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

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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