Here’s how using Catholic saints coloring books helped one teacher in her quest to give her students a meaningful welcome activity.
By Sara Jonckheere
Finding meaningful activities for students to do when they first come into the classroom has always been important to me, especially with my religious formation students. We only have an hour-and-a-half each week, so that time is critical, yet I don’t want to start in on the lesson and have some of the students miss it.
We have tried several different activities when our students first walk in the room, but I am MOST excited about what we are doing this year, a Catholic Saint Coloring book. After trying out different formats for a few years, this seems to be working the best with our first graders.
Here’s how the Catholic Saints Coloring book has turned into an activity that’s one of my favorites and some ideas that will hopefully inspire you to create your own (or use mine).
What we tried in the past
Three years ago, we decided to have students fill out a prayer prompt as they entered the room and waited for the rest of the class to arrive. We would take these prayers and use them at the prayer table or in the chapel.
This worked but the hard part was that some of our first graders couldn’t read these independently and some of them struggled to write more than a few words in response.
Two years ago, we decided to shift our focus to studying saints and virtues during that time, so we created flip books with some saints materials I already had. We had index cards that were hole punched and we copied the picture of the saint and the facts about the saint. The students would glue the picture on one side and the facts on the others – almost like a flashcard. They worked on coloring the saint and then we would read the facts to the students once everyone was done.
It worked but it required a lot of prep to have the pages copied and cut.
Last year, we took the same saints facts and pictures I was using and created an interactive notebook for each student. We glued down the facts about the saint and then glued the picture on top so that they could flip it open. Then underneath we glued a prayer prompt.
This required a lot of prep work for us up front, but we were trying to minimize the amount of time our students spent cutting and gluing during those first few minutes. This was also a success, but again, we had first graders who couldn’t read it and come up with ideas independently.
Why the saints coloring book has worked the best
While we loved the activities we were creating and the fact that we were introducing students to the saints and their virtues and giving them a chance to write a prayer, it was taking SO MUCH time. It was using up a half hour each week. If we saw them daily, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but with only an hour-and-a-half together, we needed more time to get to our lesson(s) for the day and our related activity.
I knew we needed something to keep the children entertained while they waited for their classmates to arrive. I wanted to still focus on the Saints and be informational and educational yet independent for our first graders. I also wanted it to be something that only took 10-15 minutes to complete at most. And then I had my “Ah-Ha” moment – a Catholic Saints Coloring Book.
I took the same information that we were using on our Saint Interactive Notebooks, but turned it into an informational coloring book. Now, when the students come in, all they do is color the Saint for the day. Once everyone is finished, we read about that Saint using the text from the coloring page and often go into more detail with the help of some of our favorite Saint books for kids. It is working so well and saving us so much time. I feel like the students are still learning and doing meaningful work when they first arrive, but we have more time for everything else in our lesson plans.
I created the coloring book with 56 different Saints. Since we only meet 22 times throughout the year in our program, I just picked out some of the Saints I thought the students would be most interested in or already have schema about. I copied them, printed the cover on cardstock and had them spiral bound at Staples.
For each of the 56 Saints that I included in the coloring book, there is their name, a few facts, a virtue, feast day and what he/she is the patron of. It is short and sweet which makes it great for young learners like preschool through 1st grade, yet it could still serve as a fun introduction to the saints for older children.
Sara Jonckheere is an elementary teacher turned stay-at-home mom. She loves teaching, creating teacher resources, sharing her faith, and helping her daughters learn and explore the world around them. She’s online at Sara J Creations.