned about the communion of saints, using little wood peg doll saints and our wooden liturgical calendar.  This week, we will continue to reinforce the idea of saints, especially since it is All Saints Day on Sunday. Each child will have the opportunity to wear a paper "saints shield" and carry a battery operated candle as we do our "walking on the line" exercise and then process from our narthex into our atrium (prayer room).  We're learning the song "Christ is Light," which we are beginning to sing as we process into our prayer room.

We are also moving into some of my favorite presentations of the year.  For the next two weeks, we'll be learning Biblical geography.  This week, we look at a globe, which helps us relate to where the Holy Land is versus where we live.  We also talk about the fact that Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, was a tiny place, and how amazing it is that God selected this tiny place to come into the world. (After all, God is king of the universe!  He could have come into the world in a grand, large city.  Instead, He chose a tiny village!)  Then I'll show them a topographical map of Israel.  This textural map allows the children to touch the mountains where Jesus walked, run their finger along the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, and learn about the "Sea of Salt" (Dead Sea.) 

We identify three key cities in Israel:

1)  Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would have a baby and name him Jesus
2) Bethlehem, where Jesus was born
3) Jerusalem, where Jesus died and rose

In addition to the topographical map, I show them paintings of these places during Jesus' time (since we obviously don't have photos from 2,015 years ago!) and present-day photos of these places.  The goal is to help them realize that Jesus was a real person who walked on this earth, just like we do today.  He's not a fictional character in books or the Bible.

Happy All Saints Day to you and your families!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Recapping our October 18 session in the CGS atrium; What's coming up this Sunday

Hi everyone,

First of all, want to welcome a new catechist to the atrium!  Alyce Sosnowski has kindly volunteered to help us on Sunday mornings, and I'm especially thrilled because she has worked in a Montessori environment for many years. She will be an invaluable asset as we teach the children the "grace and courtesy" and practical life lessons. Thank you Alyce for stepping up to help!

I am so grateful for the the teens and adults who assist me in the atrium and at the check-in/check-out table! We are truly blessed with abundant talent and a sincere desire to help your children develop a personal relationship with Jesus.  Catechists, adult and junior helpers, you are in my prayers each and every day!

We've been meeting for five weeks now, and I love the rhythm and harmony that is beginning to develop in the atrium! This is most apparent with the children who are coming every week.  Children develop an inner peace and comfort when they have a familiar routine.  That's why it is so important to ensure that your child is at every session.   I know that there are days when the baby has been up all night or it would be easier to attend another Mass, but the little sacrifice of getting them to the atrium will reap big benefits for you and your family in the long run.  You will begin to see it in their calmer demeanor when they step out of our atrium sessions and the inner joy that develops within them.  I really can't emphasize it enough, that this is only achieved by regular, consistent participation in the CGS atrium.  Thank you for this little sacrifice on those days when it is especially difficult to get the children up and going!


Last week, we continued our work on the seasons and colors of the church year.  The children were given time to work individually on a variety of practical activities.  Here are a few photos:

At first glance, you may wonder why many of these materials aren't overtly religious.  You may ask "how can  pom poms help them learn about the Catholic faith?" or "how are they learning more about their Catholic faith by working with pipe cleaners?"   Like many activities in the CGS atrium, they are learning more than meets the eye:

1) We worked only with materials that were the colors of the liturgical year -- purple, white, green and red.  No matter what they were doing, we kept repeating over and over again the significance of the color they were working with and how it relates to the church year (purple--preparing for the feast; white--the feast; green--growing time; red--the feast of the Holy Spirit.)  "Oh, you have a green pom pom?  That's for growing time, isn't it?"  "You want to put that purple pipe cleaner in this area?  Do you remember what purple stands for?  That's right--it's the color the priest wears when we are preparing for the feast." 

2) By working with these simple materials, they are also developing small motor skills that will help them not only in the CGS atrium, but in their everyday lives. 

3) We also encourage them to work slowly and carefully with the materials.  We are using these materials to help them calm themselves and move away from the frantic pace of the everyday world.  Placing those pipe cleaners in tiny holes, and using chopsticks to lift and sort pom poms, requires intense concentration and deliberate movements for young children.  These simple materials, and the way they manipulate them, help them develop an inner calm in their body and soul. 

Working slowly and carefully will also be important later, when we begin working with materials that are more fragile and must be handled with care.

We started doing a couple of other new things in the atrium this week:

1) We began processing to our prayer corner with our processional cross!  Each week, we will reinforce how the cross should be held, and one child will have a chance to carry it to our prayer corner.  I'll start with the older ones first, but each child will eventually have an opportunity to carry the processional cross.  This week, Noel carried it.

