I have had the pleasure of teaching Gemara in a yeshiva high school for the past ten years. Each year, I struggle to ensure that I teach my students the depth of each topic, focus on helping them develop textual skills, as well as cover ground. These are not easily achievable goals.
I find myself reflecting in the last third of each year, trying to determine if I have reached my goals.
Over time, I began to realize that while my students have hopefully developed an appreciation for Gemara B’iyun, as well as becoming more comfortable reading a piece of Gemara, with few exceptions, we have been unable to cover substantial amounts of material in a short period of time. The class learns between six to seven blatt of Gemara over the year.
Challenged by the inability to cover ground under the current framework, I thought that if my students could learn the Mishnayos of the entire Mesechta we were studying, they would gain a nice aerial view of the Tractate. With that thought, I decided to launch a three-year experiment called the Mishnayos Project, in the last third of each school year.
How was it implemented?
The students are divided into chavrusas and are instructed to learn the Mishnayos of the Mesechta (or most of them, depending on the length of the Mesechta). The students are given flexibility to direct their own learning, deciding what areas to focus on and what pace to follow. This empowered the students to take ownership of their learning. After learning through the Mesechta under my supervision, they are required to compose a song (approved by me) writing lyrics reflecting the content of the Mishnayos that they had studied. Of course, the highlight of the project is the live performance of the song or its video presentation.
The creativity, excitement and most importantly, the likelihood of retention years later (because the information is put to music), has resulted in a very successful undertaking.
Feel free to view the instructions and rubric here. All feedback and thoughts are welcomed and encouraged. Please share them in the comments section below.
Rabbi Moshe Schochet moved to Boca Raton along with his wife Michal in 2002 to join the Boca Raton Community Kollel. In 2005, Rabbi Schochet joined the Judaic faculty of the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School, where he currently teaches and serves as a school guidance counselor. In 2010, Rabbi Moshe and Michal Schochet opened the doors of Camp Chaverim in order to provide a program for boys that would give them an incredibly fun and productive summer, both physically and spiritually. You can follow Rabbi Schochet on Twitter at: @mosheschochet.