Should I introduce CHAI by trying a few lessons?
If you haven’t yet decided whether or not to adopt the curriculum, first determine the criteria for making that decision. Be cautious with a trial period; this program requires that people adjust to a new way of teaching, and a trial period is often a set up for failure because it gives people a way to resist change.
To introduce teachers to the program, consider teaching a CHAI lesson to your staff and debriefing at a faculty meeting. Try the discussion questions that Debby Jacoby-pessar used with her teachers.
- What do you love about the CHAI curriculum?
- What has been your favorite lesson so far? Why?
- How do you know if/when you've succeeded in teaching the Big Ideas of the lesson (i.e. comments that students make while learning that lesson, comments they make at a later date, comments you overhear between students, behaviors that students engage in, etc.)?
- If you could follow your students up a grade, what would you hope they would remember and bring into their classroom conversations?
- What do you find frustrating about the CHAI curriculum?
- Which lesson did not work? Why?
- How would you explain the CHAI curriculum to someone who has never seen or taught it?
Should I introduce the full curriculum all at once, or one grade at a time?
Adopting the whole program sends a clear message about the value of a Reform Jewish education and consistency of approach. It allows parents, teachers, students and clergy to all be on the same page. CHAI teachers can form chevrutot and prepare lessons together.
If you don’t think this approach will work in your school, try introducing CHAI with a teacher who is receptive to new ideas or in a grade where you’d like to strengthen an aspect of the curriculum.
We love CHAI, but we can’t do it all. How do we choose what to leave out?
To select one or two strands, analyze your goals and consider your options. Do you want to strengthen your g’milut chasadim program with Jewish texts? Do you want to be certain that your Torah curriculum is not repetitive? Do you want your students to talk about avodah and not merely recite t’filot? Do you want to begin the CHAI experience with a subject with which teachers are comfortable, or do you want to add a subject that has not been a strong part of your curriculum?
To include all three strands but teach fewer than nine lessons per strand, be sure to preserve enough lessons so that students can achieve the enduring understandings. Look for places in your program to incorporate lessons (mitzvah projects, services, Hebrew lessons, music).
I don’t think my students are getting it. What do I do?
Give students time to understand the big ideas. All of the lessons in the strand are building towards that understanding. Give yourself time as a teacher to adjust to the new way of teaching as well.
We’ve found that some basic teaching strategies can help students succeed.
- Review complicated words and unfamiliar names before reading together, independently or in small groups. Most of these are in the “lesson vocabulary” section.
- Write common words on the board that students may need to compose short answers in their workbooks. If it’s too difficult for students to work independently, try composing a response as a class using the students’ words (“experience story” style).
- Spend some time teaching students to work in small groups. Set guidelines for everyone’s participation and different roles (facilitator, note taker, etc.).
- Give students a chance. Don’t jump in to help students with an answer to a question or group work if they aren’t coming up with something right away. Give them some time to think about the ideas.
How can I teach a CHAI lesson in the 45 minutes I have?
Plan ahead so that class time is maximized. For example, take attendance by noting which materials were not picked up, get all supplies ready ahead of time, collect tzedakah during a free write. Consider incorporating components of the lesson into music, art or t’filah.
Watch the clock. Students can get very engaged in a set induction question, but it is not the heart of the lesson. Subtly guide your students to the next stage of the lesson.
If you have to cut activities, try the exercise below to identify the learning activities that will lead to the enduring understanding you’ve selected. When you shorten a lesson using this technique, you are still left with a lesson that is complete, that leads to the enduring understanding and that assesses student learning. Be careful not to always choose those learning activities with which you feel most comfortable as the teacher; you may miss trying something new and relating to students who would be engaged by a different kind of activity.
- Go to the Evidence of Understanding. Select one and highlight it.
- Move up to the Question(s) to be Addressed. Highlight the question(s) which directly relate(s) to your selected evidence of understanding.
- Move up to the Essential Question(s). Highlight the one(s) that directly relate(s) to the questions to be addressed which you highlighted.
- Move up to the Enduring Understanding(s). Highlight the one(s) that is “uncovered” by the essential questions which you highlighted.
- Go forward to the Lesson Plan: Set Induction. Highlight the component of the set induction that relates to the enduring understanding which you highlighted.
- Go forward to the Lesson Plan: Learning Activity(ies). Highlight the learning activity(ies) that lead(s) to the evidence of understanding which you highlighted.
- Go forward to the Conclusion. Highlight the aspect of the conclusion that relates to the evidence of understanding which you highlighted.
- Repeat steps 1-7, choosing a different evidence of understanding and highlighting in a different color.
- To shorten the lesson, select from among the various threads your single lesson contains.
Do I need the workbooks?
The short answer is, “Yes.” The CHAI workbooks are an important part of the CHAI curriculum and can serve several functions. The workbooks provide all of the required handouts for each lesson. They can also be saved for student portfolios and used as a basis for discussion in conferences. The workbook activities allow for students to process and express their learning, providing a sense of accomplishment. They also include extension activities for home. Read More
Does CHAI have a Hebrew component? How does it teach Hebrew or reinforce what we’re teaching in our Hebrew program?
The CHAI curriculum does not teach Hebrew reading; it provides the context for Hebrew learning. CHAI allows students to experience the Hebrew content they have learned. Themes of prayers are investigated. Key Hebrew terms are introduced and reinforced in the lessons. You can keep a running list of these terms in your classroom. Parents, teachers and students can practice their pronunciation of all the Hebrew terms in CHAI using our online dictionary. The URJ also offers a self-guided Hebrew program, Mitkadem, for use in Reform religious schools.
Some teachers are resistant to change and negative about the CHAI curriculum. How can I bring them on board?
Change can be difficult and anxiety-provoking. What do you think are the issues behind a given teacher’s reluctance? If it’s about having to give up a beloved project or lesson, help the teacher see how they might be integrated into CHAI. If it’s about the use of new methodologies, analyze their use and the benefits they offer. Empower the teacher to make choices and to make CHAI their own. Encourage the teacher to subscribe to CHAIhelp list serve – a conversation for teachers using CHAI. Make sure you’re offering the training and support teachers need to make the change. Read More
How can I incorporate more art (or stories or whatever) into my lessons?
Think of your CHAI lesson as a tool for you to use, not a substitute for your teaching! Look at the evidence of understanding in the lesson you are preparing and figure out how what you love to do can serve to elicit that evidence. How will your favorite activity let you know that students have understood the big ideas?
How can I teach topics not covered in CHAI, but in a “CHAI way?”
Build your lesson around a theme that is developed in CHAI. For example, a theme of Level 4 is “I am a member of Am Yisrael.” Center your Passover lesson around the idea of freedom for the people of Israel, or for older students, the process of becoming a nation that began with the Exodus. Suggestions for how to write a CHAI-type lesson for content in a text book can be found in Extending CHAI.