I have two purposes for writing this blogpost. Firstly, in Part 1, I would like to explain why it is important for learners to learn Hebrew phonics as part of literacy program. We should teach all six levels of of the Hebrew language including: morphology, syntax and semantics. Secondly, in Part 2, I would like to show how educators can teach phonics while engaging children on all the levels of language for purposeful Hebrew literacy learning. I will cover teaching the five pillars of a literacy lessons including: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
What is wrong with these pictures of a public courthouse and Lincoln Memorial?
These structures do not have universal access! A parent with a stroller, a kid with a sprained ankle and a wheelchair user would have a very difficult time accessing these structures.
Architects were the first people to realize that we need to build with universal access. After building extravagant staircases that blocked out important members of our society, architects tried to make costly and challenging amendments by adding ramps and elevators, sometimes compromising esthetics and beauty. Eventually, they learned that we need to first plan for universal access and then plan the rest of the design. Are these pictures better? I think they are pretty good examples of environmental inclusion!!!
Clever and beautiful too!
The curb cut is an interesting phenomena that brings out an important point. City planners initially started making curb cuts for the wheelchair users. Yet, who uses the curb cuts? Almost everyone. Delivery and mail carriers, scooters riders, parents with strollers… Basically, by making public spaces accessible for differently-abled individuals, we help everyone too. The same is true in education. When we provide better access for learners with exceptionalities, we provide better learning for everyone. This is my hope when planning curricula. I hope to make the curricula so versatile and flexible with a wide array of strategies for: differentiating the ways learners are presented with information, the way they express what they know, and the way they are engaged and motivated. I hope to sequence the learning so both the student and the educator feel like climbing a smooth ramp, not like a jagged mountain.
To learn more about the Universal Design of Learning you can visit CAST.org.
What would universal access look like for Hebrew language instruction? How can we first plan curricula for universal access before constructing a model that may exclude the needs of many of our students? Can we first think about the needs of all the learners that belong in our classrooms and then plan learning that allows everyone to use their assets for success?
What are the obstacles some of our learners are facing when they try to climb the Kriah Steps? Let us back track a bit and briefly discuss one of the dimensions neurotypical reading process.
There are three cuing system readers use when attacking a new word: the meaning, structure and visual cuing systems. Fluent readers can use these systems efficiently, automatically and seamlessly, without even realizing. They can look at the letters in the words and think about the sounds they represent, they can think about what sound right based on their knowledge and experience with oral language and they can think about what would make sense based on the context and finally comprehend the text.
Now lets talk about the exceptional learners and the many learners that may have some challenges in literacy acquisition. We are talking about thirty percent of our students. Dyslexic learners make up about 10% of our population. They typically have deficits in using graphophonic clues and usually have an asset to read for meaning and to use the semantic cueing system. What happens when they are expected to read phonics in a foreign language? How can they read for meaning if they have not acquired the vocabulary? How can they use syntax clues if they are not familiar with how the oral language works? Maybe you know a learner that spent upward from five to seven years trying to develop Hebrew fluency. A lot of time and energy is spent drilling and memorizing syllables and learning to blend multisyllabic words, leaving little working memory space for reading for meaning and vocabulary acquisition.
The National Reading Panel, after reviewing all the literature on effective reading practice, has identified the Big Five/ The Five Pillars- the core of every effective reading lesson. Lessons should be designed to incorporate learning in all the five foundational skills of reading.
It would be logical and more effective to teach phonics in conjunction with: phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension, so it would be possible for children to use all three cuing systems when reading. In short, really short, to acquire reading fluency and to comprehend text independently, many learners need to work on the five pillars simultaneously and not just focus on phonics alone.
I am thinking of one particular third grade student that I have taught. He had an extreme deficit in phonemic awareness and phonics, but a strength in vocabulary and comprehension. For example, he had a hard time discriminating between sounds, spelling and reading small words. Yet, he was able to read texts of interest and decode most of the words in almost grade levels texts because he was able to read for meaning. He couldn’t spell men or man, yet he was able do read easy chapter books. This student benefits from reading meaningful and engaging texts to practice phonics.
I call this the Animal Back Ride Strategy! The graphophonic cuing system can take a ride on the semantic cuing system’s back. Practically, if a child finds purpose in reading for meaning or pleasure, he can read meaningful texts while practicing his phonics.
There is so much more to discuss here. We didn’t even touch upon the hyper-decoders and other literacy acquisition challenges. Another time, G-d willing. Let’s move on to practice.
I will show you one segment of a phonics curriculum that is focused on teaching Patach. this should follow learning Kamatz as part of the sequence of Mesorah. One of the benefits of this curriculum is that it is picture based, as way to support vocabulary acquisition and reading for meaning.
This program considers the needs of many kinds of learners. Yet learners’ needs and the strategies we can use to help them learn successfully are endless and would not fit into just one post. I tried to include strategies that would be beneficial for most learners. There is one particular strategy that I would like to mention, yet, I will not cover it here. It is the strategy used in the Ezer Movah L”Kriah where each lesson introduces either a letter or a vowel, however, vowels are introduced after only a couple of lessons so the learner can start reading real words right away, even before they know all the letters very well.
I try to learn about all the strategies that I have access to, so that I can select targeted strategies based on my students’ strengths, interests and needs.
Part 2 is organized into a couple of sections.
