Hebrew exposure and direct teaching at IRDS is derived from two overarching understandings:
1) The Hebrew language connects the Jewish people to the holy ancient text of the Torah, our mutual heritage, and traditions which are filled with blessings/prayers from the siddur.
2) The Hebrew language connects the Jewish people to a vibrant Israeli culture used in the modern state of Israel.
The familiarity, usage and appreciation of the Hebrew language bonds the Jewish community around the world from past to present and future.
Taking into consideration that Hebrew for the majority students at IRDS is a foreign language with minimal exposure to it outside of teaching hours at school, our educational goals are as follows:
- Teaching key Hebrew words and expressions from Torah stories and midrashim.
- Teaching the main ideas of Hebrew prayers, songs and blessings, while making sure students can chant/sing them accurately, and at the appropriate time of the Jewish calendar.
- Exposing students to classic and modern Israeli songs through music and dance sessions.
- Using authentic materials (texts, stories and video clips) from current Israeli culture, in order to encourage students to use every day Hebrew language.
Hebrew learning through prayer, Torah, music and dance are all done during Judaic lessons by the Judaic teachers, Judaic music specialist and Israeli dance instructor. Modern Hebrew language is taught during separate Hebrew lessons, and split between grade level teaching, and Hebrew native speakers’ groups. We also operate a Hebrew reading/writing remedial program “Machon Otiyot” as needed, after evaluating students’ proficiency levels at the beginning of each year.
Our philosophy regarding foreign language acquisition is growing motivation and appreciation for the language regardless of your personal aptitude level. Our goal is to graduate students who are able to navigate through a siddur on any given Jewish event. Students who can confidently read Torah at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Students who can cope with modern Hebrew vocabulary in various everyday interactions, and most importantly, are intrinsically driven to having Hebrew be a part of their future in one way or another.
The Hebrew curriculum is created based on Hebrew at the Center and ACTFL language standards and benchmarks, which are both the current leaders in foreign language acquisition methods and research. The teaching is designed according to the Proficiency Approach, which means that language skills are developed according to teachers’ assessments of students’ proficiency levels: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. Israeli children’s literature is the foundation for units of study in K, Tal-Am is used in 1st and 2nd, Chaverim Be’Ivrit is the base for teaching Hebrew in 3rd-5th, and native groups learn Hebrew with textbooks we bring from Israel each summer. The textbooks provide ideas for vocabulary, grammar structures and thematic content that should be learned, however, the actual units of study are developed at school to insure that they include authentic and relevant materials, which will promote meaningful and functional communication.