When teaching first grade we've found that a lot of the children do not have a strong prayer life. This is their first formal education in our Faith except for the few children who participate in the kindergarten religious ed program. We spend the year learning about prayer - what is it, what does it look like, what does it sound like, what are different ways to pray, what are prayers you know, etc. We begin each class period at the prayer table. On the prayer table we have a Bible, religious picture, candle, rosary, or other objects to help us get in a prayerful mood. Each week, we pick a different way to pray. Some of the ideas we've used in the past include:
-prompt such as I'm thankful for, I'm sorry for, I want to pray for, etc
-memorized prayer such as Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be
-silently talking to God in our heads
-reading from a children's bible
Another way to get our little ones excited about praying in their daily life, is to use Prayer Bear.
Prayer Bear is a stuffed bear that spends a week at each student's house throughout the school year. Prayer Bear is a SUPER good listener and loves to hear the students practice their prayers. He stays with them at their house and serves as a reminder to pray. Prayer Bear travels in a backpack along with a binder. In the binder, we include the following directions:
After the directions, we include some examples of what to do with Prayer Bear. We find this to be helpful especially at the beginning of the year when our firsties don't know many prayers or many different ways to pray. I also put printed copies of some different prayers that they can use. I like THIS free book of prayers from Jennifer James.
Then we have a different tab for each student. Behind each tab are two different sheets that the students write or draw on that describe what they do with Prayer Bear each day and what they prayed for during the week. This seemed to be much more successful than having no prompt. The first few years we did this, we just gave them a notebook with my examples in it and they just wrote what they did with Prayer Bear. When it was that open ended, we got a lot more off topic responses like he went to my soccer game or we played video games together. When they have to fill out the sheets, it brings the focus back to prayer.
This is the first year since we started doing this 5 years ago that a parent has expressed concern over the spreading of germs via Prayer Bear. We did some thinking and made a few adjustments. We moved Prayer Bear to a plastic backpack (from a cloth one) so it could be more easily wiped down. We also asked that students NOT sleep with Prayer Bear. We also assured parents that we wash him during all breaks and gave them permission to wash him while he is at their house. We also gave them the option to skip having Prayer Bear visit if they are concerned about germs. Hopefully this will help with any families who are concerned about germs.
If you are interested in starting a Prayer Bear in your classroom, click HERE to download the pages we include in our binder (cover, directions, ideas, prayer pages.)