HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


עץ חיים היא: Integrated Lesson Using Trees as Metaphors

by Susan Couden, Krista Foster and Eran Rosenberg Issue: Hebrew Education
TOPICS : Hebrew Pedagogy

For the poems submitted to RAVSAK’s Hebrew Poetry Contest, fifth grade students at the Columbus Jewish Day School examined biblical and liturgical texts and melodies to uncover our tradition’s use of trees as metaphors for humanity. Upon the completion of text and melodic study, the students extended and integrated their learning experience by creating brush paintings of trees. Finally, they wrote original poetry to compliment their visual art renditions.

The lesson began with students closing their eyes and listening to a rendition of עץ חיים היא eitz chayyim hi (Proverbs 3:18) and of צדיק כתמר יפרח tzaddik katamar yifrach (Psalms 92:13). Afterwards, the students were encouraged to share ideas and feelings that the melodies evoked for them. They then looked for clues to meaning in the words of the texts. Students discovered that the songs and the words told stories of aspiration, longing, beauty, righteousness and gratitude. They noticed that in both songs trees are used as metaphors for the Torah and its followers.

The brush painting process began with students carefully listening to the sound of water being poured into their bowl. Students then laid a drop of water onto their page and filled it with watercolor pigments representing the seed. Then, using a straw, they blew across the surface of the seed to create roots. Next, students added more pigment and blew again to create the trunk and branches.

Next, students wrote poems in free verse. The poems included similes and/or metaphors. Students had their artistic tree in front of them for inspiration as they created poems that meshed with their artwork. Students were inspired by character values learned and discussed thus far in the year. They expressed an idea, a story, or a feeling in a rhythmic form. The poems (written in English and in Hebrew) have no particular pattern, and they may or may not contain rhyming phrases. The poems merely represent the beautiful tree paintings.

After creating the poems, students returned to their paintings and added the titles of their poems as micrographic horizon lines. Finally, the students created background to illustrate the mood of the poem, as portrayed through their written word. An example of the result can be found in Eli Lubow’s poem “העץ המצחיק” (“The Funny Tree”) on page 34. ♦

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