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OUR PHILOSOPHY AND METHODOLOGY FOR TEACHING HEBREW

 

We teach students the building blocks to read Hebrew and recite our liturgy.

We think of our Hebrew program like a toolbox which is filled with a variety of philosophies and techniques that, when combined, allows us to make the best use of our time and resources.  Moreover, we understand that, just as students learn the English language and grammar in a different way each year they are in school, so too do we differentiate between what students are developmentally able to learn in the younger grades versus the older grades.  We are also part of #OnwardHebrew, a group of synagogues committed to reviewing, modifying and strengthening our Hebrew programs.  

Here are some of the tools in our Hebrew toolbox:

  • Hebrew Through MovementHTM is a language acquisition strategy in which students learn Hebrew by hearing and responding to Hebrew commands.   HTM uses joyful movement, songs, chants, rhythmic activities and repetition to help students learn Hebrew vocabulary.  For auditory learners, this is a great way to connect actions (lighting Shabbat candles) and the prayers which go along with the motions (blessing for lighting Shabbat candles). 
  • "Let's Learn Hebrew Side by Side"Rather than having students decode Hebrew words without context, this program contextualizes prayer vocabulary.  Students will meet with our song leader, who will teach the melodies or trope associated with each prayer and teachers will give context when a student is having trouble reading a word (“You know the prayer goes, ‘Baruch atah adonai eloheinu’ so the word starting with a mem must be melech.’”).  Children learn English first by hearing and then by seeing and “reading” a word they already know, so this is a familiar learning process.

  • TefilahDuring each session, students participate in tefilah (services).  The goal of services is for students to have time to practice the prayers they have been learning in an authentic setting.  Throughout the course of the year we discuss the meaning of the prayers, learn different melodies and give the students opportunities to lead their classmates in prayer.  We encourage all families to attend our monthly Family Shabbat Dinner and Service, for additional prayer practice. 

  • Jewish Life VocabularyTeachers are provided with a list of Jewish Life Vocabulary words which they should incorporate into each class (“I am here,” “teacher,” “pencil,” etc.).  Although our Hebrew curriculum focuses mainly on prayer-based Hebrew, this is a natural time to incorporate and teach some modern Hebrew vocabulary.  Additionally, school signage is used to mark things like doors, windows, bathrooms, sinks, etc. so the students can sync the object with the way the word looks in Hebrew. 

  • Phonetic Reading ExercisesThese reading activities allow students to practice blending letters and vowels into syllables and eventually polysyllabic words.  With one packet for each prayer, students can slowly work on each word and then sentence, before putting it all together to read the prayer.  

In third grade, our students begin working one-on-one with their Hebrew tutor (for 20, half hour sessions each year) and in fourth grade students start in our Hebrew Ninja program.  As students master the Hebrew alphabet (names and sounds of all letters and sounds of all vowels), they earn their Golden Aleph dog tag.  As they master the other prayers, they earn blue, purple and black dog tags, eventually becoming a "Hebrew Ninja."

We understand that Hebrew can be extremely intimidating for many of our students and we work hard to provide a safe, comfortable, supportive environment for them to learn in.  We find that, through working with their Hebrew tutor, most students gain confidence in their Hebrew skills fairly quickly and enjoy learning the prayers and progressing through our Hebrew Ninja program.  


 

Fri, December 13 2019 15 Kislev 5780