Category Archives: Classroom

Excerpts from “Getting Ready for Your Best Classes Ever,” an Article by Gerry Clonaris

Gerry Clonaris’ article “Getting Ready for Your Best Classes Ever,” published in PRAXIS, Spring 2016 issue, pp. 16-17, offers practical ideas for ways that Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers can begin preparing over the summer for the year ahead. Here are a few bites of the article, to give you a taste of what it contains. First, he offers this encouraging challenge:

“What a blessing that we have been… chosen to lead the way in this most important ministry. And that is the very reason why we need to start our planning now for our coming year. St. Paul says it best in Philippians 3:12-14: ‘…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…’ Everything in our world is moving forward and if we are not also moving forward, we are moving backward. And that is something that we as catechists cannot accept.”

He goes on to offer a list of ideas of ways to prepare for the year. Here are three of them:

Lay out a plan for the year. Decide now how you want your class to develop and where you want it to go. What are you going to do differently to improve your program?

Include parents in the plan. Parents are key to your success. Plan to meet with them at the beginning of the year. Let them know what you will be teaching and encourage them to discuss each class session with their children. This one step will make your class a true learning experience and not just an hour of entertainment.

Read two books. Find one book that relates to your class topic and then also read one book on our Orthodox Faith.

He offers additional suggestions of ways to prepare, and concludes, “Serving in this great ministry is a true honor and a great experience for all of us. But it also comes with a great responsibility on our part… Planning and continual education are essential to our role as catechists…”

To read more, see the article in its entirety on pp. 16-17 of the Spring 2016 issue of PRAXIS. Visit for subscription information if you do not yet receive this helpful resource!


The following are some of the books listed as “suggested summer reading” in the article:


A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. “…This work is… invaluable for all those who wish to understand more about the theory and practice of worship in the Orthodox Church.” Read more at


The Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Olivier Clément, New City Press, 2013. “By linking together a series of brilliantly chosen texts from the early centuries of the Church, the author lays bare the roots of the deeply mystical spirituality that has flourished among Christians throughout the ages.” Read more and find the book at


Encountering Women of Faith, edited by Kyriaki FitzGerald, Holy Cross 2009 and 2011. Women theologians who have studied the lives of female saints write about their learnings, including how studying the saint’s life has affected their own personal life. Find the books here:


The Orthodox Faith by Thomas Hopko, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2016. Thousands of people have read these books by Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory) and have found them to be a helpful resource both to catchumens and Orthodox Christians. Read more about each of the four volumes here:


St. Nectarios of Pentapolis and the Island of Aegina, by Cleopas Strongylis, Holy Cross, 2012. Read about the life of St. Nectarios, as well as many of his letters, in this two-volume set:


Encouraged By the Scriptures: Essays on Scripture, Interpretation, and Life, by
Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, Holy Cross, 2011. A well-known Orthodox Biblical scholar offers his take on some of the scriptures. Find the book here:


On Supporting Your Students Throughout the Summer

Summer has come upon us in the Northern Hemisphere! And with it, summer vacations, and (in some parishes, at least) a break from Sunday Church School. If that is the case for your parish, how do you plan to continue the relationship you have built with your Sunday School students? Several years ago, we published this blog post that suggests a few ideas for keeping in touch with your Sunday Church School students over the summer:

What other ideas do you have? How do you continue to care for your students outside of the Sunday Church School room? Please share your suggestions and ideas with the community!

Here are a few ideas (besides those mentioned in the blog) of ways that you can show your students that you care about them, even when you are not in class together:


Praying for your students is, first and foremost, the best thing you can do for them, both during the Sunday Church School year, and over the summer. Here’s one way to do so: by praying for different areas of their life, arranged alphabetically by theme:


Summer is an excellent time to review your job as a Sunday Church School teacher. How did you do this year? What seemed to work? In what areas could you have done better? Read over this (non-Orthodox, but still helpful) list of 8 qualifications for a Sunday Church School teacher, and challenge yourself to improve in at least one of the areas during the coming year.


