A Smashing PBL Success in Torah Studies (with an assist from Twitter)!

March 14, 2013

Source: Thinking about Chinuch


Rabbi Aaron Ross tells of a special seventh grade PBL Torah project. Student groups of his class at Yavneh Academy researched the laws of Kashrut and presented them to peer class groups at Denver Christian Academy.


He writes:

"I wanted my students to create visual presentations of the laws that they were studying, but I wanted them to present them to people who were not knowledgeable of those laws. My goal was to find a class of Middle School students who knew little to nothing about the details of the Jewish kosher laws who could serve as the target audience for my students and their presentations. My thinking was that since the other students would not be familiar with any of the terms of details of the subject matter, my own students would have to prepare assiduously to be able to explain virtually any word that they would mention. In other words, spitback would not be enough - they would have to fully understand every single aspect of what they were presenting."


So he reached out to a twitter pal at the Highland Ranch campus of Denver Christian Academy, who teaches 7th grade history, who gladly agreed to collaborate with his class who had just learned about the restrictions that the Seleucids placed on the Jews, which included restrictions on keeping kosher.


The Yavneh students broke into 8 study groups to study their topic using a wealth of online materials and preparing presentations using any presentation tool that they preferred, which resulted in a collection of Powerpoints, Google Presentations, Prezis, and one iMovie. They worked daily on their iPads for nearly three weeks preparing their presentations.


On each of two presentation days, four groups presented their projects on Skype to their peer groups across the country.


Rabbi Ross writes:
"For my students, I hope that they appreciate how many skills they worked on over the course of this project. They had to collaborate with their partners, which were chosen by me. They had to decide on an effective approach to researching and curating material. They had to step outside of themselves and think about all of the little things that they take for granted but that others may not understand in the slightest - and then figure out how to explain it. They had to create presentations that were ready for prime time, since they could not guarantee that their audience would be as forgiving as I would be. They had to really think about what Jewish law looks like to someone who does not live it, and be prepared to explain at some level why they do live it….


As a teacher, there are few moments in your job than when your students not only reach but actually exceed the expectations and hopes that you have for them. Over the past two days, and really over the past several weeks, I was privileged to have one of those moments."


Read the entire post on the Thinking about Chinuch Blog.

Updated: Apr. 29, 2013