PIRKEI AVOT/TORAH ETHICS FOR LIFE – a Comprehensive Study of the First Chapter for Thinking and Feeling Students

By: Mrs. Malky Weisman
from Maayan Torah Day School of Portland OR

Development of Critical and / or Creative Thinking

Subject(s) of entry:
Mishnah, Philosophy/ Values/ Ethics/ Hashkafa, Social and Emotional Learning

PBL - project based learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Soulful Education

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
4, 5, 6, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Middle school, High school

A Pirkei Avot curriculum for middle school students that is rich in content with a purposeful balance of teacher-directed content and project-based creative learning. The learning experience of each mishna is meaningful, personal and one that is meant to be forever cherished.

Entry Narrative

Middle school students are especially receptive to growth in personal development, and are critically shaping their attitudes and world views. The lessons in this curriculum are specifically designed to guide students in that process.

When I looked for a Pirkei Avot curriculum to teach my middle school students, I was surprised to find that a comprehensive program offering depth and relevance was so difficult to find for this age group; thus, I set out to create one. But then, with my lessons thought out, I cringed at the idea of having students be temporarily inspired during class-time, and then forgetting our learning over time. I endeavored to share the lessons with them in a way that would stand the test of time by creating handouts that include each lesson taught verbally, along with an interactive component and an attractive appeal.

The overarching goals of this curriculum:

  1. Appreciating the depth of the Jewish heritage
  2. Relating to Torah as a crucial guide throughout life
  3. Taking personal responsibility for charting one’s course

Using a binder as a central location for learning and activities ensures students cherish them and pass on the learning to future generations. The binder includes activities such as scrapbooking, songs, creation of a family tree, letter-writing, skits, an interview, poems, recipe, a “legacy book”, worksheets and a slideshow.

At the end of the year, I asked my students which mishnayot they have enjoyed most.

  • “I enjoyed learning Mishna Yud because as an artist and pianist, I love creativity and I love to develop my talents and seeing what comes out of my work at the end. I feel I’ve grown in my middot through this program.”
  • “I loved learning Mishna Tet Zayin because I love that I got to ask a Rav a personal question!”
  • “I learned how to be a peace-loving person because we spent so much time working on having peaceful relationships in our class.”

Unique about this curriculum is the inclusion of every mishna in the first chapter, highlighting the concept that all of God’s Torah is personal and relevant. I hope this curriculum is helpful to other teachers and that students will grow through the materials and ideas presented.


Entry Document Attachments

Entrant Bio(s)

Mrs. Weisman teaches Judaic subjects at Maayan Torah Day School of Portland and is the director of the Zimrah/Performing Arts program for middle school girls. She thoroughly enjoys working as part of a team of dedicated Torah individuals.