What does it feel like to teach in the first year of an educationally progressive Yeshiva Middle School that is trying to change the face of Jewish Education? What is different about teaching in a multiage, competency-based, personalized classroom rather than a traditional single age, grade-based classroom? What impact does being the first yeshiva day school to partner with the Silicon Valley based AltSchool make on the day to day teaching and learning?
These are the questions so many people have been throwing our way for the last several months. So, rather than manufacture our own pat responses, we decided to devote an entire evening PD session to asking our teachers exactly that.
Here’s what they said…
Morah Rachel Obstfeld- Tanach Specialist
Last year I was able to differentiate learning based on a group. This year I can differentiate based on the individual. The platform allows me to do this by creating a space that I can easily and quickly create and assign curricula with individual differences and goals to specific students. For example, while I may have a small group of students learning together, their follow up practice work may look different in order to maximize and help each students specific needs.
Rabbi Josh Friedman- TOSHBA Specialist
Last year I rarely met with my students one on one, this year I regularly meet with my students one on one. The platform helps facilitate this by giving us a flexible schedule that allows us to give our students independent work time, and frees up the teachers to meet with students individually. An example of this is when I met with Miriam, Yanna and Eva each individually today to work on their Mishna reading and translating skills.
Last year my students learned in a class size of about 10 students and did not meet with the teacher to really grow their skills, but this year my students meet with their teacher a few times per week to help them grow in their skills. The platform helps facilitate this by allowing them time to work independently and then meet with their teacher while others are working on the platform during their independent work time. An example of this is when a student came to me today letting me know that she was ready to read and translate the Mishna for me, and was able to get immediate feedback on her skills.
Mrs. Bobbi Portnoy- STEAM Specialist
Last year my students strived for grades, this year my students strive for understanding. For example, in Project Block students are trying to learn about energy and acceleration in order to apply it towards their final prototype. The platform facilitates this by giving them cards to structure their learning.
Last year my students had to learn what was next in the curriculum, this year my students learn what they are ready to learn. For example, based on small group instruction and data collection, I, as any teacher, am able to know what students need next. The platform facilitates this by allowing me to assign differentiated assignments.
Ms. Liz Wortman- Humanities Specialist
Last year my classroom was driven by learning for the next test or quiz. This year, my students are assessed through formative and summative assessments throughout the course of a unit. For example, I was able to track the writing process by assessing each piece of revision as the students took information learned in a mini-lesson and then used that information to improve their writing. This process allowed students to see the growth in their writing, as opposed to turning in a final copy and having that be their final grade. The Altschool platform facilitates this by allowing me to assess the students on individual skills that are explained in the milestones that I can attach to each card. By the end of the unit I was able to see individual areas in which students grew and where they still needed more practice.
Ms. Heather Ellis- Inclusion Specialist
Last year I had to keep a paper version of a portfolio of my student’s work. The goal of the portfolio was to make their learning visible. The platform has helped create a concept of a portfolio. The platform allows me and the students to readily access all their work to make their learning visible. In addition to their work the platform keeps all the feedback, which greatly adds to the visibility of their learning. For example, recently a student and I looked at how their writing about reading has progressed from just our ideas to ideas supported with literary evidence.
Dr. Yechiel Schur- Ivrit Specialist
Last year I was teaching in a big classroom with students on many different levels. This year I am able to conduct mini-lessons in small and relatively homogenous groups. The platform helps facilitate this by allowing to assess the students constantly and also by having much greater flexibility in terms of the content. When my students are doing an activity outside of the classroom, they ordinarily work on a card that relates to that activity so that learning is constantly done outside of the classroom through real life situations.
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