By Rabbi Avrohom Moller
When planning for teaching Chumash, there are three levels of planning necessary:
- The annual plan is the overarching goals and content paced out for the year.In this process, the teacher identifies the learning standards which they are expected to meet over the course of the upcoming school year.
- The unit plan prepares a group of lessons for 2-3 weeks. It focuses on the specific themes and concepts that are unique to this unit and identifies effective instructional methods to teach them. Summative assessment should be planned for the unit as well.
- The daily lesson plan is the actual choreography of what will happen in the classroom on a daily basis. It includes the content to covered, the methods that will be used, the timing of the lesson, the materials and activities that will be needed and how the lesson will be evaluated for effectiveness so that the teacher is certain that the students “got it”..
These planning phases are necessary when teaching any content but this discussion will focus on the specific considerations when teaching Chumash.
A rich curriculum in any subject includes a focus on content, skills and a hierarchy of skills. When it comes to Chumash, our goal is for students to view the text as a Divine text(תורה מן השמים) which serves as a guide to our lives. It is written in a unfamiliar language which the students needs to master and, at the same time the student needs to absorb the content, analyze it and adopt it to their lives. As the student progresses, he/she needs to become more analytic by applying more sophisticated thinking skills and also open to multiple readings and commentaries.
The planning process for teaching chumash
Annual Plan: The first phase of planning involves clarifying the content to be taught over the year, the standards of learning and the time available to teach the content. This information is provided by the instructional administrator and it is important to have complete clarity about the standards so that they can guide all of the instructional activities. The school calendar should be studied and all of the time allocated for Chumash identified. A pace for the learning should be established with the recognition that not every posuk will take the same amount of time to teach to the standard.
Unit Planning: The next step is to plan the units. Different sections of Chumash lend themselves to building different skills. Some contain important hashkafa or halach. Some units can teach language skills such as numbers. Some can be used to teach gathering information and tabulating it. At this point it is important to make sure that the standards that are being used are developmentally correct. If the students aren’t cognitively ready for certain information it will quickly become frustrating for them. An example is teaching Hebrew verb conjugations based on tense and/ or person when the student has no concept of these ideas in their mother tongue.
Daily Lesson Planning: The daily lesson plan is a careful choreography of what will actually occur in the classroom. It includes the instructional plan and the timing of execution. It contains everything that the teacher needs to prepare in advance, materials, technology, supplies, etc. It describes activities such as frontal learning, games, cooperative learning, independent learning, and how these will advance the goal of meeting standards. The lesson objective will be a clear description of what the student will be able to do if the lesson is successful. The assessment will plan how the teacher will be able to demonstrate that the lesson was successful.
Hunter’s Model for Lesson Planning:
Madeline Hunter (1916-1994) formulated some of the key components of successful lessons. Many have created lesson plan templates based on her formulation. It is a good practice to incorporate this template in the instructional section of the lesson plan.
Elements of a solid lesson plan:
- Anticipatory set: the hook and bridge of prior knowledge
- Objective and purpose: tell students where one is going
- Input: what students need to understand the lesson
- Modeling: show them what they’re learning in a concrete way
- Check for understanding: a variety of strategies to assess learning
- Guided practice: do something together with the students and check on their progress
- Independent practice: give students time to work independently
- Closure: wrap up, the lesson and reflect on learning
Hunter’s elements do not make up the whole plan since teachers need to add time management, activities, materials and differentiation for a complete plan. Good lesson plans ultimately benefit teachers by making them more prepared, creating lessons of high quality and providing clarity for all.