“Get to know your students outside of class. This is what makes the difference between a Sunday School teacher and a Christian who is trying to help disciple her students towards God.” Find this quote and more in this great (not Orthodox, but very helpful) article:


Several times throughout the summer, write each of your students a letter. It can be lengthy, thanking them for the positive ways they contributed to your SCS class this year, or just a short note wishing them well and encouraging them to keep studying the scriptures and their faith throughout the summer. Consider printing a free coloring page (perhaps this site would have a verse you studied, or one that will encourage your students?) and writing the note somewhere on that printed page. Or perhaps you could find an activity page based on a story you studied in class during the year (here is one possible source: Be sure to mail the letters to your students, even if you see the students at church every week: everyone loves to get “real” mail! (Who knows, maybe one of them will write back to you, as well!)


Consider hosting a “class reunion” in your Sunday Church School classroom during coffee hour one Sunday during the summer. Eat your coffee hour food together or share ice cream and talk about how the summer is going.


Near the end of the summer, invite last year’s students to come help you clean up the room and get it ready for the next class. Spend a few minutes after a coffee hour working together to get the room ready for the new group, and, in the process, find out what your students remember about class. This will give you a great chance to touch base with each of them one more time while also finding out what worked and did not in the past year!


Resources for Orthodox Christian Parents and Teachers

Here is a list of many of the sites that the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education visits when searching for ideas and resources for our online ministry.

Orthodox sites:

  1. Ancient Faith Ministries:

This site offers a mix of audio and publishing ministries to Orthodox Christians. Ancient Faith has talk radio, Orthodox Christian music, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and even an online bookstore.

Podcasts of particular interest to parents and teachers include:

  1. Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education:

Our website offers a variety of links to online resources.

We also offer the following online ministries:

  1. AODCE’s parenting blog:
    This blog consists of a variety of regular blog posts. The posts range from parenting ideas to book reviews to a featured saint and more.
  1. AODCE’s SCS teachers blog:

Ideas for Sunday Church School teachers are posted regularly on this blog. Blog posts contain lesson ideas, craft suggestions, classroom management and lesson plan guidance, and much more.

  1. AODCE’s Pinterest site:

Find a variety of boards featuring everything from Orthodox photos to articles and resources to quotes from the church fathers to learning activities for kids on our pinterest site.

  1. Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America:

The DCE offers a myriad of helpful resources for parents and teachers. Here are a few:

Find focus units for learning about Pascha, the Nativity, the Orthodox Family, and more here:

Find mini units here:

See a variety of downloadable and printable bulletin inserts here:

Find free printable activity books here:

Find even more resources here:

  1. GOARCH:

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese offers a variety of helpful educational tools, including downloadable curriculum and many other ideas for helping children learn about the Faith.

  1. GOARCH’s Center for Family Care:
    Find support for Orthodox Christian family life at this website. It also features ideas for how to live the Faith in the context of family life.
  1. The Children’s Word:

This OCN-published children’s bulletin can be downloaded and printed weekly. Each issue is free and will help children learn about the Gospel lesson of the week, or a saint, etc.

  1. Illumination Learning:

This site calls itself “a collection of Orthodox Christian resources for family-centered catechesis.”

  1. Orthodox

Orthodox ABC offers printable pdfs that feature lessons on the basics of the Orthodox faith.

  1. Orthodox Children’s magazine: “Little Falcons:”

From the website: “Little Falcons is perhaps the best magazine for young people in the Orthodox Church… it succeeds by being fun, educational, interesting, while teaching… Orthodox piety.” Each issue features an aspect of The Faith, including articles, stories, activity pages, and pictures. Many back issues are available, as well.

  1. Orthodox Children’s Press:

The site states, “We are a publishing company with a desire to provide Orthodox Christian children with books and goods that strengthen their faith and love of the Church.” The site also offers simple craft ideas for Orthodox kids.

  1. Orthodox Christian Network:

The OCN was commissioned by SCOBA to be a media witness for Orthodox Christians throughout North America. The OCN features podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and more.

  1. Orthodox Education Blogspot: features a variety of Orthodox activities that families and teachers can use to help children learn about their faith.
  1. PRAXIS:

This Orthodox Christian professional educators’ magazine benefits teachers, Sunday Church School teachers, and parents alike. Some issues are archived and immediately accessible on the website.

