As you all know, each student has worked on creating a personal Torah throughout the past 6 months. We managed to get through 11 portions, which is a really wonderful start to learning more about the Torah, it’s stories and characters! We’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the portions, and have had some great discussions regarding each Parsha. This week, we reviewed and added any missing Parshyot to the student’s Torah’s. I read the summaries aloud to the students, and they drew their interpretations if they were missing any of the stories. We only had half attendance today, so we will resume this again in class on 4/30, after April Vacation. We will create scrolls with rolling pins and tape, so hopefully everyone attends class so they can take their Torah home!
This week in class we finished up the move “The Buddha” which was about the life of Siddhartha Gautama, who was the founder of Buddhism. After the movie, we had a discussion about what the students learned from the movie. We talked about how Buddhism differs from Judaism, and how important it is to understand why other religions are practiced and followed.
After the discussion, we broke out into groups of two and the students filled out a worksheet about dealing with problems. We noticed the differences in how a Buddhist may deal with problems versus how we may deal with problems. It was interesting to look at a fresh and new perspective! Everyone contributed and seemed to enjoy the discussion that came from the worksheet. We had some free time at the end of class to play some games since middle school needed to skip Hebrew!
The sixth and seventh graders decided to stray from our normal routine by reviewing the movie we watched about Joseph and his mutli-colored coat a few weeks ago and reviewing the three Torah portions that corresponded to the movie. Instead of switching teachers halfway through, we stayed with our original classes. I broke the class into three groups, and had each group analyze and present one of the Torah portions to the class. It was a creative and fun way for the kids to work together and focus on understanding, asking questions, and reflecting. We then drew pictures for all three Torah portions to add to our homemade Torahs. We will finally spend 4/2 taping the portions together, so that they have a semi completed Torah!
This week wasn’t your typical Sunday, for many reasons. We started the day off with our normal FOE class, reviewing last class’s Parsha before talking about this week’s Torah Portion Vayishlach. I read them a couple of modern-interpretations, which I think is a great way for the kids to understand the story relative to our lives.
We switched classes at 10:30, and rather than do our normal FOE, we had a really wonderful and in-depth discussion about the Immigration Ban put in place by President Trump. I let the students do most of the talking, which offered me and the students a refreshing point of view. I was truly impressed and blown away by the knowledge that my student’s had and the questions, comments, point of views that each student took. Everyone participated and the discussion was so thoughtful. You should all be proud of how your children handled themselves during the day- it’s been a hard time for all of us, and you have all taught your children to be respectful while still having their own ideals!
After the discussion, I asked the students what they thought they could do that would have an impact on the recent event’s- so they each either drew a picture or wrote a letter to the refugees, or wrote a letter to The White House. As a unit, we will figure out the next steps for this project!
This was the first week back in almost a month which was exciting- it was also our halfway point of the school year, which means the 6th grade classes swapped teachers! So after some fun introductions with my new students, we dove into what we’ll learn in the next few months. I had the students use what they already know to create a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart regarding religions, specifically the 5 we will be comparing this year- Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. I’m excited that they all had some good insight and questions about the rest of the year and look forwarding to broadening our knowledge on such a diverse topic!
This was a really fun week for me and the kids. We talked about Muslims and the Islam religion, and I think the students had some great moments of clarity while learning about the religion- about their holidays, their practices, and their beliefs. We watched some short clips from PBS which gave them personal insight about the religion as a whole. The videos followed a devout American Muslim making his way to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, their prayer schedule, their eating habits, rituals, and so much more. It was an interesting perspective for the kids, and I think they learned a lot!
During break, the kids and I (obligingly) did the mannequin challenge, which was a great way to have some fun! Going along with the videos they watched before break, the class broke out into 2 groups and created posters on Islam and what they had learned. I loved that one group got a little creative and chose to make a Jeopardy style game- which we will be able to play before the end of the year! All in all, a great class today.
This week in class my 6th graders and I talked about the Torah Portion named Toldot. The portion revolved around Esau and Jacob, who are twins and the sons of Isaac and Rebecca. The story is about the birth order and how Esau is the rightful server of the Holy Temple. Jacob, the younger brother, tricks Isaac, their father, into getting the blessing for the rightful birth order. We talked about how unfair this was, and how we would feel if we were in this position. When we switched classes into our Form of Expression groups, my students made comic strips about a modern interpretation of the story. I think this helped them understand the repercussions and make the story more relevant to their own lives!
After a crazy week of politics, I decided that instead of going in order and teaching Islam next, I would teach Buddhism to the kids this week. Together, we read from our text book “Apples and Oranges” and each student had a chance to follow along and read out loud. Buddhism stems from the idea that there is a purpose to life, and that regardless of injustice and inequality, there is a way to practice and follow life that will lead to true happiness. We spoke about The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and the ideals surrounding such an accepting religion. We also talked about how there are many “Bu-Jews” around the world!
Just like with our week talking about Christianity, we split up into groups and created / sketched out posters and prompts that we will be presenting at the end of the unit. I’m hoping the kids are enjoying this unit, and are not only learning more about Judaism, but learning about the ideals of other religions as well.
I absolutely love doing our Form of Expression groups when we learn about the Torah portions- I think it’s a great way for the kids to collaborate with one another, bounce ideas of off each other, and to learn about the rich, wonderful stories of the Torah. This week we talked about Chayei Sarah, where Abraham’s wife and Isaac’s mother Sarah dies. The story centers around Abraham sending his servant out to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The students seemed to enjoy making connections to real life- and joked a lot about why the camel in the story (before understanding the moral) was more important than Isaac’s new wife J
After splitting up into our FOE groups, my students drew their interpretation of the story using rich colored pencils and their imaginations, and wrote a quick summary about what happened in this Parsha. I’m looking forward to seeing the first couple of portions of our Torah come to life next week!
This week my 6th graders and I focused on the comparative religions of Judaism and Christianity. The students had some really good points about what makes each special, and what about both of them makes them similar! We split up into three small groups. Each group is making a poster about the four separate religions we talk about for the rest of the year- Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. I told them to be creative and artistic- they chose to draw pictures, create comics or make charts. At the end of the unit, we will present as groups to the rest of the class! I think it’s wonderfully beneficial that they will not only learn the importance and teachings of other religions, but they will hopefully learn to accept all religions and beliefs, regardless of our own beliefs. I’m really looking forward to hearing their interpretations of what we learned at the end of the unit!