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SJCS Perspectives

Learning through Questioning

February 16, 2017

As the Jewish people are preparing to leave Egypt, they are given the imperative to “teach the story to their children.” But “How should they teach them?” our commentators asks. The answer? Through asking questions!

SJCS Judaic Studies teachers haMorot Shoshana, Stefanie and Mihal shared this Torah portion with a blended group of K-2 grade students. This moment in Exodus which was the inspiration for an engaging exercise combining Judaic Studies, language development, and critical thinking skills. SJCS teachers know that teaching young people to ask questions is not only a foundation of our Jewish experience, but also an educational best practice! Asking complex questions and evaluating information is one of the advanced stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classic teaching model of how to develop higher-level thinking skills. In Bloom’s pyramid the foundation is acquiring knowledge and comprehension (or understanding facts), that progresses to advanced cognition and questioning at the pinnacle. This ability to evaluate and synthesize information through questioning is considered a graduate school level skill!

With the guidance of their teachers, SJCS students brainstormed questions about being Jewish in small, mixed-age groups, writing and illustrating them together. Their questions were recorded in an application called Popplet which helps students think and learn visually. Our students poised great questions that reflect many of the core inquires that many adults share about Judaism, including “Why is the Torah so special?”, “What makes a Jew?”, and “What makes G-d, G-d?” as well as a question central to the lesson “Why does the Torah tell us to tell stories to our children?”

Last week, K–2nd graders followed this exploration with another question based activity, this time in honor of Tu B’Shevat. Students rotated through stations which had fruits with similar qualities, (i.e. foods with shells, foods with pits, and completely edible food.) This time the students answered specific questions, practicing making associations between concepts. SJCS students will continue to both answer and ask questions together as they continue their study of Torah and as they take their own individual Jewish journey of self-discovery. Learning through inquiry is another great example of the SJCS educational philosophy that “learning how to learn” is one of the greatest lessons we can teach.