Real life Hebrew Immersion

By: Rabbi Yaakov Nadler
from Yeshivat Noam

Category:
Real-World Learning

Subject(s) of entry:
Gemara, Ivrit, Mishnah, Tanach

Pedagogy:
Constructivist, Gamification

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
4th

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
Elementary school, Middle school, High school

Students actively converse in Hebrew with their peers in class, at recess and at home, thereby making Hebrew not merely a subject they learn at school but a language they own and use. Students attain Hebrew fluency through engaging in games and collaborative real world Hebrew projects.

Entry Text

Hebrew teachers often express frustration that their students are not making real progress in their language acquisition. In best case scenario, the Hebrew teacher may be talking to students in Hebrew and demanding that students respond in Hebrew but often the results at best are students who can talk “Classroom Hebrew” but not ready to speak Hebrew in the real world. Students in this environment see Hebrew as a school subject and not as a living language.

I shared this frustration and I was determined to help move my students from being passive learners to active learners who take ownership over their learning by engaging in the most important part of language acquisition: conversing in the target language.

The Real World learning:

To help my students start the process of owning the language. I introduced my students to games which they were familiar with and the students played the game in Hebrew. I provided a phrase list which students can use as a reference, thereby giving the students a set area in which to practice and become comfortable while using the language.

My students started with the game of war students can use the Hebrew they already know and add new words that are being used for the game. The game of Spot-it has been very helpful at getting students to converse about everyday items.

Students who find a match share a sentence using the match they find. Students get the Hebrew Spot-it mat which I prepared to help students with the word. To learn about asking questions and facial characteristics my students play

Guess-Who?

I also introduced my students to playing sports in Hebrew: Students learned the words needed for playing soccer and basketball and then the Hebrew class was out on the basketball court where students played basketball in Hebrew.

In the first two months of school, my students have become more comfortable with :

Everyday conversational Hebrew (small talk).

Playing basketball, soccer and tag in Hebrew

Playing some of the classic board games in Hebrew

At this point my students conversational Hebrew has increased that they can use any game of their choice and play it in Hebrew. The students are comfortable and excited to use Hebrew in and outside of the classroom. At recess, many of the boys elect to play the games in Hebrew.

By empowering my students to have the comfort and ability to converse with each other in Hebrew, my students have become engaged and active learners. It has given me the opportunity to take a constructivist approach in the classroom where students can create projects they are interested in while conversing and collaborating in Hebrew.

Using this approach students are using the language outside the artificial construct of a workbook. Students are able to learn from each other and increase in conversation in all areas of their learning. Using this approach students Hebrew comprehension and comfort with the Tal-am texts has increased, and students are becoming more fluent in the language.

I encourage all Hebrew teachers to explore this approach. The challenge is helping the students change their mindset about their ability to converse in a foreign language. It is important that they are given easy steps and a defined parameters. For example on day one, students have a few questions they ask their peers in a small group with a facilitator.

As the students get more comfortable, the students learn to self-monitor and continue in Hebrew without the facilitator. It’s difficult at first for the student to switch from their native language to Hebrew but by engaging the students with games the students are excited to play it makes it easier for the student to buy in.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me ynadler@yeshivatnoam.org.

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