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Downloadable PDFs:
The Faith First Learning Design
The Catechetical Process

Articles:
Models for Using Faith First® Legacy Edition in the Catholic School
Models for Using Faith First® Legacy Edition in Parish Programs
Kindergarten and Religious Readiness
How to Use the Faith First Student Text
The Spiral Model: The Most Effective Learning Approach


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Models for Using Faith First® Legacy Edition in the Catholic School
Catholic schools schedule religion classes in different ways to meet their individual needs. Faith First® Legacy Edition is such a flexible program that it can be adapted to fit the scheduling format that works best for your school.

Planning the Year

Begin by familiarizing yourself and the faculty with the content in Faith First® Legacy School Edition.

Grades 1-6

Student Book: Introductory Lesson
26 Core Chapters
19 Liturgical Year Lessons
4 Catholic Social Teaching Lessons with Cross-Curricular Activities
4 Unit Reviews

Junior High

Student Book: Introductory Lesson
12 Core Chapters
23 Liturgical Year Lessons (blackline format)
2 Catholic Social Teaching Lessons with Cross-Curricular Features
2 Unit Reviews
Use a school calendar to organize a syllabus for the year, incorporating the grade-level elements outlined above.
• Direct the teachers to use the introductory lesson on the first day of class. It will take approximately thirty minutes to complete. If religion is taught five days a week in the school, have the teachers use the four-day model (below) for Chapter 1 in order to stay on schedule for the week.
• Have the teachers plan to teach one core chapter each week.
• Suggest that teachers incorporate the unit openers and reviews into sessions at appropriate times.
• Explain to the faculty that each Catholic Social Teaching lesson should be taught at the completion of each unit. Each feature incorporates a review of a principle of Catholic Social Teaching taught in that unit, a related dilemma, and three cross-curricular activity choices that can be introduced in twenty to thirty minutes. Students can work on the activities as part of classes in the related subjects or even outside of class.
• Follow the suggestions below to assist the staff in scheduling Liturgical Year lessons and celebrations.

Alternative Schedules

Since many schools schedule a religion class each teaching day, the Faith First® Legacy Edition Teacher Guides are organized using a five-day plan. If your school conducts formal religion classes three or four days a week, have the faculty utilize a longer time frame of approximately forty-five minutes for each religion period. A three- or four-day format allows the teachers to build in time during the week for such things as the planning and celebration of school liturgies and/or classroom prayer experiences, student reflection on the Sunday readings, and enrichment and service activities.
By choosing or adapting one of the following models, teachers can blend core chapters, cross-curricular activities, and the Liturgical Year Lessons to provide a well-rounded and complete religion curriculum for their students. Have the teachers use their Teacher Guides as you walk through these models with them before the school year begins.

Four-day Model

Day 1 Use the regular lesson plan found in the Teacher Guide.
Day 2 Combine Days 2 and 3 from the lesson plans in the Guide.
Day 3 Use the Day 4 lesson plan.
Day 4 Use the Day 5 lesson plan.
Direct the faculty to use activities from the ancillary resources on the “Enriching the Lesson” page in each chapter of the Teacher Guide as needed. Have the teachers schedule at least three teaching days at the end of each unit to address the Catholic Social Teaching cross-curricular features, unit reviews, and tests.

Three-day Model

Day 1 Use the regular lesson plan found in the Teacher Guide.
Day 2 Use Days 2 and 3 from the lesson plans in the Guide.
Day 3 Use Days 4 and 5 from the lesson plans.
If your school uses the three-day model, suggest to the teachers that they may wish to assign the chapter review, the chapter test, or other enrichment activities as take-home projects.

