Thursday, November 12, 2015

Disrupting Hebrew Class

The classroom is abuzz with energetic conversation.  Children jump out of their seats with excitement.  Discoveries abound, personalizing the experience for each individual student.  Every day brings a new depth of comprehension.  The teacher guides, answers questions, suggests a new strategy of attack.  Students are eager, curious and determined to achieve their objective.  

Is this a competitive game or a party?  There must be food involved for students to get this excited...

Nope, no food.  No games.  It’s a serious Hebrew class!  Really.  

No gimmicks, no competition, no prizes beyond the self-satisfaction of wrestling with the meaning of Hebrew text.  Strategic Hebrew focuses on building strategies for independence and agency in language acquisition.  It is unlike any Hebrew class I’ve ever seen before.  

Time flies as inquisitive students plumb the depths of text, engaging in animated discussion about content.  Each day brings a greater capacity for understanding, a higher skill level, a deeper comprehension of the prayers and a stronger connection to the Hebrew language.  The popcorn cries of “I found it!” “Oh, that’s what that means!” and “There it is!” arise in delightful chorus.

Students feel increasingly capable.

They develop tools for parsing the text into meaningful prefixes and suffixes.  They learn about syntax of adjectives and nouns.  They understand what a root is and how to identify them in context.  They teach themselves to recognize vocabulary that repeats and rely on memory to enhance understanding.  The test is the text itself… and every student engages on their own level, sharing word attack strategies that propel comprehension forward.  

Starting with the text, students themselves are in the driver’s seat of their Hebrew education.  Class concludes with a reflection on the new insights developed that day.  

Every single strategy learned can be applied to numerous real life situations beyond the classroom.  Math, science, literature, bnei mitzvah… Students are encouraged to make connections between their discoveries in class and elsewhere in their lives.  They learn to ask: Why are these words relevant?  Where else have you encountered them?  Where else might they come in handy? How did I figure this out?

The recipe for success is simple: Palpable excitement, durable learning, meaningful process, transferable strategies.  With these goals in mind, such engagement with Hebrew text is always possible!   

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