The central idea of this teacher’s guide is that holidays are a lot more than names and descriptions. Holidays need to become memories. The right way to make that happen in a classroom is to balance the information with experiences. The Classroom Guide to the Jewish Holidays is a collection of experiences and resources. It is about what you do after you teach that seder means “order”. It is crafts projects and activities, recipes and songs. It is things to do at school and things for parents to do at home.
The way to use this guide is simple. First (using backward planning) decide what you are trying to accomplish in your lessons on a holiday. The teacher’s guide begins with Central Idea(s); these are the focus of the teaching you are going to do. Underneath these are “enabling ideas.” These are the insights that one needs to collect in order to add up to our central idea. It is always easier to hit a target once it is painted. Your job is to collect the enabling ideas you are committed to teaching.
You next step is to shape your tools in order to hit these enabling understandings. Go ahead and check them off in this teacher’s guide. You then need to look at your textbook and decide how it can be used to actualize the enabling ideas that are now your goals. Pick the pages you want to read in class. Pick the activities that the book offers and decide which of them meets your goals. Remember, you are responsible for the way you use the book; the book does not run your class.
Then begin flipping through the pages of this teacher’s guide. Pick activities that satisfy two conditions: (1) They have to help you hit your target; (2) they have to be events that you want to stage (and feel comfortable staging) in your classroom. Then you need to put all of this together. Write your enabling ideas at the top of a page. List pieces of your book and activities under each idea that they help you to convey. Then divide up these ideas and activities into the time you have available for this holiday.
You should make this chart before you begin teaching anything about the holiday. It is your road map—your plan. I promise you that it will change. You will want to shift it to respond to student questions and activities that beg for extension. That is okay. You are the teacher. You are allowed to make changes. But then you should get back to your plan. The commitment is to actualize as experiences all of the enabling ideas you want to cover. There will always be stuff left over. You will need to leave the things you don’t get to. Better that you plan and choose the events that will happen in your room.