A brother pastor asked me a few days ago for the list of games I use when teaching the Catechism. Here’s the list I put together for him, which I thought might be helpful for you parents and pastors who are teaching the Lord’s children the catechism. Please feel free to add you own thoughts or games to the list. Remember the encouragement of our Luther:
Behold, thus we might train our youth, in a childlike way and playfully in the fear and honor of God, so that the First and Second Commandments might be well observed and in constant practice, then some good might take root, spring up and bear fruit, and men grow up whom an entire land might relish and enjoy. Moreover, this would be the true way to bring up children well as long as they can become trained with kindness and delight. (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I.75-76)
Catechism Memory Drill Games
These are all for the purpose of drilling, and making that drilling fun.
- Flash Cards (Flash cards are the backbone of this whole deal. Each student is building a set of Small Catechism flash cards that they bring each week to class. These can be decorated, etc., to the student’s delight. Each class we add a few cards, and these become the basis of the drills. It is expected that the students have a good grasp on their flashcard pile.)
- Pick a Card (Students pick a flash card out or my hand, and then have to recite the portion of the catechism on each card. Sometimes I’ll shuffle my cards and give them random portions to recite.)
- One Word at a Time (The class recites the portion of the catechism one word at a time. Sometimes we work down the line, other times I point at random to different students.)
- First Letter Drill (I’ll write the first letter of each word on the board, and then work with that. For example, I’ll have each student circle a verb, or I’ll point to a word and they have to tell me what it is. Sometimes I’ll divide them into teams, and have them write the first letters to a portion of the catechism.
So the Second Petition looks like this:
TKC. WDTM? TKOGCCBIWOP,BWPITPTIMCTUA. HDGKC? GKCWOHFGUHHS, STBHGWBHHWALGLHITATIE.
There are a ton of things you can to with this. The kids really like the way the explanation to the 8th commandment ends here: “AEEITKW!”
This whole drill gives them clues but forces them to think about the words.)
- Memory Key Words (There are a few words that are the key to remembering the catechism, and we work on these. You know: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor…” If you know the key words, the rest of the text will come spilling out the door, sometimes.)
- Mean this does what? (or Say it Backwards) (Say the Fourth Commandment backwards. “Mother your and father your honor.” This difficult, and I don’t think it’s helpful. I thought this would be a really good game because you would have to run through the text five or six times really fast in you mind to get it right, but I think it knocks the patter out. It doesn’t help the “stickiness” factor.)
- Speed Recitation (I get out a stopwatch and time each of the students as they recite a portion of the catechism. Missing a word disqualifies them. This is fun.)
- Across the Horizon (This is fun, but hard. Pick a number and then move across the chief parts. What is the First Commandment? The First Article? The First Petition? What is Baptism? What is the Sacrament of the Altar?)
- Aerobic Recitation (Stand on the verbs, sit on the other words. Stand for the Scripture, sit for the Luther. Stand at each punctuation mark. Spin around while reciting. One-leg dead lifts until you get the seventh petition and explanation right. I know it burns, it’s supposed to.)
- Find It. (Bibles closed, hands on your shoulders. Genesis 3:15. Go! I play this one waiting for everyone to show up. It helps the kinds find their way through the Scriptures.)
These are actual games that can be played, but they are less for memorizing and more for helping process the catechism.
- Catechism Challenge. (Students are divided into two teams. Each pick a player, and they are given a clue from the portion of the catechism we were working one. “Our Father,” “Fear and love,” “clothing and shoes,” whatever. The player has to act or draw on the board until their team guesses the clue. I let each team pick a book of the Bible for their team. Firsts Kings is the most popular.)
- Where’s the Question? (I’ll read a question from the long explanation in the catechism, and they have to find it. This helps them think about the six chief parts and the things that relate to them. This is another game I play while waiting for everyone to arrive.)
- Law and/or Gospel (Two teams. Read a text. The teams confer if it is law or Gospel or both. I’ll pick a person from each team to tell me why they gave they answer they did.)
- Bible Bee (Two teams. They find a Bible passage and I have to guess what book of the Bible it’s from. This is a fun chance for me to talk to them about the Scriptures.)
- Ten Commandments in the News (A news story is read, and they have to talk about what commandments come to play with the story.)