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)
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!
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.