A. Learning the vowel sound, name, shape, meaning and spiritual story
B. Phonemic Awareness
C. Os Nekudah blending (one letter and one vowel blending)
D. Decoding and encoding one syllable words with vocabulary pictures
E. Decoding and encoding multisyllabic words with vocabulary pictures
F. Word level fluency
G. Reading comprehension with sentences
H. Reading comprehension with passages
Section A: Learning the Nekud Patach
Just like the Hebrew letters have their own secret to tell, the Hebrew vowels, the Nekodos have stories to tell on Jewish spirituality. The Hebrew vowels are the souls of the letters and learning these stories can provide both a wonderful spiritual experience and a way to help remember their sounds, shape and name. Did you know that besides for having a name, sound a graphic symbol, every Nekud also has a Gematria, Sefira and meaning?
You can listen to Rabbi Raskin talking about the secret of Patach as part of a series on Chabad.org.
Below is pictorial expressions of the Nekud Patach. Based on a learner’s ability to think abstractly, you can teach them mystic secrets of Patach and use the pictures as visual mnemonics.
Patach means open and when we say the sound we have to open our mouth big, in comparison to the Kumatz, where we constrain our lips together. (Learners can look in the mirror while making the Patach sound “Ahh’ and see and feel how their mouth opens wide just like its meaning.) Kamatz is the hidden light, or the hidden wisdom of Hashem; it is so concealed that it is dark. Whereas Patach is the revelation of the light. It is the light of Hashem that He allows to be revealed to us. This light can be understood as science and the natural wonders of our world. Patach is the servant of Kamatz- it reveals the hidden light which is Kamatz. Similarly, Moshe Rabeinu is Hashem’s servant that helped bring the Torah down to earth. At first, the Torah was hidden in heaven, and since Matan Torah, we were able to learn and enjoy the revealed Chochmah, the wisdom of Hashem. Patach is like the letter Vuv. It is a channel and its Gematria is six too. This is just part of the secrets of Patach.
After hearing the story, learners can create their own artistic expression of the Nekud Patach.
SECTION B: Phonemic Awareness
Once a learner has learned the sound of Patach, they should continue working on phonemic awareness. They should be able to discriminate the sound ‘ahh” from other vowel sounds, and they should learn how to segment the sounds in a words so they can identify the sounds, at least in beginning, end and middle position of words. Learners should also be able to blend three or more phonemes to make a word.
In short, phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. The Hebrew print system consists of graphic presentation of oral sounds, so in order to understand the written form of the language it is essential for children to first have sufficient phonemic awareness, otherwise, print will not make sense to them.
I have included some essential phonemic awareness learning activities in this post, however, some children may require some more phonological and phonemic learning.
Here is a great hands-on activity to practice vowel sound discrimination, where the vowel is in the initial position. Collect some miniature objects that start with an Aleph or an Ayin, so phonetically the first sound of the word is a vowel sound. Tell the learner the name of the object and ask the learner to repeat it, and listen if the word starts with the ‘Ah’ sound or not and sort it accordingly.
You can play a ‘thumbs up thumbs down’ with oral words. Tell the student thumbs up if you hear ‘ah’, thumbs down if you do not hear ‘ah’. You can use the following words, Mah, Rah, Nuh, Buh…
You can use the one syllable pictures that have the vowel in the middle position. Learners can sort the pictures by middle sound.
Segmenting and Blending:
This fishing game can help children prepare for Os- Nekudah segmenting and blending. The teacher calls out a letter name in segmented form, for example ‘h’ and ‘ay’ and the child needs to blend the two sounds to hear ‘Hay’ and cover the letter. The student can get good practice segmenting sounds of the letter name if they take a turn too. You can find Aleph Bais posters at WalderEducation.com
These clip cards can provide additional phonemic awareness and encoding practice where the learner has to select the letter that has the correct vowel. This is both a phonemic awareness and phonics skill that a student can practice independently if they have the vocabulary. Otherwise, a teacher can say the word and the student can check the marking on the back to see if they got it right.
Some children will be ready for Os-Nekuda blending after they have mastered identifying and segmenting the initial sounds of the letter names. For example, once a child knows that the letter Bais starts with the sound ‘b’ and they know that Patach says ‘Ah’, they can blend the sound ‘b’ with the sound ‘ah’ to derive at ‘bah’. However, this task may be difficult for many children for a couple of reasons. Some children may need to improve on their phonemic awareness skill, specifically blending sounds. Some children may need further practice with letter-sound associations. Finally some children may just need a little more practice with with segmenting and identifying the first sounds of the letters.
I used the Waseca language drawers to keep all my vocabulary pictures phonics cards. Starting from the right, each color drawer contain the materials to learn one vowel. Each vowel has seven drawers and I will show you the engaging learning materials that I put inside. (Waseca.com)
Section C: Os Nekuda Blending
Objective- Os Nekudah Blending
Follow this link for a short KabbalaToons animation and a short article by Tzvi Freedman “Souls for Letters ” on what happens spiritually when we combine Hebrew letters and vowels.
Learners need to know that when reading Hebrew, we read from top to bottom and then from right to left. This is an integral learning point and it would make sense to use a multi-sensory approach so we can make long term memories.
You can first model how you use numbered sticky tabs to order the parts of the words and then read the word accordingly while pointing. You can then have students do the same before decoding. You can test them to see if they can arrange the numbers properly.
This is a file I just made, I hope to put in on TPT really soon.
The following set of cards provides a hands-on opportunity to practice blending Os and Nekudah, using Mesorah methodology. These cards can be used for alphabetizing and fluency drills. They can also be use to sort between the cards that are mastered and cards that need to be practiced. You can also use these cards for an encoding activity by playing ‘I spy’, where the student needs to find the card. You can also divide the cards by the Siddur quadrants for students who have not mastered all the letters but are ready for blending (Ezer Movah L’Kriah Method).
