In the world of Hebrew instruction, many educators favor the Bottom-Up model, which exclusively uses a structured literacy approach by first teaching the letters, then vowels, then syllables, then words, eventually building up to fluent reading. This aligns nicely with the traditional mesorah for teaching the Hebrew language and has become the most commonly used method of teaching Hebrew reading. The idea is that systematically building reading skills from the bottom up will give children the decoding abilities necessary to be able to read Hebrew smoothly.
The issue with this model lies not with mesorah’s method itself, but in the fact that this approach is often used in a vacuum, without sufficient opportunities for children to make linguistic connections between speech and text. This results in a disconnect between oral and written language. When they are only conditioned to hear the language on the syllable level and not on the word or sentence level, many children may not even realize that the Hebrew language conveys meaning.
Additionally, for reading practice, children are often given pseudo words mixed in with real Hebrew words and are tasked with just getting the sounds off the paper quickly and correctly. The unfortunate, and even tragic, outcome is that children view Hebrew as gibberish, a language that doesn’t make sense. And while some children may learn to read quickly, they aren’t learning to understand or connect to what they are reading.
Our curriculum is modeled after the Universal Design for Learning, utilizing the three main elements of engagement, expression, and representation, to make Nikud Quest truly universal:
We offer information in more than one format, implementing embedded pictures, illustrated stories, and hands-on learning experiences.
We look for ways to motivate learners and sustain their interest by making skill-building feel like a game with fun tasks and activities, offering decodable books that span across multiple genres, and encouraging them to make real-life connections between the material and their personal lives.
We give learners more than one way to interact with the material and to show what they know through writing, reading, talking, drawing, working with cards, and other variations of the lessons for added experiences.
We also see a great value in having children feel like this program is for them and focus on representing all types of children through the characters in our books, stories, and activities. We want to depict what real children look like, and normalize that children look, learn, and think differently. Learners will find children who work hard, struggle, ask for help, and overcome obstacles, just like they do.
Throughout our curriculum, you will also find a diverse cast of characters of all cultural backgrounds, genders, and physical differences. A boy with a hearing aid, a girl with down’s syndrome, another in a wheelchair, and another with a visual impairment are just some examples of the beautifully colorful characters found in our curriculum, with the goal of normalizing these differences and helping children learn more about themselves and the people they share the world with.
In the Cholom lesson, we have a decodable book entitled One Heart, which focuses entirely on the theme of diversity. It illustrates how as Jews, we may sometimes seem different on the outside but we really are all the same on the inside, as we all have one Torah, one Hashem, and one Israel. We strongly believe in the importance of introducing children to these topics and ideas throughout our curriculum, helping broaden their perspectives and expand their mindsets. We aim to help children feel represented as well as lead them to become more tolerant, inclusive, and respectful individuals.
“I love it. It was amazing. We just tried the materials for the first time today. It was great for different kinds of learners. I saw how both children with severe learning differences and learners who are gifted can learn really well this way.” (SA, Hebrew School Director)
“I bought the Nikud Quest materials for Hebrew School but decided to try it with my son. He read through book number 5 and then he wanted to read book six but his timer went off and he wanted to finish reading the book. He wanted to know if Dan found gold. I never experienced in my life that my son said that he wants to continue reading. He hates reading. I am blown away!” (NZ, Parent and Hebrew School Director)
“The kids have been bringing home the card games and the parents are loving it. We are loving it. This is exactly what these children needed. I wish you could have seen them doing the mazes in the guide. They were doing it at their own pace, they loved it.” (CE, 1st Grade Teacher)
“Our second graders are so thankful and are already enjoying the additional decodable full set that we purchased! Everyone is LOVING and excited about reading and the teacher can differentiate! We have an experienced Morah with training in English as well so she is thrilled, notices the nuances, and appreciates the beauty of the materials!” (2nd Grade Teacher)
“My student loves books!!!! He feels like a million dollars reading a real book.” (RB, Kriyah Tutor)
“I love the books. They are so beautiful. I am so happy these books are available. The stories are great and my students love them.” (HH, Kriyah Tutor)“Many many thanks for sharing your excellent and high-quality materials. I am in awe of what you have created. I have already seen several schools I work with buy and use your materials and they are thrilled.” (JR, School Consultant)
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