While also part of learning in early childhood and day school settings, HTM has gained huge traction in part-time Jewish educational programs. Based on the number of educational programs who enrolled teachers in the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland’s online seminar (over 900), it would be easy to suggest that 9,000 – 15,000 youngsters have been jumping, running and pointing their way to Hebrew learning. [An overview video is here.]
Why play the number game? Because it’s informing to consider how many children attending our Jewish summer camps might have a Hebrew background that is different from past generations of campers. It’s an opportune time to consider introduce Hebrew Through Movement at Jewish summer camps, creating a stronger synergy between Hebrew learning in congregational and camp settings!
OVERVIEW OF THE LEARNING MODEL
Hebrew Through Movement is based on the principles of “Total Physical Response” (TPR), developed by Dr. James J. Asher decades ago. TPR is an acquisitional language learning model, meaning that it follows the learning process of babies in their native language – they first hear language and then move their bodies in response (think of a baby who lifts her hands in the air when an adult says “up” right before lifting the child up). With multiple exposure, the young child develops a more sophisticated understanding of vocabulary – “chair” refers to that big soft brown item in the living room, the harder chairs in the dining room, and the highchair in which s/he is fed.
Following the natural flow of a young child’s language learning, there are no expectations for learners to produce language in a Hebrew Through Movement lesson. Rather, the teacher offers commands and the campers react to the language. When learners hear לָקוּם lakum they stand up, and when they hear לָשֶׁבֶת lashevet they sit down. To lower the stress that often accompanies language learning, HTM learners are encouraged to watch and then mimic others, if needed. This creates a very social experience, bringing all into the fun and learning process.
There is no doubt that HTM in Jewish summer camp looks different from a congregational or day school setting. Whereas the ultimate goal of Hebrew Through Movement in most congregations is to open up the Hebrew of rituals, prayers and blessings, summer camp allows for an expanded set of vocabulary like Hebrew names of camp buildings and locations, clothing, utensils used when eating, food, and names of sports.
Hebrew Through Movement takes minimal time - lessons are only 10-15 minutes each, taught with a specific lesson structure that creates success. In part-time Jewish educational settings, HTM is scheduled each time that children are in session, once or twice a week. Camp offers the advantage of daily (or almost daily) Hebrew learning. A two week session, with 10 HTM lessons, would produce as much if not more learning than a part-time program once a week over a semester. Frequent, short learning opportunities, with little or no absences, creates a powerful language learning model.
While Jewish summer camps are ideal Hebrew Through Movement laboratories, they also offer unique implementation challenges. However, these are easily mitigated.
- HEBREW BACKGROUND OF HTM LESSON LEADERS: Ideally, a Hebrew Through Movement teacher has intermediate to advanced Hebrew language fluency. However, HTM has been successfully taught by teachers who have taken a semester of Hebrew in college or a couple of adult education language courses. So with some camp staff taking Hebrew in college and the number of Israelis on staff, camps can find multiple people with the requisite background to lead HTM sessions. A bonus is that as other staff participate in Hebrew Through Movement lessons, they learn enough Hebrew to reinforce the learning throughout the day – in the hadar ohel, on the way to sport activities, etc.
- GROUP SIZE: The best HTM learning happens with up to 15 learners because group dynamics are more manageable at this size. Hebrew Through Movement would be challenging with an entire unit of 40-60 campers, but there are ways to divide the group into manageable sections with multiple staff trained to lead lessons and creative thinking about when and where campers might enjoy HTM during the day.
- THE CAMP SCHEDULE: For Jewish educators in part-time Jewish educational settings, a camp’s 24/7 advantage is a coveted luxury. But for those who work at camp, time is considered a challenge because of tightly coordinated schedules between multiple units and hundreds of campers. Of course, Hebrew Through Movement is easy to integrate when time is already dedicated to Hebrew learning – HTM’s format fits the informal and experiential nature of learning at camp. However, for camps that don’t dedicate time to Hebrew learning specifically, there are some scheduling options to consider:
- Before or after an all-group program it may be easy enough to integrate a 10 minute HTM lesson.
- While waiting for campers in the pool to clear out for the next scheduled group, a staff member can jump (ha!) into action.
- Specialists could integrate Hebrew learning in their disciplines (e.g., teva, art), taking 10 minutes a few sessions a week to introduce vocabulary the group might use during a session.
- A cabin counselor could take time for an HTM lesson after campers have finished chores like cabin clean up or hadar ohel set up.
- STAFF TRAINING - It might be tempting to assume that formal training isn’t needed for teachers of Hebrew Through Movement, but it is. Hebrew Through Movement lessons have three distinct parts that create success for learners (teachers, too), as well as guiding principles that undergird the learning model.
- The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland has developed an online, 10 module seminar that is available 24/7. For camp staff who might wish to teach HTM during the school year at a local congregation or part-time Jewish educational program, this is a great option. Because the JECC assigns each camper a learning facilitator who offers feedback on each of the module assignments, there is a $100 tuition charge.
- The JECC is open to developing a more compact online training seminar for summer staff, but needs the commitment of a few camps to enable this to happen.
- Luckily, a number of summer faculty (Jewish education directors who serve for part of the summer at camp) have taken the JECC’s online seminar - they could teach HTM, help coordinate between HTM staff, and coach those new to this model of Hebrew learning.
Learning begins with Foundational Units that teach that basic vocabulary that get learners moving, literally. In lessons taught completely in Hebrew campers are introduced to commands: Get up, sit down, stop, run, jump, spin, point to, lift up, etc. So as to fit the short bursts of learning time (10-15 minutes) the Hebrew infinitive is used לָקוּם (lakum; stand up) rather than the command forms directed to one male קוּם (kum), one female קוּמִי (kumi), or a group קוּמוּ (kumu). There simply isn’t enough time to help novice language learners gain all the grammatical nuances.
These infinities are then combined with nouns, for example:
Stand up and jump to the flower.
לָקוּם וּלִקְפּוֹץ אֶל הַפֶּרַח
Run to the dining hall.
לָרוּץ אֶל חֲדַר הָאוֹכֶל
Point to the cereal.
לְהַצְבִּיעַ אֶל כוֹס מַיִם
Lessons begin with a review of past vocabulary. Then, the teacher models the meaning of 3 new words, bringing campers into the movements and thus, the learning. Each lesson ends with an integration of the new learning with previous knowledge.
Campers progress through at least five of the Foundational Units before branching off into thematic vocabulary. The Hebrew Through Movement curriculum guide includes Holiday Units, though other than Shabbat which teaches key vocabulary for ritual objects and blessings, these aren’t appropriate for camp. However, the original written curriculum guide also contains Prayer and Blessing Units which could be used at camp to open up the meaning of t’fillot prayed on a regular basis.
BUT camp offers an environment that almost begs for other vocabulary to be introduced after campers have learned the basic, foundational commands. Camp staff members could choose to introduce in Hebrew
- Places around camp
- Items in a cabin
- Objects used at meals (e.g, fork, plate, cup)
- Nature (e.g., tree, flower, path)
The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland is creating a camp-focused version of Hebrew Through Movement which will be ready by May 1; it will be available for free download. If you'd like to be notified when it is posted to the HebrewThroughMovement.org website, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.