Hebrew through Movement

“Likpotz el ha-kiseh!” לקפוץ אֶל  הכיסא                          

The children jump toward chairs located at various places in the “classroom,” the Bet Shalom parking lot where Religious School class is being held this week.  

“Achshav, l’histovev!”       עַכשָׁיו   לְהִסְתוֹבֵב

Now, the children spin! 

For each phrase, Orly Vardeny Ni models the action and encourages the children to mimic the action she performed. 

Hebrew through Motion - chairsThis is Hebrew Through Movement (HTM), a strategy for teaching Hebrew that engages students in a fun, playful way using conversational phrases for moving. At Bet Shalom kids learn HTM from kindergarten through 5th grade. HTM complements other Hebrew education and is separate from teaching reading or writing skills as it relies on listening and moving. Originally developed at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies, HTM leverages ways that children learn naturally: by “doing” in a positive, supportive environment at their own pace. In the first few weeks the focus is on simple actions – sit, stand, jump, walk, run. Each week a new action or verb is introduced, along with a few vocabulary words that go along with the action: “Chair, table, floor, window….” The program builds such that previous weeks’ phrases are used again with new words to promote learning through repetition. The key is keeping it light and low stress. Silliness is encouraged! Students may find themselves sitting under their chairs or putting their foot on the window or their head on a table. 

hebrew through motion hands upThe 2020-2021 school year was Orly’s second year teaching HTM, and it was much different from the first year when she could go to each classroom in person and tailor lessons to different grade levels. This year all the kids were together on Zoom for HTM, which was challenging but also offered new opportunities. Their home surroundings were brought into the lessons, and children could choose objects to share during class such as markers, books and even the color of their socks!

Hebrew through motion feet on tablesOrly is a sabra, a Jew born in Israel. She moved to the US with her parents and younger brothers when she was 12 years old, first to Rhode Island and then Utah. She has been living in Minnesota with her husband (Oliver Ni, whom she met in Utah) and three kids (Olin, 12, Olive, 11, and Opal, almost 10) for just under 4 years, having moved from Madison, Wisconsin. Orly is a clinical pharmacist and researcher focused on heart disease working at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Her children were a major driver of her decision to teach HTM. When asked to consider teaching at Bet Shalom, she consulted her kids to get their thoughts, and it was their enthusiasm that sealed the deal. The most rewarding aspect of teaching HTM at Bet Shalom is connecting with the kids. “Watching their confidence grow each week as they realize how much they’ve learned and retained, while having fun, is so exciting. They keep me on my toes because they’ve been mastering Hebrew so quickly!” exclaims Orly.

You can contact Orly through tapestry@betshalom.org.