Author: Heidi Lovitz

Using Jewish Values to Respond to This Moment

Using Jewish Values to Respond to This Moment

Today, as we process the shock of the events at our nation’s capital, we struggle to find a message to share with our community. ShalomLearning’s Jewish values curriculum makes Judaism relevant to the lives of our students. It gives them texts and sources to draw from when making real-life decisions. But which of our seven values speaks the loudest at this moment?  Which one will best guide us to move forward?

Teshuvah (Repentance), can we reflect on what occurred and turn it around?  B’tzelem Elohim (Created in the Image of God), aren’t we all deserving of respect?  Achrayut (Responsibility), it’s our responsibility to respect government law and civil authority.   The values of Hakarat Hatov (Recognizing the Good), Koach Haddibur (Power of Words), and Shalom (Peace) can each guide our behavior in peaceful and challenging situations. However, it was the Gevurah (Strength) unit that resonated with us today as it teaches us how to use our inner strength.

Our fifth grade Gevurah unit teaches students about the role of courage in processing an argument, the art of compromise, practical ways for standing up for rights and points of view, and the skill of consensus building. All skills needed at this moment of history.

Therefore, we are sharing two activities from this unit that help students practice conflict resolution wrapped in our Jewish teaching. May these teachings guide us as we teach our children that we have the power to express our will within a democratic process with Jewish values to guide us.

 

Activity 1: Arguing the Right Way/Conflict Resolution

15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual

Tell students: Today, we will explore how to compromise, argue, and stand up for your ideas. We will look at some scenarios and find the piece of truth that each side possesses.

Discussion Questions

  •       When you argue with someone, do you usually feel that you are right and they are wrong? Do you ever feel like they could have a legitimate point of view too?
  •       The Hebrew word for argument is machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת. But the root of the Hebrew word is chelek חֵלֶק, or part. Why do you think the root of the word machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת is chelek חֵלֶק, part?
  •       Do you think that in an argument each person may have part of the truth?
  •       When you disagree with someone else, but you acknowledge that they have a chelek חֵלֶק of the truth as well, how does that change things?
  •       Sometimes when you acknowledge other people’s chelek חֵלֶק of the truth, the result is compromise, pesharah פְּשָׁרָה. Do you view compromise as a good result?

 

 

Activity 2: What Would You do? Machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת Scenario

15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual

Role Play Fishbowl: You may use the following scenario or choose a scenario that you know the students are confronting or that is in the news. If you have never led a fishbowl before, see this site for a helpful description. https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/fishbowl (5.3.4 Fishbowl Strategy)

 

It is the first day of school. Elaina has been away the whole summer and is looking forward to seeing her best friend Jessica. When Elaina gets to school, she looks all over for Jessica and finally finds her talking to a new kid. Instead of running over to greet Elaina, Jessica keeps talking to the new kid for ten minutes before she finally goes over to greet Elaina. Elaina is mad. How could Jessica keep her waiting for so long when they haven’t seen each other for two whole months? She tells her friend Andrea that Jessica has really changed and Andrea should not be friends with her. Jessica finds out and gets angry with Elaina.

 

Have two students play the roles of Elaina and Jessica. First, have them role play an argument where they are not interested in seeing the other person’s chelek חֵלֶק of truth and care only about the truth of their position.

Choose two other students to role-play the same argument. This time, they must acknowledge the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s position.

Discussion Questions

  •       Who made choices in this story?
  •       How could you defend Elaina’s choices?
  •       How could you defend Jessica’s choices?
  •       What other choices could they have made that may have avoided a fight?
  •       Was there a chelek חֵלֶק of truth for each side of this story?
  •       What would happen if Elaina and Jessica took the time and effort to understand the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s argument? What would be the consequences of the argument? 
  •       What would have happened to the friendship if they talked out why they were each upset?
  •       How can respecting another person’s point of view and trying to see their chelek חֵלֶק of truth help you in other arguments and situations?

 

New Bikkur Cholim Lesson

New Bikkur Cholim Lesson

Bikkur cholim בִּיקוּר חִוֹלים (visiting the sick) is a tangible and easy mitzvah מצְוָה for your students to learn about and practice.  It is more relevant than ever as we continue to struggle with the effects of Covid-19. Everyone has been sick at one time or another and appreciated the extra attention and love of someone close to them during that time. 

We, at ShalomLearning, created a free lesson for teachers to use in a virtual classroom with students ages 5-8 and their parents to explore this Jewish value. Together, the class will learn and share ways to help others feel better even when we are not able to visit in person.