Learners should first say the vowel name, then the letter and then blend the Os-Nekudah together working downwards. For example: Patach Alef Ah, Patach Bais Bah, Patach Gimmel Gah etc.
Here is another stack of cards where the children can work on saying the Os-Nekudah once the two are already visually together. Get playful. You can find such cards on Waldereducation.com
Here is another variation that you can use for practicing Os-Nekudah blending. Move the vowel flag under the letters either in order or out of order. I took a quality Alef Bais chart and cut it up to make this work.
Drawer 2: “I have__! Who has__?” Card Game In sequence
This game can provide a fun opportunity for practicing encoding and decoding the Os-Nekudah- blends independently or in a small group. Divide up the cards and have fun!
Drawer 3: “I have__! Who has__?” card game not in order.
Encoding Os- Nekudah
Following is a word building tile set that I made for when learners work with affixes. I like to introduce this board for older learners right away while with younger children I just use the moveable alphabet because of its tactile quality. You can ask learners to encode a couple of Os-Nekuda combinations and it would be worthwhile to mix in some Os-Nekuda with Kamatz to see if the learners can discriminate when to use Kamatz and when to use Patach. First, say the Os-Nekudah sound such as Shah, Dah, and Zah. Have the student repeat the sound and then say which letter and which vowel they will use. Finally, have the student build the sound, and the teacher can give immediate feedback. If the students errs, see if they can correct the error themselves with a small clue.
You can use a sand tray or a chalk board for additional tactile experience. Say the sound, have the student repeat it, spell it, then write it.
Os Nekudah Deck of Cards
Here is a deck of cards that can have various applications. Learners can play go fish where they need to make sets of the letter and read the set once it is completed. Learners can play Uno where they can either match a letter of a vowel. (General material, not stored in a drawer)
SECTION D: One Syllable Words
You can follow this link to another one of Tzvi Freedman’s animation and article “One Plus One Equals a Word“, where you can learn about the real purpose of letters and vowels.
Drawer 4: Encoding and decoding one syllable words with Patach
You can download these cards for free or you can purchase them printed and laminated at Waldereducation.org. I used all three sets of cards and divided them first by vowel and then by syllable count. The first deck of cards has words with only Kamatz. The second deck of cards has Kamatz and Patach. The third deck of cards has Kamatz, Patach and Tzeiray, so all the decks systematically add one more vowel and review the previous ones.
I was happy to realize that we can repurpose these Chumash vocabulary cards as a visual phonics program. It is important to me that when we teach Hebrew as a foreign language we use picture supports, so learners can understand what they are reading. You can not compare this experience to just reading words lists.
Discovering that we can use Rabbi Reitti’s Chumash Vocabulary Cards was a huge high point for me. They can be used in the same way I that I use the Walder Chumash cards, described above, plus they are colorful. They are also perfectly designed for encoding-spelling.
Divide the cards by vowel and syllable count as described above
Select words that the learner may know or that are worth learning
Teach the child the vocabulary word while looking at the picture side of the card
Have the child segment the word into individual phonemes
Have the learner encode the word with moveable alphabets or another writing medium
Turn the card over to check for correctness
Read the words
Read the words and try to translate or make sentences
SECTION E: Multisyllabic Words
Drawer 5: Blending Multisyllabic Words
I was so thrilled to find these valuable picture puzzles at Kefar.com. Instead of learners just reading list of words to develop reading accuracy, they can form pictures and acquire new Hebrew vocabulary. Awesome!
Drawer 6: Reading Multisyllabic words
Follow the procedure listed for reading one syllable words.
You can use the multisyllabic words with only Kumatz and Patach from the Climbing Har Sinai Deck for encoding. You may want to choose familiar vocabulary words and/or words that are you think are worth learning. There are many more words than necessary for encoding, and it also may be too burdensome and unnecessary to teach them all. Be selective.
(Follow the same procedures as described for encoding one syllable words.)
You can also use the word building tiles described above. You can review the sequence of encoding the sounds in words working top to bottom and right to left. This may take some practice to perfect.
I do not want to overwhelm you, I just want to provide with a sneak peak into what words building would look like with affixes. We shall talk about this next time.
Section F: Word Fluency
You can check out DotToDot.com to explore a couple of games that can be used for word fluency such as this Candy Corner game.
Section G: Sentences
Pyramid stories, also known as fluency triangles, are a fun and effective strategy for developing fluency on the sentence level. Some learners need extra support to develop the working memory to read a full sentence. This strategy builds in the extra practice so children do not need to return to the middle of the sentence every time they make an error or forgot what they have read in the beginning of the sentence. I have been using this strategy when teaching English and I was so excited to find that Sarah Gross used this strategy for Hebrew reading. The sentences provide cumulative practice of the vowels in a sweet, fun and suspenseful way.
Just a small but important note about Hebrew Morphology. In Hebrew, there are a couple of high frequency prefixes that are added to many words such as Bais- in, Hay- the, Mem- from and more. Learning these important prefixes are integral for sentence work. They need to be taught as high frequency vocabulary words as early as possible. I will talk about this in depth in my next post, IYH.
Take a little look inside too.
Pyramid Stories Amazon Link
You can use the vocabulary picture to form sentence.
Section E: Reading Passages
Ani Koreh has two series of beautiful phonetically controlled readers that provide systematic application of phonics work. The stories build by adding one Hebrew vowel at a time and have many other educational possibilities that I hope to write about really soon. I hope to talk about how we can use these books for comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, learning Hebrew morphology and grammar. These texts can be use as mentor text for writing too! Stay tuned!