Incorporating the Liturgical Year Lessons

The Faith First® Legacy Edition Liturgical Year Lessons help students learn about and celebrate Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Triduum, Easter, the Easter Season, and Pentecost. These lessons enable teachers to present a complete lesson most weeks during the major seasons of the liturgical year. Here are some options for helping the faculty to schedule these lessons:
1. End-of-the-Week option. Encourage the faculty to teach one “We Celebrate” lesson each week during the appropriate seasons. They can present the weekly core chapter using the four-day format suggested above. The fifth day can then be devoted to teaching and celebrating a Liturgical Year lesson.
2. Five-day integration model. Seasonal lessons can also be integrated into a teacher’s regular teaching days. For example, if the faculty uses a five-day model, the teachers could teach the first page of a Liturgical Lesson on Day 4, and close the week with the seasonal activity or prayer service on Day 5.
3. Three- or four-day integration model. If your school utilizes a three- or four-day model, the teachers can delete an activity in the core chapter and set aside fifteen to twenty minutes on a given day to study the Liturgical Year lesson. The seasonal prayer that accompanies the lesson can be used to end the week.

Ideas for Reflecting on the Sunday Readings

Many Catholic school teachers feel a special responsibility to help students grow in their understanding of the Sunday readings proclaimed at Mass each week. Faith First® Legacy Edition makes it possible for teachers to lead a lectionary-based reflection each week without purchasing supplemental resources.
1. Direct the staff to consult the “Catechists and Teachers” page on www.FaithFirst.com. For weekly lessons, have the teachers go to the “Lectionary” page where, in addition to catechist background, they will find separate sessions for primary, intermediate, and junior high students.
2. Encourage the teachers to teach the core chapters using the four-day format as outlined above. Instruct them to set aside the fifth religion class each week to explore and reflect on the Sunday readings with their students.
3. Call the faculty’s attention to the “Lectionary Correlation” link on the “Catechists and Teachers” page. Explain that this section correlates specific Faith First® chapters to the weekly lectionary themes.

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Models for Using Faith First® Legacy Edition in Parish Programs
Parishes throughout the country use a variety of models to schedule their religious education programs. Faith First® Legacy Edition is such a flexible program that it can be adapted to meet the scheduling format that works best for you, your catechists, the children, and families.
Planning the Year
Begin by familiarizing yourself and your catechists with the content in the Faith First® Legacy Parish Edition.

Grades 1-6

Student Book: Introductory Lesson
26 Core Chapters
23 Liturgical Year Lessons
4 Unit Reviews

Junior High

Student Book: Introductory Lesson
12 Core Chapters
23 Liturgical Year Lessons (blackline format)
2 Unit Reviews

Calendaring the Year

Using the calendar you have planned for class sessions, develop a syllabus for the year that will guide the catechists in knowing when they will teach each chapter of Faith First® Legacy Parish Edition. The models below will help you in making these decisions. They can be used as suggested or adapted to meet your individual parish needs.

School-Year Model

Traditionally, many parishes conduct religious education classes from September to late spring. Children participate in sessions after school, in the evening, or on weekends, depending on parish and community needs and activities.

Core Chapters

On average, parishes schedule twenty-five to thirty class sessions per year. Since the Faith First® Legacy Edition has twenty-six core chapters, catechists working with a school-year model can easily teach one chapter a week throughout the year.

Incorporating the Liturgical Year Lessons

Faith First® Legacy Edition also provides twenty-three lessons for helping children learn about and celebrate the Church seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. These lessons can be easily incorporated as segments of a regular core chapter session. By deleting an activity in a core chapter, catechists can set aside fifteen to twenty minutes to read the Liturgical Year lesson in the text and end the session by praying the seasonal prayer that accompanies the lesson. The lesson pages can then be sent home to extend the celebration to the child’s family.
Another option for utilizing the Liturgical Year lessons is to build intergenerational sessions around them seasonally. Invite parents and other parishioners to come together with the children to celebrate the season. The adult content for these sessions can be drawn from the reproducible pages of RCL’s Keeping Faith First: A Resource for Supporting the Whole Community of Faith. Large and small group activities for all participants can be chosen from the lesson plans in the Faith First® Legacy Edition Catechist Guides.

