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Value Added

Chevruta vs. Class Discussion:   Determining the “Value Added”

Scenario: We send students into chevruta with worksheets to fill in and questions to answer.  Then we bring them back together, and we proceed to review as a class, all the questions they just answered with their chevruta.  They get bored, act out, drift off and we lose our class. And why shouldn’t they be bored? They just did the exact same thing with their chevruta. They may also begin to think, “you don’t need to work hard at this since we’ll go over it all together anyway.”

It should not be automatic that every single component of chevruta work gets discussed as a whole class.  All questions and ideas are not equal and do not necessarily require or support lengthy discussion. It is often not necessary to go back and read the entire section of text together as a class. 

An important question that we need to ask ourselves when preparing the review/discussion component of our lesson:

What is the “value added” to discussing this question/idea as a group?

After you prepare your worksheet or chevruta guide, go through and anticipate which pieces will be for class discussion.  Remember you may need to be flexible; sometimes students struggle with pieces that we didn’t anticipate, and vice versa.

I. What types of questions or materials do need review?

1. Material that is extremely challenging and it is likely that most students will struggle with.  For example; a Rashi that you know is going to cause trouble!

2. Questions that have multiple answers, and will therefore enhance the students’ understanding of the text. 

3. Questions that will lead to depth in the discussion of the text.

4. Questions that help students connect the material to their own lives.

**Think about ways of reviewing the same material but from a different perspective than they worked on in chevruta.  Ex: Ask the question in a different way.  Have the students lead the conversation.**

II. How do I review the material that won’t enhance or be enhanced by classroom discussion?

1. Use your time wisely while the students are in chevruta.  As you move around the room, take a look at the answers they are writing to the pshat questions.  Or listen to their conversations. You can confirm that each chevruta has gotten a primary concept, by just moving around the room and checking in. 

2. Give instructions for a chevruta to check or discuss a question with another chevruta (once they have completed the work).  If their answers differ, they can check/ re-visit the question as a group and try and uncover where one group went wrong.  I wouldn’t do this for many questions, but for one or two, it is a fun activity.

3. Before you go back to class discussion, ask a group that you know ‘got it’ to review the pshat or a particular question with the class.

III. How do I review the text without having every word re-read aloud by the group?

1. Review the structure of a section of text, asking the students to paraphrase each section. Remember if you do this, to make sure the students are doing something (writing, note taking, filling in a chart), while you review.

2. Do a quick read through of the text, yourself, while students follow along, either with your own translation or give the students the opportunity to translate.

3. Set up your worksheets in a way that check for understanding as the students are reading. Have them pause after a section and answer a question or two, or check in with you.  If they have trouble answering the question, they will know that they didn’t totally get the text and will check in with you before moving forward.

4. Discuss relevant pieces as you move through the text. Don’t do a read through of the whole piece and then go back and discuss.

**Change it up.  Don’t use the same method every time.  Some texts may need a word for word review (and in some cases, it may be the primary goal of your class/school).**