Pirkei Avot Scrapbook

By: Mrs. Sarah Dollman
from Torah School of Greater Washington

Development of Critical and / or Creative Thinking

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

IBL - inquiry based learning, PBL - project based learning

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
4, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elementary school, Middle school

Students create two pictures for each Mishna, one that shows a literal meaning and one that shows a deep understanding. This long term project is used to develop higher level thinking in students. Students learn how to ask questions and think deeply about material.

Entry Narrative

Pirkei Avot Scrapbook Project

Goal: To develop critical thinking skills and gain a deeper understanding of the mishna.

Students will understand that the Mishna is not supposed to be understood at face value.

Students will learn to think by asking questions.


  1. Students are provided with a worksheet containing the Mishna and its translation. There are a few English blanks for students to fill in the translation of the given words. This can be adjusted according to skill level.
  2. Students fill in the missing English translation and read over the Mishna.
  3. Students create a literal picture of the main parts of the Mishna. The picture should be based on the translation of the Mishna. (Ex: Mishna 2, ב : שמעון הצדיק היה משירי כנסת הגדולה. הוא היה אומר, על שלושה דברים העולם עומד, על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים The world stands on 3 things. Torah, work and acts of kindness. The literal picture would be a picture of a world with feet standing on a Torah, hammer and a person doing an act of kindness.)
  4. After students complete their literal picture, they write down questions they have on the literal meaning of the Mishna. Students will refer to their picture and translation of the Mishna.
  5. Teacher facilitates a discussion about the literal translation of the Mishna. Teacher calls on students to share their questions and thoughts about the Mishna.
  6. The class chooses 3 main questions to focus on when explaining the meaning of the Mishna. Teacher explains the deeper meaning of the Mishna.
  7. Students write down the 3 main questions and the answers on the back of the Mishna page.
  8. Students create a new picture that shows a deeper meaning of the Mishna based on the teachers explanation.

I have used this project to teach the first Perek of Pirkei Avot for 3 years to help my 4th grade students develop higher level thinking skills. Many weak students have trouble expressing themselves. This project allows them to express themselves in a creative way. Each student puts her unique touch on her project and guides her learning. The project and learning evolves each year as it is shaped by the questions the students come up with. The project model can be used in any subject area that requires higher level thinking. Through this project, students learn not to take things at face value.

They learn how to ask targeted questions, how to find the main idea, and are challenged to show their understanding of the material in a creative way.

The example pages included were created by a very literal student.

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