Summer Model

Some parishes prefer to conduct catechetical sessions during the summer months when families have fewer demands on their time. Organize a Faith First® Legacy Edition Summer Program around a two-week (ten sessions) or three-week (fifteen sessions) block. Incorporate the ideas below in planning your Summer Program.
• Plan two- to three-hour daily sessions. This allows time for working with the texts and building in activities, communal prayer, and refreshments.
• Present two or more complementary chapters in one daily session. For example, instead of doing two separate sessions on the Ten Commandments, have your catechists combine two chapters into one session. This is easily accomplished with an extended summer time frame.
• Encourage your catechists to adapt their lessons to the daily time frame. Point out that it isn’t necessary to complete the entire textbook during the Summer Program. During the school year, you and your catechetical team can schedule special events—grade level retreats, intergenerational gatherings, or family-based experiences—to address topics such as prayer, the Trinity, or the sacraments. You can also gather children together seasonally to celebrate the Liturgical Year and use the lessons in the student texts on those occasions. These gatherings reinforce how important it is to grow in faith all year long, not just in the summer.

Lectionary-Based Model

Using a lectionary-based program in conjunction with Faith First® Legacy Edition ensures that children are learning and living their faith as they explore the Sunday readings. Consult the catechists’ attention to the “Catechist and Teachers” page on www.FaithFirst.com. For weekly lessons, have the catechists go to the “Lectionary” page where, in addition to catechist background and preparation hints, they will find separate sessions for primary, intermediate, and junior high. Here they will also find correlations to specific Faith First® chapters that relate to the Scripture themes. The “Lectionary Correlation” link on the “Catechists and Teachers” page will help you to assist the catechists in planning the year around the lectionary themes.

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Kindergarten and Religious Readiness
Faith First® Kindergarten is all about helping children take the first steps in building a foundation for future growth in faith. Readiness for learning about what it means to belong to the Catholic Church is a multi-faceted experience. It is a time to celebrate simple rituals with the children and to introduce youngsters to some of the traditions of the Catholic Church. It is an opportunity to help young children begin to build a religious vocabulary and to captivate the children’s religious imagination. Your catechists or school religion teachers will find all this and more in Faith First® Kindergarten.
Scope and Sequence
Readiness for future catechesis is built through the scope and sequence of the Faith First® Kindergarten child’s book. The text is divided into four units and contains twenty-four chapters. Nineteen chapters focus on core teachings of the Catholic Church. Five chapters are devoted entirely to presenting five Bible stories, in addition to the Scripture found in the core chapters. Finally, there are ten lessons that engage the children in the celebration of the seasons and special days of the Church Year.
Faith First® Kindergarten is based upon the four pillars of faith found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The key teachings of the Catechism have been appropriately woven into the four units of Faith First® Kindergarten to meet the unique learning and faith development needs of kindergarten children.
The four units are:
Unit 1: The World is a Gift from God
Unit 2: God Loves Us
Unit 3: We Are Friends of Jesus
Unit 4: We Live as Friends of Jesus
These four units and the “We Celebrate Special Days” lessons actively engage the children and capture their enthusiasm and sense of wonder as they build an increased sense of Catholic identity. The content, activities, illustrations, and prayer experiences in the child’s book are designed so that the children explore, discover, and learn about the Bible, basic Catholic beliefs, liturgy, and how to live their faith each day.

Growing as Catholic Christians

The kindergarten year is a wonderful time for catechists/religion teachers to support parents in developing the Catholic identity of their children. A child’s growth in faith is best fostered when parents and catechists/religion teachers work together. Faith First® Kindergarten supports this partnership through the weekly “Family Page” in the Kindergarten Family Resource Book and a dedicated section devoted to families on the FaithFirst.com web site. Ask your Kindergarten catechists/religion teachers to actively promote these resources and to keep parents involved and informed about the children’s progress in growing in faith. The staff can also be encouraged to affirm parents for their efforts to build faith at home.

