Anyone visiting one of HALB Lev Chana Early Childhood Center’s five kindergarten classes during center time will be privy to an unusual sight: seated at three tables are children and morot involved in reading groups, handwriting or writing exercises, independent work, or math activities. The children wearing headphones and seated at the fourth table are completely engrossed in the information found on the screens before them. Made possible in part by a generous grant from the AJE Project, HALB’s blended-learning program is in full swing at Lev Chana.
The teachers are thrilled with the way this educational tool enables them to maximize instructional time and provides them with more-accurate assessments of their students’ progress. Mrs. Felecie Akerman and Mrs. Lisa Zakutinsky, co-directors of the Lev Chana Early Childhood Center, further feel that the blended-learning model allows their teachers the ability to quickly identify their students’ weaknesses and, more importantly, their strengths, thus allowing for more targeted instruction, remediation, or enrichment. This computer-based educational model, developed to meet the demands of the Common Core Standards, enables teachers to deliver customized, differentiated small-group instruction and regularly review students’ progress.
Children are involved in lessons and practice geared specifically for them. Under the direction of Rabbi Avrumi Sacks, chief academic officer of the AJE Project foundation and director of blended learning for grades K–3 at HALB, the Lev Chana teachers and children have undergone and continue to undergo training in the digital content that has been researched and evaluated by Rabbi Sacks, teachers, and consultants to ensure its appropriateness. The children learned how to sign in, put on their headphones correctly, listen to the whole question and all the answers before answering, click and drag for an answer, sign out, and neatly hang their headphones so that everything is ready for the next rotation of children. After 15 minutes, the timer beeps four times and all the children at all the centers clean up, push in their chairs, and rotate to the next center.
A comment by one of the teachers sums up an important aspect of blended learning: “I never knew this child had such amazing strengths. The data I received from the blended-learning program diagnostic showed me that while he is weak in sight word acquisition and phonological awareness, his comprehension skills are amazing! I can use that to help me build his self-confidence while strengthening his weak areas.” v