HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Blogs and Stories

by Michelle Petrova Issue: Remodeling Milwaukee Jewish Day School

Collaboration and distance used to seem like a paradox. Now, they are a daily part of teaching during Covid. How can we teach students the important skills of collaboration, while oftentimes there is a lot of space and distractions between us?

At our school, one way we do this is with blogs. In classes from third to eighth grades, students utilize blogs to collaborate in a variety of ways: within the school, with their parents, and on a community and global scale. For example, in one class students connected with people from all over the world and collaborated with peers in a classroom in Malaysia, commenting on each other’s social studies blogs while forming friendships.

Blogs are frequently used as documentation of learning. Students blog when working through the design thinking process, participating in Genius Hour or reflecting on final drafts of their writing. Blogs are also used as documentation for learning, such as to record research, to document book club meetings or to solve math challenges. Teachers use blogs to showcase student work or communicate about what is going on in their classes. Overall, our blogs help us stay connected, even from far away.

As a Jewish school, maintaining a connection with Israel is also important. Each year our eighth graders build a connection with our partner school in the Kinneret region, Kadoorie Agricultural High School. When they visit Israel in May, they have already developed a relationship with the kids from the school, and they do homestays with their Kadoorie friends. Many teachers from around Milwaukee are partnered with teachers in the Kinneret region through a program called P2G (Partnership 2gether), to keep Milwaukee Jewish students collaborating with Israeli students, even during a pandemic.

An internal cross-grade level collaboration, started in 2006, has seventh-grade students write a fictional narrative for a second-grade student based on their interests. First, the seventh graders interview the second-grade students. This year this will be done through Zoom. This interview is a way for the seventh graders to find out all about the second grader in order to write their narrative with the second grader as the main character, surrounded by all the people, places and things they love.

Next, students work with me in English class and we move through the writing process. Often, students will continue to collaborate with their partners, in order to be sure to capture their interests perfectly. When ready to publish, the books are illustrated and then printed and bound. Finally, we visit our second- grade friends and read them their book. This year, students may record themselves reading the book.

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This issue examines how schools are adapting to the challenging circumstances of conducting business during the Covid-19 pandemic. Articles explore ways that school leaders are managing to organize stakeholders in a crisis; that schools are collaborating with each other and internally as a community to strengthen all systems; that educators are reinventing Jewish education through these exigencies by using online tools and shifting their pedagogies. Authors seek to find changes in the present that may have lasting value for a future, post-Covid reality.

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