When children direct their learning, they leave hints—drawings, snippets of conversation, comic books—about questions that matter to them. As educators, we try to collect the data that indicate children are wondering and generating interpretations about a specific point in the text. In Beit Nitzanim, we call the question that children keep coming back to the Big Question.
Each child, as a unique member of our community, gets the chance to develop his or her own Big Question, a question that each child wants to keep thinking about and interpreting, a question to own. Children develop interpretations for their Big Question in conversation with peers and through exposure to rabbinic commentary. Then, children go into יצירה (yetzirah–art/creativity)and create; they communicate their questions and interpretations through artistic expression.
As we enter Week 4 of our יוסף (Yosef), theme, educators begin to look back through their notes, trying to identify patterns for particular children: What has this child said to indicate grappling with text? What does the child’s work (drawings, writings, comic books, building, conversations) show us? All of this work is to help children see what their Big Question really is.
This first grader has wondered, “Why did the brothers sell Yosef?” over four weeks and across the modalities of drawing, conversation, building, and writing.
1. A sketch with the explanation, “I did Yosef getting sold.”
2. A snippet of a conversation: “No brother would kill his brother. Reuven doesn’t want to kill Yosef but he’s still mad at him because of his dreams. He still wants to punish him but he doesn’t want to kill him.”
3. A glass gem creation of “Yosef getting sold.”
4. A post-it, with the child’s self-identified question, “Why did the brothers sell Yosef?”