Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

The school I attended as a child knew how to celebrate All Saints Day.  The entire day was filled with parties, parades and pizza.  All students would come to school dressed as a carefully research saint, with costumes made from bedsheets, pillow cases and bathrobes. (We were lucky- my mom could sew.  One year my sister had the most beautiful Mother Teresa costume.)  The littler kids would dress as the classics- saints with their name, St. Patrick, St. Therese, etc.  The older kids would find the weird saints, or the ones who died horrible deaths. (Grilled alive- St. Lawrence!, Eyes plucked out- St. Lucy!)  We would parade around the block singing “Oh When the Saints”, and at some point in the afternoon the principal would come to the door of each classroom and throw and entire bag of candy inside.

All Saints Day quickly became one of my favorite days of the year, and it continues to be one of my favorites.  When I began teaching 8th grade religion, other teachers at the school told me about an old tradition of the 8th grade students performing on All Saints Day as living saints.  I loved the idea, but couldn’t find any resources from former teachers as to how they had planned the day or prepped students to step into the shoes of famous (and sometimes not at all famous) saints.  What I got instead was an overview from teachers who loved the tradition and wanted it to continue, but didn’t know much about the classroom prep either.

So over the next two weeks of posts I will share how I made this project work at our school, as well as some pdf files of the ways I help my students prepare to be a saint.

Here’s how the actual performance goes:  the school sets aside the use of the gym for the afternoon.  I usually have about 40 8th graders, so we need this much space.  For a smaller group, you could probably just use your classroom or even the hallways, which could be cool.  The eighth grade students stand on chairs around the room like statues, and each has a decorated change collecting bucket in front of them.  When a class comes to visit, they put change in the can and the saint comes alive to share her/his story.  As a class we decide on a charity ahead of time and donate the money raised by the event.

Our school has two of each grade, so having each class come through takes the whole afternoon.  Some teachers choose to have their class visit with their buddy class of older or younger students. I provide a scavenger hunt for teachers who are interested- I’ve found that it promotes student engagement for them to have something to look for.

At the end of the day, the students clean up the gym, take their costumes home and bask in a job well done.  Stay tuned for the lesson plans, the scavenger hunt and more!

2 thoughts on “Living Saints

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