Looking In: From the Editor-in-Chief

by: Beverly A. Buncher

Differentiation has come on the scene to help teachers meet the challenge of teaching children according to the many ways they learn. While Differentiated Instruction is a modern solution, the ancient Torah adage to “Educate a youth according to his path…”(Proverbs 22:6) appears to point to its validity, while the modern techniques of differentiation provide the details of how to implement.

The diversity of learners today requires that teachers build a rich repertoire of teaching skills and that administrators support teachers with professional development to help them continually update and renew their teaching styles as their careers progress. In order to help teachers and administrators grow individually and collectively, we have focused on the research on differentiation as well as on that of how to encourage and empower entire faculties to grow in their knowledge and practice of DI.

The issue begins with a primer on differentiated instruction (Sandy Miller-Jacobs) which offers a research-based overview of what DI is, how it works, and the main techniques it employs. Then we offer an explanation of why the time to implement DI is now, what the obstacles are to implementation, and how to overcome them (Lifsa Schachter).

The next two articles build on our knowledge of the importance of teacher buy-in to our professional development efforts. The first shares the research on how a systems approach helps to create a school-wide commitment to implementing DI along with clear, usable exercises for principals to use with their faculties during faculty in-service time (Lena Kushnir). The second shares ongoing research in using Action Research to guide faculties to successfully implement DI (Scott Goldberg). This groundbreaking work, an example of differentiating staff development in DI, is ongoing in several schools and BJE’s in North America.

We then look at differentiating for gender in an article that provides an overview of the research and writing of an entire curriculum designed to help teachers do so for their fourth grade students (Chaya Gorsetman and Amy Ament).

In our Applications section, we offer four articles that show how DI is being used in Humash (Sheera Hefter), math and language arts (Maya Inspector), writing (Fayge Safran), Talmud and Jewish History (Naphtali Hoff), each one taking the reader into the classroom to be filled up with practical ideas to take back to their own room.

In applications, we also have two examples of how a school in Massachusetts (Evelyn Baker Lang and Julie A. Gordon) and the entire Jewish school system in Montreal (Karen Gazith, et al.) are supporting their teachers in the implementation of DI: one using a system based on medical rounds, the other, integrating Understanding by Design into their work with DI.

New Zealand educator Barbara Prashnig’s work on Learning Styles is also featured in this issue in an article on “10 False Beliefs about How Students Learn”.

To complement our theme of Differentiation this issue, we offer several of our regular columns: In Getting the Discussion Started, Scot Berman asks if one size fits all when it comes to curriculum and Devora Steinmetz answers his question with the question of whether the problem is one of curriculum or pedagogical methodology.

The subject of our interview article this month is Professor Ora Zohar of Hebrew University who shares the forms and structures she developed that have helped shape classroom instruction around the Jewish world for the past 40 years.

In From the Classics, Levi Cooper looks back at the writings and life of the beloved Piaseczno Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose nurturing approach to children and education is finding a place in the hearts and minds of many modern day educators and parents.

In a new column, Learning from Life, well-known educator Beverly Gribetz shares a personal story of how allowing children to begin with their own interests can result in substantial, far-reaching learning results. Always looking for New Materials, we asked Shmuel Jablon to review V’Shinantam, a Mishnah curriculum developed by Bonayich Educational Services for the fourth through sixth grades.

And finally, we took a look outside of the realm of direct instruction, to its funding, asking lay leader Matthew J. Maryles to provide his insights on how to increase longterm school revenue and viability by strengthening and systematizing cross-generational giving to day school education.

Preparing this issue involved the work of many educator/authors and editors along the way. The most gratifying thing about working on the topic of differentiation for the Journal was how many people said, “Yes, this is something we are anxious to bring to our school. Thank you for pursuing this topic.”

I hope this issue will provide you, your teachers, and in the case of our final essay, even your board, with a wealth of ideas to make teaching and learning come alive in your classrooms and schools so that your ability to reach and teach all of your students is greatly increased and strengthened.

Also, please take a look at our Call for Papers on page 63, so that you, too, can contribute your knowledge and expertise to the many Jewish educators around the world who are looking for innovative and effective ways to educate our Jewish youth.

Lehitraot –