Do you hear the people sing?

No, but seriously– what’s going on in ענפים (Anafim– “branches” for 3rd-4th grade children)? What’s with all the iPads? And where’s that singing come from?


Up to this point, one of the biggest goals for our עברית (Ivrit– Hebrew) curriculum has been learning to decode Hebrew text. To be able to recognize all the letters and vowels on sight, and string the sounds together and pronounce the words correctly.

Many parts of our program support this. Routines throughout the day, like כיבוד (kibud- snack), embed other Hebrew vocabulary and dialogue so seamlessly that the children respond to את רוצה/אתה רוצה רקיקים (at rotzah/atah rotzeh rekikim– do you want crackers?) as automatically as if it were English. At the end of each session, at שירה/תפילה (Shirah/Tefillah- song and prayer), the children gain an inductive knowledge of Hebrew phonetic patterns and learn the words of core pieces of Jewish liturgy.

By the time they’re in ענפים (Anafim), many children are beginning to bring these pools of knowledge together with their reading skills organically. “Wait, doesn’t that word mean…” “Is that how you say multiple of something? –im?” And many of them have been pushing so eagerly for new challenges, for new horizons of Hebrew learning. “I want to do whole sentences, not just these words.” “Could we do it with verses from the Torah? Could we do, like, a real story?” “That one was easy- can you make a harder challenge?”


(Yes, really.)


And so this week, some children in ענפים (Anafim) have started on the next big stage of the Hebrew curriculum at the Jewish Enrichment Center: learning תפילות (tefillot- prayers/liturgy).

I imagine I’ll have the opportunity to share more about this new adventure as we go on, but here are some key points about how תפילה (tefillah) work is structured right now for ענפים (Anafim):

-The children each have their own master-list of the first set of תפילות (tefillot). They keep track of their own progress, and can choose to learn them in any order they want.

-They choose how they want to learn– alone or with a peer; reading first and learning to chant with an iPad, or learning the words at the same time as the melody; incentivizing themselves with small goals and breaks or curling up in a corner and getting so immersed that I have to go find them because the day is over and we’re starting to clean up now, come on! (Wow, wait, you mastered how many lines?)


So far, we’re just starting to learn the routines and experiment with strategies for practicing. But with their characteristic curiosity, confidence, and determination, these new תפילה (tefillah) learners are off to a great start!


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