Walder education also has a series of phonetically controlled readers. Here is a link to this book about Shabbos that focuses on Patach and reviews Kamatz. LINK
Thank you so much for reading and I hope that you have gained much!!!
Please comment if you have any question, feedback, requests and suggestions! I would love to hear from you! Please tell me if you were able to apply any of these strategies in your learning environment! I would love to see pictures too! Please share this post with anyone whom you think many be interested.
If you would like support with implementing a Hebrew and/or English Literacy program in your learning environment, I can make myself available for consulting and coaching. If you need help meeting the needs of exceptional learners, I can help with that too. Please contact me to hear about the services at Scenic Route Literacy!
If you would like my future posts to arrive in your inbox please follow me here on WordPress.
Anyways, the best of luck with all your work and stay tuned for more.
This post is in honor of all the wonderful children who give me such nachas when they light up every time they learn something new and when they do something special.
The purpose of this blogpost is to discuss not only how to teach Aleph Bais in a fun and engaging way, but also how to plan purposeful learning so all kinds of learners can have a successful experience preparing for “Ben Chomesh LeMikra”. I hope this blogpost will be the first of a series on Lashon Hatorah posts as a method of supporting parents and educators in the important work of teaching Hebrew and English literacy.
This post includes links to free and purchasable resources. All resources from Walder can be downloaded for free or can be purchased printed and laminated. I have included some components of Goldie Winder’s packages of pre-made Montessori Aleph Bais works. I have provided her contact information at the end. I put source links for most products as a caption under the picture. I hope you will enjoy and benefit from this post and share it with others who you think will too.
One more thing before we start: I want to state that teaching Aleph Bais and Kriah is not a means to an end, but it has its own spiritual purpose. Every detail of the process has a reason and a lesson. For instance, Kumatz Aleph “U’ is the first sound of the ten commandments which encapsulates all 613 Mitzvoes which encapsulate all of the oral and written Torah. The letters and the vowels hold the key to Jewish spirituality. Therefore, it is important that we follow the Mesorah and teach the letters and vowels in order and then teach blending afterwards.
You can read more about the secret of the letters and the vowels in Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book.
I do not see any conflict with teaching our children according to Mesorah and applying the latest research on literacy acquisition. I think that with Hashem’s help, if you understand the basis of the theories and approaches that you have access to a selection of resources, you should have no problem in providing best practice instruction that is spiritually nurturing and correct.
Here a link to a PDF file of a compilation of what the Lubavitcher Rebbeim taught us about teaching Aleph Bais, Nekudos and Kriah by Rabbi Levi Goldstien.
Get a glimpse of the Rebbe talking about “Kumatz Aleph Uh”:
The Seven Objectives of Aleph Bais Knowledge:
There are seven components to knowing a letter. I will attempt to show you lessons for all of these objectives and lessons that purposefully target multiple objectives simultaneously, so the learner can make the connections and associations. Afterwards, you can use your own creativity to mix and match the materials to design your own curriculum based on your resources, interests, and areas of focus.
The Spiritual Stories of the Letters
The Shape of the Letter
The Name of the Letter
Writing the Letter
The first sound of the Letters (Not Aleph and Ayin)
The Order of the Letters
The Gematria of the Letters
I have integrated a standard to incorporate Multi-sensory Instruction. Learners can be more successful in making long term memories when they learn through simultaneous experiences: VAKT- Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Tactile. When multiple brain centers fire together, it creates long term memories. For example, a learner can see a letter 75 times and still not store it their in long term memory, but if the child writes the letter on the chalkboard, traces it in sand, while engaging with it orally, a long term memory can be created. The big muscles are especially effective at making long term memories since they activate a large center in the brain.
There is one special activity that can use all the VAKT senses while simultaneously tapping into the narrative and visual imagery centers too; writing and erasing large letters on a chalkboard while seeing and saying a letters name and keyword chain can be a valuable activity. Writing on a chalkboard would provide both kinesthetic and tactile input. I would try to get the largest blackboard possible, but you can also use some outdoor wall surfaces. I would use Rabbi Nemtzov’s images from his book The Articulated Aleph Bais (more about it below), since his embedded pictures include a story too. You can also use these letter keyword flashcards from Walder.
Here is a video of Rabbi Jonathan Rietti demonstrating a couple of the following works:
Objective 1: The Spiritual Stories of the Letters
Rabbi Mordichai Zev Nemtzov wrote and illustrated a powerful book on the secret of the letters. His book can be used to tell the stories of the letters and can also be used as visual and sound mnemonics.
It is important to note that our brain was not biologically designed to read and recognize symbols. It was designed to practice visual discrimination of real-life objects. Thus embedded pictures that merge real-life objects and letters, can support children in remembering the letter symbol. Embedded pictures have been supported by research as a strategy to accelerate learning and to increase memory of letter symbols. Another value of this work, is that the pictures tell a memorable story. Stories also arouse emotions that have a direct path to memory.
Tzvi Freeman has a collection of essays and animations for children on Chabad.org on the secrets of the letters. Here is a link to the series. Chabad.org- KabbalahToons
After telling the story, learners can retell the story by drawing their own visual representation of the story on a letter outline. You can download free letter outlines from Walder.