2) Three children were chosen to help me set up our prayer corner:  Ella, Noel and Jocelyn.  Because of some of the fragile items on the prayer table (especially the Good Shepherd statue, which comes from Italy), I'll start with the oldest children on this task too, but eventually all the children will have the opportunity to help me set up the prayer table.  While we do that, I reinforce the vocabulary of the various items:  the prayer table, the prayer cloth, the crucifix (and I remind them of the difference between a cross and crucifix), the Holy Bible, the candles, the Good Shepherd statue.  They also have the option of selecting a painting or another item that would be appropriate for the season.  Right now, they can select from one of four paintings of the Good Shepherd.  There will be other artwork later to match the season and/or what we are learning in the atrium. 

3) Two children (Calder and Joshua)  were selected to snuff out our two candles at the end of our prayer time.  The children know that this little reward goes to two children who are especially attentive and have "quiet bodies" during prayer time.   (However, all of the children will have a chance to do this throughout the year.)  For safety reasons, we use candles that are contained within a plastic holder (less likely to have accidents), but the children were taught that once the candles are lit, we need to keep our bodies still.   As each child is invited to snuff out a candle, I show them how to properly use a candle snuffer. (We never blow out candles in the atrium.  Sometime later I'll explain the significance of this!)

As you can tell, your children are learning and experiencing quite a bit while you are at Mass!    Later on, after the routine and harmony are well established, I will start inviting one or two  parents per session to join us and experience all this first hand! 

Coming up this Sunday:  we're learning about the saints! I originally planned to do a Saints party but decided that I will save that for next year, when the children are much more familiar with the environment of the atrium.  We're just starting to build the quiet harmony, so I don't want to disrupt that or confuse them .  However, I still have some fun things planned for them:

1) They will each pick out a shield with a saints image on it; and wear it during our procession to the prayer corner.   They will also get to carry battery powered candles during our procession.

2) We're learning about the communion of saints using some wooden peg dolls (I'm busy painting 28 of them this week, so each child can hold a saint throughout the session!)  We will also use a special wooden puzzle that represents the seasons of the  liturgical year.

3) We'll break up into small groups and hear a short, gentle story about a saint (appropriate to their young age).  

4) Optional:  if your child dresses up as a saint, or brings a prop that represents a saint, s/he will have time to tell us about his/her saint!   

I sent some costume suggestions a few weeks ago.  You can also get more ideas on Pinterest, using the search phrase "Easy Saints Costumes."  I saw some great no-sew items on a recent search.

It will be another FULfilling Sunday! 

I plan to hold a parent session in early November, with hints on how you can incorporate what we're learning in the atrium at home, plus ideas for celebrating Advent and some of the special advent feast days like St. Nicholas Day, St. Juan Diego's feast day, and St. Lucia's Day!   My teens absolutely LOVE these feast days, because of the simple traditions we established when they were preschoolers.    Information coming soon!



P.S.  A few of you have asked if there is anything I need for the atrium.  Right now, I would appreciate some small donations of these items:

1) Goldfish crackers--the large boxes.  With 28 kids, we go through a large box about every two weeks!

2) Empty plastic frosting containers.  Pillsbury or Betty Crocker ready-to-spread frosting come in these containers.  We use them to sort and store our colored pencils.  We would like the plastic lids too, please

3) Thick barrel, hexagonal shaped colored pencils like Crayola's "Write Start" colored pencils, like the ones here:   ThickPencils   I have thinner colored pencils (Roseart brand, box of 12), but for our smallest children, these pencils can be a bit difficult to use. Teacher's Chalkboard, on Finley Avenue in Downers Grove, sells a box of 8 of these pencils for about $4.25.   Because of our emphasis on liturgical colors, it is especially important that the set of pencils includes green, purple and red!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Notes from our September 27 and October 4 sessions

Hi everyone!

My internet access was down the last few days, so I wasn't able to blog about our session on September 27.  So today's update will cover the last two weeks.

September 27 session
We're continuing with our grace and courtesy lessons, and also some activities to build our coordination and calm ourselves.  One of the things we've been doing is "walking on the line."  There is a blue painter's tape line on the floor in our narthex/gathering room.   Right now it is in the shape of a rectangle.  Later on, we may change it to other shapes.  One of our activities is to walk on it  while we sign a little song:

"We are walking on the line, walking, walking on the line."   

This is a basic activity developed by Maria Montessori to help children develop not only their coordination and balance, but also help them focus.  This article briefly explains Dr. Montessori's reasoning behind the activity and how it is done.

The children really seem to love this simple activity.  As they get more advanced in it, we may change the shape of the line (right now it is in a rectangle), we may carry things, skip or jump, etc.

We also use this activity to teach them how to walk in a processional line from our gathering room to our prayer room. Children love duplicating what they see happening at church (i.e., the processional when the priest, the deacon, the servers, the lectors and the Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers process into church at the beginning and end of Mass). Next week, we will have them carry wooden crosses while walking the line.  In a few weeks, they will begin taking turns carrying a miniature version of the processional cross while we walk the line and process into our prayer space.

In the prayer corner, we were introduced to the Holy Bible and talked about how special and sacred it is.   It now has a special place on our prayer table. 

