1. Should I introduce CHAI by trying a few lessons?
If you haven’t yet decided whether to adopt the curriculum, first determine the criteria for making that decision. Be cautious with a trial period; this program requires that people adjust to a new way of teaching, and a trial period is often a set up for failure because it gives people a way to resist change.
To introduce teachers to the program, consider teaching a CHAI lesson to your staff and debriefing at a faculty meeting. Try some of these discussion questions.
Adopting the whole program sends a clear message about the value of a Reform Jewish education and consistency of approach. It allows parents, teachers, students and clergy to all be on the same page. CHAI teachers can form chevrutot and prepare lessons together.
If you don’t think this approach will work in your school, try introducing CHAI with a teacher who is receptive to new ideas or in a grade where you’d like to strengthen an aspect of the curriculum.
To select one or two strands, analyze your goals and consider your options. Do you want to strengthen your g’milut chasadim program with Jewish texts? Do you want to be certain that your Torah curriculum is not repetitive? Do you want your students to talk about avodah and not merely recite t’filot? Do you want to begin the CHAI experience with a subject with which teachers are comfortable, or do you want to add a subject that has not been a strong part of your curriculum?
To include all three strands but teach fewer than nine lessons per strand, be sure to preserve enough lessons so that students can achieve the enduring understandings. Look for places in your program to incorporate lessons (mitzvah projects, services, Hebrew lessons, music).
Give students time to understand the big ideas. All of the lessons in the strand are building towards that understanding. Give yourself time as a teacher to adjust to the new way of teaching as well.
We’ve found that some basic teaching strategies can help students succeed.
Plan ahead so that class time is maximized. For example, take attendance by noting which materials were not picked up, get all supplies ready ahead of time, collect tzedakah during a free write. Consider incorporating components of the lesson into music, art or t’filah.
Watch the clock. Students can get very engaged in a set induction question, but it is not the heart of the lesson. Subtly guide your students to the next stage of the lesson.
If you have to cut activities, try the exercise below to identify the learning activities that will lead to the enduring understanding you’ve selected. When you shorten a lesson using this technique, you are still left with a lesson that is complete, that leads to the enduring understanding and that assesses student learning. Be careful not to always choose those learning activities with which you feel most comfortable as the teacher; you may miss trying something new and relating to students who would be engaged by a different kind of activity.
The short answer is, “Yes.” The CHAI workbooks are an important part of the CHAI curriculum and can serve several functions. The workbooks provide all of the required handouts for each lesson. They can also be saved for student portfolios and used as a basis for discussion in conferences. The workbook activities allow for students to process and express their learning, providing a sense of accomplishment. They also include extension activities for home. Read More
The CHAI curriculum does not teach Hebrew reading; it provides the context for Hebrew learning. CHAI allows students to experience the Hebrew content they have learned. Themes of prayers are investigated. Key Hebrew terms are introduced and reinforced in the lessons. You can keep a running list of these terms in your classroom. Parents, teachers and students can practice their pronunciation of all the Hebrew terms in CHAI using our online dictionary. For more information about Hebrew programs, click here.
Change can be difficult and anxiety-provoking. What do you think are the issues behind a given teacher’s reluctance? If it’s about having to give up a beloved project or lesson, help the teacher see how they might be integrated into CHAI. If it’s about the use of new methodologies, analyze their use and the benefits they offer. Empower the teacher to make choices and to make CHAI their own. Make sure you’re offering the training and support teachers need to make the change. Read More
Think of your CHAI lesson as a tool for you to use, not a substitute for your teaching! Look at the evidence of understanding in the lesson you are preparing and figure out how what you love to do can serve to elicit that evidence. How will your favorite activity let you know that students have understood the big ideas?
Build your lesson around a theme that is developed in CHAI. For example, a theme of Level 4 is “I am a member ofAm Yisrael.” Center your Passover lesson around the idea of freedom for the people of Israel, or for older students, the process of becoming a nation that began with the Exodus. Suggestions for how to write a CHAI-type lesson for content in a text book can be found in Extending CHAI.