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Posted February 5, 2015

Book: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator
Author: Jared Dees
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN 2015. Pp. 164

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Jared Dees creator of the popular website The Religion Teacher, shares practical, easy-to-use teaching strategies and exercises for spiritual growth. These components are designed to improve the effectiveness of any busy religious educator, whether volunteer or professional, grade school or high school.

Identify Your Students' Top Needs

"The Lord guides the humble rightly, and teaches the humble the way."

Recognizing and addressing the real needs of our students is a choice we all need to make. Teaching is not about our presentation and us, it is about the students and their participation. The more we focus on what our students need to learn rather than what we want to teach, the more success we will have in the classroom.

Think about the way Jesus taught and served the people. He did not wait for them to come to him (thought they certainly did seek him out). He went out to them and visited them in their homes and shared meals with them. He recognized what was truly on their minds and addressed these things directly.

In a similar way, we need to uncover the greatest needs of our students and address them directly by meeting them where they are.

. . . Exercise: Identify the Best Ways Your Students Learn An understanding of how your students learn best will come to you over time as long as you are careful to observe which learning styles are most successful. A key to developing a full understanding of student learning is to try multiple types of activities and see which ones students connect with the most. You can do the following:

Survey your students. One way to understand how your students learn best is to ask them. Give your students a list of several types of learning styles (for example, listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing pictures, drawing pictures, viewing videos, movement, music, interpersonal group work, and intrapersonal reflection) with the following prompt: Which of the following helps you learn and understand new ideas the best? Choose the top three. (See www.therereligionteacher.com/31 days/day8 for a sample survey). Or you might just ask them to rank which ones they like to do the most in class or outside of it. The results will be helpful insight to you as well.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Become a Better Disciple

Day 1: recall your calling as a religious educator
2. Recognize your relationship with Christ
3. Imitate one of the best teachers in your life
4. Spend time reading the scriptures
5. Spend time reading the writing of a saint
6. Learn something from your students
7. Improve one prayer habit

Part II: Become a Better Servant

8. Identify yours students' top needs
9. Identify your students' biggest strengths
10. Get to know a student
11. Write a note of praise to a student who struggles
12. Compliment a parent about their child
13. Pray for your students

Part III: Become a better leader

14. Eliminate the time-wasters
15. Update your classroom procedures
16. Update your classroom rules
17. Articulate the vision for your classroom
18. Practice giving positive constructive feedback
19. Give students ownership over certain tasks

Part IV: Become a better teacher

20. Write out why the lesson is important
21. Draft or edit student learning objectives
22. Assess without a test
23. Simplify your lesson
24. Tell a story in class
25. Change the way your students read their textbook
26. Plan an assign a project
27. Incorporate music into your day
28. Liberate students from their chairs
29. Review a lesson from the past
30. Visualize a lesson in action
31. Become a witness