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HOT TOPICS: Is Hebrew reading/decoding difficult for English speakers and does peer learning help?

February 26, 2013

Emily Rex


You only have to go to one or two Jewish education conferences to learn that everyone has a “hot topic,” whether they teach in a day school or supplemental school, or whether they work with young children or young adults. When I attended my first NewCAJE conference and began teaching fourth grade supplemental school in the fall, I didn’t yet have my own personal “hot topic.” As a new teacher who was also going to school full time for a master’s degree in special education, however, I saw a significant lack of research-based methods for teaching children to read Hebrew. I had a classroom of 21 students, some of whom also were coping with ADHD or a learning disability, and needed easy-to-implement teaching strategies that would help me provide effective instruction to diverse learners.

After fruitlessly searching for evidence-based practices for teaching at a supplemental school, I decided to use English reading strategies to teach Hebrew reading. I found several research studies to support the use of English reading strategies in foreign language classrooms ,1 and found one particular method that was perfect for my large classroom: peer-assisted learning strategies for reading (PALS). PALS, created by Douglas Fuchs and Lynn S. Fuchs at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, has been a research-based practice since 1989 and received “Best Practice” status from the U.S. Department of Education.

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