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Archive for November, 2010

Good Morning, Good Choices

Sofer writing the last letters of the Torah bo...

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We learned about the prayer Elokai Neshama. Hashem does an amazing thing – returns our soul all the way back into our body each morning. our neshama is tehora – good and pure. Even if we did something not so good yesterday, today Hashem trusts us to make better choices.

Students used the virtual classroom tools to draw children who were happy to greet a brand new day with a neshama tehora. They were ready to make good choices on the brand new day that Hashem gave them.

Every morning we say a special bracha for the Torah because we are so happy to have the Torah and learn Torah. A long time ago we had the beis hamikdash, Hashem’s special house. Hashem lived there and we felt that Hashem was right here with us. But it went away because the Jews did some wrong things. One thing the Jews did is forget to say the bracha for the Torah and remember how special the Torah is.

Students drew open Torah scrolls with writing, and closed Torah scrolls with special coverings like in shul.

We reviewed all the letters out of order.

We wrote all the letters aleph through zayin.

We learned about the kamatz, and how we combine its sound with the sound of each letter, and we practiced with letters aleph through hay.

Students used the board to practice writing letters with and without the kamatz.

We finished reading Responsibility. We learned abbout the Gulf War in 1991, where in Israel, Uri chose to overcome his fears and care for his whole family because his parents were deaf and mute. Uri also translated to his father into sign language what his teacher said about Uri. We talked about whether these things are too much responsibility for a child, Students said yes, but that in these cases there was no choice. We cannot always choose the situations we are in, but we can choose a proper response.

Spelling words included shoulder, strength and accept.

Assembly was a vocabulary word. It derives from the word assemble.

We learned what a simile is.

Uri honored his parents every day in unique ways.

Uri asks us not to laugh at a person like his father, who may appear strange.

One student drew Uri’s father without a ears or a mouth, representing his challenges of being deaf and mute.

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Newest Tech, Oldest Text

The First Paragraph of the Shema as written in...

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“Evyatar” showed up as we were ending Siddur class. I’m not sure what time he expected class to start! Slowly we are adjusting to the new winter schedule. It’s pretty straightforward: All of Morah Elana’s classes start at 3:45 EST. Too bad I had to go and confuse things because I live in Israel, and we switch the clock at a different time. I’m among those who would like to abolish Daylight Savings. But I hear the benefits – my husband says it’s done because of the time by which we need to say the morning Shema prayer. 😉

In Siddur class, we reviewed the idea that the organs in our bodies are very complex. We are so thankful to Hashem that our bodies work the way they are supposed to, so we can live and do everything we need to do in the world, lots of mitzvos. The more science we know, the more we understand the amazing ways Hashem makes the world and how much we have to thank Hashem for.

Elokai Neshama, the next prayer, tells us that our neshama (soul) is tehora (pure). When we wake up each morning we know that Hashem thinks we are good and can make good choices that day. After we hopefully live a lot of years, we die and Hashem takes our neshama all the way back to Hashem. At some time after the moshiach arrives, there will be techiyas hameisim. The people who died will live again. Hashem will return their neshamos into their bodies. At some time after the moshiach arrives, there will be techiyas hameisim. The people who died will live again. Hashem will return their neshamos into their bodies.

“Devorah” mentioned that smoking damages the lungs. We spoke about the mitzva to care for our bodies so that we can live long and do mitzvos. We should not damage our bodies by smoking or using drugs.

In our Book Club, we discussed the story Responsibility, about a Jewish boy who takes care of things at home because his parents are both deaf and mute. discussed One fact we learned about sign language is that words do not always have to be spelled out, but there are hand symbols for different words. A person can choose a symbol to represent his or her name. We used our webcams and the smartboard to try imagining what symbols we might choose to represent our names in sign language.

