The lesson I observed today in my second grade class in Galway, Ireland was certainly different than anything I ever observed student teaching or experienced in my elementary school career. Since our class is full of 7 and 8-year olds, they are practicing for their First Communion (I never went to or taught at a Catholic school). The students have been practicing their prayers at home, but occasionally the teacher will go over them in class to make sure the students are on track, which was what today's lesson consisted of.
My CT began the lesson by having the students open their religion books, in which they had copies of the prayers for First Communion, with their parts highlighted. She pointed out specifically which two prayers she wanted the students to recite, and then they all read it aloud together. She helped them to practice repetition, which clearly helped some students to solidify the phrases. Then, she had each of the students look at the books silently for about 5 minutes. That way, she gave the students explicit instructions on what to look at, and then encouraged them to work on it individually. Although the students will eventually be saying the prayers altogether at First Communion, she told the students that after the 5 minutes, she would be testing each person. She also made it clear, before they started to study the prayers on their own, how important this knowledge would be for their future, their parents, and their community. By emphasizing that learning these prayers would make them an important part of the church and community, the teacher helped some students understand that the learning was practical.
After the individual reading period, the teacher went around one-by-one and had each student read the two prayers aloud. Many of the students struggled, although some more than others. Since Emmy and I have been in the class for many weeks now, we have a general gauge of what level of achievement most students are at. For many of the students that struggle, the teacher prompted them more than other students when they would get stuck or say a wrong word. For some students, this prompting was just the little push they needed, and then they were able to finish the prayer. For others, they just kept repeating each guiding word as it was given to them.
As kind of a reinforcement of the importance of the prayers and First Communion, a priest came in at the end of the lesson and gave the ashes to the students (since today is Ash Wednesday). This excited many of the students, and it helped prove how important these prayers are going to be. Overall, I think this lesson worked to show the students the importance of the prayers, and hopefully encouraged them to go home and practice.