The research shows
that in order to have a successful Hebrew decoding program students need:
1. A strong
aural basis for the language. They need to have heard Hebrew often, regularly, and in multiple contexts.
2. An ability to recognize details and discriminate between letters. Most Hebrew letters look similar, when rotated they are almost identical (think about English b,d,p,q), and they make similar sounds or the same sounds. Teaching Hebrew too early makes it a real struggle.
3. A strong motivation for learning. Research shows that children are most motivated to learn within two years of their B'nai Mitzvah. Though there may be initial motivation in the younger grades, that tapers off, creating disengagement and dissatisfaction.
For these reasons, the JQuest B'Yachad Hebrew program has the following components:
1. Aural language learning: Every grade, every time they are at JQuest B'Yachad participates in T'fillot (prayer services), have modern Hebrew instruction (Ivrit), and sing songs with Hebrew in Shira (Music). This year our classroom teachers will be using more Hebrew words throughout the day so that when students begin to decode (put sounds to Hebrew letters) they will be able to hear Hebrew in their head. The "pre-mapping" for decoding Hebrew has been laid out, making it a more successful, enduring endeavor.
2. We begin decoding in 4th grade, the same time that B'nai Mitzvah dates are assigned. We then provide on-line tools for at home study, clear parent communication, and regular expectations. We will be asking our older students to help lead T'fillot so that they are not only excited to learn to recite Hebrew prayers, they are also motivated to learn both in and out of JQuest B'Yachad.
3. When we teach decoding we do so in small groups (Hebrew 1:1) so that students' own abilities to progress are not judged against their peers. Students are able to progress at their own pace and no student gets lost in the shuffle of a larger classroom size.