November Extras for Teachers

Holy souls, Thanksgiving and more

By Celeste Behe

A collection of resources and ideas just right for the month of November.

Praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

“From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics.” -The Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome, 1988

During the month of November, remind your students that they are in a “new environment…illumined by the light of faith” by setting up a classroom prayer table to benefit the Holy Souls in purgatory. Begin by following these suggestions for creating the prayer table. Add a purgatory box to be filled with slips contributed by the students. Finally, place prayer cards on the table so that students can recite the powerful prayer of St. Gertrude for the release of the souls in purgatory.

Communion of Saints Bulletin Board

The “communion of saints” can be a tough concept for younger students to grasp.  Sure, they’ll say the phrase each time they recite the Apostles’ Creed, but do they know what it means? Catholic Inspired blogger Jennifer Lawrence has posted a sample of a terrific visual that will help your kids to “get it.” Jennifer created a bulletin board showing the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant composed of images and photographs of familiar people and places. Have your students contribute photos of family members to add to the Church Militant section of the bulletin board. Give your students each a holy card (from your holy card stash of ten thousand), then have them cut away the card backgrounds and add the saint silhouettes to the Church Triumphant section. The communion of saints bulletin board will be a hit with your students, and will make the doctrine itself both relatable and understandable.

Spiritual Works of Mercy Stamp

Your students are more likely to remember to “pray for the living and the dead” if you stamp their worksheets with a Spiritual Works of Mercy rubber stamp created by JLM Connections, Inc. Each of JLM’s stamps is made of 100% red rubber, ideal for producing detailed impressions. Available either mounted or unmounted, mounted stamps are backed by 3/4″ solid maple wood with gloss labels added for easy stamp identification. Stamp designs for teachers include “You Deserve a Star!” “110%” “Please Correct and Return” “Spectacular” and “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

“Gratitude puts us in a healthy alignment with God and leaves no room for negativity.” That’s the message brought home by “It is Right and Just,” a Thanksgiving lesson plan created by the folks at Loyola Press. Hands-on activities calling for inexpensive supplies – Cheerios, rulers, bowl, jar, water, and food coloring – aim to instill an “attitude of gratitude.” Students will learn that giving thanks creates a “virtuous circle” instead of the “vicious circle” that is generated by negativity. The “It is Right and Just” lesson plan may be modified to suit a range of grade levels.

Thanksgiving Scattergories Game

Help your students count their blessings by introducing them to Thanksgiving Scattergories. This twist on a game night favorite will really get players thinking about the many reasons they have to be thankful. Why not call for a Thanksgiving Scattergories session during a rainy recess period? You’ll see your students create some sunshine of their own as they focus on the gifts that God has given them.

Gifts to Thank your Helpers

Got parent volunteers? Room moms? Coaching dads? Show them your appreciation during the Thanksgiving season by gifting each of them with a “Thankful for You” jumbo bookmark. Made of laminated cardstock and featuring the Scripture verse, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3), each 2-1/2 x 6-1/2″ H bookmark also carries a short verse on the back. Also available in the “Thankful for You” collection are matching magnets, tote bags, and journals.

Practice Handwriting and Learn the Catechism at the Same Time

Here’s something to add to your “I wish they had this when I was in school” list:  Downloadable handwriting worksheets featuring the Baltimore Catechism. Cursive worksheets using material from the Baltimore Catechism #1 may be printed in various sizes for students at different grade levels. Children preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist may use a special set of worksheets including answers and prayers from the First Communion catechism. The set includes 62 pages of manuscript worksheets and 60 pages of cursive writing Worksheets. Also available is a supplemental audio CD that duplicates the First Communion worksheet answers and prayers to help reinforce memorization.

Study Dante this November

“We know now too how … many who were far from … Jesus Christ, and studied with affection the Divina Commedia, began by admiring the truths of the Catholic Faith and finished by throwing themselves with enthusiasm into the arms of the Church.” – Pope Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum, 1921

What better time than the month of the Holy Souls to introduce your high school students to Dante’s masterwork La Divina Commedia (“The Divine Comedy”)? In “Purgatory,” the second volume of The Divine Comedy, Dante “probes the mysteries of that strange and often misunderstood place between earth and Heaven.” Dr. Anthony Esolen, a “celebrated translator and teacher of Dante,” has been a professor of English at Providence College for over twenty years. In this series – available on both CD and DVD – Dr. Esolen “interprets and describes the rich theological insights discovered by Dante on his journey” up Mount Purgatory. While the material may be too challenging for classroom use, it can provide teachers with a grounding that will help them to share Dante’s poetic vision with their students.

Get the (Catholic) Facts

And did you know that Dante himself was born at the beginning of Pope Clement IV’s pontificate, and that he was a contemporary of Sts. Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, and Albert the Great?  Facts like these are at your fingertips when there’s a Catholic Timeline Banner hanging on the wall of your classroom.  Made of sturdy weather-resistant vinyl, the Catholic Timeline Banner presents a detailed overview of the history of the Catholic Church, listing Popes of the Church, secular rulers, Church Fathers, religious orders, heresies, significant battles and events, and ecumenical councils. The timeline can even be customized with a picture of your school. Dan Egan, creator of the Catholic Timeline Banner, is himself an elementary grade teacher in Northern Kentucky. He will donate a portion of the profits from timeline sales to Campion Academy, a Kentucky school for grades 1 through 12.

Celeste Behe is a blogger, speaker, and ardent Toastmaster. She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with her husband Mike and eight of their nine children.