Part 2: The Shape of the Letter
Children can demonstrate their knowledge of the shape of the letter by matching, sorting and pointing to the letters. Matching letters has a couple of levels: matching manuscript to manuscript, and matching manuscript to script or to matching manuscript to Rashi and other fonts. Matching the Hebrew letters can be challenging at times, because there are a couple of similarly looking letters. Included will be games to provide practice for discriminating similar letters.
Here are a couple of ideas for matching letters:
Sensory Bin with Foam Puzzle.
I like to use plastic rice or beads that can be washed and reused for hygienic and food respect reasons. Hide the letters in a sensory medium. Students search for the letters and match it to the puzzle that can be inset into the cover.
Aleph Bais letter hunt with script or manuscript checklist. Children find letters in the sealed rice jar and mark it off on a checklist with a dry erase marker or a sticker.
Aleph Bais Fishing by Goldie Winder
Letter Match Clip Cards
I repurposed a letter matching sheet from Walder and made them into clip cards. You can just cut the worksheet into strips and mark the matching letters on the back.
Crayon Same/ Different (Goldie Winder)
Aleph Bais Front to Back Match Up:
You can cut a stack of flashcards in half vertically and stamp the back as a control of error. Students can make matches and check the back to see if they got it correct. You can divide the letters into groups as it may be hard to manage all the cards at once.
Aleph Bais Font Game by Goldie Winder
The editing feature is not working so you will have to face that this picture will remain upside down for now.
Objective 3: The Name of the Letter
Sensory Letters with Blindfold:
For this activity, learners can blindfold themselves, try to name a letter by only feeling it with their fingers. You can play in groups of two and keep track of the score by holding onto the letters that were guessed correctly.
Playing go fish would set the circumstances that players would need to name the letters in order to participate. I like these cards because they incorporate an additional opportunity to practice similar letters.
Objective 4: Writing the Letter
Here is my view on weather we should teach children how to write script or manuscript letters:
When using instructional time to teach a learner a skill, I want to teach them a functional behavior that they will need long term. Children will not need to write box letter, they will need to learn how to write in script. So if a student is able to learn two sets of letter symbols, I will try to teach them to recognize and write script letters when they are ready for handwriting practice. On the other hand, if a student is having a hard time remembering the manuscript letter symbols, I will not want to overload them and teach them a second set of symbols, even though most of the symbols have clear similarities. For this population of students, it is worthwhile to learn how to write box letters for temporary use. Firstly, as we discussed earlier, VAKT- multisensory and simultaneous experiences will help the learner make long term memories for the letters so that writing the box letters can help the learner recognize the letter symbols. Secondly, the learner should have a means to participate in encoding- spelling activities with readily available writing materials, and they should have to rely on specialized writing materials such as moveable alphabets, letter tiles or stamps.
For handwriting instruction, we employ a gradual release of responsibility where we slowly decrease our support as the students gains mastery and independence. We begin with tracing, then copying, and finally writing without any visual prompt.
Sand Paper Letters
You can begin by giving a three period lesson on the letters names with tracing the letters with the sand paper Hebrew letters.
Here is another video demonstrating how to give a three period lesson using the sandpaper letters.
Here is a link to see how to use the Letter tracing boards.
Here is a video demonstrating how you can use the sand tray.
Here is a video demonstration on how to write rainbow letters.
Walder gradual release tracing sheets:
More about writing on a future post.
Objective 5: The First sound of the Letters
(Not Aleph and Ayin)
According to Kabbalah, letters are like a body and the Hebrew Nekudot, the vowels, are like the soul. Thus, a letter without a vowel, is like body without a soul, it has no life. The Hebrew letters without vowels have no sound. However, we can teach learners to match initial sound objects and initial sound pictures to the letter they begin with. In short, we do not match letters to pictures, but we can match pictures to letters. Additionally, the names of the letters do have initial sounds, and we can teach children to segment and isolate the initial sounds of letters (not Aleph and Ayin). Let’s begin with the most concrete experience.
Initial Sound Objects:
I bought these sack and a starter set of objects from TES. I added a couple of objects I found around my home and I repurposed some polymer creations I made a while back. I tried to choose objects that are worth learning in Hebrew such as Parsha and Mitzvah items numbers. I tried to include objects that the student most likely already has the vocabulary for such as religious item (besomim) and cognates such as banana.
Here is a link to see how you can work on vocabulary, initial sounds phonemic awareness with initial sound objects and the sand paper letters.
Initial Sound Picture Sort:
Children can learn Hebrew vocabulary while isolating the initial sound of pictures and matching them to either sandpaper letters or or moveable alphabet. Children can check the back to see if they were correct.
Initial Sound Clothe Pins
Here is another great opportunity to learn and practice Hebrew vocabulary which will be integral for comprehending Hebrew text.
Initial Sounds I have, Who Has in Hebrew or English
Walder: Who has something that starts with… Dominoes
Objective 6: The Order of the Letters
Alphabetizing is a great skill to learn. They can use this skill when locating Pesukim in Chumash, Chapters in Tehilim, when identifying the day of the month and many other practical skills for Jewish life.
Objective 7: The Gematria of the Letters
You can print out a set of Gematria flashcards from Walder and match them to letter flashcards or moveable alphabet.
How can you use the following materials?
Which one of the 7 objects for letter knowledge would these materials help you meet?
Which ones of the senses would the learner use to participate in these activities?
Which activities do you think has the most value and why?
Which activity do you think your learner will appreciate?
