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Technology,Torah and Teaching

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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? 😉

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Mysterious and Familiar

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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

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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.
 
 
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. 

Attention

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I have a student who is literally screaming for attention. “ATTENTION!!!!!!!” she types into the chat box. And then, “Did you notice how many exclamation points I used?”

How much validation can I provide for a child via a computer screen? I’ll go with the conviction that even a few moments of positive feedback can make a kid’s day.

Technology-wise, my day could stand improvement. Uploading Google images to enhance my sharing a book about baking challah , I get this error: “Your monthly upload limit of 5 has been reached.”

Last month Rabbi R. sent the classroom web host a support ticket, and the next time I entered I had no trouble. Maybe the problem will resolve spontaneously, as it seemed to last time. Or maybe they fixed it, who knows?

Hashem has helped our efforts so far – I guess the best thing to do is say some Tehillim that it continue!

In Storytime Class, we read the rest of Way Too Much Challah Dough. We viewed images of Mindy and her Bubby (what Google provides that Morah Elana imagines they might look like), a hand kneading challah dough, a bowl overflowing with challah dough, and Mindy telephoning her Bubby for help.

We discussed following directions to succeed with a recipe, and following the Torah to do the mitzvos the way Hashem wants us to.

It’s a matter of paying ATTENTION.

We talked about how dreams can seem real, like Mindy’s did to her.

We learned about the challah baking process, and about the mitzvah of “taking challah”.

Today Esti helped her mom bake challah. She loves kneading the dough!

 

Kids Collaborating

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We finished reading and discussing A Happy Birthday? We discussed why the Torah compares embarrassing someone to murder. We gave the girl on our computer screen red cheeks.

Students practiced spelling story words appreciate, happiness and gorgeous.

We began a new Jewish story called Responsibility. Students made good guesses about why an 8 year old boy was the one in charge of his siblings. Chavie thought it might be to teach him responsibility – but Naama and Michal pointed out that he is already responsible. Dena said maybe because he is the oldest in his family. We discussed how often more is expected of a child who is the oldest.

We delved into the vocabulary of the term deaf-mute. Students guessed that the reason these two conditions often go together is that a person learns to speak by hearing others speak.

In the next class we will learn how the mitzvah of honoring parents applies to the narrator of this story.

In Aleph Beis Class we studied letters kaf through sav.

We practiced writing the tes, yud, kaf, chaf, chaf sofit and lamed.

Chaf sofit appears only at the end of a word.

The dot in the middle of some letters is called a dagesh.

Yud is for Yair!

Tes is for Tes Teves – Moshe’s birthday!

Shuvi invented a game of Connecting the Dots with the aleph beis!

Students worked together to connect the dots.

When we, from different parts of the world, all work and learn together, we are collaborating.

It’s great to collaborate to learn Torah!

Two braided Shabbat challahs placed under an e...

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During Storytime, we started reading Way Too Much Challah Dough. We discussed some of the people who help make a book: the author, illustrator and publisher, and what jobs they do. One student has this book and researched the author’s name, then we said who the illustrator and publisher are. This book and the one we read last time are published by the same company. The books are connected because they both discuss preparing for Shabbos.

 In this book, Mindy is helped by her Bubby, which is the Yiddish word meaning grandmother. Students learned what a synonym is, and came up with Hebrew and English synonyms for Bubby.

We discussed becoming distracted when we are doing something, and whether Mindy made a good decision by adding more yeast. We will see next time what happens because of the decision she made when she was distracted.

Moshe and Yael shared a computer during a playdate. They used their playdate time to attend Siddur Class together at Room 613! Morah Elana liked that idea.

We discussed the bracha al netilas yadayim.

Baruch means that Hashem gives us blessings (good things).

Ata means that when we say a bracha we are talking to Hashem! So we want to understand exactly what we are saying.

Devorah said that she knows prayers only in English. We talked about being allowed to pray in any language we know because Hashem understands all languages. Hashem is so smart – Hashem invented our brains!

We wash our hands in the morning to take away tumah because when we were asleep our neshama went a little bit back to Hashem.

We wash each hand 3 times – pouring water first on the right hand, then on the left, and so on. We use a negel vasser caup – a washing cup – a natla (the Israeli word). Neggel vaser means nail water in Yiddish.

We observed a beautiful negel vasser cup that Morah Elana uploaded.

Asher kidishanu means that Hashem made us special by our doing mitzvos. This bracha says that Hashem told us to wash our hands in a special way.