As I explained in my previous post (The Untapped Power of Posters: 7 Ways a Well-Chosen Poster Can Have a Huge Impact in Your Classroom), I was absolutely amazed at how much even just one simple poster could greatly interest and inspire the faith of my students.
With this recognition and my passionate desire to help my students become “mini-theologians” and “big-time saints”, I immediately began creating and hanging up posters all around my classroom!
After many designs and years of trial and error, I eventually stumbled upon a number of posters that seemed to impact and resonate with my students the most.
I have no doubt that these same posters would transform your teaching and the lives of your students as well! As such, I’d like to share with you “My Top 10(ish) Most Impactful Classroom Posters” list:
- Augustine’s Truth Bomb
- Dig Deep! / Make Connections! / No Vanilla Answers!
- Sin is Like Chocolate-Covered Dog Poop
- Memento Mori
- The True Definition of Love
- Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner
- The Blood of the Martyrs
- Catholics Love Science (seriously!)
- You Were Made for Greatness
#1 – Augustine’s Truth Bomb
In the 4th century, St. Augustine wrote in his book Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts will remain restless until they rest in You.”
For over 1,700 years, this line has woken minds and hearts to the central notion that our desire for true, everlasting happiness, is ultimately only found in God. In a world that constantly avoids and forgets this truth, what could be more important to share with our students?
Wanting to make quadrupily sure that no one ever left my classroom without understanding this “truth bomb”, I ended up making a number of posters with this Augustinian theme:
#2 – Dig Deep! / Make Connections! / No Vanilla Answers!
Tired of the same boring, predictable answers on homework, tests, and during class discussions? Want to push your students to think harder, extend farther, and see relevancy with what they’re learning?
Answer from every teacher:
Well, after about a half decade of teaching I began to grow frustrated by the lack of depth I was getting from the majority of my students. After all, getting middle schoolers to go above and beyond the easy, rote answers they were used to getting away with was like pulling teeth!
I knew that I needed to challenge them to dig deeper, but I was having a horrible time trying to get them to rise to their potential. Eventually, I decided to break down EXACTLY what I wanted to see (and NOT see!) from them.
At first, I started by spending more time explaining my expectations at the start of the school year. But, unsurprisingly, I only saw improvement for a few weeks (or days!) before most of my students slipped back into their old habits of giving clichéd answers and minimal effort. 😤
Something else had to be done…
That’s when I decided to create short phrases that could be repeated and revisited throughout the school year. “DIG DEEP!”, “MAKE CONNECTIONS!”, and “NO VANILLA ANSWERS!” were lines I began to use ALL. THE. TIME. I even started putting them directly on assignments and tests to remind my students of my high and precise expectations!
It was working (YAY!), but there was still room for improvement…
And that was when I made these posters:
These are posters were visuals that highlighted exactly what I wanted to see from my students. No more tirelessly explaining expectations. All I had to do was point to a few posters on my wall!
It worked like a charm.
So much so, in fact, that I had to begin putting limits on the length of student answers on tests and assignments! I even had to start implementing a polite 5 finger countdown to wrap up student answers during class discussions because of all the new insights and connections they were discovering and wanting to share!
It. Was. AWESOME.
My students grew in confidence and brilliance and I was left utterly blown away (seriously!). All because of a few catch phrases and their corresponding posters…
#3 – WWJ…
Many students have heard the WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) catchphrase before, but in my experience most of them have never taken the time to extend this thinking to other areas of their lives (e.g. the kinds of conversations they have with their friends, the videos they watch on YouTube, the things they post on social media, etc.). I found this poster to be a great springboard to conversation about what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus – both in and out of school.
#4 – Sin is Like Chocolate-Covered Dog Poop
This is a poster that your students will never forget! I always loved waiting to see how far into the school year it would take for my new students to raise their hands and ask about this one. 😃 (Pro tip: I always found that the, “Well, what do YOU think this quote means?” response worked the best for really teasing out the meaning of this quote.)
In short, the devil is always trying to get us to sin but in order for us to take a bite he needs to make sin seem as appealing as possible. It’s a trick, of course, with the joke always on us! Helping students begin to recognize this strategy of the devil is a HUGE first step in fighting everyday sin and journeying toward sainthood.
#5 – Memento Mori
To be completely honest, I never actually had a Memento Mori poster hanging in my classroom. Instead, I had a Memento Mori skull sitting on a file cabinet in the front of my classroom!
For our young students who may have never considered their mortality, this theme is absolutely indispensable. It helps clarify what’s really important in life (loving and serving God and others) as opposed to the things that, in the end, won’t really matter (how popular you were, how much money you had, how attractive you were, etc.).