Religious Growth Characteristics

Faith First® Kindergarten cultivates growth and readiness for catechesis in faith by building on the following attributes of five- and six-year olds.
• A kindergarten child’s natural sense of wonder and awe fosters sensitivity to the sacred.
• Kindergarteners imagine God as a human person. They form their image of God from parents, guardians, and other significant people in their lives.
• Five- and six-year olds experience God’s love through parents, guardians, and other family members.
• Because they enjoy ceremony and ritual, prayer comes naturally to the kindergarten child.
• Children of this age are comfortable with both formal and spontaneous prayer.
• Kindergarteners interpret Bible stories and other stories literally. This is a good time to focus on helping children learn the characters and sequence of the story itself, rather than trying to lead children to deeper meanings than they can grasp.
The building blocks of faith are developed throughout Faith First® Kindergarten. The child’s book builds on the lives of the children and the beliefs, stories, and celebrations of the Catholic faith. Help your catechists/religion teachers recognize that Faith First® Kindergarten is a wonderful, age-appropriate springboard to a lifetime of learning and living as a friend and follower of Jesus.

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How to Use the Faith First Student Text
The purpose of religion textbooks is to facilitate a faith journey into the message of love and salvation revealed by God through Jesus Christ and taught by the Catholic Church. Help your students get the most out of their textbooks by following the suggestions below.

1. Engage the Learner. Each lesson begins with an on-page prayer in which all the children participate. This prayer sets the tone for the day and shows the importance of prayer in the Church’s tradition. The students are then guided to questions that help them to relate their everyday experience to the chapter theme. Your role is to assist the children in making these faith-life connections. The opening photo presents another opportunity for discussion and an avenue through which the children can begin to discover the chapter topic.

2. Teach and Apply the Content. Each lesson begins with a Faith Focus question that invites personal and communal reflection. It also provides some direction on how the lesson will unfold. The children should be able to answer the question at the conclusion of your session. Following the Faith Focus question, you will help the children to explore a particular aspect of the chapter content. This material is always age-appropriate and provides many different learning strategies for bringing the lesson to life through group learning or creative activities. The learning phase is always followed by a response or application phase. Here you will assist the students in demonstrating that they comprehend the content they have just studied. Keep in mind that it is important to use the visuals on the page as part of the lesson. Many children learn as much or more through these images as they do from the printed word. Ask what message they think the image conveys. You can also explore with them the mood expressed in the image or why the artist used certain colors.

3. Give a Reason for Reading. Before reading from the text, give the children a reason to read a page or two-page spread. Ask them a lead-in question and have them silently read the section to discover the answer or have them skim a page to find the appropriate response. Consider having students work in small groups to find the three most important sentences on an assigned page and to be prepared to defend their choices. After allowing time for them to complete this assignment, invite each group to present their findings to the class. Don’t get stuck in the rut of always having the children take turns reading aloud each paragraph of a chapter. This is a passive approach. Instead, giving students a reason to read encourages them to take an active role and helps them to see that the text provides important information.

4. Connect Concepts to Life. Every chapter in Faith First Legacy Edition concludes with the “Make a Difference” pages. The “Our Church Makes a Difference” page points out an important way that the Church is living out the teachings presented in the chapter. The “What Difference Does Faith Make in My Life?” page asks the children to complete an activity that reflects on what they have learned in the chapter. The most important step on this page is “My Faith Choice” (Grades 1-6) or “Faith Decision” (Junior High). In this section, students respond to a question or complete a statement sharing what they will do throughout the week to live what they have learned that week. This activity is the heart of the Faith First program, because it gives the children an opportunity to put their faith into practice in their everyday lives.

