Integrating Navi and Literature

By: Rabbi Yaakov Jaffe, EdD
from Maimonides

Category:
Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
History, Literature, Tanach

Pedagogy:
UBD - understanding by design

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
Grade 10

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
9, 10, 11, 12, High school

The attached curriculum is part of a project in our school to integrate our Humanities and Navi curricula at the high school level. Our curriculum spans Grades 10, 11, and 12 – and focuses on different areas of integration at different grades. The attached curriculum focuses on the grade 10 portion of the project.

Entry Text

The attached curriculum is part of a project in our school to integrate our Humanities and Navi curricula at the high school level. Our curriculum spans Grades 10, 11, and 12 – and focuses on different areas of integration at different grades. The attached curriculum focuses on the grade 10 portion of the project.

One of the major challenges of any project seeking to integrate Judaic and General studies is that though it is easy to integrate two different disciplines on a superficial level, it is much harder to integrate the deep structures, essential questions, and complex evaluation of two different disciplines. A purported integration of “science” (whose deep structures involve the scientific method and observation and experimentation) and “Talmud” (whose deep structures involve making legal distinctions and understanding the nature behind laws) cannot be conducted on the level of deep structures, and often just involves superficial overlap: the science behind a Talmudic law, etc. True integration on the level of essential questions is usually impossible, perhaps only possible when integrating the literary books of the Navi in the later years of high school, with literature and a humanities curriculum.

This curriculum integrates Navi and Literature by asking the same types of questions and conducting the same type of analyses in Navi as the students would be also performing in their literature classes. We ask about underling issues such as the relationship between text and context, between form and content, and between author and work. We discuss selection of genre, choice of narrative voice, and purpose for the writing of the work. We consider the choices made by the actors within the story, and the authors who reflect on those stories and events. This curriculum project is 55 lesson long, which reflects a single semester for schools studying Navi each day for a partial year; or a whole year for schools who study Navi a few times each week. At our school, this curriculum is studied in grade 10, but it could be studied at other grade levels as well. We consider four poetic books all written at around the same time (Isaiah, Amos, Micha, and Hoshea), and portions of two different historical records of those times (Melachim and Divrei Hayamim) which enable us to compare different literary works over the course of the year, and not just read one text verse by verse.

Students generally relish the opportunity to integrate two different disciplines, and love sharing in literature class what they have learned in Navi and vice versa. In particular, moments in which students are called upon to compare and contrast the secular literature they have studied with the Navi are particularly fulfilling for students. In the end, students acquire deeper knowledge of Navi and of Literature in general as a result of this project.

One of the challenges we face with this project relates to the extent the entire Literature curriculum in the high school should be adjusted to better meet the needs of integration, or if choices made by the English department can stand on their own. If a comparison between a text of Navi and of world literature is particularly apt, should the literature curriculum ensure that that text is read before it is needed in Navi? Similarly, if a literary technique is introduced in Navi – should the literature teacher make sure to review it in literature class, or ignore it if it does not come up. These are important questions to ask as a next-level development of the curriculum. But at the current status, the tightly-woven curriculum integrates most of the essential questions of Navi with those of literature.

Attached are a series of documents:

[1] Bloom’s taxonomy applications and Essential Questions for the year of Study

[2] List of Literary Techniques studied, writing modes and examples of cross-curricular literary connections for the year.

[3] A Youtube video explaining some of the underlying theory that governs our class

[4] A map of the entire curriculum listing for each class the text that is studied, the genre of the work, the literary techniques students practice analyzing during the class and whether that particular lesson is literary in focus, or more historical in focus.

Entry Videos