Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

One of my least favorite things about religion textbooks is the fact that they are all designed with a once a week parish class in mind. In order for publishers to make their money, they have to create books that they can market for both the school and the parish consumer. The result, as far as middle school is concerned, is a set of books with roughly 12 to 15 chapters and not nearly enough content or rigor for the Catholic school setting. So most years, we run out of New Testament textbook content right around Easter, even though I have been supplementing extensively throughout the year. (Also, apparently after the gospels, the entire New Testament fits neatly into one chapter about Peter and Paul. Makes sense.). So a few years ago I developed a project with takes us neatly to the end of the year, while also expanding students’ knowledge of the New Testament and the early church.

After Easter, we begin reading all of Acts of the Apostles together as a class. We read from chapter 1 through chapter 12 together, taking notes and discussing highlights. I also model for students how to take notes on important events and keep track of the setting.

After this, I split the class into three groups who each read and record one missionary journey of Saint Paul. Students take notes on where Paul is, who his companions are, and what he says and does in each city. They also use the computer lab to look at interactive maps using http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-first-missionary-journey-map.htm for the first journey, http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-second-missionary-journey-map.htm for the second journey, and http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-third-missionary-journey-map.htm for the third journey.

Once students have a good grasp of the events and places of their assigned missionary journey, we move on to creating a “passport” that Saint Paul may have used for his journey. Each place he visits needs a description of the events there, and a stamp for the passport. They also fill out a map of the journey and a profile of Paul. The final projects are always so cool!

I’ve included the files for the project, but you could certainly tweak to fit your classroom needs.  I’m still working on the rubric- I would like it to be more content based than class behavior and effort based, but I find that writing rubrics in May often needs to include behavior and effort portions as “end of the year-itis” sets in.

In addition to being a lot of fun, this project also helps students to celebrate the Easter season along with the Church and provides students with a familiarity with the mass readings each week. As always, please let me know in the comments if these ideas are helpful to you!

Happy Easter!

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