We are now about halfway through our school year, and I want to share some of the developments in Hebrew and Prayer that we have been exploring this year in our classes. We have moved away from Hebrew through Prayer, a concept that has been in use in religious schools for many years, in favor of teaching Hebrew and Prayer as separate entities.
Our students in Pre-K through grade two learn Modern Hebrew through immersion. In addition, they are developing rote prayer skills, learning such prayers as Modeh Ani, Shema, Oseh Shalom, and others by heart. Kindergartners learn letters and key vocabulary, including synagogue vocabulary, and first graders work on pre-reading skills such as simple letter and vowel combinations. Second graders move full-force into a reading primer that introduces Modern Hebrew vocabulary alongside some prayer words.
Beginning in third grade, students are learning to read Hebrew through Modern Hebrew textbooks. Students meet twice per week, for a half hour at a time, in the same leveled reading group. Rather than decoding unfamiliar sounds, they are learning vocabulary and concepts through stories and dialogue. Their reading skills are honed through this experience.
Students begin learning prayer a bit more in depth in second grade, and by third grade are ready to start delving into deeper concepts. We discuss God, why we pray, how we pray, and we practice prayer together as a school and separately in our classrooms. Each grade, through the course of the school year, will tackle the deeper meanings of five to six prayers, while learning to read those prayers as well. We are aiming for depth, not breadth, each year, and we aim to engage students with the art of prayer, not just the words. And our third graders, of course, will receive their first prayerbooks at the end of the school year.