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.
This fall (September 2019) ShalomLearning will offer three new levels of our values-based curriculum (K-2). Similar to grades 3-7, our lessons tie Biblical stories, prayers, holidays, and Jewish text to a value. In addition, for these grades, we focus on arts, literature and experiencing the values through the senses.
Here’s a sample activity from our Yom Ha’atzmaut unit for first grade. Keep in mind, this is just one piece of a larger lesson plan.
Israel has so many wonderful foods. We are going to taste a few today. If children have tried some Israeli foods in the Kindergarten lesson, choose a different food this year, or stick with a favorite and remind students of their taste test last year.
Serve as many of these foods as you have access to.
- Israeli salad (Tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, salt, pepper)
- Hummus (could serve with cucumbers, carrots, pita)
- Chocolate spread (goes on the pita)
Spend some time doing some exploration about the foods. For example, ask children to wonder what hummus is made from. Have some chickpeas on hand to show them. Students can even try their hand at mashing the chickpeas to make their own hummus.
One reason the Israeli salad is the most well-known dish of Israel is that the cucumber has a long history in that region of the world. Ask students when they might eat an Israeli salad. Share that Israeli salad was part of the traditional Israeli breakfast at home before cereal became popular.
After tasting the food that you have, have a conversation with the students about what they liked or did not like. What was the same as what we eat, and what was different?
At ShalomLearning, we’re always improving our offering. Check out these latest updates to our program
All New K-2 Values-Based Curriculum
- Explores 12 Jewish values through the senses, arts, and literature.
- Stand-alone lesson plans for Jewish holidays.
- Lessons plans include “Fun With Hebrew.” These activities introduce Hebrew letter sounds and words.
Updated 3-7 Values-Based Curriculum
- Each lesson has a 45 minute or a 90 minute option
- More hands-on in-class activities for greater student engagement
- Options for 6th and 7th graders to integrate personal devices
Torah Aura Revisions
- New in-class lesson plans and updated slides for more engaging learning
- Additional Torah Service prayers and other tefillot
- Updated online and at-home activities for better reinforcement of self-paced learning
This fall (September 2019) ShalomLearning will offer three new levels of our values-based curriculum (K-2). Similar to grades 3-7, our lessons tie in Biblical stories, prayers, and other Jewish text to a value. In addition, for these grades, we focus on art and literature.
Here’s a sample activity from our Ba’al Tashchit unit for second grade. Keep in mind, this is just one piece of a larger lesson plan.
Ba’al Tashchit-Don’t Waste
ShalomLearning: Grade 2
From ט”ו בִּשְׁבָט Tu B’Shevat To בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit – Don’t Waste
Values in Art: Hanoch Piven and Recycled Art
40 minutes total (can be broken into two twenty-minute sessions)
– Scrap paper for the students to brainstorm their portraits
– Construction paper
– Clean recycled / found objects (lids, game pieces, figures, old cards, etc.)
– Magazines (to cut up)
Last week we learned about ט”ו בִּשְׁבָט Tu B’Shevat, the holiday where we celebrate trees. So, it makes perfect sense that this week we’re going to take that love of nature just one step further and explore a key Jewish value: בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste. בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste is the idea that we are responsible for how we interact with the world around us and our impact on the environment.
What are some of the ways that you know that we can have an impact on the world? Brainstorm a list, including creating trash, recycling, driving a car, using disposable items instead of reusable. Be sure the students identify that you can recycle items and reuse them.
We have identified that there are many ways we impact the environment, in good ways and not-so-good ways. We’re going to focus on some of the ways we can improve our impact.
Together, let’s make a list of ideas of ways that follow the ideals of בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste. I’ve given one idea for each category, to get you started, but let’s see what else we can do, both here and at home.
– Use reusable plates / cups
– Turn plastic jugs or cans into planters
– Make sure all paper and cardboard get into a recycling bin!
If possible, come up with specific ideas for things that the students can implement – things like making sure all the paper gets cleaned up from your classroom and put into the recycling bin. If your synagogue (or other location) doesn’t have ample recycling bins, perhaps you can make a new one! If you have access to outdoor or window space, you could plan a future project to create planters.
One creative way to reuse a variety of objects is to create new art from it! Hanoch Piven, a famous Israeli artist, does just that. He creates portraits of famous people from across the globe. Let’s look at a few of the portraits he has made from the website Piven World http://www.pivenworld.com/art.
Show students a variety of portraits of figures they will recognize from the website. As you view them, point out a few of the objects used to add meaning to the portrait. For example, for Obama he uses Statue of Liberty models for the eyes.
Not all of Hanoch Piven’s art features particular people, sometimes he just creates.
Today, you’re going to create your own Piven-style art! To get started, the first thing is to identify who you’d like to portray and come up with 4-5 attributes of the person, so you can include them in the portrait. For example, if you picked Moses, you might note that he spoke to a burning bush, he had a speech impediment, he held the 10 commandments tablets, he split the red sea, and he lived in the desert!
When you have your list, think about ways you could represent some of these ideas on your picture. For example, you could use fire or a bush to represent the burning bush. You could color his robe a speckled tan color to look like desert.
Encourage the kids to help each other with their brainstorming. You can bring back the idea of “זוּג – zug – pair” from week 13 and encourage them to work in partners.
Students will work at a variety of paces, so it is recommended that you pause once you feel like everyone has picked a person and started brainstorming attributes. You will take more work time later on to create the actual portraits – and suggestions for what to do with those students who create quickly.
Provide a second block of time for students to work on their portraits. Encourage students to include any objects they can find – and to draw or cut out pictures of items that wouldn’t work to include directly (like a banana!).
Some ideas for students who complete their work more quickly than the rest:
- Create explanation cards for each portrait, interviewing other students to learn about the symbolism they included.
- Work together to create another image for an imagined character.
Participants in ShalomLearning’s No Teacher Left Behind (an 8 week course in partnership with JETS) are learning about different online tools, and how they can used for Jewish education. Alissa Okrent, Religious School Principal at Temple Shalom, Succasunna, NJ used her new skills and her creativity to engage her students right away! Using Padlet, an online, collaborative, bulletin board, she created an activity where the seventh graders gained a deeper understanding and connection with tefillah.
She shared with us the following (and we’re including a picture so you feel like you know her):
One of my personal joys is helping my students feel our prayers are relevant today. My two foundations for this lesson were: Achrayut and nature. How can I integrate these two concepts into an activity that would engage my students, and help me to interact with each other and the learning?
I began with nature, choosing pictures that gave me a sense of “prayer meaning.” Seeing the “rock” could be an image of Gevurot; the sky aligned with God/Shema and the path felt like a connection to being in the present moment.
I asked, “What words describe this image?”, they typed in their words, and things started to appear on the screen. The lines, and arrows, and “web” effect was a total surprise to me!
Once each picture had words associations, I asked them, based on their understanding of the meaning of the prayers we had discussed, which prayer correlates to which image? There are no wrong answers. As I watched the words appear on the screen, I asked the group to create a poem which could be their prayer.
One of the students composed the poem and we all experienced our own moment of Achrayut; becoming a better version of ourselves.