I hope that you found this blogpost helpful. I hope that you feel inspired, informed and prepared to teach the seven objectives of the letter knowledge including,
The Spiritual Stories of the Letters
The Shape of the Letter
The Name of the Letter
Writing the Letter
The first sound of the Letters (Not Aleph and Ayin)
The Order of the Letters and
The Gematria of the Letters
I would love to hear from you. I would love to hear your questions, your thoughts, your comments, your suggestions, your ideas and your feedback. I know these learning experiences can be wonderful for many students, but I know teaching Aleph Bais can be very technical and complex for many learners.
Please be in touch if you would like support in implementing an Aleph Bais or Kriah curriculum or if you need assistance in meeting specific students’ needs. We can work together to identify learners’ assets and deficits and the reason for the struggles and then make a plan for targeted instruction with evidence strategies for successful language acquisition.
Visit Scenicrouteliteray.com or contact me at email@example.com to learn more about our approach or to set up a time to talk.
Nechamy Segal Ms.Ed
You can call Goldie Winder at 917-650-0185 to learn about her selection of ready made Montessori Aleph Bais works.
My intention of this Blogpost is to explore and harness the Dyslexic Advantage and all of our hidden personal assets.
In Part One, we will begin with a book discussion with “Thank You Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco. I will provide some resources for you to study the characters and the problem/solution of the narrative.
In Part Two, we will continue by learning about the Dyslexic Advantage and the book with this title by Brock and Fernette Eide. I bet, when we are done, that many of you will wish to be of the 10% of the population that has Dyslexia.
In Part Three, we will study the biographies of highly accomplished individuals with Dyslexia and take the time to think about the life lessons we can learn.
Finally, in Part Four, we will attempt to further recognize our own assets. However, it is not that simple. Humans are multidimensional and we can view ourselves and other from many perspectives, such as our intellectual and emotional intelligences, temperament such as resilience, our spirituality, and our neurological processes such as attention and memory. We can use Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence to get a nice start, but in reality, it is only one tip of the iceberg of what lies within our minds, hearts and souls and what we have inherited from our nature and the ecologies we find ourselves in.
I hope that we will realize that we have what it takes to conceive and pursue our own dreams and that we can help other do the same. I hope that we feel inspired and empowered to use our personal assets as we compensate for or grow our deficits that matter to us.
Part 1: Thank You Mr. Falker Read Aloud
I have many, many favorite books but “Thank You Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco has a very special place in my heart. I received my copy as an end of year gift from an extraordinary student that has been struggling with literacy learning. I will never forget the experience I had reading the book for my first time. My daughter, who has just completed Kindergarten, asked me to read the book for her. There we were sitting on the front the steps of our house, the first day of summer.
I read the first few pages and my emotions start to stir below the surface. I read a couple more pages, my voice starts shaking, I start tearing, I go to grab a tissue. I turn the page, I’m having a hard time squeezing my voice between little whimpers. I turn the page, I start weeping, there on the front step as my daughter watches with delight. I try to collect myself, but my emotions are pouring out of my eyes uncontrollably.
Mr. Falker comes to save Trisha. But I am still weeping.
Why did Trisha have to wait so long to get the help she needed so badly? How many Trisha’s are out there waiting for their Mr. Falker? How can we find these Trishas before they endure so much suffering and tormenting from themselves and from others? Why should these children feel like they have no other choice but to helplessly hide in shame?
Here are some questions that you can use to facilitate discussion before, during and after the reading:
What makes a person smart?
Do you think you are smart? Why or why not?
What is the hardest thing you have ever learned how to do? Who helped you learn?
What are you good at learning or doing?
What is easy for you to learn or do?
What is something hard that you really want to do but haven’t?
Questions for During the Reading: (Keep to a minimum to maintain the story’s momentum)
Why is knowledge like honey?
2. Why do you think Eric called Trisha to a mole?
Do you think Trisha is smart? Why or why not? Provide evidence from the story?
Why do you think Polacco wrote this story?
What would happen if Mr. Falker was not Trisha’s teacher?
What would happen if Mr. Falker was Trisha’s teacher in first grade?
How did Mr. Falker help Trisha?
Do you ever feel like the way Trisha in this story?
Studying characters from stories helps us understand ourselves and the people around us. It helps us develop our social and emotional intelligence and the perspective that people are dynamic and not static. Reading narratives while making good connections help us develop two things. One, it develops compassion for ourselves and for others. Two, it helps us develop the ability to make better personal choices and choices in social situation.
You can use the following resources to help you study the characters in “Thank You Mr. Falker” and in the Biographical Study that will follow in Part 3.
Here is an anchor chart you can use as a support for analyzing characters.
You can make a character map about Trisha or Mr. Falker.
Trisha doesn’t always feel the same way through the book.
How is she feeling when she knows she will be going to school and learning to read? How does she feel when the words are jumbled, and it’s not easy for her to read? How does she feel when Mr. Falker works with her and helps her understand reading? Here is a graphic organizer you can use to document how and the character changes in the beginning, middle and end of the narrative.
There are six kinds of problems characters can encounter in narratives. What kind of problems did Trisha encounter in “Thank You Mr. Falker”?
What strategy did Mr. Falker use to teach Trisha the alphabet?
He used an effective technique from Orton Gillingham. He had Trisha write letters on the board giving her a way to experience the letters with multiple senses simultaneously.
Trisha received VAKT- Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Kinesthetic input which effectively allowed her to store the letters in her long term memory.
We also know that the large muscles are more effective in creating long term memories, since they make more brain centers fire. We can see this evidenced by comparing our memory of large muscle tasks and small muscle tasks. For instance, when I tried riding a bike after many years of not riding, it took me a couple of moments to find my balance and pedal off. On other hand, when I tried to teach my children how to hook rug, it took me thirty minutes to watch tutorials and practice even though I have completed a couple of hook rugs as a child.
