Change Over Time

How does the discussion change and develop over time?

At first, some children have trouble thinking of anything to say. Some need to be prompted with sentence starters (“I remember when…” or “I liked the part when…”), and some simply repeat what others have said. Still, each child has a chance to say something aloud and this often helps them to rehearse what they will later write or draw in their Torah journals. As they speak, I try to write down what each child says so that we can refer back to it.

Over time, these structured responses develop into more sophisticated discussions about the parasha. Students begin to ask questions and wonder aloud about things they hear. They begin to question each other and challenge each other’s comments, or offer their own answers to their friends’ questions. As they get better at listening to each other and responding appropriately, we often let go of the “one turn each” structure and they begin to talk to each other in a more natural way. By the end of a year of practice “talking Torah” with each other, they sound like a true community studying Torah together.

How do student comments change over time?

At first, most of what the students say during Torah Talk is retelling a part of the parasha or choosing a part that they like:

Even at the beginning of the year, some students already ask questions as they struggle to understand difficult concepts:

Throughout the year, children continue to retell parts of the parasha and to choose their favorite sections. But they also begin to think about characters’ feelings and to wonder why people act in certain ways in these stories:

These parts of the story challenge the students’ ideas about family relationships and appropriate behavior. They cannot imagine brothers doing such horrible things to their father or their brother.

Even when learning non-narrative sections of Torah, children focus on different things and respond in different ways. After learning about some of the rules presented in parshat Mishpatim, some students restate the rules they have learned. Some wonder why there are so many rules. Others use this parasha to add to their growing understandings about God:

Over time, the children’s responses often become more sophisticated. They share their thoughts about complicated ideas and ask more and more questions.