Last September, at the beginning of our church school year, I gave each of my students a binder with their name on it to keep on the bookshelf in our classroom. I sent the binders home with my students last Sunday and was caught a bit off guard today with the overwhelming joyous responses about the binders from their parents and grandparents. Thus, I thought I'd share this simple technique I used to record and archive each student's attendance, progress, (most) crafts, and projects.
The main purpose of the binder was to provide a place for all the students' work for the year. (If the project didn't fit into their binder then I let them take it home immediately.) The parents could see all the work their child did and it could also be kept as a memento of their Kindergarten year. This could easily be adapted to any grade level.
I created attendance sheets and placed them in the front of the binder. When the kids came to class, they would pull their binder from the shelf and receive a sticker from me to put on the appropriate date. As the parents flipped through their child's book at the end of the year, they could see how often (or not) their child attended class.
I typed out a list of goals for my students for our school year. It was in no way a comprehensive list of goals but rather my idea of the basics for Kindergartners. For example - Can they make the sign of the cross correctly? Do they know the name of their parish priest? Do they know the response to "Christ is Risen!"? What is the name of their patron saint? Tell me a little bit about your patron saint. Etc.
There were no grades involved when I tested them. It was simply, do you know it or not? If they knew it, I wrote the date I "tested" them and marked it as completed. If they didn't know it, I left the box blank.
At the beginning of the year, I tested the kids to get a base for how much they knew, what I needed to teach them, and what I could skip. It ended up that I needed to work on the entire list with most of the kids but at least I knew what needed to be taught. I tested the kids again in February and then one more time at the end of the year. It's important for me to say that I see these types of tests as a report card on myself to tell me how well I'm teaching my students. I hoped it would have a similar impact on the parents and they would help fill in the gaps for the areas I didn't succeed.
In the third part of the binder, I had section tabs. I think this would work better for older children. I'd skip this part of the binder for Kindergartners if I was teaching them again next year. The kids tended to put their work wherever they opened their binders.
This was the first year I used binders as a portfolio of each student's work. I would definitely use this method again in the future. Not only is it a great gift to the parents, it also helped me to be organized as a teacher. I had to create a clear outline of the goals I wanted to complete during the year in order to set up the binder for the first day of class.
Ideas for the Binder:
We had studied icons of Creation during our school year.
- Here is an article from an Orthodox perspective on the story of Creation in Genesis
- Here is a set of icons telling the story of Creation in Genesis
- We used The Orthodox Study Bible and read the story of Creation while the students looked at the icons. Then we talked about each of the icons and what was happening in each of them.
We would print out the words to a simple hymn for those who could read - since it was a Kindergarden class - and they would all learn it by listening to us sing it first then copying us.
Here is a list of some excellent resources for teaching your children Orthodox hymns.
We spent the school year talking about each of the student's patron saints. We printed off a story about each of their patron saints and an icon coloring page. We would read the story of the saint while they were coloring the icon. Then we would discuss some ideas for how they could imitate their patron saint.
For students who can read and write, here are some worksheets to extend the lesson further on patron saints.
Five Senses in Orthodoxy
During the Divine Liturgy, we use all five of our senses:
- We see: priest, altar boys, chanters, choir, icons, candles, crosses, people participating
- We touch: make the sign of the cross, light a candle, kneel, hold a book
- We smell: incense
- We hear: Gospel being read, people singing, sermon, people saying prayers, priest singing
- We taste: Holy Communion
Here are a few resources when teaching children about using all of their senses during the Divine Liturgy: