Get ready for the upcoming holiday, while helping your students wrap up their school year meaningfully.
Shavuot, often aligned with the ending of the school year, poses a unique opportunity for Jewish Studies teachers to frame their end-of-year reflections and review through a ‘Shavuot lens’. Integrating students’ reflection back on their year of learning and growth with the study of Shavuot will give added meaning to the students’ thinking, while also bringing some themes of the Jewish holiday into the daily experienced lives of your students. Here are some broad-strokes-ideas for how to bring this to your classroom:
- Explore with students the idea that matan torah was both the end of one journey (exodus and freedom) and the beginning of another (generations of engaged Torah study and interpretation). Your students are part of that journey. Have them think about their year’s learning as a continuation of the intellectual and spiritual journey which began at Har Sinai. All the Torah they have studied is built upon past generations, as they contribute to generating new Torah for future generations.
- Every year Shavuot is different and new, because every year more Torah learning, new ideas, questions and interpretations have been added to the corpus of Torah. Your students’ ideas, questions and interpretations have made Torah new, expanded and richer this year. Have them think about their favorite questions, connections, challenges, interpretations that they had when studying Torah. What have they learned from their classmates and what have they taught their classmates? What ‘new’ Torah do they want to teach their families on Shavuot?
- The study of Torah is not merely an intellectual exercise. Bnai Yisrael had to prepare for matan torah physically and spiritually as well. Accepting the Torah had huge implications for Bnai Yisrael’s identity, behavior, relationship with God and more. Have students think about their spiritual and physical growth over the past year; their accomplishments and development this year. In what ways are they ‘more prepared’ to re-receive the Torah this Shavuot? What new experiences, honed skills (on the soccer field, during humash class or in the art room), or personal triumphs have they grown from this past school year which from which they can draw upon when celebrating the gift of Torah this Shavuot? How will the Torah they studied this year continue to impact them over the summer and onwards?
- Have students think about their moments of joy when learning Torah. What most excites or motivates them? What gets their creative juices flowing? Perhaps they like reading stories of biblical characters, picking their way through a hard sugya, asking questions on a pasuk and finding as many answers as they can dig up. Do they feel and think differently when reading texts in Hebrew versus translation? Have students consider if they learn best with friends, the guidance of a teacher or by themselves. Help your students think about ways that they can bring this kind of learning/studying/teaching to their torah lishma studying on Shavuot (and also have your students reflect on what they have discovered about themselves as learners more generally).
All of these suggestions are meant to be springboards from which class discussions, activities, assignments and materials can be developed. If any of these ideas inspired you, or you found your own way to integrate year-end reflections with Shavuot, please share your ideas with us! You might also get your educator juices flowing in the lead-up to the holiday by reading the Pardes Companion to Shavuot.