Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teaching the Hebrew Calendar

Dana Bar Or, one of our middle grades Hebrew teachers, was teaching the Hebrew Calendar to her 4th grade students at South Area Solomon Schechter Day School. Here is what she had to say:

I gave the students a blank calendar with only the secular dates and Rosh HaShana filled in. The students used their knowledge of Hebrew and their knowledge of the Jewish holidays to fill in the rest of the Tishrei holidays. (e.g., If there are 10 days of teshuvah, how many days do we need to count between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur?) They filled in all of the Hebrew dates and all of the holidays, and then they decorated their calendars with symbols for each holiday. It took three lessons to finish the work, but it was worth it because the students learned so much from the process!

After the calendars were finished, I went around to each student and interviewed him/her in Hebrew about what he/she had done. I videotaped each one as they talked to me (in Hebrew) about their calendar and about the holidays of Tishrei. This videotape will be part of the file for each child that I am keeping to demonstrate his/her progress in Hebrew this year.

Shana Tova greetings across the ocean!

Moadim l'Simhah to everyone. Here's a quick update on how our Hebrew teachers at South Area Solomon Schechter are continuing to think of creative ways to use their new video cameras. (This post comes from Braha Oren, one of our lower school Hebrew teachers):

A year ago at our Zimriyah, we invited an Israeli poet and songwriter Dudu Barak to be our guest at the Zimriyah. The students learned many of his songs and got to know him as he visited all of the classrooms in the school and met with the students. He even came to our Zimriyah and sang one of his songs.

In honor of Rosh HaShona this year, we decided to send him a musical New Year’s greeting. The third graders gathered in their classroom at Hebrew time and everyone shouted in unison, “Shana Tova, Dudu Barak!” Then they sang a new song of his that they had learned recently.

It was so clear that the children felt that they had made a real connection with Israel. They were so delighted to make the video, because it reminded them of their treasured guest and new friend from last year. We're waiting eagerly now for a return message from Dudu.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

identity wiki and tanakh presentations at Frisch

Just an update on what's been going on at Frisch this past month:

We launched the identity theme with a terrific video that a teacher at Frisch made, and I spoke about the identity issues in the ninth grade summer reading book, The Color of Water. Tzvi Pittinsky, the director of Educational Technology, also showed the ninth grade class the wiki and the pages we have up so far. Dr. Kalman Stein, the school's principal, emailed the parents about the launch, and the teachers spoke about the theme to the parents on Back to School night.

Now the hard work begins: getting the teachers to use the wiki on a regular basis so the integration truly happens. The first wiki assignment will be about the elections. The ninth grade history teachers will ask students to contemplate on a discussion board on a wiki page about leadership the qualities the students think are important to have in a president. The assignment is part of a larger assignment on the elections that is posted on the wiki. Tzvi has a rubric for grading discussion board assignments, and he is showing it to the teachers.

I plan to have an assignment on the personal narrative that will be posted on the wiki page entitled, "My Story." The page is for any project that has to do with a life story that shapes a person's identity. As of now, Hebrew language is also slated to have a similar assignment on that page.

Another page that the teachers are working on now is called Classification. I'm waiting for a biology teacher to send me a handout on the six kingdoms of life and characteristics of life. We plan to combine that with Gemara which will take a look at why we classify in halakha as opposed to why we classify in science.

I'm still doing my other integration projects for Tanakh, which I'll be beginning after the Chagim. The first Chumash presentation will be on military encampments in the ancient Near East and Egypt and a look at the military encampment at the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar. Students are learning Ezra and Nechemia this year in Nach, so my first Nach presentation will be on kings' proclamations in the ancient world, particularly in the Persian Empire. Students in the Nach classes are going to learn about the Cyrus Cylinder in class already.

This year Frisch is also integrating from Judaic Studies into English literature classes. I'm involved since I'm head of the English department. I'm working with a Nach teacher who has a master's in English Literature. She's planning on coming into each grade at some point in the year. She's beginning with the eleventh grade and discussing the Torah's view of witches when the juniors learn The Crucible. In the twelfth grade, the teacher, Rochel Besser, is going to discuss nihilism and stream of consciousness in Qoheleth when the 12th grade learns modernist literature. For the tenth grade, Mrs. Besser plans on discussing the Expulsion from Eden motif, as students in the sophomore year learn many works where getting back to Eden is an ideal. Finally, in the ninth grade, Mrs. Besser will weigh in on Judaism's view of man's inherent nature -- good or bad -- as part of the grade's discussion of original sin in Lord of the Flies. We'll definitely incorporate her work into the wiki and identity theme! Mrs. Besser is planning on using technology in her presentations, but we don't know how yet. We'll keep you posted!

Shana tova and a successful and meaningful school year to everyone!
Tikvah Wiener