Extending Chai

Before the Lesson

  1. Select a subject and decide which book or portion of a book to utilize.
  2. Carefully read the material you will be teaching. Be sure to look at a teacher’s guide if one exists for the textbook you will be using.
  3. Identify an enduring understanding. This is a major concept that you think students need in order to understand the essence of Judaism as they go forward in their lives.
  4. Identify essential questions. These questions are designed to uncover the enduring understanding and can be geared either to an overall enduring understanding for a unit or to a more specific subject.
  5. Determine the evidence of understanding for the lesson. Ask yourself the question, “How will I know that the students understood the important points of the lesson?” Evidence of understanding can usually be determined through activities such as written assessments, individual or group projects, classroom discussion, etc.
  6. Develop a series of questions to be addressed to help guide the class through the lesson. In teaching Jewish history, for example, you may want to formulate a question or two that highlights the importance of certain institutions or events, or the contribution(s) of significant Jewish historical figures from that period.

Conducting the Lesson

  1. Determine what resources you will need to conduct the lesson in a meaningful, enriching way.
  2. Plan a set induction (the introductory segment of the lesson in which ideas, concepts, or experiences alrady familiar to the students are used as a springboard to the newer learning.) that will move the students from something they know or are familiar with to the new learning.
  3. Design learning activities that will: 
    a) address the deeper issues raised by the enduring understanding and the essential questions, 
    b) engage the students, 
    c) give you a way to assess student understanding, and 
    d) address differing learning styles and needs. 
    You may want to use classroom activities suggested in the Teacher’s Guide, or you can create your own using CHAI lessons as a model.
  4. Plan a conclusion to the lesson that will pull together the important elements and cause the students to reflect on their learning. For example, you might ask the students to spend several minutes discussing why it is important to learn about the topic that was addressed in the lesson and to identify one or two new things they learned about this subject today. This step will give you further evidence of the students’ understanding and also help you check for any misunderstandings.

Teaching Tips When Using Textbooks

  • Be careful about the use of round robin reading in a classroom environment. Some students may stumble over words, which can be embarrassing to them and can decrease comprehension in the class. An alternative might be for you to read the material in a slow, smooth manner with the students reading along softly. Help the students by previewing difficult names and unusual vocabulary. You can also give them a question that will focus their attention on important information, or you can create an activity in which individual students or groups of students search the text for relevant information. 
  • Most textbook chapters contain more information than the majority of students can retain. In addition, it is difficult for students to sort the information and determine what is most important to understand and remember. Therefore, when using textbooks as the primary learning tool, it is important to emphasize the key points that you want the students to remember. It is also helpful to the retention process to reduce or eliminate non-essential information. 
  • Refer to the Eight Steps series (“Eight Steps to a Great CHAI Lesson,” “Eight Steps to a Successful CHAI Lesson in the Multi-Age Classroom,” and “Eight Techniques for Helping Students Succeed” for helpful suggestions on adapting lessons for special situations. Although the “Eight Steps” resources were developed for CHAI lessons, the same principles can be applied to any well constructed lesson. 
  • Be creative in bringing additional relevant resources into the lesson to increase the likelihood of student engagement.