Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

One of my coworkers loves to retell the story of his first year at our school. After a jam-packed Advent season, I jokingly remarked to him, “Just wait- Lent is Advent on steroids!” While the two seasons are incredibly different, in the life of our school community, they follow a similar pattern. During Lent our school has its usual Friday masses and monthly rosaries, but we add a prayer service each Monday to help center us for the week and we also have a school wide penance service where each teacher and student can go to individual confessions. Often the second grade students make their first reconciliation during Lent, so that’s another chance to come together and pray.

Each Lent is something a little different at school, so in this post I am just going to tell you about some of the things we are doing this year to make the season meaningful for our students. At the end I’ll post some links to past Lent posts.

Holy Week Themed Prayer Services. This year we won’t be in school for Holy Week, which is a huge bummer. It can get crazy because I am also a church musician, but I LOVE spending Holy Week with my students, and it’s a beautiful way to introduce them to a lot of traditions they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. But this year, Holy Week is also spring break. So the third grade religion teacher (also my mother-in-law) came up with a brilliant solution: each of our Monday prayer services will focus on one day of Holy Week. This way we can still introduce some of those traditions, but in a slightly different setting. My class has Holy Thursday, and I am getting some delusions of grandeur about a school wide Holy Hour. I’ll keep you posted.

Pray Fast Give Posters. This was an idea one of the first grade teachers found on Catholic Icing. Each building at our school will have a large cross poster with a bunch of small cut out symbols. We are using a cross for pray, a fish for fast, and a heart for give. Each time a student does one of these things, they will be able to add their symbol to the cross. Hopefully by the end of Lent our crosses will be filled with good deeds!

Extra prayer time. Of course we pray in every class throughout the day, but during Lent I try to add extra and richer opportunities for my students to pray. Our parish already has adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Thursday, and the 8th graders have been going since the beginning of the year. During Lent, Friday afternoons are added as a time for adoration, so I can bring one of the 7th grade classes each week too. I work with the other 7th grade teacher to make it so each class gets to go every other week, because except for Fridays, I don’t actually teach 7th grade in the afternoon.
I also try to make sure that each of my classes prays the Stations of the Cross at least once a week. There are many ways to do this, but one is that our art teacher posts the Stations all around the hallway of the elementary school building. We also go to the church and pray there, and sometimes we pray a simple version in our classroom, using the Smartboard to project the images.

Pray Fast Give bulletin board. I came up with this idea last year, and I love it. I made pray, fast, and give banners for the bulletin board by my prayer table, and then I cut three swatch paint samples into tag shapes using our school’s di-cut machine. Each student filled out a tag with a way they were going to pray, fast, and give this Lent. We then filled the board with the colorful tags and kept our Lenten promises easy to see and remember.

For a great Lent playlist, check out my 10 Songs for Lent post. For a reading plan that will take you through the whole Old Testament during the Lenten season, check out my Lent Reading Plan. I also have a free Lent planning sheet to help students develop meaningful practices for each of the pillars of Lent: Pray, Fast, and Give. Here is a great list of books to use during Lent. What will your class be doing for Lent this year? Share your ideas in the comments.

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