Part 2: An Exploration of the Dyslexic Advantage
What does Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, George Washington, Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Jefferson, Steven Spielberg, Mohammed Ali, Whoopi Goldberg, Kobe Bryant, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad and Winston Churchill all have in common?
There are two sides to a coin.
Did you know that many successful architects, lawyers, engineers—even best selling novelists—had difficulties as children learning to read and write? In this groundbreaking book, Brock and Fernette Eide explain how 20% of people, individuals with dyslexia, share a unique learning style that can create advantages in a classroom, at a job, or at home. Using their combined expertise in neurology and education, the authors show how these individuals not only perceive the written word differently but may also excel at spatial reasoning, see insightful connections that others simply miss, understand the world in stories, and display amazing creativity. Blending personal stories with hard science, The Dyslexic Advantage provides invaluable advice on how parents, educators, and individuals with dyslexia can recognize and use the strengths of the dyslexic learning style in: material reasoning (used by architects and engineers); interconnected reasoning (scientists and designers), narrative reasoning (novelists and lawyers); and dynamic reasoning (economists and entrepreneurs.) With prescriptive advice and inspiring testimonials, this paradigm-shifting book proves that dyslexia doesn’t have to be a detriment, but can often become an asset for success. (Amazon review)
Here is a visual where you can see the Dyslexic MIND Strengths. Dyslexics have a strength in various reasoning and high order thinking skills such as materials reasoning, interconnected reasoning, narrative reasoning, and dynamic reasoning, giving them an edge or an advantage in a couple of fields that you can see listed on the left.
To oversimplify the dyslexic mind, we can say that dyslexics are right brained.
Dyslexics are really good at seeing the Gestalt, the full picture. Do you see the circles with the missing slices or do you see the star? The star would be the Gestalt, or the whole of the picture.
It would be wonderful if you can get you hand on this out of print book, “But I’m Just A Little Bird” by Eileen S. Green. The little bird learns not to see her wings as burden that carries her down, but as a resource that can help her soar in the sky. This is Dyslexia.
Here is link to the Dyslexics Advantage Blog where you can find some wonderful literature for further study.
Dr. Manuel Casanova, a neuropathologist, discovered that the minicolumn organization in the brain seemed to exist on a continuum with autistics on one end, dyslexics on the other, and neurotypicals somewhere “in-between.” He was looking at one dimension of our very complex brains, noting that further research is necessary.
The most magnificent thing is the prevalent pattern in Silicon Valley of the partnerships between Dyslexics type individual and Autistic type individuals. They compliment each other with highly specialized skills from both sides of the brain.
My takeaway, we need appreciate and utilize All Kinds Of Minds to make this world a wonderful and productive place.
No one can say it as well at Temple Grandin. Listen to her talk about neurodiversity appreciation.
Part 3: A Biographical Study
Try to read at least two biographies of an accomplished Dyslexic individual. Here are links to some of favorite biographies. You do not have to limit yourself to these choices. Try to choose an individual that you admire.
Audiobooks can be a wonderful tool for learners that are not ready to decode the words in the book but are ready to comprehend the story. I would suggest that the learner follows along on a hard copy and use the Read Aloud as a model for proper reading and a way of learning new words. Perhaps afterwords, a reader can try to read the book independently.
You can also watch some talks by Dyslexic Individuals. Here are a couple of links:
After reading at least two biographies or studying the life of two Dyslexic individuals, what patterns do you find? Based on your character study,
How would you describe their early school years?
How were the they able to use their assets to overcome their deficits?
Do you agree with their life choices? Why or why not?
If you would be in their shoes, would you have made any different choices? Which?
What helped these individuals become so successful?
Were these individuals successful everyday?
Are you able to make any text-to-self connections?
Did you learn any life lessons?
I read a couple of the above biographies and noticed a pattern: life is like a rollercoaster. It is easier to see in hindsight. We will all have our ups and downs. We can cry, we can grieve, but we can also pick ourselves up and keep on fighting to make our visions a reality. If is a painting, a community service, a music album, a medical breakthrough, a story, a new building or becoming literate: we can do it!
PART 4: Identifying our Assets and Putting Them to Use
There are so many models we can use for identifying our personal assets and deficits.
One of my favorite models is the Eight Neurological Constructs by Mel Levine’s –
Going deeper into the eight constructs is not in the scope of this post. Perhaps at a later time we can discuss how we can use this model. See what you can grasp by just looking at this visual summary.
For now, we will use Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Gardner talks of eight ways of being smart. All of us have all eight intelligences, just we have them at different degrees.
Howard Gardner has not developed a multiple intelligences test or assessment himself. But any other people have developed many sorts of assessments and surveys. Here is a fun and simple Emoji Multiple Intelligence Survey you can use with young learners.
Branton Shearer has developed the best known instrument which has been administered to thousands of people all over the world. Here is a link to the MIDAS online packet to verify your profile.
Here is another great Multiple Intelligence Resource for older learners.
This book is a wonderful guide for older learners on the Multiple Intelligences and how they are relevant with a growth mindset. It includes quick quizzes that can help you learn now how smart you are, but how you are smart.
This book will help you,
• Learn about the nine different intelligences and what they mean
• Find out which ones you have (Hint: You already have all nine, just in different degrees)
• Make the most of your strongest intelligences
• Strengthen your other intelligences
• Use all nine intelligences at school, at home, and everywhere you go
• Discover more about who you are and who you can be
• Understand and get along better with the people around you
• Look to the future and how you’ll use your smarts when you get older
What does it take to be truly successful in the long run? If you think the answer is “be smart” and “work hard” you need to see and hear this talk.
