Starting Decoding Later? Here are Some Tools to Help Learners

Hebrew learning looks very different from one setting to another, depending on your goals, resources, and available time. What works for one school and its students is all wrong for another. 

Children who learn to decode just a year or two before their b'nai mitzvah may need additional supports to get them up to speed quickly. Here are a few of our favorite tools for late decoders:

Making T'filah Meaningful

This series adds wonderful supplement to Hebrew learning by helping pre-teens explore the underlying meaning of prayer and connect with God through both communal and personal prayer. Designed as a pick-and-choose series of booklets, Making T'filah Meaningful focuses on students in grades five through seven because this is a crucial time in the development of a child’s Jewish identity. As they are on the cusp of becoming b’nai mitzvah, it is the perfect time to help them approach prayers with understanding that will make their experience personally meaningful. This personal connection will set them up as lifelong learners and active participants in the Jewish community. 

Each booklet focuses on a single prayer or set of related prayers, and is filled with activities, stories, and questions to help students connect these ancient words with their modern-day lives. In Bar'chu, for example, an activity called "Focus in Daily Life" explores the concept of attention and concentration. Students to are asked to name three things they do to help them focus on various activities, such as playing a sport or reading a book. That can open up a discussion about the notion of kavanah, concentrating and focusing one's heart and mind on prayer. 

The series' Lesson Plan Manual is essential for educators, as it contains 36 complete lessons - three for each prayer booklet - plus optional activities for digging deeper into topics as time and resources allow. It also includes tips for addressing challenging ideas, such as God, tips for helping students with special needs, and ideas for engaging students' families in the learning. 

Hebrew in Harmony

Use the Hebrew in Harmony app and Curriculum Core at all levels of learning to provide a rich way to supplement rote t’filah learning with music and videos about each prayer. Hearing the prayer melodies and learning about the meaning behind the words adds a deeper understanding and level of connection. Techniques in the Curriculum Core can enrich any prayer class or t’filah experience.

Students can also use the 16-page print journals even if they can’t yet decode. Focus on the pages they CAN do, such as analyzing the music, responding to thought questions, etc. You can add use a hole puncher on the journals and save them in a 3-ring binder so that each year students can return to them as their Hebrew skills develop. They’ll see their progress from year to year.

Additionally, students can use all the Hebrew in Harmony materials fully in grade 6 if they have learned to decode in grade 5. They can focus on the Torah service and other key prayers to prepare for their b'nai mitzvah.

Shalom Hebrew

This streamlined adaptation of the popular and proven 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. Shalom Hebrew also includes many movement-based activities. The teacher's guide also provides specific ways to use Shalom Hebrew with 5th-6th graders. 

For extra decoding learning and fun reinforcement, the Shalom Hebrew app that takes language practice on the go - anywhere, anytime. Students learn Hebrew aurally and visually at the same time, hearing the sounds of letters, vowels and syllables. They can also record themselves reading and play back the recording, and compare their pronounciation to both Israeli and American voices. Can be used on any PC or Mac desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Sample the first five lessons FREE by visiting the app store or Google play and downloading Shalom Hebrew directly to any iPhone, iPad, or Android device.


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