Ahh, working with a curriculum. It can be intimidating at a glance but it’s not that bad once you learn how to use it. At the end of this article you will be a pro at dissecting the curriculum and learning how it can help you plan your lessons.
First, let’s take a look at WHY we need a curriculum.
A curriculum is a guideline of what you need to teach throughout the year. Our dear friends at the Archdiocese (GOA) have created this curriculum so that we can say that our children who were raised through the Church School Program will graduate with a solid foundation in the teachings of the Orthodox Church. What someone teaches in kindergarten will lay the foundation for a teaching another concept in later grades. If we teach whatever we want, whenever we want, there will be no consistency across the grades. Some information will be repeated while other topics may not be addressed.
Archdiocesan Curriculum & Books
The curriculum is based off of the topics in the books, so if you use the books from the Greek Archdiocese you will have covered the content by the end of the year. They have a done a tremendous job with the new Zines (magaZINES). We used them this year and our students loved them! It has lots of photos and interactive lessons. If you haven’t seen them yet, try to get your hands on a copy. You’ll be glad you did! They are working on revamping all the books. Right now it is available for 5-12 grades.
Each one of these bullet points is an objective. It is the goal of the lesson or what you want the students to know by the end of class. Here is a sample from the 1st grade curriculum.
Finding Themes & Planning Ahead
What I like to do first is look at all the topics to be addressed and find themes or lessons that relate to a particular time of year. For example, we’d study Jesus’ birth in November/December or stewardship in the spring to go along with Earth Day. Then I fill in the other topics as I see fit. This is just a list of the objectives, not detailed lesson plans and should be completed before the school year begins. When I taught 6th grade, our director had us turn in our objectives in the Fall & again in the Spring. We all grumbled about it but in the end I was so thankful she made us do that. It really helped hold us accountable and gave us a clear vision of where we wanted to be in May.
Make sure you check the Church School calendar so that you know which classes are shorter or when the children have pageant practice, etc. The Greek Archdiocese has a nice calendar online that lists important Orthodox days. It helped me out a lot!
But I don’t like the lessons in the book! or Our church budget can’t afford books
Its okay if you don’t like a particular lesson in the book or don’t have access to them, as long as you teach the objectives. You can create your own engaging lesson or look on the internet for inspiration. My only caution is that you: 1. Make sure your director and/or priest is okay with this and 2. Make sure it’s in line with our teachings. If in doubt, ask the church school director or priest to review the lesson. Always err on the side of caution. When I taught, some of my best lessons were from other websites. I used the main activity but altered the wording or teachings to fit into our beliefs.
My Favorite Lesson Plan Template — STOPEM
This one is my favorite because it is easily memorized! Subject, Topic, Objective, Procedure, Evaluation, Materials. I always move the Materials after the Objective, so my template mnemonic is STOMPE. Put a little accent on that “E” and it sounds fancy. Stomp-eh. 🙂
Heres an example, using a 1st grade objective.
Subject: Me & My World, About Me Unit 1
Objective: Students will learn that they should be thankful to God for the talents He gives them.
Materials: List everything you need for the lesson, even the little things. It will be your reminder when packing your bag for Sunday.
Procedure: List the steps of what you are going to do. It can be very detailed or a general plan. What questions will you ask?
Evaluation: How will you know the students understand the objective? What questions can you ask to see what they know? Is there a review game you can play where students demonstrate what they’ve learned?
And finally, the most important piece of a lesson is reflection. No matter if you’ve been teaching for 20 years or this is your first year, we must always reflect on our lessons so that our teaching does not become stale. As you drive home from church or as you relax later in the day, think about what worked well. What could have been better. If anything significant comes to mind, jot it down on the lesson plan so you have it as a reminder for next year. It might also be a good idea to keep a journal and write down your reflections. Maybe you’ll notice some patterns in your teaching.
You can do it!
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