Here are three different approaches to inspire you to celebrate and enhance Ordinary Time in your Catholic classroom.
By Kate Daneluk
As Catholic Teachers, we want to provide a rich, Catholic education to our students that amounts to more than school + Religion class. Once Advent rolls around, we can easily integrate Advent and Christmas themes throughout our curriculum. We enhance the class environment, focus art and music on the holidays, and have special prayers and celebrations.
So how do we take the Catholic identity of our classroom to the next level in the season of Ordinary Time? Let’s be honest, the name doesn’t exactly inspire creativity.
But Ordinary Time is an important season that is in full swing as we enter the school year. We end the Liturgical Year in Ordinary Time. How can we end the Liturgical Year strong at the start of our school year?
Here are three different approaches to help inspire you to celebrate and enhance Ordinary Time in your classroom.
Ordinary Time in Year A
The readings for Mass follow the Liturgical Year but also rotate on a three–year cycle denoted as Years A,B, and C. The fall of 2017 is the end of Year A. Why not focus on some of these specific themes this fall?
The Gospel of Matthew
Year A spends a lot of time on the Gospel of Matthew. So why not get to know St. Matthew as a class?
- Read or act out stories from the Gospel of Matthew.
- Do an art or craft project with the symbols for St. Matthew. This is a great opportunity for a lesson on iconography.
- Dedicate a bulletin board to information on Matthew.
- Help students understand Matthew’s point of view, his Jewish audience in the early years of the Church, and why he may focus on certain stories and perspectives.
Throughout this season, the readings will focus on living in Christian community, pointing out that we are responsible for each other and giving advice on how to get along and help each other get to Heaven. The message is to always put others before oneself.
- Keep a reminder on the wall: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- A fall class service project will bring this lesson home.
- Learning the corporal and spiritual works of mercy coordinates beautifully with this season.
Year A reminds us to keep our eyes on Heaven and not get distracted with things of this world.
- Children are often interested in what Heaven is like, and while we don’t know much, this is a good time to talk about what we do know about Heaven.
- “God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him in the next.” (Baltimore Catechism) Help you class remember this truth each day. Randomly ask your class, “Why did God make you?” through the day and have them answer as a class. Remembering that we were made for Heaven and not just this world affects our decisions on a daily basis.
The themes of forgiving others, as well as God’s forgiveness and mercy and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are key for Ordinary Time this fall.
- You’ll find lots of tie-ins this year for those preparing for First Reconciliation.
- Spend time walking children through an examination of conscience before they make Confession.
- Look for stories or have students write short stories on the themes of forgiveness and redemption.
Just because it is Ordinary Time doesn’t mean there aren’t special events to celebrate! Don’t let these opportunities pass by.
Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14
It’s not Good Friday, but it is a day to remember the love and sacrifice that Christ made for us and also the triumph and victory He won for us because of it. Rather than a day of mourning, it is a day of celebration.
- Do a cross-themed coloring, craft or art project. The Triumphant Cross is depicted as a globe with a cross on top.
- Sing “Lift High the Cross” today!
- This day was first established to celebrate the return of what is believed to be the relics of Holy Cross first recovered by St. Helena. This could be a special history lesson for the day.
- Spend extra time on the Sign of the Cross today and remind your students of its importance and sacred nature.
October, Month of the Rosary
By emphasizing the Rosary with your class, you give them a powerful weapon which will be with them for the rest of their lives.
- Decorate the room to honor Mary and the Rosary. Have each student create a paper bead with art, prayers, or intentions and assemble them into a rosary display.
- John Paul II used to pray the rosary throughout his busy day. Follow this example and pray a class rosary in pieces, a decade at a time through the day all month long. Everyone will need to keep their rosary with them to make it work.
- This is a great time for a living rosary, where each student represents a bead and leads the prayer. A living rosary is a good event to do with families or multiple classes.
Feast of the Guardian Angels, October 2
Is there anything more delightful than spending a day thinking about Angels?
- This is a good opportunity to ensure your students are clear on the nature and purpose of the angels. Many are confused by the pop-culture representations.
- Ensure all your students know the Guardian Angel prayer. You may be surprised that some older students do not. You also may have to convince them that this is not a baby prayer.
- There are lots of opportunities for stories, coloring, art, etc. to celebrate the day. Angel food cakes or meringue cookies will make it extra special.
St. Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day, October 4
If your school can pull it off, today is the day to bring in the pets for the blessing of the animals in the tradition of St. Francis. The kids will never forget it.
All Saints Day, November 1
Although it can be hard to follow on the heels of Halloween, there is so much to do to honor the saints. Consider spreading the saint celebration over the month of November.
- This is a perfect opportunity for saint biography book reports, patron saint reports, or saint name reports for Confirmation students.
- There are lots of fun games for All Saints Day, like Saint Bingo, name-that-Saint, or the Saint version of HedBanz. You can create these or find resources online.
- The most popular way to celebrate for all ages is the saint-themed costume party and parade. Some schools do this in lieu of Halloween and other do it back to back. Parents will secretly curse you for the extra work, but they come around when they see how the children benefit.
This is not a Liturgical feast but a holiday that falls square in Ordinary Time and certainly one we can tie into our Catholic Faith.
Feast of Christ the King, last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, November 26, 2017
You won’t be in school for this feast, but think of it as the Liturgical New Year Celebration. We celebrate the ultimate victory of our Lord, King of Heaven and Earth. We look to his Second Coming and the day when every knee shall bend to Him. We look to the end of Salvation history right before we begin the journey anew with Advent. Think about how you can honor Christ the King during this last week of the Liturgical Year.
- Crowns, crowns, and more crowns. Decorate with them. Wear them. Make them.
- Children can draw or color pictures of Jesus on His Heavenly throne.
- Sing Christ the King themed songs. There are lots to choose from if you look in the subject index of the hymnal.
- This is a good time to explore kings in stories and history. It gives excellent context to better understand Christ as the perfect king and servant king.
Keep the Faith
We don’t need a special day to enhance the Catholic presence in our classroom. There are many ordinary ways to keep the faith through Ordinary Time.
Saint of the Week/Month
Choose a saint with a feast day in the upcoming month or week and have this be a focus in your classroom with stories, prayers, extra coloring or activity pages and of course, a picture or icon in a place of honor. When saying class prayers you can end with St. _______, pray for us. Today’s Catholic Teacher offers a Saint Study each month on our website with ideas for integrating that saint into the classroom.
Make a point of teaching students to pray by focusing each day of the week on a different form of prayer: Blessing, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise.
- Students can fill prayer boxes or books with their individual prayers.
- Consider a calendar bulletin board prompting students to pray through the day. Blessing Monday, Petition Tuesday, etc.
- You can assign students different days to be in charge of leading the class in a daily prayer focusing on the theme.
Focus on Personal Growth
One reason Ordinary Time is represented by the color green is that it is a season of growth. This is a time for us to grow as we reflect on the life and teachings of Christ.
- Teach students to keep prayer and/or reflection journals.
- Students can make goals for improving in character and spirituality at the beginning of the school year. Younger students can also measure their height. At the end of the Liturgical Year, they can compare their new height and reflect on how much they have grown internally too.
Ordinary Time is filled with opportunity, so don’t let it pass you by. Find ways that work for you to end the Liturgical Year on an extraordinary note!
Kate Daneluk is a former Catholic school teacher, early childhood music teacher, creator of the Making Music, Praying Twice music curriculum, and a homeschooling mother of six.