This moment represents an opportunity to take a fresh look at what day schools, regardless of their ideology, share: the study of Jewish texts, however defined. For the last 15 years, the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks, developed by the William Davidson School of Education at JTS, have offered a clear picture of what it looks like to read Tanakh successfully. The first standard, for example, states that students will be “independent readers of the biblical text.” They should notice textual details and ambiguities, and will be able to “cite a text to prove a point opinion or claim.”
But how do we get students to that point? The standard itself tells us where we want to go; that is its function. The schools themselves, together with coaches, are expected to develop not just curricula but also the pedagogic repertoires of their teachers and curricula. But the Standards and Benchmarks framework, itself, does not tell us how to get there.
The next step for Jewish text education is to articulate a vision of pedagogy. That is, an approach for teaching students to be “independent readers,” to notice textual details, and build textually grounded arguments.
This spring, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University will bring together a group of scholars and practitioners of elementary Tanakh education and the broader field of literacy education to begin formulating a pedagogical vision for Tanakh education. Over the course of two days, in dialogue with renowned literacy scholar Claude Goldenberg, we will ask, “How do we help students become independent readers of Tanakh? What instructional practices and pedagogies best promote these various facets of reading comprehension?” Beginning this conversation is an important next step to building a unified educational culture across the landscape of North American day schools. While the roster for this small conference is now fixed, we look forward to sharing the insights of this conference with the larger community.
Read the entire article on the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Brandeis University blog.