“Devorah” and “Esti” were a little challenged when it came to sharing space on the board. “Devorah” wanted her boundaries better respected. But at the end of class, she drew a girl standing in the rain, and “Esti” collaborated by drawing an umbrella for the girl in the drawing. 🙂

In Aleph Beis class, Morah Elana explanied that Hebrew is actually a very simple language because all the words sound exactly the way they are spelled. A few students were very surprised that Hebrew is easy – they said it’d difficult! We learned that our wise rabbis from the Gemara teach us that all beginnings are difficult, kol haschalos kashos. But once we learn all the letters and vowels, we will be able to read any word at all in Hebrew with no mistakes!

We were introdiced to the vowel kamatz. We saw how it looks and what sound it makes. We saw examples of the kamatz placed under a letter, and how that changes each letter’s sound.

We continued Peanut Butter and Jelly for Shabbos in Storytime class. Laibel thought it was too hard for the two boys to make all the Shabbos food. Sometimes something seems difficult, but when we try to do it, we see that Hashem helps us and we are able.

Using the board, “Avi”  gave the boys’ mother a bright yellow key to enter her house. “Kobi” drew a baby sister for the boys, all pretty in pink.

Hashem tells us to take care of our bodies – to try to stay healthy. This mitzvah is venishmartem meod lenafshoseichem. Young children should not use a sharp knife. We can help keep ourselves and other people from getting sick by washing our hands with soap and water before we handle food.

Insightful words from Room 613’s principal, Rabbi Yosef Resnick:

 

It strikes me as ironic that we are using the latest in technology to study the oldest text in the world! But then, the Torah has always been ahead of it’s time. So why shouldn’t the methods we use to study it also be? As I occasionally like to remind students, the Torah may seem antiquated to those on “the outside,” but we know that the Torah is actually timeless, and  perhaps might even be described as post-modern

 

Special Needs in the Virtual Classroom

Ritalin (photograph)

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My friend Ayala had Shabbos guests, a personable, intelligent couple named Yitz and Rivka and their young children. During the meal, the general prevalence of ADHD came up. Yitz started joking about it. My friend and her husband let it go. Then Rivka began joking that there really are a lot of people around with ADHD; the prisons are full of them!

Ayala placed a hand on Rivka’s arm. “Stop,” Ayala said, in a kind voice. Rivka brightened at Ayala’s apparent interest, smiled, and started elaborating on the humor.

Ayala looked into Rivka’s eyes, speaking calmly and firmly. “Stop. Stop.” Ayala’s hand remained on her guest’s arm.

After a moment Rivka turned a little pale and whispered confusedly, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Ayala’s son has ADHD and related behavioral and learning issues. She and her husband have had a lot of challenges with their son. Currently he resides away from home and seems to be doing well in a yeshiva that tries to meet his needs.

It’s disconcerting to Ayala to hear a Shabbos guest suddenly bring up her deepest fears.

You never know on whose toes you may be stepping.

Speaking of meeting the needs of special learners, I think that Rabbi Resnick, who runs Room 613, put it so well:

Students are able to choose their method of participation in the virtual classroom. As I remarked recently, for a student to use a smartboard, perhaps the ultimate in traditional classroom technology, they still have to walk up to the board. And that seemingly simple act can be a painful experience for some students.

Our format allows for so many permutations and possibilities for learning. Students can tailor their experience to their own comfort level.

Some of our students just use the chat feature – exclusively – to participate in classes. That means neither I nor the other students have ever seen their faces or heard their voices! Yet they are an integral part of classes, fully engaged and participating, offering their opinions and ideas.

Others choose to use a microphone, with or without a webcam. 

For the shy student, for the autistic student, for those who like attention, and choose to use the webcam and mic, I can’t think of a better way to reach, empower, and satisfy all types of learners.

Technology,Torah and Teaching

Personal Handy-phone System mobiles and modems...

