These digital Haggadah and Halacha documents are colorful, interactive, and engaging. They include the full text of the Haggadah, commentaries on the Haggadah, and various relevant video clips. Teachers can make a copy for each student on Google Classroom, and once the slides have been completed, teachers can print and bind the pages.
I remember, as a young child, looking forward to the month of Nissan, when my teachers would instruct our class to clean all chametz off our desks as we were about to begin working on what I thought of as the project of the year: our Haggadah Shel Pesach. There was something about the anticipation of the holiday, coupled with the sense of accomplishment that came with the completion of a multi-week project, that turned the hours of learning, coloring, cutting, and pasting into a memorable labor of love. It was with a sense of great pride that we marched home on the last day of school before Pesach, clutching our prized haggadot encased in their Ziploc bags, looking forward to the moment when we’d present their contents on the long-awaited seder night.
In my first year as a fifth grade Jewish Studies teacher, I thought about these memories many times as I considered what might be the best way to teach my students about the holiday of Pesach. I knew it was important for them to learn the halachot and to become familiar with the text of the haggadah and some of its relevant commentaries. More importantly, I wanted to find a way to teach the material through a medium that would infuse my students with the same sense of anticipation and pride that I had experienced years ago. The challenge in this endeavor was that my students, having attended Jewish day school since nursery, had been making haggadot for many years. And while they certainly learned new information as they moved throughout the grades, the haggadot that they created each year all involved pretty much the same process – fill in the blank, color the pictures, cut, paste, etc. I felt that my students were ready for a new format. Additionally, by fifth grade, I discovered that many members of my class found cutting and pasting to be a rather burdensome activity. I knew that if I were to achieve a level of excitement comparable to that of my youth, I would have to create something that would enable students to learn and create through activities which they found easy, enjoyable, and compatible with their twenty-first century technological proficiency. It was with these considerations in mind that I created my Interactive Haggadah Shel Pesach and Hilchot Chag HaPesach.
The following are some components of these documents:
- In the halacha booklet, students “fill in the blank” by dragging text boxes to the correct spaces within the text. This allows teachers to assess students’ comprehension of targeted concepts/phrases, while alleviating the need for so much writing.
- The text on every slide is not editable. While this makes it more challenging for teachers who would like to make changes to the wording, it ensures that the text stays in place while students are working on the slides, preventing potentially frustrating situations.
- Some slides include relevant video clips that can be watched by students at their own leisure. These include videos about topics like baking matzot, as well as videos with songs like kiddush, which students will need to be familiar with for the seder night. Having these videos embedded in the slides allows students to watch them without using instructional time. The videos can be deleted before the slides are printed.
- Some slides include links that lead students to information that can be copied and pasted into the original slide to supplement the facts that are already given to them. For example, in the makkot section of the haggadah, there is a table with excerpts from an ancient manuscript, believed to have been written by an Egyptian who experienced the Ten Plagues. For each excerpt there is a link that leads students to a quote from a Chumash that is directly aligned with the phenomena being described in the manuscript. This exercise takes the study of the ten makkot to a whole new level.
- Being that the slides are digital, students can express their creativity by decorating each page with relevant graphics and backgrounds without having to cut, color or glue. This also allows each student to create their own unique haggadah, identical to their classmates’ only in text and content.
- Many of the slides have blank text boxes for guided note taking. This trains students in the skill of taking notes without burdening them with copious amounts of writing. (In my experience I have found that many students choose to create additional text boxes throughout the slides to take their own notes.)
- The interactivity of the slides ensures that students remain engaged in the lessons through multiple areas of intelligence, including visual spatial, auditory, logical, musical, etc.
- The ability to personalize the slides gives students a sense of ownership over the both the material and the finished product.
- This model of teaching through Google Slides can be used similarly for teaching any subject, especially in Jewish studies. I have included a sample of my Interactive Hilchot Chag HaSukkot below.
The hours of work that I put into creating this learning tool paid off ten-fold throughout every stage of the learning process. From the very first day that my students opened their slides, until they submitted their completed PDF files, there was a palpable sense of enthusiasm and intrigue in my classroom. With minimal urging necessary, my students invested hours of effort into engaging in my lessons and making the haggadah their own, whether through graphics, backgrounds, or even with their own pages of typed notes. By the time I was ready to distribute the printed and bound haggadot, the excitement was so intense that I almost had to restrain my students from grabbing their books out of my hands. Watching my students’ faces as they flip through their newly printed haggadot for the first time each year, I am once again reminded of scissors, glue, Ziploc bags, and beaming faces from a bygone time. I truly believe that I have earned the right to say, “mission accomplished.”
I am a Jewish Studies teacher and Special Activities Coordinator in the Moriah School. Throughout my eleven years of teaching I have spent many hours creating lessons and activities to engage students of varying academic capabilities and interests. While it is of utmost importance to me that my students gain proficiency in textual skills and that they acquire a broad range of knowledge, I have always thought that my primary purpose as a Jewish Studies teacher is to inspire my students to have a love and a passion for Torah and mitzvot. I believe that it is this goal that has driven me to achieve success in the field of Jewish education, and it is this philosophy that propels me forward as I continue to seek new ways to improve and to innovate.