It is hard to believe that our fourth grade year is almost over. Your students have been amazing learners. It is a group that is clearly excited about Jewish history, the Torah, and what roles Judaism can play in their lives.
I haven't given you a summary of our classes lately so here is what we have been doing.
In the three weeks leading up to and including the model seder, we studied the story of Passover, the customs, and the Haggadah. We focused on practicing some of the major prayers, some fun songs, and ways to make the seder interesting for children. We also focused on why the number 4 is so important, the 4 cups of wine, 4 questions, and 4 sons. The students learned that G-d had spoken using four different phrases explaining that the Israelites would be free. In thinking about the 4 sons or 4 children, we studied various artist renditions of the four sons to find meaning. The students discovered that perhaps the four sons are really four types of actions that each of us takes at different times or that no matter who you are or how you ask, asking is important and you are always included as all four types of sons were included in the seder.
The students also studied about the symbolism that can be found throughout the Haggadah and that almost every sentence can be examined to have meaning beyond the literal words. When we are given the list of the order, we can think - if we are free now - why such a lengthy order with so many requirements - what does that tell you about slavery or freedom? Why two times do we wash our hands but only say a prayer the second time?
Since the seder, we have been and will continue to work on putting the prophets and other occurrences in time perspective so that the students have a better sense of our history. We will also conclude with some stories about Eliyahu, the prophet for whom we have a cup at the seder.
It has been a pleasure working with your children.
Mr. and Mrs. Y
We had a wonderful Purim learning day. Purim is celebrated in the month of Adar and in honor of the coming Purim celebration, we are encouraged to find joy in the entire month of Adar. We are to try and increase our happiness because we have survived. As part of that happiness, we want to share our contentment with others. It is customary to share a basket of food goodies with at least one other person on Purim. The bag or basket would have two foods and a fruit or juice. Have fun sharing!
To understand the Purim story, the students heard the words of the Megillah or scroll of Esther and a rhyming version written in the style of Dr. Seuss.
We studied the text and discussed the customs for charity, gift giving, and eating on Purim and the message to stand up for what you believe in.
The fourth grade made illustration posters to accompany the telling of the Esther story. Next Sunday there will be an assembly when the story with the posters will be presented. The posters are amazing illustrations of the characters in the story, customs, messages from the scroll, and actions to be taken. The students worked for 2 and 1/4 hours straight on Purim related activities. What a wonderful group of learners!!!
Have a great week.
We are continuing to work on learning prayers. We review v’ahavta each morning and we are now working on V’shamru which is a beautiful prayer about the importance of a rest day. We learn that God rested and so should we. The prayer emphasizes the need for a balance between work and rest.
Since yesterday was Tu B’shvat, the birthday of the trees which falls on the 15th of Shvat, we celebrated the holiday today. The custom of celebrating the birthday of trees is necessary from a Jewish law perspective as the fruit from a newly planted fruit tree is not to be gathered until the 4th year. So having a birthday noted each year for all trees makes it easier to count the four years. If a tree is planted anytime before the 15th of the year 5777, it is now in its second year. In the late 1800’s, the practice began of having a seder, an ordered service, to celebrate trees and nature and to remind us to take care of our natural world. At our seder today, we ate fruits from Israel and locally grown, fruits with a hard outside that is not eaten (actually Ken and I left that fruit at home by accident, so we had popcorn in honor of corn for which we don’t eat the husk), fruits that are not eaten in the center such as dates and apples, and fruits that can be eaten entirely such as grapes. We also had apple and grape juice in varying combinations to represent the four seasons.
During our seder, we compared the parts of trees to ourselves, our reliance on others, our need for nurturing, our need to be strong and flexible. We also read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and used it as a symbolic telling of the message that we must take care of the mother tree and she must not give everything of herself. We discussed how as children, parents do most of the giving but as children become teens and older, there must be a balance of giving and taking on everyone’s part. Even fourth graders should learn not to ask for everything they want, they can monitor themselves and they can do and give to others.
In Hebrew, the students continued working on learning to read and once they have learned a new sound to be able to read it fluently and accurately.
Enjoy the vacation.
Mr. and Mrs. Y and Katie
Fourth grade had an exceptionally special learning day today as we integrated our thoughts on the inauguration of our new President, MLK Day and Martin Luther King Jr.s civil disobedience based on non-violent protest, the women's march all over the world, why some people are nervous about our new President, what we can do - every one of us to make the world a caring place.
The students watched: A short 3-minute video, of a young Arab-American named Karim Sulayman. He set himself up across the street from a Trump tower in New York, blindfolded:
We discussed what this man did and why? We considered how people need a community which is what religion and country do for people. That belonging to a community helps people feel supported and helps them realize there is something bigger than them - something more important that just focusing on their own needs. Once you stop just lookijg at yourself, you can look outward and be part of a caring community.
We watched https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/21/world/womens-march-pictures.html to view the march from all over the world.
We then linked our Chanukah message of being leaders to protect freedom with MLK’s and the women’s marches same message and what our role can be.
We then watched:
What can we do to promote kindness - www.randomactsofkindness.org
This short film helped us to realize how each individual, every day, can do a part in making the world better by doing random acts of kindness.
We did practice V’ahavta today, a prayer that is about loving God for the guidance of the commandments which again links to our responsibilities to be a caring community.
Homework this week is to do at least one random act of kindness and be ready to tell the class about it next week.
Some students have Hebrew practice on page 31.
Ken, Katy and I would like to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and break. We enjoy teaching your children every Sunday.