  1. Phyllis Onest:

Phyllis Onest’s website offers resources for Orthodox Christian educators, including sections for parents, teachers, and clergy.

  1. Various Orthodox parenting/teaching blogs:
  • About the blog: “… a place where parents [can] meet and talk about all the mishaps and triumphs of raising children within the Orthodox Faith.”
  • About the blogger: “…I am a designer & homeschooling mother; convert to the Orthodox Christian faith, making our home a little church. I’m bookmarking resources and sharing what I have.” This blog includes many free printables that can help children learn about their faith.
  • About the blogger: “I am an Orthodox Christian woman who is happily married to an Orthodox priest. I am a mama to three little ones and I enjoy trying to create a peaceful and lovely life for my sweet family.” The blog includes many ideas of ways to help children learn.
  • About the blogger: “I have taught drawing, art history and history classes to children in my local homeschool community. This blog is a place to share some of the projects I have done with my own children and with children of various ages in the classes I have taught.”
  • About the blogger: “I am a mother to three busy children and a graduate of Pratt Institute (BFA) and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.)… I am thankful for the online chance to share Orthodox ideas to keep our children engaged and wish your families many blessings.”
  • About the blog: “Orthodox Christian faith, family, and finger painting… This blog documents my struggle to create a home environment and lifestyle that leads my family to a place of prayer.”
  • About the blog: “This blog was created by a young Orthodox Christian girl from Greece in order to share with all the Orthodox Sunday School teachers and Orthodox parents material useful for a Christian education (Orthodox coloring pages, stories, handcrafts, songs, etc).”

Other (Non-Orthodox, But Useful) Sites:

  1. Crayola:

This thorough arts/crafts website offers art and craft ideas, free printables, and lesson plans. Parents and teachers will find this site helpful to use with children of all ages.

  1. Danielle’s Place:

This website is full of educational ideas, including crafts and printables. The site also includes a section on Bible games, one on Bible crafts, and one for VBS craft ideas.

  1. DLTK Kids (Bible section):

The Bible part of the DLTK Kids website offers craft ideas and other resources based on the Bible.

  1. Family

This huge site is filled with articles and helpful advice for a variety of family-related things. Of particular interest to the educational aspects of parenting is this page, which offers educational printables at so many ability levels:

  1. Help Teaching:

This members-only site offers thousands of printables as well as a test maker. Non-members can still use the test maker; but are limited to 10 questions per test.

  1. Kids Sunday

This colorful, well-organized Christian Education website features lesson plans, object lessons, craft ideas, activities, printables and more! Preschool and grade school leveled. Members of the site have access to everything; some parts are free to the public.

  1. Making Friends:

This website offers craft ideas (including making things from recycled items) and free reproducibles, including Bible-themed activities.

  1. Ministry to

This website features lesson plans, object lessons, and printable coloring pages for Bible stories; all offered for free!

  1. Scholastic: and

Each of these sites offers articles, lessons, and ideas on many topics of interest to grownups and the kids with whom they work. Information is offered at a variety of age levels, from birth to grade 8.

  1. Sunday School

Sunday Church School teachers will find a variety of ideas, resources, and printables at this site.

  1. Super Teacher Worksheets:

For a fee, visitors to this website can become members and have access to thousands of printable worksheets. Some of the worksheets are available for free to anyone, however; and the worksheet generator is especially helpful for creating review activity sheets for Sunday Church School!

  1. Teacher

This website is a compilation of links to other sites that can be useful to Sunday Church School teachers who are teaching their students about the Bible.

  1. Youth Ministry Resources:

This site offers lessons, activities, games, etc. for those working with teens. Members of the site have access to everything; some parts are free to the public.

Ideas for Classroom Decorations, Part 3: Bulletin Boards Based on the Saints

Prepare your Sunday Church School classroom by dressing its walls with bulletin boards and/or displays. These can act as teaching aids to help your students focus on what they are learning in class. The displays can be very simple or ornate: it depends on your time and abilities, as well as your students’ needs. This mini-series will offer ideas of ways to decorate your classroom with decor which is useful, yet will also enhance the learning  environment.

