When I started teaching Hebrew alef-bet, I decided to make myself a set of tactile flashcards. A teacher friend suggested cutting letter shapes out of sandpaper, but I wanted something more visually stimulating to complement the touchy-feely aspect. Above you can see a few of the cards I’ve made. In actual fact my class has mostly used them visually, but occasionally I ask them to close their eyes and feel the shape of the letters with their fingers, just to involve another sensory pathway as they learn.
They are a little time consuming to make, but it’s a resource I can keep using for a long time so I think it has been worth the effort!
First I purchased a packet of pastel A5 card and laminated them, to make them more durable.
Next I made paper templates of the letters using the font Gisha at size 600pt. I chose Gisha because of its simplicity – I thought it would be too difficult cutting thick material like corrugated cardboard if I used a more ornate font. Also I figure it’s good for the kids to learn to recognise letters in a variety of fonts.
Lastly I used a selection of tactile materials to make the final product, which I attached using double sided adhesive tape.
Felt comes in many colours, is easy to cut and doesn’t fray.
Ribbon is pretty, and this velvet ribbon feels amazing – but it’s not so easy to make it curve neatly, and you need to take care of the ends so they don’t fray. (I folded mine under.)
Textured paper is easy to cut but quite delicate, and not as rewardingly tactile as some materials.
Corrugated cardboard, on the other hand, feels fabulous but can be a bit of pain to cut.
Thin foam sheets are easy to cut out and work with, and give a good raised edge even if they are fairly bland to touch.
Glitterboard looks fabulous, feels good and is moderately easy to work with, but will shed some glitter. It is also a great way to blunt cutting machine blades (not that I used a cutting machine for these cards.)
I’m not sure what this sort of material is called – I had a small piece I salvaged from around a boxed floral arrangement. It looks great and is certainly quite different from the other materials, but the kids cannot help themselves and are constantly pulling it apart! I wouldn’t use it again for that reason alone.
Here I used a smooth paper but edged it (alas, not especially neatly) with a thin line of glitter glue, which dries to a lovely hard ridge and gives a 3-D feel quite different to just the paper by itself.
The kids learn “Bet has a belly button” and my Bet card has a button too.
They also learn to distinguish Chaf from Kaf with “Kaf catches” (hard k sound) so my Kaf caught a ball.
For me, the joy of making my own cards is ending up with an useful resource that I like the look of (and feel of) and feel inspired to use!!
Last year I decorated a t-shirt for my daughter for Rosh Hashanah. She was very happy with it, but it didn’t match anything she already owned. So I promised her that this year I would make her a matching skirt.
Let’s just say that the last 12 months has gone really fast! Rosh Hashanah was looming on the horizon and I still hadn’t gone shopping for a skirt pattern. So I took advantage of the fact that (a) my daughter is young enough to appreciate anything I sew for her (b) I have a stash of groovy fabric (as seen in my Rosh Hashanah challah cover) and (c) the internet is full of useful sewing blogs explaining how even people like me – with very limited sewing skills – can still easily rustle up a fun skirt.
It’s loud, it’s proud, and my daughter loves it. Maybe next year I should make my husband a matching kippah?
Looking for a fun and easy Rosh Hashanah card craft? This is a variation on an activity I saw on the Challah Crumbs website. Basically it involves printing apples using the usefully circular nature of the end of a cork. This may be easier said than done if you don’t drink wine – or even if you do, given how much less common wine bottles with corks are these days. It might be time to pop that bottle of champagne you’ve been saving for the right occasion. :-)
Fortunately for me, I saved a bunch of corks some years ago with the plan of making an entire pinboard out of recycled corks. The pinboard never eventuated, but the corks were still hanging around. (Yes, I am that sort of person who finds it hard to throw things away, how did you guess?)
Rather than keeping the corks completely round, I used a cutting blade to take out two small chunks to mimic the dimples at the top and base of an apple. The stems are just added in pen afterwards.
Corks are not uniformly flat, especially once you’ve impaled them with a corkscrew, but this adds to their charm in my opinion. I initially tested my cork stamps with ink pads, and I really liked the result. The handwritten Hebrew letters are less of a feature, but I was making this in a rush as a demonstration model for a class of children who were not going to be critical (thankfully!) I gave them some Hebrew alef-bet stencils and they enjoyed finding the right letters for their own cards.
We don’t have colourful inkpads at cheder, so there we used paint. It worked fine, but if you are doing this activity with kids then I recommend you have a scrap sheet of paper or cardboard where kids can stamp first to lose some excess paint prior to stamping their Rosh Hashanah card. This is because if you have too much paint on the end of your cork, you end up with a blob which looks less like an apple and more like somebody stepped on a paint bug and squished it to the page.
The advantage of paint is that you can end up with mixed colours which look fabulous, as my daughter demonstrates above.
Rosh Hashanah is in less than two weeks, so I foresee more cork stamping at home this weekend!
