On Day 4 (our final session) we tried to nail down some logistics, though since we’re rolling out an entirely new program, we will have to tweak it as we go. Some of our challenges are good ones – space is tight, classrooms are full, and we don’t have any spare rooms to dedicate to Hebrew instruction. We’ve already got a workaround as our awesome cantor and 6th grade teacher, Marla, has offered up her (largest) classroom as the dedicated Hebrew room and she will teach in a smaller classroom. Marla says she’s so excited about this new direction for Hebrew instruction that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it work!!
Here are some other adjustments we’re making to accommodate the new Hebrew program – though nothing is set in stone.
- I will teach/model Modern Hebrew lessons on Wednesday afternoons and Sunday mornings until…I don’t need to anymore, because the classroom teachers are confident & solid in their T/CI skills. At that point, I will coach and mentor! We will divide the 5 grades (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th) into 2 large sub-groups. I will teach the 3rd-4ths together, and then the 5th through 7ths.* Each combined group will get around 30 minutes of story spinning/oral language, followed by another 20-30 minutes of literacy extension. As more scheduling details are available, I will post them to the blog.
- Teachers will teach liturgical Hebrew (prayers, etc.) and holidays, etc. when their students are not with me.
- While it’s scary to start without any text/book in hand, I’ll model how we gather information about the kids’ and class’ interests, hobbies & lives, and start to weave this info into our story spinning and later, into reading & writing. I may do the same story/structures with both groups, scaling it up or down as necessary.
- Reading/literacy will start slowly. Some teachers are concerned that their students really don’t know how to read/decode Hebrew letters/words well yet, especially in grades 3/4. Not to worry! Students will get several hours of aural input before being invited to read extended texts.
- We will video-record each class and with parent permission, post these class videos to my blog for teacher reference/training and for absent students. I hope to write & post reflections about (some of) the recorded classes.
- We (teachers & Lori, our education director) will have regular feedback & planning meetings (monthly?) after class, to be determined.
I then walked the teachers through this blog so that they could independently refer back to my core documents and our 8 hours of learning together.
Finally, to reflect on the training experience, the teachers responded to these questions:
“What strikes you about these learning strategies, and how do you think your students will respond?”
Here are some of the teacher comments:
“I’m so glad the focus will be on high-frequency (HF) words. The textbooks don’t really focus on them, and they’re [textbooks] really all over the place with the language.”
“I can see this as being very engaging and enjoyable for the kids.”
“I like that we’re connecting the oral sounds to physical movement with TPR (Total Physical Response). The repetition of the hi-frequency verbs will embed meaning into their brains.”
“I’m very excited about this. In the past we went very fast and we tried to do too much! Now we’re going to take a step back and really make sure we’re doing it in repetitive chunks and make sure everyone understands what they hear and read. This will really improve the reading quickly!”
“This approach will help them tie everything they’ve learned together…they’ll finally be able to understand it.”
“I can see how it’ll work well with the 4th graders, but I’m interested to see it with the 7th graders because they’re notoriously jaded!”
“I feel very energized. This is going to be a lot of fun to teach! I feel like a lot of these practices are intuitive and I feel like I’ve tried some of them over the past few years, but I’m excited to watch and learn this fall so that I can get more comfortable with it.”
Well. My first Hebrew Through Comprehensible Input training is behind me, and the challenges and thrills of teaching Hebrew lie ahead. Opening Day is Wednesday, September 7. Stay tuned!
*I’m teaching 3 groups: 3-4; 5th; and 6-7th. The original 5th-7th group had over 50 kids – too big.