Almost there, two minutes left...the bell is about to go...come on come on... tick tock tick tock… “Oh, and for your homework I would like you read pages 43 and 44, answering questions 1-10.”...Seriously! We’ve worked all day already, the bell is about to go and I don’t even understand the work you have just set - Grrr!
Whilst a student at school, I failed to see the benefit of homework unless I had a test the next day. I would do it of course but I felt it was all too often homework for the sake of homework. There was one exception - reading.
Reading was a skill that I knew I had to have. Even though I didn’t enjoy it, I understood that I needed to read street signs, invitations and cereal boxes.
Hebrew reading was also for me of paramount importance. This was because being an Orthodox Jew, I needed to read from a Siddur (prayer book),learn the Torah (Bible) and recite Bentching (grace after meals) on a regular basis.
A language is the soul of the culture. If you remove a language very often the culture collapses. This is clearly communicated by the author and playwright Brian Friel in his play ‘Translations’. The play describes the oppression of the Irish at the hands of the British in the nineteenth century. One of the methods the British used to conquer little Ireland, was to take away their language. The play talks of closing ‘hedge schools’ and signposts being altered from Irish to English. In removing the language you remove a culture.
Hebrew reading in Jewish schools is fundamentally important in maintaining that connection between Jewish children and their Judaism. The Problem is learning to read Hebrew is tedious, especially when our pupils don’t know the meaning what they are reading!
But like times tables there is still a benefit in having fluency without understanding, as there are times that the skill is needed, such as prayer in Shul (Synagogue) and blessings for different festivals. This is where the app Seesaw comes in.
Seesaw is an incredible app that lends itself tremendously for reading homework and Hebrew reading in particular. Seesaw allows the teacher to send home reading through the app and even record a ‘model read’ to teach the child how it should be done. The child is then able to record their reading using the app and send it straight back to the teacher, who can then assess where the child is up to. The teacher can even draw over the text informing the child where they have gone wrong and need to place their focus.
Seesaw alleviates the following issues:
- Not enough time in class to hear each child read properly. Can now read at home.
- If doing a class read, some children are embarrassed to read publicly. Can now be done in the comfort of the home with more confidence.
- Help parents who cannot read Hebrew to begin with.
- Parents not always around. Child does not need supervision to ensure it is being done, as the evidence is in the recorded message!
- Children need varied homework dependent on ability. Teachers can send differentiated reading homework meeting the needs of each child.
- Photocopying homework sheets - no longer a need.
Seesaw has a parent app too, that notifies the parent/guardian when homework has been set and when their child has completed the homework. This doubles up as a security feature, making sure the parents are aware of what the teacher is sending to their child.
I used Seesaw with my year 4 class and it was phenomenal. I had children who had never done their Hebrew reading complying and even many parents who confessed that until now, though signed, the homework was not being done.
It works across devices and platforms meaning that every child can do the homework. One of my pupils used his mum’s phone and others very cheap tablets.
It was and is a true example of how technology can enhance learning and pupil engagement. I combined the app with Ji Tap and shared games with them to engage them even more - download Ji Tap now!