Back-to-School for You

Online resources and books you can use

By Barb Szyszkiewicz


Listen up!

The Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Boston produces the Saints and Scholars On-the-Go podcast, which focuses on the intersection of faith, education, and daily life. Superintendent Kathy Mears hosts this monthly podcast, available on iTunes.

Fun with books

Library-supply company Demco offers more than book-repair tape and due-date stampers. Their blog features a host of activities librarians and teachers can do with classes of all ages. Activity calendars for each month offer book recommendations and things to do, and you’ll also find creative lessons based on Mo Willems’ iconic characters! Visit to tap into fun book-related classroom ideas. was created this spring by a lay organization of Catholic authors committed to creating and promoting good literature for teens that doesn’t leave faith out of the equation. Teachers will find a special section offering educational bulk discounts and reading guides; books are categorized by age and genre. Every book on the site was written by a Catholic, contains Catholic characters, or has a Catholic message. Parents and teens are welcome to use this new and growing website as a resource, too.

Apps, apps, and more apps sorts through the App Store and Google Play Store to review the best Catholic apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. App categories include Bible, Devotional, Sacraments, Prayer, and Entertainment. Find apps for your classroom or for personal enrichment.

Create a digital community for your class with the FlipGrid One app for FlipGrid Classroom. Your students can record short videos to spark discussions and engage with their peers. FlipGrid Classroom is priced at $65 per teacher. FlipGrid One is free to use and works on all modern browsers for desktop as well as Chromebook, iOS, and Android. Students are already using video socially; this helps you teach them how video can be a learning tool.

Trade in your cardboard EZ Grader for the free Easy Grade app for iOS. Simply enter the number of questions on your test or assignment; you can view by number correct or number wrong. An in-app purchase allows you to compute grades to the half point. Android users, try Easy Grader by Preston Griffith, which is also free but which does not offer half-point grading.


@edappadvice highlights price drops and free education apps for the iPad. Fill your classroom’s tablets with useful apps for all subject areas without busting the budget!

To zero in on the latest technology tips for teachers, search Twitter for these hashtags:
#ipaded — for teachers using iPads in the classroom
#BYOD — for “Bring Your Own Device” environments
#Chromebooks — for all things Chromebook
#makered — using problem-solving skills across the curriculum


Two new Facebook groups are aimed at connecting teachers and parents with Catholic authors. Request to join Catholic Children’s Books at and Books for Catholic Teens at These groups welcome questions from parents and teachers about appropriate books for children and teens and offer Catholic authors an opportunity to share news about their books.


Start the year with prayer

Begin your school year with prayer — and pray all year long. Lisa Mladinich of offers a multitude of options in Heads Bowed: A Book of Prayers for Catholic School Days. Incorporate the nearly 300 original prayers designed around holy days, liturgical seasons, and faith topics into your classroom prayer routine, and don’t miss the bonus section of prayers for special occasions at the end of the book! Here’s a prayer for the first day of school, which can be used by an individual teacher, the whole faculty, or a class:

Blessing for a New School Year
Holy Spirit, when we come to you in prayer, your great power strengthens our hearts and minds with wisdom and love. We know that praying together is powerful, and we offer you all our love and the joy of this new school year. Give us joy in learning and love for one another. Help us to be grateful for the gift of our education, since many children in the world are not so fortunate. We ask you to bless and protect the poor children of the world, and we ask the holy souls in purgatory to pray for them and for us every single day. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us all together. Amen.
From Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days by Lisa Mladinich (Liguori, 2017)

Take five

Lou DelFra, CSC, and Ann Primus Berends continue their popular series of meditation books for teachers with 5 Minutes with the Psalms and Wisdom Books. Published by Ave Maria Press and written by teachers for teachers, this devotional boasts over 70 meditations based on Scripture.

Engage parents in evangelization

While the primary audience for Sr. Patricia McCormack, IHM, EdD’s book is religious education directors and teachers, Catholic school teachers will gain plenty of insight from Engaging the Parking Lot Parent: A Catechist’s Guide to Fostering Parent Participation (Twenty-Third Publications, 2017). The author suggests effective techniques for involving parents in the religious formation of their children. Many of these ideas can be adapted for use in the classroom.

Read aloud

Jake Frost’s picture book The Happy Jar is all “about life’s little moments and the love that transforms them into memories for a lifetime.” The book describes a wonderful bedtime prayer ritual and tells a sweet story of the daddy-daughter bond. The illustrations are simple and engaging, and the book provides a jumping-off point for conversation about inexpensive and technology-free ways to have fun as a family.

Action and adventure

Mark Adderley recently published McCracken and the Lost Lady, the fourth book in his adventure series set in World War I-era Europe. Featuring a zeppelin appointed like a cruise ship and a cast of characters on a mission to save the world by solving mysteries, these novels will intrigue readers in middle school and up. In this story, McCracken seeks to locate a missing icon of the Blessed Mother and stop the Russian Revolution.

Image credit: iStock

Barb Szyszkiewicz is editor at and managing editor at Today’s Catholic Teacher.

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