Back to… Hebrew and Chumash

We’ve been doing bits and pieces over the summer, but nothing really systematic, and it’s always tough  getting back into the groove when you’re grooving in a whole other language.

Slogging through Kriyah v’Od, and it really DOES feel like a slog sometimes.  The way the book substitutes images for words is starting to annoy both of us, because she is regularly grappling with ALL the nekudos (vowels) in our Chumash studies.

imageKriyah v’Od uses pictures for any word containing a vowel other than shva, chirik, kamatz and patach (basically A & I).  Here is the word “ochelet,” for example.  Because it has “o” and “e” in it, they use a picture instead, cued with the letter alef (meaningless because it’s silent, but perhaps it will help her spelling later on down the line).

mondrian 005Still, it was an exciting day, because we got to use the STICKERS!  There are so few sticker activities in the book that it makes me wonder why they even bothered, but I ham it up and do a big drumroll and announce “Sticker Time!” for the two stickers we get to a) cut out from the back of the book and b) paste into the correct spot on the sheet.  A waste of time, really, because the two stickers read “aviva ochelet g’vina” (aviva eats cheese) and “tzvi ochel anavim” (tzvi eats grapes), and because the words “ochel” and “ochelet” are shown as pictures, she basically just had to match the pink GIRL picture with the GIRL sticker and the blue BOY picture with the BOY sticker.  Duh.

mondrian 006

mondrian 007After an inspiring tale about a tzipor (bird) in the kitah (classroom), we moved on to Chumash.  I cut out the flashcards that came with Bright Beginnings, and used the first eight of them to drill her on the most common nouns and verbs.  She wasn’t at all familiar with most of the verbs, so I did it Montessori-style, ie “cheating,” where I hold it up and say “amar – SAY.”  Time enough for her to say them back to me later on.

mondrian 008Then, some work with our homemade “prefix popcorns” in L’shon HaTorah.  She resisted the popcorns mightily at first; she barely wanted to look at them.  Now, they are old friends and she enjoys lining them up and decoding each Hebrew word in turn. 

To be honest, it frustrates me to see her slowing herself down with a manipulative mondrian 009like this when she KNOWS that ה is “the” and probably that ל is “in/with”, and ו is “and.” 

I know she KNOWS them because when we read them in Kriyah v’Od, she has no trouble at all understanding them.  But for some reason, in Chumash, she needs to look at them… slowly…. one at a time. 

So be it.

Finally, we wrapped things up with a cut-and-paste sheet for passuk gimel (verse 3 of parshas Lech Lecha), which is where we’re up to right now.  mondrian 014The pace is mind-numbingly slow – three pesukim since June – that’s one a month.  Again, though… so be it.

I know it will pick up a bit as the concepts, vocabulary and shorashim (roots) sink in.

I like these cut-ups very much (if I say so myself!), because they teach very kinesthetically that even the LONGEST word (like וממולדתך, “and from your birth place,” in Passuk 1) can be “broken down” into a small shoresh, with a few tiny add-ons.  I have to believe the little icons I’ve created for each shoresh also help.

If you’d like to try the cut-ups yourself, they are available as a PDF here (scroll down to find the link) for the time being.


  1. I love the cut-ups for exactly the reason you've said... in a language that's built the way Hebrew is, it's extremely useful to know how the words can be broken down and built up.

  2. Of course! How do I know this? Not from teaching my kids, of course. Not from my older kids' school work. I know this because it dawned on me midway through my Biblical Hebrew course at U of T, surrounded by CHAT grads who knew everything. I remembered something about shorashim, but had never learned prefixes, suffixes or binyanim. It was AMAZING and liberating to me that even the longest words could be "decoded" with these simple formulae. I went from knowing almost NOTHING to knowing enough to pass in just a few weeks with these clues.

  3. See but you know the prefixes and the suffixes. I would love to use the cutups and I think they would help Froggy tremendously but I don't know enough to answer her questions when we try.

    On a separate note - how do you decide it is time to go to the next passuk?

  4. It's true, I had some knowledge going into this endeavour.

    However, I also don't spend much time with Naomi Rivka on what the suffixes mean OR any prefixes beyond the basics: ה,ש,כ,ו,מ, ל,ב.
    (here's a chart I made to cover those)

    Well, I do mention that a ך at the end of a word means YOU or YOUR. And we are learning basic plurals... משפחה (mishpacha), a word she knows, becomes משפחות, etc.

    But really, I don't think you need to know much to begin. L'shon HaTorah begins with the simple (to / from / the / and) prefixes and I think that's a very good way to begin.

    Remember also that you can always tell her, "I don't know - I'll find out," and then go find a sheet on that will explain it to you both!

  5. That's what I need to learn! How the words can be broken down and built up. I need to learn right along with my kids. I always intend on working on it ahead of them so I'm more familiar & comfortable with what we're learning but somehow it never works out that way...

  6. My daughter wants to learn Hebrew so badly. It looks like so much fun.


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