The lesson begins with a social and emotional check in. It is important to connect with families and provide an opportunity for everyone to share feelings.  Through observations and personalization, this lesson helps students explore their thoughts and emotions about visiting and helping those who are not feeling well and encourages empathy. We conclude that the ways we help will lead toward healing. Healing does not always mean that there is a cure; it can also be a healing of the spirit.

Throughout the lesson, students actively share things that help them feel better and create a Get Well Card Video to share with others to support their healing.  The post lesson extensions are full of great ideas that families can do together to perform the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, even when we can’t visit in person.

ShalomLearning has created a version of this stand alone lesson for our Jewish families in the military.  Distributed through our partnership with the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, families on military bases throughout the world will receive this lesson to do together at home.  

Refuah Shleima.  May we all be blessed with healing and kind helpers.

Access this free lesson here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19xG-IlRNQNZlh4uaMDc_gi-dpj274WCMODEchwDcUFk/edit?usp=sharing

 

Free Pesach Lesson for the Virtual Classroom

Free Pesach Lesson for the Virtual Classroom

ShalomLearning has been providing our educational materials and training for free to help Jewish educators in their sudden transition to virtual classes. We’ve been listening to all the requests and noticed there was a large demand for Passover lessons to use in Zoom (or any other video-classroom tool).  Therefore, we pulled sections from our Koach Hadibbur units, edited it to work as a stand alone lesson, and made it available for free.

In this lesson, students learn about the story of Passover, and then use Google Slides collaboratively to retell the story in ten words or less with one image on one slide. Teachers can share the student-created slides for families to see and/or use at their seders.

The notes under the slides provide instructions for the teachers and a link to the “activity deck.”

We hope many educators are able to use this interactive Pesach lesson

What Makes ShalomLearning Stand Out to Traditional Hebrew Schools?

What Makes ShalomLearning Stand Out to Traditional Hebrew Schools?

There are many resources educators can use to provide Jewish learning, but ShalomLearning’s holistic approach to supporting the educator sets them apart.  When an organization uses the ShalomLearning program, the staff, the students, and the families benefit.

ShalomLearning’s Jewish values-based curriculum and Hebrew teaching programs provide the Hebrew School teacher with detailed lesson plans and the necessary resources to engage students. When class is over, the learning doesn’t stop. The program includes email summaries for the teacher to personalize and send to parents with questions to ask at the dinner table or during the car ride that evening. Additionally, there are self-paced activities students can complete online from anywhere to reinforce the learning, make up a missed class, or move ahead.

This comprehensive approach ensures that students, parents, and teachers remain more involved around the clock.

Let’s dive a little deeper and see what makes ShalomLearning one of today’s most unique and successful Jewish educational programs.

1. Detailed Jewish Lesson Plans

A leading benefit of ShalomLearning is the detailed lesson plans that provide the teacher with clear learning objectives and detailed activities to achieve the objectives. These Jewish lesson plans are valuable to new and experienced teachers alike. In some Jewish communities, particularly those in rural areas, it is an insurmountable task to find a great teacher who is also well-versed in Jewish text.  ShalomLearning’s lesson plans help every educator feel prepared since they include an introduction with links to find out more about the topic, translations of Jewish texts, and details to illustrate the real-world application of Jewish values.

2. Best Practices in Secular Education & Use of Technology

ShalomLearning incorporates best practices from secular education into the program. Educators have options to integrate the latest tools in education technology. For example, the teacher can select to have the students complete an activity on a posterboard, using Google Slides or using Padlet.

In addition, ShalomLearning uses Schoology, a Learning Management System (LMS) to provide the curriculum to the teachers and online activities to the students. Teachers can review student work and provide feedback between classes through the portal.   By using a digital curriculum in an LMS, ShalomLearning is able to respond to teacher requests and update curriculum to keep it relevant for today’s learners.  Teachers are also able to communicate with each other providing peer support and coaching.

3. Outside Class Time & Parental Involvement

In a recent study about ShalomLearning, students, teachers, and parents stressed the opportunities the curriculum provided for continuing the learning process outside of the classroom (or virtual classroom) setting. Many students described how they were able to integrate their new knowledge about Jewish values into discussions and activities at home. They now think more deeply about how the values and lessons from class help them build better relationships and make better decisions whether it is treating peers respectfully, looking for ways to make the world a better place, or standing up for themselves.

4. Increased Teacher Retention Rates

In addition to providing Jewish lesson plans, ShalomLearning provides support to the teachers through ongoing communication and training.  This is especially helpful for those who have received less formal pedagogical or Judaic studies training. With the burden of creating lessons lifted and having available support, all teachers, new and experienced, can focus on connecting with their students.