This third blog post in the series focuses on bringing the lives of the saints into our Sunday Church School room through classroom displays. A saints display can feature one saint or several. This display could change periodically, or stay the same (especially if it features many saints and you’ll be adding to it as the year goes by). It can feature the saint’s icon, objects related to the saint, snatches from the saint’s life, the troparion or kontakion to the saint, etc.

Ideas for Classroom Decorations, Part 2: Bulletin Boards Based on Scripture

Prepare your Sunday Church School classroom by dressing its walls with bulletin boards and/or displays. These can act as teaching aids to help your students focus on what they are learning in class. The displays can be very simple or ornate: it depends on your time and abilities, as well as your students’ needs. This mini-series will offer ideas of ways to decorate your classroom with decor which is useful, yet will also enhance the learning environment.

This second blog post in the series focuses on bringing the scriptures to light through classroom displays. Perhaps you wish to select and highlight a theme verse for the year. Or, if you are so inclined, reserve one display area/bulletin board as a scripture passage display that changes throughout the Sunday Church School year. It is up to you how often you change the display!

Here are a few resources for scripture-based display ideas. May they inspire you!

Clearly, these suggestions are only starting places. Base your classroom displays on what you are studying or whatever scriptures your students need to take root in their hearts and minds. If you’re not the artsy type, ask another member of the parish who is so inclined to help you think of ways to add scriptures to your classroom. Take full advantage of having the children learn in your classroom by adding visual displays that support what the students will be hearing and learning from you.

The following are display ideas based on specific scripture verses:


Check out this display based on Matthew 5:16 (let your light so shine before men…) which can be put on the door to your classroom:


Display Mark 10:45 to encourage your students to have a servant’s heart:


Don’t have a bulletin board? No problem: create a display with a whiteboard. See this example, where 2 Corinthians 4:7 is directly written on a whiteboard, and then combined with individual clay pots (which your students could decorate). It is a simple yet beautiful display.
Craft a Hebrews 13:8 display for your Sunday Church School room, using old calendar pages:


Matthew 7:24 is alluded to in this display for the Sunday Church School room:


Make a Galatians 6:14 display for your classroom about boasting in the cross of Christ:


Isaiah 40:8 makes a great fall bulletin board for the Sunday Church School classroom:


Here is a great display idea for the Sunday Church School room: a bulletin board based on Hebrews 6:19. “We have this hope as an anchor for our souls:”


Ideas for Classroom Decorations, Part 1: General Classroom Decor Information

Prepare your Sunday Church School classroom by dressing its walls with bulletin boards and/or displays. These can act as teaching aids to help your students focus on what they are learning in class. The displays can be very simple or ornate: it depends on your time and abilities, as well as your students’ needs. This mini-series will offer ideas of ways to decorate your classroom with decor which is useful, yet will also enhance the learning environment.

This first blog post in the series will focus broadly, on general displays for the classroom. In forthcoming posts, look for ideas for scripture-related displays and saint-related ones. Most of the display ideas featured will be bulletin board displays. Consider reducing the ideas to poster-sized (if you have a small or mobile SCS space) or enlarging them to cover an entire wall, if you have that much space!

1. Find or make a display area. Here are ideas of ways to make a display area:

  1. Begin to build the display with a background covering. Here are ideas of basic coverings for that display area:
  1. Unless you are super neat and can make perfect edges around your display area, finish off the edges of the display with other edging. Here are ideas of edgings for your display area:
  1. Add words to the display. Here are lettering ideas for your display:

Here are ideas for basic displays that can be included in a Sunday Church School classroom:

As you can see, it is up to you what you do to decorate your Sunday Church School classroom. Even the smallest of meeting areas can contain regular decor to personalize your space and enhance the environment while helping the class learn. May this series inspire your creativity and enable you to find ways to make your classroom more beautiful and a better learning environment!

The following links offer more ideas for classroom displays:


Find a variety of DIY bulletin board making ideas here:


Make a fabric-covered bulletin board as demonstrated here:


Although these ideas are geared to a general classroom, some of them could be tweaked for a Sunday Church School classroom as well:


See a gallery of photos of Christian-themed bulletin boards that feature using a variety of spaces, bulletin board covers, and edging ideas here:


Find ideas for Sunday Church School bulletin boards, including many that the children can help to create, here:


Find general ideas for bulletin boards in this blog: