When Working to Teach Hebrew Language Effectively Inspires Collaboration

Published: 
October 26, 2016

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 

 

At Yavneh Day School, it became clear that if Hebrew is to be a value, we need a paradigm shift. This shift must reflect what we know today about language acquisition, brain development, and 21st-century learning skills.

We determined then that the most obvious limitation to success was time. Best practice dictates that immersion should happen consistently for at least four hours a day. It is not unusual for more traditional schools to offer four hours a day of Jewish and Hebrew studies, which might be taught mostly in Hebrew. In a community day school setting like ours, the demands of the secular curriculum are often such that four hours of Hebrew instruction is difficult to achieve.

And so … we leveraged the trained talents and abilities of these teachers and created collaborative teams of qualified Hebrew- and English-speaking teachers who could partner on all lesson planning and co-teach all subjects. We could maximize our teachers’ talents and enable a true dual-immersion program throughout the day. Through this collaboration with teachers who have a stronger relationship with the language, as well as aspects of Israeli culture, we could provide a much richer Jewish studies experience to our students.

New teacher collaborations are focusing on creating parallel language arts activities in both languages. In upper elementary and middle school we have engaged in similar trainings and co-teaching models between Jewish and general studies teachers. We are still strategizing how to best incorporate Hebrew in these grades.

This is still very much a work in progress. To achieve maximum effectiveness in this collaboration, we know that we need to build in as much time as we can for co-reflection and co-planning of lessons. It is challenging for Hebrew teachers who are used to interjecting English when students are struggling to refrain from falling back on old habits. Communication between the teachers of the different languages during class time is tricky and happens through glances, gestures, and an occasional whisper outside of the students’ hearing range.

We are only at the beginning of our grand experiment. We look forward to continuing to build on this unique and perhaps risky collaborative approach, which leverages the talents of our faculty and optimizes the learning opportunities for our students. I hope that other schools across the country join us as we think about how to create a lens through which our students own all of their learning in ways that will build a generation that is secure in its identity, and strong in its knowledge. Beyond the ability to order ice cream, we hope our students are able to be confidently creative and think in both English and Hebrew, and our faculty, as diverse as they are, should be able to work, collaborate, and innovate together for the betterment of our school’s mission.

Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Nov. 02, 2016
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