Tuesday, September 20, 2011

finders keepers? (Parashah Teitzei and Preschool Ramblings)

Pertaining to: Parashah Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

This was our first week "back to school" with my daughter's Torah school, so this post will be a lot more about my preparations for doing this with her again and less about Parashah Teitzei specifically. In addition, I am learning to do school with her while being (uncomfortably) seven months pregnant and as scatter-brained as ever, so bear with me here! :)

Since she is now almost three, I wanted to make a more structured (and more like "preschool") curriculum for my daughter's Torah year. So I have broken it down into five categories of learning (and sometimes additional ones) in my lesson plans (which are finally beginning to be organized and in a filing crate!) 

As they do in preschool, we have a different "theme" each week, which I attempt to tie into as many lessons as possible. Sometimes that is difficult, though. For instance, this week's theme was "school" because my daughter has never been to school and she needs to know what it is. So we started our "Theme/Reading" category off with talking about what a school is, school rules (listening to the teacher, raising your hand, etc.), and that we were going to start having "school" a few times a week at home. We sit "crisscross applesauce" on the rug during "circle time" in the morning. We start by playing the "Modeh Ani" prayer that is sung on the Oy Baby 2 CD, which I love. I have added a few hand motions to get her attention. We greet each, say a prayer, and I introduce the weekly theme. I try to read a book that has something to do with either the theme or the parashah. This week we read "Llama llama Misses Mama" and I explained that some kids go to school away from home (like the llama). 

On one morning a week (it's Wednesday before storytime at the library for us), either I or my husband introduce a Hebrew letter and learn a few words that begin with that letter. We are also teaching her the alef-bet song by Debbie Friedman which you can hear on YouTube: click here (this video shows the letters as they're being sung). 

As part of the "General" learning category, that's where I put the alphabet, numbers, shapes, etc. Each week is a different letter, from A-Z, and a number, from 1-20. For letter "A" we made an apple tree picture and "ants" using finger prints in paint. I always write the letter on the chalkboard and try to encourage her to trace it as well. I have an alphabet worksheet (from the $ section at Target) that I sometimes give her the worksheets from (but not for every letter, because she would get tired of that!) I also try to find songs pertaining to the theme or the letter. This week we did "The Ants Go Marching," which was also good for getting her moving after circle time because we marched around the rug while it played. 

For "Arts/Crafts" time, we started putting the numbers on our school calendar for the month of September. Using sticky tack, she gets to put up the number for each school day on the calendar (the other dates are already up) and also gets to put up the weather description for the day. She enjoys running to the window to check the weather!  (I purchased the calendar, numbers, and the weather chart at Target for $1 each as well, but you can certainly make your own on poster board or have older children make it.) 

For teaching on "Character/Torah," we usually watch the "G-dcast" videos on YouTube (they're pretty good, but preview them before you share them with your children.) This parashah is found here. For clarity, we focused on the portion of Ki Teitzei that talks about what to do when you find something that doesn't belong to you (Deut. 22:1-2). I also give her a taste of honey (or chocolate, which she likes better) and tell her that the Torah is even sweeter than honey before reciting Psalm 119:103: "How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth" and then reading a Torah verse that is contained within the parashah. This week, we read Isaiah 54:10: "For the mountains may move and the hills may shake, but G-d's love will never leave you and His covenant of peace will never be shaken,"  making it as understandable as possible and adding hand motions when I can. (This verse turned out to be very appropriate, because we experienced our first little earthquake here in Brooklyn!) 

In explaining the above mentioned portion of Ki Teitzei, I tied it into our "Sensory/Motor Skills" category by using the sensory tub (which I mentioned in Part II of this post) filled with rice. I buried small items in the rice, some belonging to my daughter and some belonging to other members of the family. When she found something that wasn't hers, I told her that the Torah says that we should return it to its owner, which she did. It was a great visual way to explain this to her. 

With the addition of a few worksheets pertaining to the school theme (printed from www.education.com) and a counting worksheet, this was our first week of preschool!

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