The Seder: Something for Everyone

The entire Seder night is a fascinating lesson on how to engage our children in the nes of Yetzias Mitzrayim. If we take a step back and look at how Chazal set up the seder, it teaches us an important yesod in how parents and educators should engage children, when teaching our Torah and Mesorah.

From the moment we begin kiddush, the motions are already changed from the usual, when we recline while drinking. We then begin a series of steps that are not usually found during a regular Shabbos or Yom tov meal, such as washing our hands without saying a b’racha or removing the kaarah. We then recount the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim and do a lot of pointing, picking up, putting down, picking up again, dropping, spilling, breaking, reclining, and so on. What was Chazal’s point for all of this? They didn’t introduce these things just to keep us awake. Rather, each and every moment of the seder is meant to elicit questions and pique curiosity to get everyone involved.

This idea, of teaching to the individual, is not a new concept. Shlomo Hamelech teaches us in Mishlei חנך לנער על־פי דרכו גם כי־יזקין לא־יסור ממנה, “Educate a child according to his way, even in old age he will not turn away from it.” We can understand this to mean that every child is unique and therefore learns in unique ways. This refers to EVERY child and not just children who need additional help and support, although they are definitely included in this passuk as well, rather it is referring to every child. We each learn and understand things in different ways.

This idea is known in the educational world as “diverse learning.” It was coined in the 1980’s by educators as a way to approach a classroom when teaching and designing lesson plans. Much of the approach is based on ideas like Multiple Intelligences, which was introduced by Harvard Professor Howard Gardner, a Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The premise is simple: if we figure out how our children learn and what methods help them understand, we can better teach and educate them in the classroom. There are a myriad of methodologies that can be used to help achieve this goal, such as Differentiated Instruction, Blended learning, Project-Based Learning, and Social-Emotional Learning (all of which I hope to get to in future articles).

For Example:

Some students have a more visual approach to learning. In fact if you’re still reading this article it is either because you find it very interesting or you love to obtain information via words and letters. But what about the people who need to see graphic art, charts, or just more colorful writing in order to help keep them engaged? What about those who need to draw or sketch what they learn in order to understand it better? What about those that need to hold the item and feel it when learning? Or those that need to hear it clearly and repeatedly? Or those that need to move around and fidget while learning? These are not disabilities, rather, they are all normal characteristics of children (and adults). This doesn’t mean a person can’t learn or can’t understand. It just means that the person learns it differently or, for a specific concept, needs another approach to understand something more thoroughly. This idea also doesn’t mean a person only fits into one category; no one learns in just one way. Rather some ways of obtaining information or skills have a more powerful impact on the learner than others.

For the Rebbe and Morah in the classroom, this plays out in a number of ways, especially in how they design their lessons and classroom setting. Sometimes simple things like writing with colored markers on the boards or using powerpoints and video clips to help teach the idea can go a very far, especially with younger children, in helping the studentsl learn and understand the material. One can also take it a step further and design more than one type of worksheet or lesson plan that speaks to individual students strengths.

And this really brings us back to the seder which is all about diverse learning. The seder attracts every type of child. Those that need to feel the cheirus by reclining, hear the cheirus by reading out loud, or see the cheirus with the foods on the ka’ara. There are many methodologies and strategies that have been created over the years by educational practitioners that appeal to all learners in the classroom, but Chazal understood this centuries earlier. They understood then that within each family there exists children with multiple ways of learning, and in their chochma, created an amazing educational experience to help every child learn about Yetzias Mitzrayim. I hope that parents and educators alike will utilize these opportunities to engage their children during the seder and help them truly feel the experience of becoming bnei chorin.

Have a great Shabbos and a Chag Kasher v’sameach

Rabbi Michael Bitton

Rabbi Michael Bitton is a Gemara Rebbe and director of Education at Magen David Yeshivah High School. Rabbi Bitton has a passion for education with a focus on reaching each and every one of our children. He has trained hundreds of educators through presentations and teacher workshops throughout the country on practical and innovative classroom strategies. Feel free to contact Rabbi Bitton via email at RabbiBitton@ohrhachinuch.org

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Nice :+1:

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