Planning Hebrew Curriculum? How to Choose the Right Primer
Strong Hebrew programs have a clear rationale, a reason for doing what you're doing. Knowing your end goal provides you the necessary filter and foundation upon which to structure learning experiences, create effective lessons, choose appropriate materials, and develop benchmarks.
We’ve provided a start with this guide that maps four sample learning goals to a range of materials that will help you get there. Download the Consider Your Goals guide.
This guide - plus more planning help - is available at behrmanhouse.com. Just click PLAN on our homepage.
One key goal for many programs is to help students recognize the Hebrew letters and their sounds, and to put those together to form syllables and words as they prepare to join the congregation in prayer services, lifecycle rituals, and to prepare for b’mitzvah.
Decoding Hebrew opens the gates to this world of skills and deeper connection to Jewish prayer, culture, and tradition.
Whether your program focuses on early decoding or waits until later, we have a range of options for your students and teachers. As you think about the goals of your Hebrew program for the upcoming year, here are some options for that key skill of decoding.
Many of the Hebrew materials are available in packages that include an online turn-page format, to help ensure continuity in your school program however you plan to do school - whether in person, small groups, or individual tutoring online, or in some combination.
Alef Bet Quest
Best for: Grades 3-4
Students learn Hebrew through a guided virtual tour of Israel. Teaches new letters and vowels from real Hebrew words, with an emphasis on those found in the prayer book. Alef Bet Quest was created by Dr. Dina Maiben, director of the Hebrew program at Gratz College.
The primer introduces same-sound letters together and keeps look-alike letters separate to avoid confusion. It also has plenty of opportunity for practice between introduction of new letters. Teaches block print writing to reinforce sound-symbol association and visual discrimination.
This classic primer has taught hundreds of thousands of children to read Hebrew. Derech Binah introduces look-alike letters together in large, clear type, along with reading exercises to help discriminate between them. Also teaches blessings, prayers, and songs. Designed with one clear activity per page.
Each lesson includes a ruled notebook page for students to practice forming block print letters.
Shalom Uvrachah - Print or Script
Best for: Grades 3-4
Shalom Uvrachah includes 25 lessons that introduce new letters and vowels from key cultural words and concepts. For example, student learn the letters kuf and tzadee from the word tzedakah, or the letter tet from the word tallit.
Vowels are introduced in manageable increments, and look-alike and sound-alike letters are introduced separately. The print edition teaches block writing, which is excellent for later work on t'filah. The script edition provides important scaffolding for modern Hebrew. Good for programs that meet twice a week.
Shalom Uvrachah Primer Express
Best for: Grades 3-4
Short on time?
Shalom Uvrachah: Primer Express is ideal for programs that meet once a week. In just 96 pages, students will finish the primer faster, with no (or optional) writing.
Best for: Grades 5-Adult
This streamlined adaptation of Shalom Uvrachah is designed for older students - especially those starting Hebrew in 5th or 6th grade - to quickly learn to decode Hebrew accurately and fluently. It's built on a foundation of key cultural words, such as mitzvah and shamash, and introduces related letters, vowels, syllables and words, with plenty of practice opportunities. Also great for one-on-one and small groups.
The Alef-Bet of Blessing
Best for: Grades 3-Family
Decoding with a goal of introducing children and families to Hebrew blessings.
This primer is organized around the letters that form the six words that start most blessings: Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam. Learn the Hebrew letters and the basic building blocks of Jewish prayer at the same time. With a focus on blessings, this self-guided primer builds Hebrew skills for use at home and during holiday celebrations, and in prayer.
Aleph Isn't Tough
Best for: Adults
This primer is designed for adults with no prior Hebrew knowledge. Teaches phonetic decoding through words an adult might encounter through Jewish cultural and religious life - prayers, blessings and rituals of Jewish home observances.
- Teachers guides are available for all the primers, except The Alef-Bet of Blessing, which is self-guided.
- Many of the primers also have companion word cards or companion workbooks. See the specific primer on our website for more details.
- Companion apps are available for both Alef Bet Quest, the Shalom Uvrachah series and Shalom Hebrew.
- The Alef Bet of Blessing includes a free audio companion for self-guided learning. (available on the product website)
Hebrew Primer Supplements
Shalom, Reader: 57 Hebrew Activities to Show What You Know (Grades 3-5)
Build students' confidence and vocabulary with simple stories and games that offers a new way for emerging readers to practice decoding skills in a meaningful way. Activities are built on vocabulary that overlaps with scenarios that are familiar to children, such as holiday celebrations, school, family, time, and the weather. Created by Dina Maiben.
Ulpan Alef and Ulpan Bet (Grades 4-6)
Two sets of playful four-page folders on topics such as the family, food, at school, and colors add a touch of modern Hebrew to Hebrew learning.
Ten-Minute Hebrew Reader (Grades 4-6)
Students strengthen their Hebrew skills with simple and quick games—just ten minutes a session. Action-based activities include singing the words, clapping the number of syllables, and stretching to demonstrate vowel sounds.
Hooked on Hebrew Playing Cards (Grades 3-adult)
A game-based way to practice Hebrew letters and vowels. Each card deck includes directions for more than ten games, such as Memory, Go Fish, and Gin Rummy. Especially useful for small group, pairs, or teams.
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