This Sunday after practicing the Vahavta and having music, the students worked through four stations. The stations were as follows:
1. Practice for candle lighting, examination of two types of Hanukiahs, review of the symbols of the holiday and a fun story written partly in pictures. The students have the materials to show you.
2. A dreidel bracket game using various dreidels and pennies.
3. Word searches to review the important elements of Hannukah and/or holiday decoration templates. The students took these home as well.
4. A game of hot potato synchronization where hand/eye coordination, directions, and group dynamics were practiced.
We also had time for some Hebrew reading practice. We ended with nice holiday cheer and with each student receiving a dreidel and some gelt from the school.
See you in January.
Mrs. Y and Mr. Y
Fourth Grade celebrated Chanukah on Sunday in a joyous way. The students made candles from beeswax using multiple colors to make the candle festive and unique. We read a Chanukah book examining the facts shared and the Jewish values emphasized by the story. The students also participated in a Chanukah assembly, singing songs and practicing the blessings for the candle lighting.
In addition to the Chanukah work, the students continued practicing the chanting of the v'ahavta. We not only practice the melody but also work to understand the meaning and significance of the prayer.
Hope you have a great week. Mrs. Y and Mr. Y
What a fabulous group of students. Today, the students began by practicing the V’ahavta. They were all trying, we even had one student do a solo!! It is so beautiful hearing young voices chant such an important prayer from our ancestors.
In music, the students worked on a Chanukah song. We continued the musical adventure back in class as we practiced the blessings for lighting the Hanukkiah and the song Rock of Ages, which is typically sung after the prayers. We actually tried it in Hebrew. We also sang Oh Hanukah.
To help the students get ready for the holiday, we reviewed the two miracles, the miracle of a small army defeating a large army so the Jewish people could have the freedom to practice their religion and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. We also talked about the date of Chanukah in the Hebrew calendar, Kislev 25, and the interesting similar time of Christmas happening on December 25. To understand why Chanukah falls on different days in our secular calendar, we talked of the moon cycle. Finally, we also talked of the difference between candles in the window for Christmas and the Hanukkiah in the window. To help students learn how to take notes and to retain the information, the students all took notes that they took home to share with you.
Finally, the students worked on their Hebrew reading. We are seeing some nice progress.
HOMEWORK - Some of the students were asked to practice some Hebrew reading. They have their books to read aloud which will help their fluency.
Have a nice week. Mrs. Y, Mr. Y, and Katie.
Fourth grade focused on prayer, God words, prophets, and the Torah today. The students are learning to read the Hebrew words for blessing and a few of the words for God. They are learning to find the words in any prayers they look at. It will help them feel comfortable and knowledgeable in any synagogue they are in. We focused on the shema and its statement that there is one God. I explained how that thought helps us to appreciate others and realize that each of us is special but not more important than anyone else. If we all come from one God and we say the shema, we are then reminded that we have to be humble that we are not the center of everything. It is a good thought at Thanksgiving time when we want to feel appreciative and not self centered or that it is all about what we can get.
The students are also working on the V'ahavta. They are almost completely proficient in chanting the first line which in English means, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.
After a great music class, the students read two prophet stories. One about Joshua and one about Devorah. We talked about how men and women can be leaders and the difference between a leader who respects others and leaders who just want power. We also discussed how anyone can be a leader for good, that finding the courage to stand up for others makes a person a leader.
Concerning the Torah, we looked at the portion for this week and a page of the Talmud and saw how the Rabbis included many opinions and discussions when they decided how to interpret the Torah. I connected Torah learning to math learning and how I guessed that many times in math, they are asked to explain their thinking with the important part of the problem solving being the process of why and not just the answer. I explained that that is true for interpreting the stories and laws of the Torah. What the Rabbis were thinking and how they came to their decisions is so important because as times change, so may the answer and then the process for deciding the new circumstance will require knowing what questions to ask and what to and how to consider many thoughts at once.
We ended by reading the first paragraph of the Torah and understanding how faith in God can exist at the same time as a belief in evolution and science.
We had such an amazing learning day.
The fourth grade had amazing conversations today about the name we use to talk about God, leadership characteristics, and defining the term prophet. We discussed how understanding and identifying what we think God is is so hard and that fact is reflected in the name of God. The Hebrew yud yud could be pronounced like yaayaa - like a breath. We don't read it that way, instead we say adonai because we don't know how God's name is pronounced. Any name we have for God is just a special sound. The sound of Yud yud or yud hey vavhey can both be symbolically understood as a precious breath, the act of breathing being the basic action of living which God created.
Last week and this week, the students identified who they thought were leaders - parents and siblings received votes! Since the presidential elections had not yet happened last week, I thought it important to think of what we would want in a leader. We did not specifically talk about presidents or the candidates. We then compared a leader to an idol and a hero. This week, we continued by considering what a prophet was. The students read the story of Joshua who took over leadership of the Children of Israel as we left the desert and left Moses. Joshua's first action was to investigate the city of Jericho and then Joshua has a conversation with God about how to take over Jericho to remove the evil there. The students learned that the number 7 was important as it reflects the days of creation. The Children of Israel marched around the walls increasing the number of times to 7 times which caused the walls to crumble. Comparing the science of sound waves caused by stamping and blowing horns to God's guidelines, showed the connection between science and nature and God's actions.
We also worked on the prayer Shema and Vahavta. The Vahavta being the only place where we are told to feel something - told to love God. We talked about what that could mean since you can't force a feeling.
In Hebrew, the students are now working in small groups with five different teachers to give the students the best opportunity to grow in their reading ability.
Have a wonderful week.
Mr and Mrs. Y and Katy.