In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have developed an enhanced virtual curriculum that pays great attention to developmentally appropriate methods for all learners in our school community. Above all, our goal is to provide a fun, out-of-the-box learning experience that kids look forward to each week, that fosters a strong sense of connection and support to our families as one unified community. Our new, virtual curriculum has three components: Community T’filah/Prayer, Hebrew Language, and Judaica--Torah, History, and Practice
The full school community will meet each Sunday for a service led by Rabbi Eitan and our Education Director Rachel. This session will be full of songs and planned curriculum on elements of traditional Jewish prayer practice, as well as the meaning of each traditional prayer, supporting Hebrew language learning. Families are encouraged to attend this service together, but when not possible students may participate on their own.
In the virtual format, participants will be asked to keep their video on and set their viewing option to “gallery view.” This will allow us all to see one another and feel a sense of togetherness and community. Some songs will have hand motions or signs, and seeing each other in this format will also reinforce the language learning that these elements facilitate. Participants are also encouraged to stand up and dance whenever they feel moved to do so!
Each service will reveal a Hebrew Word of the Week (Hebrew WOW!) that will be reinforced and used during their Judaica session. Each service will then conclude with announcements and an opportunity for students and their families to share special accomplishments and celebrate one another.
Hebrew language learning will be implemented through a whole new model this year. We are very excited to be piloting these new Hebrew learning modalities at Shir Hadash, and are thankful for the guidance we are receiving from the Jewish United Fund and Community Foundation for Jewish Education’s Shifting The Paradigm - Re-Envisioning Hebrew Education incubator program.
Each week, grades K-4 will have a 20-minute session with a Hebrew specialist using a very unique modality called Hebrew Through Movement. This modality helps students develop language skills of sound, comprehension, and speech, through fun, interactive lessons that involve moving their bodies and engaging with different physical objects as verbally commanded by the instructor. As students see the instructor moving and each other moving, they learn to recognize Hebrew words and respond as evidence of growing vocabulary and comprehension. Currently, three members of the Shir Hadash faculty are undergoing a comprehensive training course on this specific model, including how to best implement in an online setting.
To best support engagement and effectiveness of this model for the virtual classroom, children in these grades will be given a set of special props that they will use during their Hebrew Through Movement sessions. Learners should have their prop kit in front of them so that they can identify objects, pick them up, manipulate based on various Hebrew commands, and show each other through the screen. The Hebrew Through Movement model is proven to be very effective for developing language skills and we are very excited to pilot it at Shir Hadash this Year.
Grades 5-7 will engage one-on-one Hebrew learning with an intergenerational community mentor using a virtual curriculum called Let’s Learn Hebrew Side By Side. All mentors will have ongoing guidance and accountability support from our Education Director and Hebrew Specialist. Each lesson is approximately 30 minutes long, and learners will schedule directly with their mentors any time during the week that works for both parties. This curriculum focuses on developing the language skills of decoding (reading) Hebrew text. Students who complete this material before the end of the school year will shift to small group Hebrew instruction with our Hebrew specialist.
Religious schools that used the Let’s Learn Hebrew Side By Side curriculum, as well as small group instruction, prior to the pandemic have reported that these models actually work better virtually. While we will be piloting these models this year at Shir Hadash, we are very comforted to know that not only are many veteran Jewish educators
recommending this model, they are recommending that these curricular components remain virtual as best practice beyond the pandemic.
Judaica--Torah, History, and Practice
These sessions will be facilitated by a grade-level faculty member and will be 40-75 minutes long depending on grade-level - to be most developmentally appropriate. Judaica Faculty plan their own curriculum and have been asked to outline their lesson topics before the school year begins. The duration of these sessions may be adjusted to best suit the learning needs and capacity of each unique constellation of learners.
Close attention is being given to how to make these sessions engaging, effective, and developmentally appropriate in an online format. Older classes may engage in interactive trivia games using softwares like Kahoot, while younger learners may be asked to dress up like characters from a Torah story or bring Jewish ritual objects for a show and tell. Grades 2-7 may engage in project based learning throughout the year. Also, depending on the state of the pandemic and community comfort levels, some grades could potentially meet in person for special field trip days or activities.
Emphasis during these sessions is placed on relationship building. Children will be asked to turn their video on so that they can see one another and get to know each other. We recognize that simply sharing and being seen by a consistent community of friends can have a positive impact on each of our learners spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
The “Sunday School Kit.” Prior to the start of online Sunday sessions, each child enrolled in religious school will receive a class specific “Sunday School Kit” with special materials they will need to fully engage in their learning experiences. Each kit will include project supplies, and may include specific books, journals, and basic supplies, depending on the planned curriculum of the Judaica teachers. Learners in grades K-4 will also receive a special set of props that they will use during their Hebrew Through Movement sessions. Families will have the option to pick up their Sunday School Kit at the in-person, socially distanced, outdoor school kick-off event scheduled for September 13. Families not attending this event will have the option to either arrange a curb-side pick up on another day, or have the kit mailed to their home.
Madrichimot/Intergenerational Mentors. Each child enrolled in the Shir Hadash Religious School will have the opportunity to build a relationship with an intergenerational mentor. Some of these mentors will be teenage madrichimot (gender-neutral plural for GUIDE), or an adult community volunteer. For learners in grades 5-7, this relationship will be structured by engaging the Let’s Learn Hebrew Side By Side curriculum. For learners in grades K-4, this will most likely take the form of a teenage “buddy” who will be tasked with checking in on their buddy each week.