Years ago, I visited a school, where on the last day of 8th grade, the students knew all the Chumash that they learned from the previous eight years. This scene is a great contrast to what happens in many schools, where students forget their learning right after the test. Aside from the shame of forgetting what they worked hard on, Torah learning builds on itself and the better one understands the first topic, the better position they will be in to master the second piece.
Borrowing an idea from Rabbi Stein (RMS Rebbe, 7th grade), this year we have a goal that by the end of the year, the boys should be able to read and translate every piece of Gemara that they did this year.
How can we accomplish this?
- 11 times club. (Idea borrowed from Rabbi Berger RMS Rebbe, 6th grade, and Rabbi Weiner, RMS Assistant Principal.) Upon the conclusion of each section, the boys review the Gemara 11 times, starting with a full class review, followed with a series of structured cooperative learning activities. When they complete this review, every student knows the Gemara without additional support.
2. Running Start: (Idea adapted from Rabbi Kaganoff 6th grade) To ensure that the boys don’t forget what they have learned, we constantly review old material. The first 3-7 minutes of each class is spent with every boy reading and translating the Gemara. Since the boys are incredibly fluent in all material learned, they can cover huge chunks in little time. By alternating start locations, we are often able to review the full year of Gemara over the week.
3. Constant review of what is being learned currently. Each day (after running start) we review the current Gemara from the beginning of the topic. After learning new material, the boys review it in various ways around 10 times.
By combining many of the amazing ideas from my Chaverim in RMS, the boys are well on the way to the great goal they set out to accomplish. But we also have found many other benefits;
a. Reading – the boys have opportunities to gain familiarity with Gemara.
b. Translating – since all Hebrew learning is repetitive they are aware of translations of new material without thinking.
c. Geshmak – it’s motivating to the boys to continue learning when they know it’s something that will remain with them.
The first step of students knowing everything they learned in Elementary and Middle School upon graduation is knowing it now. Only then can it continue to be reviewed, reviewed and reviewed.
May all the Torah learning of our students remain with them and impact them in so many ways forever.