As I would frequently tell my students, “Thinking about your death is a great way to start thinking about your life.”
#6 – The True Definition of Love
“No subject is more important, in any day. And no subject is more misunderstood, in our day. Most mature people, if asked to choose just one word for the meaning of life, life’s greatest value, the most important gift one can give or receive, the thing that makes us the happiest, the thing that makes one a saint, the supreme wisdom, and even the eternal inner life of God, would say that it is ‘love.’ And they are right.” – Peter Kreeft
Before getting married my (then) fiancé, Kate, and I attended an engagement retreat. While much of this retreat is lost to memory, there’s one thing I’ll never forget: All weekend long, a large sign was carried around and placed at the front of each of the rooms we gathered in. The sign read: “Love is a choice, not a feeling.”
This quote, a modern-day echo of the definition of love given by St. Thomas Aquinas, was a profound reminder that while emotions oftentimes accompany love, at its core, love involves a purposeful act of the will.
Put simply, love is making a gift of yourself for the sake of someone else – even when the warm and fuzzy feelings aren’t currently present (best seen, of course, by Jesus on the cross). In a world that so frequently misunderstands and misrepresents the true nature of love, it’s of no surprise that most young people are utterly confused about this topic. Having this definition on a poster in my classroom reminded my students every day that love wasn’t just a fickle feeling, but an ever-present choice – one that we can make every day of our lives.
#7 – Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner
One of the common marks of both teenagers and modernity is the desire to never be offensive. To disagree with someone means (supposedly, though not really, of course!) that you hate them. Therefore, in order to be seen as “nice” we fall into the traps of avoiding conflict (at all cost), accepting the philosophy of relativism (without even realizing it), and thinking “You do you” is a sentiment of love (it’s not).
Because of this, I’ve found teaching the distinctions between ideas, desires, behaviors, and persons to be of utter importance. I’ve also found that teaching these distinctions can be quite difficult at times as it can be a little complicated for a 13 year old to grasp (especially when so much of the world [celebrities, social media, the news, etc.] so often speaks in binary ways).
But the phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” can provide a ton of help here. It’s short. It’s simple. It’s easy to remember. And it cuts right through two common extremes:
- Hate the sin and the sinner (a past cultural tendency)
- Love the sin and the sinner (a current cultural tendency)
In short, we are called to be like God: to passionately love every person on earth (including ourselves) while also passionately hating the sin that gets in the way of us being the saints we are called to be.
#8 – The Blood of the Martyrs
The blood of the martyrs has produced saints in the Church throughout the last 2,000 years. I found that the following posters provided me with great opportunities to share the stories of martyrs old (Perpetua and Felicity, Sebastian, Agnes, Ignatius of Antioch, etc.), new (Miguel Pro, José Sánchez del Rio, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, etc.), and everywhere in-between (Thomas Becket, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, Maria Goretti, etc.).
The martyrs are just as inspiring today as they’ve always been. It’s up to us to tell their stories.
#9 – Catholics Love Science (seriously!)
Recent studies have shown that young people are continuing to leave the Catholic faith in droves. What’s one of the main reasons for this? Believing the old lie that the Church is anti-science…
To counter this lie and help prevent my students from one day leaving the faith for this very reason, I made it a point to address this issue head on. We talked about “scientism”, the origins of The Big Bang Theory (thank you, Fr. Georges Lemâitre!), and the fact that every Catholic school (from kindergarten through college) requires students to learn about the subject of science.
To continue rebutting the anti-science claim, I created the following posters for my students to see every day of the school year. 😃
*Note 1: Don’t have room for one of these posters in your religion classroom? How about gifting one to a science teacher at your school instead? 😉
*Note 2: If you’re interested, Bishop Barron has a number of excellent videos centered on combatting the “Catholics hate science” trope. You can check them out here: Atheism, “The Nones”, Science, Faith & Reason
#10 – You Were Made for Greatness
Deep down, there’s a desire in each of us to be, as the Army says, “all that we can be”. This desire for greatness (i.e. for SAINTHOOD) is one that the devil wants to smother as soon and as often as possible. There are many tactics the devil uses, of course, but one that has gained a lot of traction in the 21st century is that of lulling us to spiritual sleep through a life of comfort.
But what does a life of comfort lead to? Complacency. Mediocrity. Dullness. Certainly not sainthood (after all, most saints became saints precisely through discomfort!).
And so, I believe one of the key tasks of faith leaders today is to remind us of our true calling: The call to be great. The call to be saints. These posters remind us of just that.
*Please note: While all posters shown here include a Catholic Religion Teacher watermark, this mark is removed on all purchased posters (both digital and physical).
Categories: The CRT Blog