Teachers can take advantage of ongoing professional development opportunities offered by ShalomLearning to gain new skills specific to the program or more universal pedagogical skills. Teachers appreciate the support and resources, and therefore, schools have higher retention rates.

5. Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) Techniques to Make Connections

The ShalomLearning curriculum explores seven Jewish values and their relevance in our everyday lives using an age-appropriate lens. Our Jewish lessons incorporate strategies that promote Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Students see how they relate to the world from a Jewish perspective.  They learn how Judaism can guide them to build positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

6. Focus on Hebrew Curriculum

ShalomLearning offers varied approaches to teaching Hebrew reading and prayers. By partnering with two publishers: Torah Aura and JLearnHub, ShalomLearning offers choices for communities.   The program includes teaching materials for a traditional or a virtual classroom. Lessons include options for students to use personal devices to explore deeper into the meaning of the liturgy or take a virtual tour of places in Israel.

Students have an option to access materials for independent learning or to reinforce classroom learning, through the ShalomLearning portal on the LMS.  Teachers review and provide feedback on student submitted activities such as matching games or recorded readings/chantings of Hebrew words or prayers.

7. The Virtual Classroom

Hebrew school

ShalomLearning designed the curriculum to be used in either a traditional or virtual classroom. In the ShalomLearning virtual classroom, students attend a teacher-led class at a scheduled time.  The class is held in a virtual meeting room such as Zoom or Adobe Connect, making group work and other collaborative projects possible.

ShalomLearning sites use the virtual classroom in a variety of ways. All of them have found that this option has helped the community see them as forward-thinking and understanding the needs of the families. Geographic and schedule constraints can make the commute to the physical classroom a barrier to a Jewish education. The virtual classroom removes the constraints of commuting time and allows the student to participate from anywhere.

In some communities, classes meet in a traditional classroom once a week and in a virtual classroom for the second weekly class. Others use the virtual classroom as a make-up option for those who weren’t able to attend the weekly class in person.  It is currently being used at several locations. Some are only using the values-based curriculum in the virtual classroom. Others are using the Hebrew teaching program. Many are using both in the virtual space. This type of flexibility enables educators to customize the program for the specific needs of his or her community.

Let ShalomLearning provide you with an engaging Jewish learning curriculum!

Founded in 2011, ShalomLearning aims to meet the evolving educational needs of today’s Jewish community by providing the most up-to-date and relevant curriculum for grades K-7. Our lesson plans are engaging and also meant to be affordable and accessible to every institution. The goal of ShalomLearning is to instill a lifelong passion for discovery and give students, teachers, parents, and community members a way to use Jewish values to navigate the modern world.

Currently, we partner with 120 Jewish schools and synagogues. Our Jewish curriculum is both current and flexible to today’s teaching demands. To learn more about the ShalomLearning team, or speak to one of our representatives, contact us online or call (301) 660-3800. You can also visit our FAQ page to learn more about what we offer.

New Partner Spotlight: Congregation B’nai Israel

New Partner Spotlight: Congregation B’nai Israel

ShalomLearning asked the leadership at Congregation B’nai Israel Barry Ira Graff School for Living Judaism (CBI), in Boca Raton, Florida about using our program. The school is under the direction of Kim Beame, Director of Religious Education and Cheryl Epstein, Assistant Director of Religious Education. CBI is a Reform synagogue with over 700 families and more than 350 students in grades K-12.

ShalomLearning (SL): Why did you decide to use ShalomLearning?

Congregation B’nai Israel Barry Ira Graff School for Living Judaism (CBI): We knew our curriculum needed updating. We could either reinvent the wheel or use an existing curriculum. We chose ShalomLearning because of the ready made lesson plans. 

SL: How are you using ShalomLearning?

CBI: We started in September using ShalomLearning’s values-based curriculum in grades K-6 and Torah Aura Hebrew in grades 3-6.  We’ve even started some virtual classes for Hebrew.

SL: How would you describe your experience using the program?

CBI: Moving from textbooks to a digital curriculum has taken some getting used to, but the assets in the curriculum are well worth it! We hear from teachers that they and the students are more engaged.

I believe we’ve retained several families by offering mid-week virtual classes for Hebrew. The classes are real-time and still teacher led, but the flexibility of the online classes is attractive to many families.

SL: What advice would you give to other schools starting ShalomLearning?

CBI: Use the resources ShalomLearning offers. Encourage your teachers to prepare in advance. The ShalomLearning team is amazing. They’re always available to answer questions, work with our teachers and guide us.

ShalomLearning looks forward to a long relationship with the Congregation B’nai Israel community and their dedicated team.