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I am all ready to start teaching a class at Room 613, with my webcam reinstalled once again and my mic connected, my documents uploaded and my chat box resized to fit my full screen setting. A minute before class, my cell phone rings. It’s Avraham Weiss. “Hello,” he says. “This is Avraham Weiss, your son in law Moishe’s brother in law.”

“Hi Avraham,” I say pleasantly and quickly, the seconds ticking by. “I know it’s you; it says so on my telephone screen.”

“Really?” He has time. This is a great guy who leads a quiet life, who is reported by my daughter to say, “My wife and I enjoy socializing but only with each other.”

“It’s amazing what technology can do nowadays,” he marvels.

I pause and do a double take to my online classroom where my students await my ending this phone call. Amazing. Yeah!

In Aleph Beis Class, we reviewed all the letters in order, and also the sounds each letter makes. Talia was surprised that there is a letter called kaf sofis, but it’s really in the Torah! Not a final chaf, but a final kaf.

We tried naming the letters out of order, and it was a little difficult. But it’s important to know the alef beis out of order, because when we read Hebrew, the words are made of letters in all kinds of orders.

Reading from the Chumash and the Siddur starts with reading the letters. The alef beis is the basis for learning Torah. When we study the Hebrew letters we are learning Torah.

Esti said that she doesn’t know the aleph beis at all. Morah Elana told her that by the end of this class she will not be able to say that anymore!

I found myself emailing my principal the following line, which struck me as rather unique:

Bichlal mai nafka mina if blog dates are approximate? I was asking him in the Aramaic words of the Gemara what difference it makes.

Now does that sound like the typical question a teacher would ask a principal regarding school? 😉

Read my Recent Posts and Archives , located at the upper right of this page. 

 

Mysterious and Familiar

Mountain Standard Time (MST) is UTC−7 (represe...

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We started reading The Mysterious Find by Chaim Walder.

Is picking up an unidentified object a good idea? We discussed this.

Spelling words we worked on were mysterious, valuable, peculiar and complicated.
 
Devorah figured out the meaning of peculiar from its context in the story. We learned what context means.
 
Devorah said that vocabulary word familiar means that you recognize and know someone. We noticed that the word family is in familiar. Devorah pointed out that family are people you know.
 
The mitzvah of returning a lost object that Baila was trying so hard to do is called hashavas aveida.

There seems to be some confusion about the time of my classes. Since the clocks were changed in Ameriuca (“fall back”), all my classes are at 3:45 PM EST.

It’s still a little mysterious here, but beginning to seem familiar,. 🙂

Drawing on the Positive

Wash effect (painting)-example

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Leeba types into the chat box, “I love to draw on the whiteboard! But I’m bad at drawing.”
 
I announce into my mic, “You can’t be bad at drawing. Any way you draw is the right way for you.”
 
Virtually  – as in every classroom – what my students need most is validation and positive reinforcement.
 
 

Openings and Spaces

Stomach diagram in Inkscape.

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In Siddur class, we learned all about the bracha of Asher Yatzar. Hashem made our bodies with a lot of different openings and spaces – like our mouths, noses, ears, heart and stomach. We viewed amazing images of the stomach and heart, with their important openings.
 
If one opening would close, or if one part of the body that should be closed would open, we could die. We say thank you to Hashem for making our bodies work so that we can stay alive and do mitzvos.
 
Some students know people who had heart surgery. Morah Elana knows a little baby boy who was born with a stomach problem and had to go to the hospital so the doctors could fix it and he would be able to go to the bathroom like a healthy person. We viewed a photo of the cute baby.
 
We wash our hands and say Asher Yatzar every time after we go to the bathroom. We also say it when we daven every morning.
 
Some tech challenges – had to reinstall my camera (again), receive error messages about having reached my document upload limit (again).
 

But the show goes on – every time a miracle.
 
Hashem, who creates spaces for us to connect, controls the openings of our communication. May I recognize the importance of what I’m doing here, and utilize well the opportunity to share Hashem’s Torah.