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Reflections on Teaching Passover this year - YU Early Childhood Learning Community

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Posted by Michelle Dayan, the head teacher of the four and five year olds at Park Avenue Synagogue Early Childhood Center


From the beginning I was looking at the teaching and learning of Passover with a different eye this year.  My team and I spent a long time thinking about and discussing our curriculum. We looked at the various Passover activities we've done in the past in a critical way and reevaluated a lot of what we do.


Two new things we decided to do:

  • A Passover web. The children are used to webbing information and had a lot of prior knowledge to put on the web.  As we read books, told the story, brought in the seder plate, etc. they had even more to add.
  • Passover homework.  We asked the children to go home and discuss their Passover plans with their families. They could dictate words, draw pictures or bring something special in (ie seder plate, hagaddah, afikomen cover etc) to show the class as they shared their holiday plans.


We spent a long time deciding whether or not to make afikomen covers this year. We felt on the one hand it would be nice for the kids to have something special to take home for the holiday. On the other hand we felt uncomfortable planning an art activity that might not hold much meaning.  In the end, we decided that since the children would be taking home Passover books (the story of Passover dictated and illustrated by the whole class), we would skip the afikomen covers. Turns out--yesterday one boy asked if he could make a matzah cover, some other children saw him and decided they wanted to make their own.  In the end, just about everyone decided they wanted to make one to take home. We felt really good about this idea coming from the kids!


I really believe the children constructed a lot of knowledge this year. Last week we heard a group of kids singing the Purim song "Oh today we'll merry, merry be..." but with the Passover characters.  We wrote down the words they were singing and they were so proud. They wanted to create more verses and as a class, came up with a Passover version of the song (below). They had such ownership over that song, and over their Passover learning in general.


“Merry Merry Be” adapted for Passover


Oh once there was a wicked wicked man and King Pharaoh was his name, sir.

He tried to make the Jews slaves, but they were not to blame, sir.



Oh today will merry merry be,

Oh today will merry merry be,

Oh today will merry merry be

And nosh some matzah and parsley.


 Oh once there was a very good man and Moses was his name, sir.

He told God about Kind Pharaoh’s plot, and that was the end of him, sir.




 Oh once there was a princess and she found a baby in the river.

She wanted to bring the baby home, since it was really cute.




Oh once there was God, and he split across the sea.

So the Jewish people could go across, and the soldiers were right behind them.





Below is a reply from Chaya Gorsetman, the facilitator of the YU Early Childhood Learning Community that continues the discussion


Thank you so much for sharing your experience.  It is fascinating how the children had the need to "make something."  I suspect it was meaningful to them.

It is so interesting to note that the teachers could let go of an activity and the children intuitively wanted to make something for the Seder.  Additionally it is impressive that the children wanted to tell the story through song.  What I am learning about the constructivist theory is that teachers need to bring in “big ideas” and then notice and listen deeply to what children are doing and saying.


to learn more abou the YU Early Childhood Learning Community write to: Chaya Gorsetman


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