Posted by: liturgicalyear | May 15, 2012

The Journeys of Saint Paul: a lesson plan

Throughout the Easter season, we’ve been reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  One of the central figures in this book and, in fact, in this period of Church history, is Saint Paul.

We are all quite familiar with his story – Saul, a Pharisee who persecuted the followers of Jesus; a man who was blinded on his way to Damascus and who experienced a major conversion at the words of Jesus, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  (Acts 9:4); a Jew who returned to Jerusalem to build the Church; and a missionary who travelled the world to spread the gospel.

Today’s first reading from the sixteenth chapter of Acts recounts Paul’s experience in Philippi:

The crowd in Philippi joined in the attack on Paul and Silas,
and the magistrates had them stripped
and ordered them to be beaten with rods.
After inflicting many blows on them,
they threw them into prison
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely.
When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell
and secured their feet to a stake. (Acts 16:22-24)

I don’t know about you, but I often have difficulty keeping track of where St. Paul went, when he went there, and what he did.  He made tents for 3 years.  Where did he do that?  He wrote epistles to the Corinthians, the Romans, the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Thessalonians, the Philippians, the Galatians, a to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.  The order they appear in the bible relates to the length and not to the chronological sequence or importance.

This got me thinking.

When I was homeschooling my girls, we studied a lot of geography.  I always selected a book to accompany whatever continent or area of the world we studied.  When studying the geography of the Middle East, we read Saint Paul the Apostle: The Story of the Apostle to the Gentiles by Mary Fabyan Wyndeatt.  It’s actually quite a story!  As children and adults, we learn of Paul’s journeys through either reading them ourselves or through hearing the Word proclaimed at liturgy.  In big sense we gain the overarching ideas, but, in my opinion, we often miss the story.  Wyndeatt does a terrific job of pulling together the remarkable sequence of events that led Paul to his martyrdom.  Despite the fact that this is a book geared towards…probably…late middle school students, every Catholic would benefit from its reading.

I thought I’d pass along some resources for anyone who might be interested in creating a unit study around Paul’s public ministry.

Overall Lesson Plan:

Goal: students will be able to fill in a blank map of the Middle East identifying all countries, their capitals, major bodies of water, rivers, and land formations.  You may also want to add tracing the journeys of St. Paul and mapping the Ancient Middle East to its present day boundaries – especially for older kids.   I stuck with present day boundaries because my kids were young at the time.


  1. Read a chapter of the book each day (if the chapters are too long for your listeners, read half a chapter…too short?  Read two.)
  2. Do 2″Capital Match”worksheets(attached)
    • pretty straightforward:  match the capital to its country and vice versa.  You can mix it up with the kids by telling them to start at the top one day, the bottom the next day, and in the middle another day, so that they’re not just memorizing the numbers.
    • Before doing this the first time, read through the names of the countries and capitals and locate them on the map with your children.  This will help them to know the pronunciation and to familiarize themselves with the map.
    • Your kids might balk at doing 2 per day, but they really don’t take too long – 5 minutes or so each and that speeds up each day as they become more familiar with the maps and names.
  3. Do daily map work corresponding to the “Capital Match”.  The student will use their resource maps to help them to fill in a blank map.  I’ve attached quite a few resource maps (below).
    • When people, adults and children alike, work with blank maps, in the beginning they often struggle to see the boundaries.  I would print out a blank map and color in the water, then make a copy of the map for my kids.  If you don’t have the resources to do this, you might want to first start out by having the children locate the boundaries and either color in the water or have them trace the border of the land  and the water in blue.  This will help to demarcate the land.
    • I would often break it up by region (for example when we learned the United States, we started with New England and then went by region with about 8-12 states max to memorize.)  Depending on the ages of your kids, you may want to adjust the number of countries and capitals; you might want to ask younger children to do only the countries.
  4. At the end of the week, use a blank map to quiz the students, where you point to a country and ask its name and capital, or you give the country and ask them to find it on a may and give you its capital.  I purchased erasable “Mark it maps“.  Do this orally, so you can make sure they know the names and places.
  5. Read one (or more) of Paul’s letters as part of your learning.  I’d stick with shorter ones so that you can relate them to the story as it progresses.
  6. If you use Friendly Defenders” cards to memorize scripture for apologetics, pull out some of the cards which correspond to St. Paul’s letters.

This is also a lot of fun to do as a geography club.  You can do it as a once a week or every other week gathering.  I found the kids motivation a bit higher when we had a club.  You can take turns with the other families in preparing the materials, snacks, crafts (if you choose to add them).

There are tons of variations you can adapt for your needs and for the abilities of your kids.  Following this lesson plan, you will really help Paul’s life to come alive for you and for your children.

I’ve attached a number of resources below to help you in your walk with St. Paul.

I could go on and on, but I’d never finish this post.  I hope you find this useful.  Modify it as your needs dictate & enjoy the journey!

Saint Paul, pray for us!  Anne

Maps all filled in to use as learning material:

Blank outline:

Capital Matches:

Maps of Ancient Israel:

Helpful websites:


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