Update: I made cards for family on the other side of the country using ink, with a stamped greeting in the middle. I was pretty happy with how they turned out. It’s not so obvious from this photo, but the metallic gold apples looked great.
I was teaching a group of children aged 6-9 about Yom Kippur facts and customs recently, and I decided to do it in the form of a group quiz. I printed out my questions and laminated them, then my class took turns pulling a question out of a bag and reading it aloud. That was good because even the ones who were reluctant to venture an answer still contributed to the activity. Nearly half the questions are “True or False?” which the kids seemed to enjoy. My 7 year-old daughters says this is because you have a 50% chance of getting it right! I was not fussed if they already knew the answer or not, I wanted them to think about it and then I helped fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
You are welcome to use these questions yourself. This link should open up a .pdf file: Yom Kippur Quiz
Some questions ask for basic knowledge: “What is the traditional colour to wear on Yom Kippur?” Some test understanding of vocabulary: “True or false? Yom Kippur is called a fast day because it goes really fast.” Other questions are more subtle: “True or false? Yom Kippur is a day for asking other people to forgive us.”
And there are a bunch of other questions as well, involving goats, shoes, chickens, eating, and the festivals on either side of Yom Kippur, among other things. As much fun as you are likely to have learning about this very serious festival!
Be warned: I am not providing the answers! You may need to do a little revision. :-) It also allows for some variations on answers to suit your own practices. Plus you may find the kids come up with more than you expect. In response to a question about goats, I had only planned to talk about scapegoats, but a boy in my class immediately pointed out the obvious connection between goats and the shofar.
May we all be inscribed for a year of learning!
I’ve made a few Bar and Bat Mitzvah cards over the years, but I don’t always remember to scan or photograph them before I give them away.
They often feature this lovely stamp of a tallit (prayer shawl) which I purchased along with the text (which says Bar Mitzvah in Hebrew) online from Zum Gali Gali. I like to use embossing powder and a craft heat gun for a shiny finish. Not so many years ago I would melt embossing powder over a toaster, resulting in burned crumbs and often burned fingers as well. Thankfully those days are behind me. :-)
If you want to make a card like this, it is very simple.
1. Stamp your design on a plain piece of card (and emboss if desired)
2. Cut one or more pieces of paper just a few millimetres wider and longer than your central piece of card, and attach the layers together with double-sided adhesive tape. A metallic paper gives a classic finish.
3. Attach to your card. I decorated plain blue card by stamping it with Mazel Tov (congratulations). This stamp is one of a lovely collection I bought from Papertrey Ink a few years back. I used another design from the same set on these Chanukah cards. It’s a little bit wonky but I’m hoping that adds to the charm of a hand-made card.
I wanted a simple calendar for my classroom which would show the entire Jewish year at a glance. So I made this:
It is a laminated circle showing the Hebrew months set against the Gregorian calendar months. I used a split pin (brad) to attach it to a backing piece of cardboard, so that you can rotate it as the year goes past. (It actually was Adar when I made it!) I put a second circle in the middle which does not need to rotate, and my original plan was that this would cover the brad. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a brad which was large and flat enough that the circle would stick to it – so I had to put the brad through both circles.
Admittedly it is only approximate, and does not take into account leap years (when the Jewish calendar gains an entire extra month), but it does show the whole cycle of the year at once which was my main requirement. I added stickers or drew pictures to indicate the main festivals. I think this would be a great project for kids who are learning the names of the months of the Jewish calendar.
I made it by drawing concentric circles on the computer and then using a quilting ruler as a protractor to add the “spokes” after I had printed it. You are welcome to use my template for the circles and add your own spokes and text.
I decided when I made it to write the months going anti-clockwise around the circle, but I notice now that every other circular, perpetual Hebrew calendar I can see on Google goes clockwise, so my classroom calendar might be unique in more ways than one! However as long as the months are in the right order, I guess it doesn’t really matter too much.
Last Tu Bishvat, I organised a snack activity to tie in with the theme of the Seven Species, “shivat haMinim”. These are the grains and fruits listed in the Torah as being special products of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel: “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and (date) honey”.
It’s not so easy to combine all these species into one child-friendly snack, so I cheated slightly by replacing olives with almonds (as almond trees blossom in Israel around the time of Tu Bishvat) and gluing the lot together with chocolate icing. It was delicious!! (We also offered the kids bread with olive oil for dipping, so no species was missed out.)
All you need is a packet of Malt biscuits (which contain both wheat and barley)
and some chopped up fruit (specifically: dates, dried figs, pomegranate seeds and sultanas) and slivered almonds
and a quantity of home-made chocolate icing (or something similar) to hold the fruit and nuts in place.
Spread the biscuit with chocolate icing, load up with date, fig, pomegranate, sultanas and almonds – some of the kids even made little pictures out of their toppings – and eat! This was so quick and easy to organise, and so popular, I can guarantee we’ll be doing it again.