Beit Midrash Comes to Life
By the end of the year, students can analyze new texts through whole class discussions, set up the classroom for havruta learning and skillfully engage in havruta, all while immersed in a classroom environment that is infused with Jewish values about how to learn in community.
Each values lesson begins with the class together at their desks in their usual configuration. Jocelyn either focuses the lesson around a new part of a text, and/or teaches or reinforces a specific havruta practice that students are working on, such as active listening.
Jocelyn checks in with all of the students to make sure they know how to arrange their desks to sit with their havruta partners and what to work on during havruta time. They then participate in the rituals that help transform the space into the beit midrash: They move their desks to face their havruta partners and sing V’ha’er eynaynu.
When everyone is settled in havrutot (pairs), each pair begins studying the text and working on the assignment, which guides the havruta work. Jocelyn circulates in the room so students can ask her questions as they arise.
For the wrap-up of the lesson, students reverse the ritual: They sing a fast version of V’ha’er eynaynu and return their desks to their usual spots. Students are then ready for a whole class discussion on the text and/or a reflection on either havruta time as a whole or a specific havruta practice they were working on.
The very structures that Jocelyn has built in her classroom lend themselves to experiences where students learn to work together through both successes and failures. Not only are the students studying Jewish texts about collaboration and community, but they are experiencing the fruitfulness that havruta work yields. As a result, Jewish values are reinforced and the students see themselves as being connected to a larger Jewish tradition.
Basic Sequence of a Typical Values Lesson
- Final Skills Assessment
- Final Text Assessments