Shalom Magazine Passover 2015

Page 14

The Four Sons: An individualized learning approach Sandra Lilienthal, Ed.D. The Seder is the most observed ritual of our generation, practiced in Jewish communities all around the world. According to the Pew Research Survey of Jewish Americans of 2013, over 70 percent of Jewish people get together with family and/or friends for some type of Seder, whether they follow the entire traditional ritual or not. Each element of the night is part of a whole, which often leads to many questions. On the Seder night, nothing is as on other nights! While the traditional ritual has the youngest participant asking the Four Questions, the Seder experience generally leads to many more - Why do we break the middle matzah? Why do we eat charoset? Why do we recline? Why do we dip in salt water? Why do we hide the afikoman? And these are just a few of the questions which allow the leader to tell the story of our Redemption from Egypt. The entire Seder is a brilliant pedagogical device to teach about the past of the Children of Israel and also, to transmit important values for the present and future. What is fascinating to me is that close to two thousand years ago, there was such a clear understanding about effective teaching. If we want students to develop a love of learning, we must engage them. We must listen to their questions and we must address their curiosity. So how do we do this? And here comes the most amazing aspect - the Rabbis were the first to understand the concept of “Differentiated Instruction.” While educators all around the world today promote teaching various students with different materials and methods, taking into consideration different learning styles, the Rabbis

envisioned correspondingly separate answers to be given to different kinds of students. Looking at the Four Sons of the Haggadah (or “Four Children” in some more modern haggadot), we see four kinds of students: the “wise,” the “wicked,” the “simple,” and the “one who does not know how to ask.” While the Seder ritual will encourage every child to ask questions, we are instructed wikipedia to answer the questions in ways that each child can understand and relate to, using language they can comprehend, and understanding where they are coming from. It is only when we understand the needs of each of these children that we can offer effective answers, which will engage them in conversation and inspire them to want to learn more. As an educator, I frequently encounter these four children. During the years, I have learned through experience the best ways of reaching each child, wherever he/she is. The “wise” son represents the child who is eager to learn. He has already understood the basics of the story and the rituals, but wants to engage in deeper conversations. He is not necessarily the most intelligent - what makes him “wise” is the fact that he wants to learn more. For this child, we must offer opportunities to expand on his/her learning. We must ask them challenging questions, offer them websites and printed resources where they can find more information, give them extra work, if they are up to it, and promote their critical thinking skills. The “wicked” son is the one who thinks he knows it all and has nothing to learn. He asks a question while not really searching for an

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Spring 2015

3/21/14 12:59 PM