5. Pray and Review. An on-page prayer experience is provided at the end of each chapter. Encourage the children to enter into the prayer by having them move from their desks to the prayer area you’ve set up in your classroom. Give the children who will have speaking parts time to prepare. Rehearse liturgical gestures and music selections beforehand. Allowing students to experience the prayer rather than simply reciting it will make for a more meaningful encounter with the Lord.
Following the prayer, have the students focus on the “We Remember” review. Vary the way you approach this section from week to week. For example, you might have the students work in pairs one week to respond to the questions or to complete a puzzle. The following week, you might have them work independently or have the class complete the page together as you act as the facilitator.
These suggestions illustrate appropriate ways you can help children discover, explore, and respond to the content in their textbooks. Your Catechist/Teacher Guide incorporates these strategies and many others. The most important thing to remember is that children learn best through a process of discovery. Use your textbook creatively. In this way, you will help the children interiorize their faith and to make it more their own.

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The Spiral Model: The Most Effective Learning Approach
The spiral approach found in Faith First Legacy Edition is rooted in the understanding that learning about our faith is a life-long process. Children learn best when important faith topics are introduced at one grade level and then reinforced in subsequent grades as new information is about the topic is added. The spiral model builds on the strong foundation established in earlier grade levels. Thus, children are then able to refilter what they have been taught previously and to process it at higher and higher levels of thinking.

A Three-part Foundation

As catechetical leaders, religion coordinators, catechists, and religion teachers, we want to hand on the doctrines, teachings, and practices of our faith. We do this by faithfully drawing on the truths of our faith found in our Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the lived experience of the liturgical year. Faith First incorporates all three in what we call a triple-spiral approach.
Doctrine. Children in grades 1-6 are introduced in developmentally appropriate ways to the core concepts of Catholic Tradition through twenty-six doctrine chapters each year. The four units of the Faith First student books are organized according to the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—creed, liturgy, morality, and prayer. As the children grow, they revisit and expand their knowledge as new information is presented about these topics in subsequent grades. Junior High students continue to develop in their faith through five texts that can be used interchangeably. Three of these texts, Mystery of God, Morality: Life in Christ, and Church and Sacraments, focus on the pillars of our faith. Two other texts, Jesus and the New Testament and Church History, invite students to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and the major themes, events, and people that have helped to build the Church.
Scripture. Scripture stories and passages are woven throughout all the doctrinal chapters. In addition, the children are invited to explore in depth core Scripture chapters in each text at every grade level. They learn the context, style, and intent of the Scripture writers. No other religion curriculum incorporates this unique feature. Through the core Scripture chapters, the children are prepared for a lifetime of prayerful reflection on the word of God.
Liturgical Year. Young people using Faith First have the opportunity to celebrate from nineteen to twenty-three seasonal celebrations each year. These two-page lessons are easily incorporated into the religion curriculum as stand-alone lessons or as an extension of the closing prayer.

A Dynamic Process

The Faith First spiral approach is much more than the transmission of information about our Catholic faith. Rather, it is a dynamic process with which the young person can discover the richness of Catholicism and the ways in which its stories and teachings can provide a path to the Lord.
Every Faith First lesson incorporates a simple three-step process to teach the chapter content:
ENGAGE. Children come with varying degrees of prior knowledge and experiences about the theme of a given chapter. Each chapter begins with a simple questioning strategy through which the children share what they already know about the theme and where it may have touched their human experience.
TEACH AND APPLY. Each Faith First chapter presents three lesson concepts that support the chapter focus and offers a variety of teaching strategies to make the concepts interesting and understandable.
After each concept has been presented, an activity helps the young people express their understanding of it and begin to apply it to life.
CONNECT. After the concepts have been presented, Faith First shows the children how they have been incorporated into the Church’s life. Then the young people are challenged to express what difference the concepts will make in their lives.

Conclusion
The heart of the child is at the center of the catechetical process. Our mission is to lead children to Jesus—to do more than to teach about who he is. The goal of all catechesis is to help people to know the Lord in their hearts. The content of the spiral approach provides the foundation for taking part in the journey of faith. As catechists and religion teachers use the Faith First spiral approach, they will begin to see how all the parts fit together to create an experience that deepens faith—for the learners as well as for themselves.


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