On weekday afternoons, we support children in making a relaxing transition from school-day to the Jewish Enrichment Center. Younger children might run and play in mischakim (Hebrew-based movement games), and then hear a story during z’man sheket (quiet time) before kibud (snack). Older children might settle in to some quiet reading or drawing independently during a free-choice z’man sheket (quiet time) before kibud (snack).
Snack time is an important part of our afternoon together. We practice caring for each other by offering and serving each other food. We practice empathy, listening carefully to a text or each other’s views, participating in a large-group conversation, or learning in chavruta (partner text study) with a peer partner. During kibud (snack), a routine including Hebrew words, phrases, and blessings over foods introduces a core community time in each classroom. During kibud conversations, children might address community issues, like deciding on community norms or making decisions together; engage in text study; or discuss big ideas and questions connected to their theme work. Kibud ends with a closing blessing or chant to express gratitude.
Hebrew learning at the Jewish Enrichment Center is creative, varied, joyful, and oriented towards giving children access to millennia of Jewish texts, songs, and ideas. During z’man Ivrit (Hebrew Time), children choose Hebrew challenges that are compelling to them and challenge their current skill level.
Younger children explore and play games with open-ended Hebrew materials like aleph–bet (Hebrew alphabet) magnets, rocks, gems, and wooden manipulatives to match and sort letters, practice spelling their shemot (Hebrew names) and those of their friends, and practice singing the aleph-bet together and on their own. Second- and third grade children use materials like Hebrew board games, flashcards, reading challenges, and worksheets to develop their Hebrew reading and writing skills. By late elementary school, children start learning to chant tefillot (prayers), and small “Easel-talk” modules allow children to discover basic elements of Hebrew grammar, the root system structuring Hebrew words, and practice translating and parsing words and phrases from familiar tefillot and texts. Middle school children also learn how to chant from the Torah.
Ivrit (Hebrew) work is often connected with our themes, as key vocabulary words or texts make their way into the set of materials with which children choose and design their Hebrew learning and play
During Yetzirah (art/creativity), children explore a wide variety of artistic media and techniques to interpret Jewish text and develop their skills for creative expression. Each theme, the yetzirah educator works with classroom educators to identify a few media that are well-suited to the needs of each group of children, as well as the big ideas and content of each theme. Early in a theme, yetzirah might take the form of a guided exploration, as children discover new ways to use new or familiar art materials. Later in the theme, as children’s ideas and interpretations are coalescing, the yetzirah educator provides technical and conceptual support as children express their thinking in visual form. Yetzirah may operate as a separate workshop during our session; at other times, yetzirah is fully integrated into choice or Torah creativity time (see below).
Over the past few years, yetzirah media have included fabric dying, line drawing, stamp carving, screen printing, chalk pastels, paper folding, photography, cray pas, weaving and fiber arts, micrography, graffiti, costume design, watercolor painting, and collage.
At a daily class meeting (pegisha) in the middle of the session, younger children greet each other, practice singing the aleph-bet, and take turns leading their peers in a variety of Hebrew routines and classroom responsibilities. Older children share greetings, play games, and do a short Hebrew grammar or theme-based activity together as a transition into the next part of the day.
Z’man Chakirah (Choice Time)/Yetzirat Torah (Torah Creation Time)
During z’man chakirah / choice time (for younger children), or Torah creation time (for older groups), children explore theme texts and ideas through a range of compelling, developmentally appropriate play-based and creative modalities.
During z’man chakirah, based in learning “centers” or choices, younger children choose from a range of explorations designed to support their learning about the theme. In a given theme, they might listen to texts together, act, dress-up, build with large blocks and small manipulatives, read and discuss other thematically connected stories, dance, paint, sculpt, sort found objects, and go on walks exploring a building or outdoor space together. Educators support play during chakirah by asking questions, offering new ideas or materials when children are stuck, and recording ideas and opinions the children share while at play. Documentation during z’man chakirah helps educators hone the design of classroom activities, as well as helping remind children of big ideas or questions they have explored from day to day.
During yetzirat Torah, older children might study a text in chavruta (partner text study), write and produce skits, create 3-D sculptures or dioramas with found materials, write stories, conduct interviews, paint large-scale backdrops or miniature watercolor vignettes, design games, and produce podcasts.
During Mischakim, younger children run, play, and practice using and responding to Hebrew instructions and vocabulary each day. There is often a team-building or cooperative component to mischakim as well.
Ma’agal siyyum (Closing Circle)
Towards the end of most sessions, children gather in their groups to share high points and reflections from the day, see each other’s work, and play a closing game or hear a story.
At the end of every session, the entire community gathers together for Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer) with Rabbi Rebecca. We sing in Hebrew and English, and children learn the words to the primary Jewish prayers through song. It’s a time to reconnect as a family, hear special news from the day, and share the big ideas, progress, and projects going on in the classroom, to support at-home conversations.