Teaching a Hebrew Literacy Skills Class at Yeshiva University

June 26, 2010
Source: LookJed Archives   
In this post, Dr. Aster describes a second pilot of a Hebrew literacy skills class carried out during the 2009-10 school year at Yeshiva University for entering students with the very lowest scores on Yeshiva College's Hebrew Placement Test . On the basis of the experience acquired during the first pilot of the course, offered during the 2008-9 school year, many changes were made in the curriculum and the pedagogical approach of the course. The results were a high level of achievement of the students in acquisition of Hebrew language skills. 
Not being satisfied with the results of the first pilot, Dr. Aster and his colleagues sought the advice of experienced Hebrew language instructors in order to improve the course.
Dr. Aster attributes the successes of the second pilot to three main points:
  • Intensity
  • Inductive Method
  • Individual Attention
Intensity - The class, entitled "Elementary Biblical Hebrew" met four times a week for 75 minutes each period. Intensity is critical for successful teaching of Hebrew literacy.
Inductive Method - Do not attempt to teach formal grammar frontally to these students. There is nothing more frustrating to a student who has been taught Hebrew for years, but failed to master it, then to be faced with yet another verb chart, or worse yet, a book of these.

Teach text. Let the grammar emerge from the text. This was the single biggest difference between our failed Hebrew literacy class and our successful one.

Individual Attention - The key to literacy is practice. Therefore, individual attention is necessary. Students need to read out loud, to be corrected, to be called upon to translate, to be corrected, to ask lots of questions, to be guided through a chavrusa sheet. For this, work in small groups, with maximal attention from a teacher, is critical."

The Course syllabus and instruction materials have been placed online for the benefit of the educational community.
Updated: Jul. 04, 2010