Most Catholic educators would agree: we want our students to think deeply about their faith and why they believe in the tenants of Christianity. In order to do this, we must take a slightly different approach than the standardized Catholic curriculum and turn towards reason and science to fortify our students’ beliefs. Guiding students to becoming critical and intellectual Catholics requires educators to take a new (yet actually quite ancient) approach to faith formation: apologetics.
In this article, you’ll learn how to incorporate challenging, apologetics topics and conversations into your religious education lesson plans. This article will cover some specific strategies for tackling tough topics by helping you frame your lessons and discussions with defined objectives and an intentional structure, which will lead to positive outcomes. Plus, download the FREE Discourse in Apologetic Religious Education Kit to get resources that will assist you in promoting rich and meaningful discussion during your apologetics lesson plan!
Before you get started, it’s critical to understand that tackling lessons about tough topics requires a bit more planning, strategy, and effort than a traditional lesson. Oftentimes, talking about challenging topics can cause students to feel confused, upset, and/or emotional. Catholic apologetic educators need to ensure they have concrete strategies for teaching these issues and turning these challenging conversations into positive learning opportunities.
This article will provide you with the information and resources to get started introducing challenging apologetics into your classroom today, including…
Preparing and Planning an Apologetics Lesson
Before you dive into your apologetic instruction, you’ll want to ensure that your lesson is well-planned, clear, and purposeful. In order to do that, you’ll want to follow a few simple steps for planning the most effective lesson possible.
#1 Start with less complex topics
Creating an apologetics classroom culture doesn’t happen overnight. Helping your students become apologists is a continual effort. Starting with topics that are less complex will help students grasp an apologetics approach to faith formation.
#2 Defining clear lesson objectives
You need to be intentional about what exactly you want students to take away from your lesson. Start by asking yourself the following questions.
- How do you hope students will engage during this conversation?
#3 Personal planning and evaluation
You can’t teach what you don’t know! Therefore, before beginning direct instruction on a topic, educators need to use the lesson/discussion objectives to evaluate their personal knowledge on the lesson topic and partake in self-education if necessary.
- If you find yourself lacking knowledge on a topic, sign up in advance for information on the Master Teacher Program in order to be equipped on topics of contemporary apologetics.
- Collect and gather material and resources that will support your instruction, promote discussions, and increase you or your students’ knowledge on the topic.
- If you want additional resources to support instruction, check out the Most Asked Questions Video Series!
#4 Preparing students for upcoming lesson and conversation
Students need to have a clear understanding of why you are introducing this particular lesson and the learning outcomes you expect.
Strategies to Ensure You Meet Lesson Objectives and Stay On Track
Promote Classroom Discourse and Critical Thinking
An effective apologetics lesson will be filled with deep, engaging conversations among students and teachers as well as moments of profound critical thinking. Fostering this type of collaborative discourse, deep thought, and metacognition requires teachers to implement a few key strategies. Download the Discourse in Apologetic Religious Education Kit to learn more about why discourse is important for students and educators in the religious education classroom.
– Get students to access prior knowledge.
– Allow students to think forward and keep them on track with lesson objectives.
– Assist students in clearly externalize their thinking.
– Welcome students to ask questions and share their concerns.
When you download our Discourse in Apologetic Religious Education Kit you’ll get a variety of prompts, questions, and sentence starters that can be used in the classroom for promoting discussion about challenging topics!
Reflect and Refine Approach
As catechists, you all know that learning is a process—so too is instruction. In order to provide the best possible education to students, we must take the time to look back at how the lesson went and consider what we can do better the next time around.
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- Did your students learn what you wanted to be learnt?
- How do you know?
- What can you do better next time?
- What new strategies will you try to better engage students and incite thoughtful discourse?
- Keep reflecting and refining until you’re happy with students’ learning outcomes.
At the end of the day, if you’re a Catholic educator, you should want your students to dig deep, think critically, and discover why it is that they believe what they do. Apologetics is a critical tool for helping students use science, history, and reason to understand, defend, and ultimately, fortify their faith.
Equip your students with the tools they need to think critically about topics that challenge their beliefs and have the potential to undermine their faith. Follow our guide to plan, implement, reflect upon, and modify your apologetics lessons.