Lev HaShavua With my 8th Grade Girls

Aliza Joel
Written by:
Aliza Joel
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I have had the uncommon opportunity to engage my Junior High students in the Lev HaShavua experience. After successfully piloting Lev HaShavua in our High School classes we decided to launch the initiative in our Junior High, 8th grade girls’ class this year. 

We begin each Lev HaShavua session with a ברכה ראשונה. Whether sharing a מספר נוכחות, a one word emotion, or the title of a song to express how they are feeling at this very moment, it is always an engaging way to bring them in. 

Each student brings a whole world with her

As a teacher, this experience has helped me remember that each student comes into school, or to a particular class, with a whole world occupying their minds. We often only see the surface and our goal is to help the students be able to grapple with all they are dealing with and to be sensitive to the fact that they are experiencing so many things at one time. Even the one number or word shared during the ברכה ראשונה helps me remember that and at the same time helps the students become more present and focussed on Lev HaShavua.

Parnasut

The students love being the “parnasit”, sharing a story, and of course, a special treat. The prompt that I gave them to prepare for their parnasut was to share a story that helped make them who they are or to share an experience that had a great impact on them. Though some stay more true to these questions and some a little less so, each student enjoys the opportunity to share a little more about herself with her classmates. 

Areas of student growth

There are two areas in which I have noticed particular growth from my students over the course of this year’s Lev HaShavuah experience. One skill that many of them have honed is their active listening - listening to their friend talking without interrupting (which is a great feat in and of itself at this age!!). The second area is empathy. As we go around the circle after the parnasit shares her story, the other students find ways to relate to the parnasit through a similar experience or thought.

Parnasut as a springboard for avodah

In the beginning, I would come in with a prepared עבודה to do with the girls after the פרנסות. However, as time went on I decided to make one up on the fly depending on what the parnasit shared. Though admittedly we did not always get to the עבודה, I found that having the עבודה directly connected with the פרנסות was more organic and, therefore, easier for the girls to think about on a deeper level.

For example, one girl shared how when her grandmother escaped Europe during the Holocaust, she brought a particular object with her which has since been passed down to my student. I then followed up on her story by asking the following questions as an עבודה:

  1. What object would you take with you?
  2. Why would you take that particular object?
  3. What value does that object reflect that you hold dear?

The first question was concrete enough for them to answer and then segue to the deeper, more reflective questions that came after. I think this is a developmentally appropriate way to have Junior High students start to engage with this process of getting to know themselves better.

Though we were not able to have Lev HaShavua sessions as consistently as I would have liked (that’s a goal for next year!), I do believe this was an excellent “training” that will enable them to engage more deeply in the Lev HaShavua experience they will have in High School.

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Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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