We also learned a new goodbye song, which we will now use every week.  After our time in the prayer room we had back to the gathering room and sing the "Shalom" song while walking on the line in a circle:

"Shalom, All My Friends; Shalom, Shalom.  Until we meet again, till we meet again, shalom, shalom."

Last week I shared with the children that the word "Shalom" is Hebrew and means "peace." I told them that this is a traditional Hebrew song.   Here is a Youtube video of the song:

October 4 session

"Purple and green, red and white...are the colors of the year. 
Purple and green, red and white...remind us of the light
 Purple's for preparation...White is for celebration
Green is for growing time....Red is for Pentecost." 

Your child may be humming this new song, which we learned today!  Today we talked about how there are four seasons in the year (fall, winter, spring and summer) and how the church also has four "seasons" or times of the year:  preparation, celebration, growing time, and time of the Holy Spirit.  

I showed them a mini chasuble, and we talked about how this is a small version of a garment that the priest wears when he says Mass.  We learned the word "chasuble."     Then we talked about how he wears a purple chasuble when  we are preparing for the feast (like during Advent, when we prepare for Christmas; and during Lent, when we prepare for Easter.)   We then looked at the white chasuble, and talked about how it is worn during the "feast" like during Christmas and Easter.  Next we looked at the green chasuble, and discussed how it is worn during "growing time."  And finally, the red chasuble, worn during the feast of the Holy Spirit.

Purple = preparing for the feast
White =  the feast
Green = growing time
Red = feast of the Holy Spirit

Mrs. Sharafinski snapped some quick photos during this presentation. 

Then we learned the Liturgical Colors song, which is the song listed above ("Purple and green, red and white...")   Here is a Youtube recording of the song that you can play for your children:


At our next session in two weeks,  I will begin giving them individual work time.  But before I could do that, I needed to show them the rugs and how to use them (how to get a rug, how to carry a rug, how to unroll a rug, and how to roll up a rug when finished.)  The rugs are used by the children to define their individual work spaces.  The children learned that we always walk around a rug (rather than stepping on it), when it is on the floor and a child is using it as a work space.    So after demonstrating the use of rugs, each of the children had a chance to practice their rug rolling and unrolling skills.  

We're now all set to begin offering individual work times.   In two weeks, when we meet again, they will have a chance to work on a number of different activities that reinforce the concepts of the colors and times of the church year. 

Up to this point, our gathering room has looked rather plain, with just a couple of rugs to sit on and a table that holds our snacks and hand wipes.  This was done intentionally so we didn't overstimulate them with too many new things at one time.  (New catechists, new friends, new room, new schedule, etc.)  I can tell that most of them are  becoming more comfortable with the room and the people (they are getting more talkative!) so now I can begin gradually itntroducing new materials that they can use individually.  I will start bringing in some small shelves from which they can select their work. Materials are gradually unrolled after I have presented them to the majority of the class.  

This is why it is important to attend every week!  Occasionally missing a class isn't a big deal; the children will easily fall back into the routine.  But when a child misses more than one week in a row, it will be harder for him/her to adjust to everything s/he missed.  It is easy for him/her to become overwhelmed.  We learn many new things every week!     I and the other catechists will try to present missed material and presentations individually to a child, but even this will be hard if a child misses too many weeks in a row. 

Also, the children are starting to form bonds and friendships with each other; those bonds are strengthened by regular attendance. 

Looking Forward

Our next session - October 18
Just a reminder that we WON'T have atrium next Sunday, October 11, because of the Columbus Day holiday weekend.   We will meet again on Sunday, October 18.  We will be working on how to make the Sign of the Cross and how to genuflect.   And, we will have individual time to work on activities relating to the colors of the church year.   

The following week's session - October 25:   Celebrating All Saints Day
I originally planned to do this the following week, November 2, but decided it would be more beneficial to the children if we talk about All Saints Day before Halloween.  

For this day, the children are invited to work with you to choose a saint, then come dressed as their saint, or bring a prop that represents their chosen saint.  Here are some resources for inexpensive costume and prop ideas:

Dressing up is totally optional, but it is a fun activity for the children, and the saints costumes can often be used "as is" for Halloween.  (Those scary costumes are too frightening for many young children anyway!)  Also, I believe the parish is again holding an All Saints Celebration where your children could wear the costume, play saint themed games, etc.   (I'll check with Ms. Brochmann to verify whether they are planning this event again this year, and whether we can attend.) 

For our Sunday session, I'm thinking about having some free time where the children can play some saint-themed games, and maybe have a saint themed snack instead of our usual Goldfish.  A few of you offered to help with this; I'll be contacting you soon for your ideas and input. 

Our November 2 and November 8 sessions
During our early November sessions, we will be working with globes, topographical maps and a puzzle to learn a bit of Biblical geography.  This will prepare us for Advent season, by helping the children realize that Jesus was a real person who was born in a real place on Earth.  

So many exciting things, and I love sharing it with your children!  Each of them are so special and unique!