Identifying Our Big Questions and Ideas

This week, Anafim set out to identify our Big Questions and Ideas about the Yosef story.

First, we went back through our Questions and Ideas notes from each of the chapters of the text. We pulled out Big Questions and generated new ones.


Second, we headed over to our collages. We gave titles to our earlier work, and noted the feelings and ideas going on in the collages we’d made. We also looked for examples of when Anafimers showed their ideas about the text clearly, and for the different kinds of techniques we’ve explored for how to use paper in collage.


Children started coming to me preview their Big Questions.

I felt dissatisfied. Some of the questions were questions in which children were trying to make sense of the entire story, or questions in which a child was trying to understand ethical behavior. Many children’s questions, though, were still linked to a particular chapter of the text, or were questions for which the text doesn’t offer much direction (e.g., why the cupbearer lives and the baker dies). I wanted our 3rd – 5th grade children to tackle more complex questions. I pivoted.


I took the children’s questions and categorized them according to the main characters in the text. I ended up with seven main characters children could choose from: Yosef, in three main chunks of the story, the brothers, father Ya’akov (Jacob), God, and Reuven/Yehudah (Reuben/Judah), who try to save Yosef and protect Binyamin. I put the 7 characters and their associated questions up on the wall, and asked children to choose first and second choices of which character they’d like to explore for their final project. Then we met in small groups: 2-4 children, the text, and me.



Aha! With a character to focus on, children had big, synthesizing questions ideas about Genesis 37-50. We generated hours (and hours!) of sound recording, and I was so busy listening and scribbling notes I forgot to take any pictures!


By the time children left the small group conversation, they had found words to express personalized interpretations of the text, heard peers’ ideas about their ideas, and were ready to draft a final collage. Now begins the long process of supporting children as they translate their interpretations into visual form, and also find out more of what they think as they collage. We’ll capture as much as we can, so children can deepen and extend their ideas as far as they can. What a beautiful process we go through together.

What makes it possible for small groups of children to meet with the text and a teacher? Hebrew games, of course.




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