Chaya Kasse Valier
Chaya Kasse Valier

Israeli Teachers Spice Up Never-Ending Zoom School

Maybe your kids have gone back to school. Or maybe not because…  

  • They are not in a low-infection-rate (green/yellow) area.
  • They’re in 7th-10th grades.
  • They’re in bidud (quarantine) because someone in their capsula tested positive, or they were near someone who tested positive and they got the government’s epidemiology SMS.
  • They tested positive themselves (may they be like almost 100% of kids who get mild or zero symptoms – amen!). 

Whatever the reason, at least this week, your kid is still in Zoom school. So now what? How do teachers keep them engaged with a screen between them and no other students by their side?

I work from home, so as a mother, one aspect that’s been positive about Corona times is being able to spy – err, listen in – on my kids’ teachers during Zoom classes. And what’s even more positive is seeing how teachers engage kids with the lesson and each other. To see how they make it work well.

Here are a few ways that teachers made students feel enlivened. Of note, three of the teachers are fellow immigrants.

Elementary English
Teacher: Ruth Hyman
Chen Neria Elementary, Alon Shvut

One effective way to get students using a foreign language vocabulary online is to play “Spot It!” with 4th and 6th graders – a game where you assess what changed from one moment to the next. One child turns off their camera for a count of five.  When they turn it back on, the rest of the class has to guess what’s different – e.g., they put on a jacket, switched their Zoom background, added a toy to their desk, etc. First person to guess gets points – only, of course, if they say it in English. 

Elementary and High School Science
Jessica Krief, Evelina High School, Jerusalem
Shiffy Coates, Bnot Yerushalayim Elementary, Jerusalem

Want to get kids tangibly involved by using items from the confines of their house or street? Send them to construct diagrams about what they’re learning, and they’ll go all-out creative. For example, 9th graders in Jessica Krief’s class made models of molecules and DNA strands with cucumbers, tomatoes and olives (hello Israeli salad!), and even apple slices, not to mention magnets and fanned paper. Third graders in Shiffy Coates’ class discussed photosynthesis by dissecting a flower they picked nearby, and then drew the flower on a paper, labeling each section (petal, stem, piston, etc.).

The creativity was one thing – but that could be done in person as well. The kicker was the proud smile on their faces when they held up their creations in front of the camera to share with everyone on the Zoom. A Corona moment.

High School Modern Dance
Teacher: Elisheva Razvag, Dance Department Head, Shirat HaYam, Neve Tzuf

In Israel, high schoolers choose a “megama” (a major) as a focus for their studies, and dance is one option in some schools. Can you imagine trying to hold a weekly dance class for 25 high school girls on Zoom, when you’re used to being all together in a professional studio 20 hours a week? Here’s one way these dance students felt creatively connected:

The teacher sent the girls a one-minute song in Aramaic, which is close enough to Hebrew for them to guess what the meaning was, yet not be certain. She asked them to choreograph an interpretive dance based on what they thought the lyrics meant. Afterwards, the girls took turns performing their dances on the Zoom. 

Then came the twist: the teacher gave them the same song in Hebrew so they could be certain of its meaning. They then separated into Zoom breakout rooms, where each girl chose one line of the Hebrew version to dance interpretively, and the other girls in the breakout room had to guess which line she was dancing. This process facilitated a literal dance of intrigue, invoking such a depth of mind, body and spirit that the Zoom aspect became near inconsequential.

In Thanks
During Corona distance learning, I’ve appreciated teachers even more than usual, especially when they – highly commendably – make the non-ideal Zoom learning a pleasure for the kids. Kol hacavod (great job – or as my husband says – kol haCovid!) – for providing our children the chance to exercise their creativity and feel more in tune with their classmates when not together in their classroom. From what I hear from many teachers, it’s as hard for them as it is for the kids, and maybe, dare I say, even harder.

About the Author
Chaya Kasse Valier lives in the most Jewishly-eclectic place on earth - Nachlaot, Jerusalem - with her husband and their blessed four daughters and a son. She works primarily as a copywriter as well as a masseuse and doula. Connect with Chaya on LinkedIn.
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