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
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
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.
In New England, the beauty of the changing leaves around are as breathtaking as the spiritual wake up call which buzzes inside us. Can you feel the changes all around you? Can you turn your negative behaviors, relationships, and your mis-steps around to becoming a better you? In Judaism, it is imperative that we participate in making the world a better place and make a stand for our fellow human beings (yes….the doing) while not forgetting it is ultimately nurtured by who we are becoming (ahh…the being).
Thank God we’ve lived another year, and Rosh Hashanah brings a fresh start with a celebration of the birthday of the world. Perhaps it’s because it’s all I’ve ever known, but It always feels fitting in the autumn. What’s that gliding down heading my way? What’s that in the shofar I hear? Oh yeah…Its Teshuvah time!
Now of course, the act of repentance shouldn’t merely be seasonal. In truth, it is a lifelong process that touches every season of the human experience if you’re doing the spiritual work of repentance. There is no reason to wait until Yom Kippur to admit your wrong-doings, apologize to those you’ve wronged, ask forgiveness, and promise never to do it again. (Note: the previous sentence contains the four main steps of teshuvah).
There is something extra special about this time of year, when we come together as a community for collective prayer, delving into where we’ve gone astray, and individually, we work on arduous self-reflection in order to “turn things around” and to be our best selves moving forward.
Jewish tradition refers to archery when searching for the perfect word for our unintentional sins as cheit, which literally means to “miss the mark.” Haven’t we all missed the mark at some point? The good news is that we can try again to get closer to our best destiny. Preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur helps us draw a line in the sand and begin again. We can reset our intention and re-focus our attention.
Teshuvah is also great for looking at your organizational targets. Each of the past 5 years, The ShalomLearning team has set measurable goals and scaled up our programs nationally. From 300 students and 15 teachers at 15 synagogues in 2015 we’ve now grown partnerships with 110 synagogues, working closely with over 800 educators and 6000 students enrolled in 5780 (2019-2020)!
Getting back to your spiritual path, It is not easy to get things “right,” and hit our targets with the things that truly matter – deeds of loving kindness, studying Torah, connecting with our Creator, and performing tzedakah, to name a few essential mitzvot.
So… how do you know when you’ve truly completed teshuvah? You will know when you come across the same situation in life where you made the previous mistake for which you’ve already atoned, but this time, choose the right thing to do. Our beloved 12th century Jewish philosopher, Maimonides (aka Rambam) called this epilog fifth stage “Teshuvah Gemurah,” Complete Teshuvah.
His students would ask, “But Rabbi what if you are not faced with that same situation again?”
“Don’t worry,” Rambam smiled, “You will.” He also knew a thing or two about Karma.
May you all take the lessons of life and turn things around to be your best selves as I wish you a sweet and happy New Year with blessings of strong and vibrant learning communities deeply rooted in Jewish values.
L’Shana Tova U’Metukah!
Summer is just around the corner! As the rhythmic clock of the Hebrew School academic year winds down, ShalomLearning students are concluding with our seventh unit, Shalom. As many people know, the three most popular translations of Shalom are “hello,” “goodbye,” and “peace.” In the ShalomLearning Jewish values lessons, we take a deeper dive into the etymology via the word’s shoresh (root) which is shalem meaning “completeness.”
Our curriculum designers intentionally and brilliantly saved Shalom to be the final value of the year because there is a sense of peace in being complete. And of course, in Judaism we look towards the next question, “are we ever truly complete?” Part of our nature is to continue to grow and learn and strive to become the best authentic selves we can be. What we do in life, our actions (hopefully mitzvot) are of paramount importance, to strive for social justice and contribute to a better world (tikkun olam) but even higher, the zenith, the ultimate destiny is who we become. We grow in order to be. Where are we growing? What are we becoming? As I look back on the years with ShalomLearning, I am constantly amazed by our growth.
In 2011, founders Devin Schain and Andrew Rosenberg created our first cohort of seven students with one teacher (Rabbi Yakov Majeski) at one partner site in Bethesda, MD. We grew our team and resources to include a curriculum for grades 4-6. Incrementally we added on additional features and levels, expanding our Jewish communities of practice and commitment to pluralism and inclusiveness. The 2018-2019 enrollment consisted of 5128 students and 643 teachers at 98 partner schools. Collectively, if we look at our community as one and complete, this is the largest Hebrew School in the world!
This fall, you will notice we’ve expanded our offerings to include:
- Lessons (28 per grade) for eight different grades (K-7),
- More hands on training and mentorship for teachers with seven in person workshops this summer and additional webinars,
- A new iteration of learning prayer through gamification (ShalomLearning Escape Room 2.0), and
- Meaningful partnerships with over 120 synagogues across North America – both large and small of various affiliations.
We are committed to be more than just a provider. Rather we are partners with each congregation, helping every community make their educational independent visions a reality. I am so proud of what our learning community has accomplished. May you all continue to grow to be your best selves and enjoy the journey in striving for Shalom. “Summer lease hath all too short a date,” (Thank you Shakespeare!) and I look forward to starting anew in the fall as we continue to grow together.
Purim is just around the corner! Our 3-7th grade students are currently studying the core Jewish value of Hakarat Hatov, seeking joy and being grateful.
Hakarat Hatov is the quintessential Jewish value; as the name of Yehuda (Judah), is rooted in hodah – to give thanks. It is the essence of a meaningful Jewish experience. While one may have all the blessings of goodness (good health, wonderful family, and friends to name a few), without gratitude, one’s journey through life can’t capture the full meaning of appreciation. Giving thanks and finding ways to conveying gratitude is a profound key to happiness.
I am so grateful to be part of the transformation and growth of Jewish education here at ShalomLearning. We have the distinct joy of working on innovative projects, and kvelling over some recent successes. Working with Bible Raps, we are empowering our students to create their own original Jewish values rap songs at Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ, Temple Chaverim in Plainview, NY, and Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA. We have plans to continue this program in the fall at other partner synagogues.
We are also pumped from the success of our first virtual escape room game. I’d like to give a big shout out to Ben, our eight-year old winner, from California, who shares his experience in this interview with Heidi Lovitz, our Director of Educational Programming
To prepare for the fall, we’re currently putting the final touches on the new and updated curriculum. We’re also announcing the six locations for in-person summer training opportunities for our ShalomLearning educators. I look forward to seeing many of you at one of these sites or one of the training webinars.
May your hunger for Jewish Learning continue to grow, and my prayer for us all is to continue cultivating an attitude of gratitude- hakarat hatov!