The dig­i­tal way to make aleph-bet fun

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER See http://www.jew­ish­in­ter­ac­tive.org/ project/ji-alef-bet/

LEARN­ING TO read He­brew is one of the foun­da­tions of Jewish ed­u­ca­tion. But it can be a chore for chil­dren.

Many of us will re­call that stark pa­rade of black let­ters against other­wise bare white pages at cheder.

But now a new dig­i­tal pro­gramme will make the aleph-bet ex­pe­ri­ence a lot more ap­peal­ing. De­signed by Jewish In­ter­ac­tive, the Lon­don-based ed­u­ca­tion soft­ware de­sign­ers, it con­sists of a se­ries of an­i­mated sketches de­voted to each let­ter of the He­brew al­pha­bet.

It con­tains songs, in­ter­ac­tive ex­er­cises and more ad­vanced stages so that by the end of the 24 chap­ters, users will not only be able to read three-to­four let­ter words but can also ac­quire a ba­sic He­brew vo­cab­u­lary of 150 words, from ach (brother) to gel­i­dah (ice-cream).

As well as be­ing an aid for schools and chedarim, chil­dren can also prac­tise at home and learn at their own pace. There is a down­load­able book­let, too, so par­ents can help to guide them —and per­haps par­ents whose own He­brew is shaky may be tempted qui­etly to over­come their in­hi­bi­tions and take a step to­wards read­ing flu­ency.

The di­a­logue in each car­toon em­pha­sises the sound of the par­tic­u­lar let­ter so we meet zig-zag­ging za­yin and naughty but nice nun.

Orah Soller, head of Jewish stud­ies at Ri­mon School in Gold­ers Green, says Ji Aleph Bet is “an ex­cit­ing new re­source, for chil­dren to use when re­in­forc­ing the sound and shape of a new let­ter. The best part is that the chil­dren don’t even re­alise they are learn­ing, as they see it as a fun game on the iPad.”

Chana Kanzen, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Jewish In­ter­ac­tive, says the pro­gramme came af­ter she was ap­proached by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Michael Goul­ston Foun­da­tion. “He felt pas­sion­ately that a lot of chil­dren com­ing up to bar- and bat­mitz­vah couldn’t read He­brew ac­cu­rately — and with lit­tle or not un­der­stand­ing. I told him how I used to teach He­brew when I was a teacher through sto­ries.”

While on­line He­brew learn­ing pro­grammes ex­ist, of­ten they are tai­lored for schools which use Ivrit b’Ivrit — Jewish stud­ies taught in He­brew — which is not usu­ally the case in the UK. “Many of the re­sources are not suit­able and can be quite over­whelm­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing,” she said.

The pro­gramme, she said, also in­cludes “all the an­i­mated char­ac­ters in a sticker pack — a col­lec­tion — so chil­dren can use them to cre­ate their own games.”

Ji Aleph Bet, which is backed by the Goul­ston Foun­da­tion, comes in both Amer­i­can and UK ver­sions — ev­i­dence of Jewish In­ter­ac­tive’s global reach.

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