Inside the classroom with Carla Birnbaum
We often get questions regarding our Hebrew curriculum and how it translates into Hebrew skills and comprehension. The overarching goal of our Hebrew curriculum is to cultivate fluent prayer reading with comprehension and familiarity with our worship services. Once students reach 3rd and 4th grade, they will understand and be comfortable performing Jewish home rituals, such as reciting Shabbat and Holiday blessings, and singing the Mah Nishtanah.
Most importantly, our students will learn the meaning of each prayer, its background, and how it helps us live according to Jewish principles. This is why we don’t focus them on memorizing prayers. We try not to put too much pressure on speed and rote mastery. Instead we emphasize prayer mastery through decoding the words within the prayers, and learning what they mean.
Our students should be able to explain the meanings of the prayers they are working on, as well as read the Hebrew. The Hebrew book series we use (Behrman House series Kol Yisrael) does a fantastic job of breaking down specific Hebrew roots, explaining their meanings, and enabling the students to translate words with similar meanings.
Our goal is to use student-friendly language to explore the meanings of and reasons behind prayer – so students understand the words they are saying and why we pray. This is different from the way most of us were raised, we do not emphasize memorization and speed; We emphasize comprehension.Our curriculum draws life lessons from the prayers (we show loyalty to God when we pursue peace and justice; we are a unique people and it is our duty to contribute goodness to the world) – so our students understand how prayers can help each of us act like a mensch.
The structure and methods of our program create a unique environment with an integrated learning model. We use traditional (pencil-to-paper) and new (mouse-to-screen) techniques to extend our learning from the classroom to the home. This also allows for students of varying learning styles and capabilities to progress at their own pace.