Strategies for Teaching Hebrew

How can we meet our goals of creating a kehillah kedoshah (sacred community) during Hebrew lessons?

  • create a nurturing environment for Hebrew learning where students' learning needs are met and their confidence in their reading ability is strengthened.
  • role model and teach how to be a supportive Hebrew reading partner by giving students the strategies they need to read on their own instead of just pointing out their mistakes.
  • connect Hebrew learning to application--share their experiences with using the Hebrew they are learning--by saying motzi at home, leading a prayer or reading Torah in a BAS Youth Service, being able to participate with the BAS community in Shabbat services, saying the brachot for Chanukah candle-lighting at home...

There are so many ways to engage students while they are building their Hebrew skills. If the students enjoy the way they are learning, they are more likely to value what they are learning. 

  • See your Hebrew Curriculum Teacher’s Guide for ideas.
  • Don’t have one child read at a time to the whole class. While one child is reading, the rest of the class is passive and bored, and many students feel anxious about reading in front of the whole class.
  • To introduce new words or prayers: read a word or phrase in Hebrew to the whole class slowly, then have the students repeat after you. Then have the students practice the words with a partner.
  • Whether they are reading or hearing someone read, have the students put their finger on what is being read.

Always connect what the students are learning to how they can use what they are learning.

  • Grades 4-6: Learn the meaning of the verses of Torah that they are reading in the Youth Service. Not only the overall meaning of the parashah, but the actual meaning of the verses they are reading. You can use the English/Hebrew Tanakh for this to also teach the students how to find their verses in the Tanakh. Teach the students key vocab words from their readings.
  • Share personal connections to the tefillot they are studying. Meeting circles—share an experience you had with nature when learning a prayer about creation.
  • Learn what the tefillah or Torah text inspires us to do and then do it. If you’re learning hakhnasat orhim—welcome another class or chaverim for an activity. If you’re learning brachot—eat the foods after saying the brachot.
  • Bring the learning home--ask students to say brachot the students are learning in class at home, and share their experiences the next class.
  • Listen to modern Israeli music and have the students learn a few of the words in the song. Email home the link for the students to listen to the music at home.

Small Group or Paired Reading:

  • Having students read in small groups or pairs ensures that students are more engaged and can support each other’s reading skills.
  • Teach students to be great Hebrew reading partners: Model it when you go around and check your students’ reading.
  • Show your madrichim how to guide students in paired reading.  Have your madrichim watch you lead their group, then take your madrichim to the side to discuss the strategies you used. Ask your madrichim which strategies they will try. 
  • Provide your madrichim with a Hebrew alef-bet chart to have by their side when working with students. 
  • Refer your students to the chart in each classroom on how to be a great reading partner.
  • Have the students:

    • Follow along with their finger on the words while a student reads.
    • Move--clap when they hear a lamed, do a jumping jack when they read a word with a final letter...
    • Reread a word s/he read incorrectly to give the student a chance to self-correct.
    • Come up with tricks to remember how a letter or vowel sounds. For ex. a bet has a belly button.
    • Be supportive and patient of each other.
    • (For beginning readers) take turns reading one word at a time to speed up the wait time for each reader, so they stay more alert and engaged.
    • take turns asking each other to find a certain word, shoresh, a line.  
    • repeat the word a student just read.

Multi-sensory approaches:

  • Tactile methods:

    • alef-bet cookie cutters and playdough
    • create letters with popsicle sticks, beans…
    • trace a letter with your finger
    • write the Hebrew letters in flour on a plate 
    • write the letters on the board or on individual wipe-off boards (in supply closet)
  • Visual methods:

    • Look at or create posters in the classroom displaying what they are learning, such as a shoresh tree, words that start with the same sound…
    • Illustrate a tefillah that they are learning or a scene from the Torah verses they are reading. Add Hebrew words to their pictures. Can display these pictures in the Youth Service to encourage their participation.
    • Create their own Hebrew word games using vocabulary they are learning, including from the Torah verses they read in the Youth Service. They can exchange their word games with each other in class and complete each other’s.
    • Create their own milon—Hebrew dictionary with vocabulary they are learning and can illustrate the words
    • Start with a Hebrew letter and turn it into a picture that starts with that letter.  For ex. turn the letter Bet into a Bayit.
  • Auditory methods:

    • Listen to CDs of songs and tefillot in Hebrew.
    • Repeat Hebrew words that the teacher says.
    • Learn a song in Hebrew.
    • Create a song using vocab words you are studying.
  • Kinesthetic methods:

    • Make the shapes of letters with their bodies—individually or in small groups
    • Shimon Omer—Simon Says—put your yad on your rosh…
    • Dancing prayer--small groups create a dance that connects with the meaning of prayer.

Additional Strategies:

  • Click here for ways to use modern Hebrew in class.
  • Create stations to have the students walking around the room and doing different Hebrew activities at each station.
  • Start your class off with a short tefillah service to review the tefillot you’ve been learning. Switch off to have each student have a turn at being leader--Shaliach tzibor.
  • Games like connect four, tic tac toe… read a line or phrase correctly and you gain a move in the game.
  • Hebrew Relay Race – Students are in teams, and each team is given a word to write on the board – each player on the team must come up to the board to write one letter and then run back to the tag the next player, who continues to write another letter to complete the word. First team to complete the word wins!
  • Assessing tefillah mastery: have students read a prayer from a handout. Circle the words that s/he needs to work on. Have the student make up flashcards for those words to practice for homework. Reassess—and then have students only work with the flashcards they now need to review.
  • Represent the meaning of the prayer or Torah text through: pictures, drama, written response, acrostic, rewrite it in your own words, experience it—nature walk for creation prayer, handmade midrash.
  • Word cards—can be done all together or in small groups and as stations:

    • Give each child a card and have them find someone in the room with a card that makes the same sound or has the same shoresh…
    • Display a few words cards and give a clue about a word—this is the Jewish state—and have them read the word. Pairs of students can do this for each other.
    • Hand out word cards that make up one prayer—hand out one for each student. When they hear their word card read, stand up. Then have them stand up in line in the front of the room in the correct order of the prayer without talking. Then have the line of students say the prayer—first each child saying their word, then all saying the whole prayer.
    • Play memory with a double set of cards--single letters, syllables or words. Can make the game more difficult by matching words with the same root letters–shorashim.
    • Create large letter/word cards on copy paper (the office can laminate them). Spread them out on the floor and have the students: Hop to a card with a “hey” in it, jump to a cards that starts with a “lamed”, put their hand on a card with the shoresh for holy, put each hand on cards that have rhyming sounds…
    • Hopscotch—can’t jump to the next word until you read it correctly.
    • Put words of a prayer in correct order, then read it. Have a partner take a word away and you have to say which word is missing in the prayer.

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