We shall conclude by watching Howard Gardner’s TEDx Talk, Beyond Wit and Grit, Rethinking the Keys to Success.
In short Multiple Wits and Good Grits.
Thank you reading! Thank you for watching! Thank you for thinking! Thank you for caring! Thank you for doing!
I hope you benefited from the lessons on character analysis.
I hope you came to a better understand of the Dyslexia experience and advantages.
I hope you feel inspired and empowered to realize and pursue your dreams and to help others do the same. Know that you have what it takes or you can just grow yourself.
I hope to journey with you again soon.
For questions, comments or feedback, please write to me at Nechamy@scenicrouteliteracy.com
Here is my attempt to bring beautiful literature to you alongside the prompts and the resources you would need to engage all kinds of learners in a thoughtful, literary experience. Please read on to see what you can do before, during and after reading the text.
The Book: (Book Review by Grace Enriquez for the School Library Journal)
“Life begins when you get back up” – so says the blurb on the back cover of Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat’s latest picture book. But how does one “get back up” when the circumstances surrounding the downfall are not just physically traumatic but emotionally as well? Take the case of one Humpty Dumpty, the titular ovate character from the well-known nursery rhyme. Santat does such in After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again, moving past a quick recap of “The Great Fall” and the physical recovery to focus on the emotional distress resulting from the event. Musing, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue,” Humpty relates his newfound fear of heights, mourns the loss of his ability to watch birds from a spot close to them, and attempts to regain some semblance of enjoyment in his life. How he overcomes that trauma is both literally and figuratively an uplifting tale, one told not just through Santat’s rhythmic text, but also with his evocative mixed-media illustrations. After the Fall is a book that will resonate on multiple levels, compelling readers to reflect not only on Humpty’s remarkable accomplishment but their own capacity for hope and healing.
PART 1: Before Reading the Book
1A: Activate Prior Knowledge with Discussions and Think Alouds
What is the something that you dream about doing? Riding a bike, traveling to a foreign country, a business venture, a college degree….
My dream has been to blog about my teaching ideas. I so badly want to have a platform to support parents and educators in their work in educating a generation of literate and engaged learners.
Have you attempted to fulfill this dream? What happened?
For a while, I have been dreaming. Ideas were firing in my mind but perhaps I was not clear about my vision, perhaps I was not dedicating sufficient time, perhaps I was afraid…
Would you try to fulfill your dream today? Why or why not?
1B: Read a classic book or poem about the famous Humpty Dumpty such as this version told by Kin Eagle.
You can also take advantage of some Humpty Dumpty printable resources on twinkl.com such as sequencing cards, Nursery Rhyme Posters, stick puppets, cutouts and more.
Try to relate to the character: Humpty Dumpty and his traits, preferences and actions.
Why do you think Humpty likes to sit on the wall?
If you were Humpty would you climb and sit on the wall? Why or why not?
PART 2: Reading The Book
2A: Read the book After the Fall by Dan Santat. Here is a link to purchase the book at Amazon.com.
2B: If you do not have a copy of the book or if your audience is pre-literate you can listen to the sweet Read Aloud by PV Storytime.
2C: Pause briefly while reading the book to make predictions and text-to- self-connection. Make sure to maintain a comfortable momentum ensuring to engage the readers’ interests.
Making Predictions: Pause before turning the pages. Use text clues and your prior knowledge to make predictions about what will happen next. You can use this worksheet to record your ideas while reading.
Here is worksheet you can use to draw and write about text-to-self connections either during or after the reading.
Part 3: After Reading
Compare and Contrast the character of Humpty Dumpty from the classical nursery rhymes and Humpty Dumpty from After the Fall. You can use this Venn Diagram to record your ideas by drawing or writing.
Why did the Dan Santat write this story? What was his purpose? You can use this worksheet to record your thoughts.
The following three invitations are excerpt from Grace Enriquez article for the “School Library Journal”. Please see the link for a full article of wonderful ideas for learning extensions.
Growth Mindset and Dynamic Learning Framework – After the Fall is a story that conveys some key concepts of the growth mindset such as persistence and flexible thinking. Discuss how you can apply these aspects to your lives. How can you make your dreams a reality?
Humpty Dumpty Science : Does an egg always break when it falls? According to the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be repaired. However, he successfully recovers in After the Fall. Use this story to launch a scientific investigation into the properties of eggs and the circumstances in which an egg will and won’t break after a fall. Help students pose some initial questions, such as the following: How far does an egg have to fall to break? Does it matter how thoroughly an egg is cooked? What happens if it falls on surfaces with different properties (e. g., density, size, texture, etc.)? Since Santat’s Humpty Dumpty wears clothes, what happens if an egg is “clothed” in different kinds of materials? Have students plan and conduct experiments and record their findings, engaging them in disciplinary literacy skills that ask them to think and act like a scientist.
History of the Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme– What events has inspired the rhyme? How has the meaning of it changed over the centuries? For exploration and inquiry, you can read about it at dictionary.com.
Humpty Dumpty was originally a cannon mounted on top of a tower to defend the town of Colchester during the English Civil War in 1648. Eventually, after three months, the tower was knocked down and the cannon tumbled into the marsh below, never to be found. Thus all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Read the book again and again for deeper comprehension.
Convince someone else to read the book too.
I hope to keep navigating with you at you pursue your dreams in literacy engagement and learning!