Talmud La-Talmid

By: Rabbi Kenny Schiowitz
from Ramaz Upper School

Learning Environment

Subject(s) of entry:

Blended Learning, UBD - understanding by design

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
9, 10, 12, High school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Middle school, High school

The "Talmud La-Talmid" initiative attempts to create educational resources that are far more organized, visually appealing, independently accessible and user-friendly to students, than the traditional Talmud-book. Utilizing multiple forms of media, students are presented with a Talmud textbook to accompany their traditional Talmud in their studies and are offered resources that include a custom-made dictionary, instructional videos and note-taking guides that are all clearly organized.

In these ways, the learning environment is structured from the perspective of the student and leads him/her to a clear approach to the Talmud.

Entry Narrative

Explanation of the Talmud La-Talmud Initiative

The study of Talmud has been a central experience in the Jewish tradition since it was compiled more than one thousand years ago. Today, however, it is studied by a wider range of students than ever before in our history. Nearly every Orthodox school teaches Talmud to every single boy and to many of the girls. At the same time, the environment for the learning of Talmud is nearly unchanged since the typesetting of the Vilna Talmud. The result has led to my personal experience of sitting in class with a large, traditional Talmud with hundreds of hand-outs that teachers prepare, all inserted between the pages of the Talmud. Talented educators see the need to provide additional structure and resources but the result is often inconsistent and chaotic in terms of student organization. Moreover, the modern student does not have the ability to learn independently because of the multiple challenges that immediately confronts all students: the language is foreign, the punctuation is absent and the syntax is challenging. Moreover, the concepts and background knowledge are often an obstacle. Finally, students who struggle are often advised to “review at home”. However, staring at the Talmud at home is often fruitless. Translated Talmud editions have been an enormous contribution, but lack pedagogical structure. For these reasons I am attempting to create a new learning environment for Talmud students that is user-friendly and that provides a structure that can enable students to learn independently, prepare and review, and achieve a clearer understanding in an appealing and organized environment.

The centerpiece of the Talmud La-Talmid system is a Talmud textbook/workbook that accompanies the use of the traditional Talmud-book. The workbook provides structured note-taking guides that are systematic and consistent. They enable students to work step by step, translating words, grouping words into phrases and sentences, determining the syntax and finally comprehending the points of the Talmud. The Prezi presentation that I referred to illustrates how these charts are filled in. In addition, additional comments of commentators that add meaning and depth to the Talmud are included in the workbook along with guided questions.

The workbook is enhanced by a dictionary (“Milon LaTalmid”) that is custom made for this syllabus, including every word that is used by the Talmud in the syllabus (and no other words). All words are translated in the exact form that they appear in the Talmud. Therefore, it is user friendly and easier to find words than in a traditional dictionary that is difficult for beginner to use. This dictionary is available as a googledoc and is distributed to students in print as well.

This project also includes videos, nearly all made by me, of a reading of the text of the Talmud and explanation. There is a link to the YouTube playlist in the YouTube section of this application. This is meant to be used to prepare or review the Talmud. The video segments are divided by unit and there is a link and QR code in each unit of the book to reference the appropriate video. This blended approach enables students to preview and review the learning. This enables students to understand better and also reduces the amount of class time dedicated to each unit.

Finally, the syllabus used in this project is based on a careful selection of sections of the Talmud to teach as well as commentators who add the most pedagogically significant additions to the Talmud. This selection is based on a thorough preparation of the Talmud and originated with the writing of a book called “Madrikh La-Moreh” which is a guide for teachers. This guide highlight the most pedagogically significant sections of Talmud and commentaries and explains those considerations. I published this guide with OUPress and there is a link to it in the “links” section of this application. There is also a link to the presentation that I made at the book launch of this publication.

All of the above publications are available online, both on Amazon as well as OUPress.

Entry Videos