Posts in category "Educational Practices"

Queen Esther and Overcoming Silence

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
February 26, 2021

Happy Purim! I want to share with you my favorite passage from Megillat Esther: a moment of overcoming fear and choosing advocacy over silence. I relate this moment deeply with my own experience choosing to speak out about my disability, and to our mission at Gateways to be an active voice of inclusion. I hope you will watch and share in this moment with me.

Looking for resources to make your Purim as inclusive and accessible as possible? Check out our Purim page for stories, games, and more!

Category: Educational Practices

Tagged under: purim, holidays, inclusion


How We Use the Gateways Haggadah

By Meredith Hirschberg, Director of Education, Temple Beth Torah, Wellington, FL
March 18, 2015

Meredith Hirschberg When I received my first copy of the Gateways Haggadah I realized that this was a special gift that I needed to share-- immediately--with my Rabbi and Cantor. It was the most unusual Haggadah I had ever seen, and looking at it first through the lens of an educator and then as a mom who leads a Seder, it seemed that much more impressive. I knew that this would be a Haggadah that would not only serve the needs of all our students, but would do so in a way that would equalize not only the learning process but the pleasure of sharing a Seder.

We have used this Haggadah in many different ways during our “All-school and Parent Passover Program.” I have purchased enough Haggadot for each student to have their own to use during their model Seders.

We begin the morning with classes divided into three grade levels: K - 2, 3 - 4 and 5 - 6. Each grade level has their own hour long model Seder utilizing this Haggadah. The teachers  choose some of the questions that are posed throughout the Haggadah for discussion during the Seder. Each section of the Haggadah is almost its own lesson plan!

Simultaneously, we host a parent program titled, “How to Have a Family-Friendly Seder.” The Gateways Haggadah is the basis of this presentation. Both activities end at the same time, and are followed by interactive family activities. Parents and students rotate through three stations: (1) the four children, (2) the ten plagues, and (3) a Passover song session.

Our Cantor was thrilled to see how the songs were presented in this Haggadah. We do not have to print out separate song sheets; the songs that are included in the Haggadah are presented so beautifully. And,  most importantly, they are accessible for  “teachable moments!” The Rabbis teaching the other two segments also use those specific parts of the Haggadah. The ten plagues section will also include “edible plagues.”

As some students require repetition, it is interesting to see how much the students remember the plagues and the different types of children once they complete their activity rotation.

I truly believe that when material is presented using all modalities that it benefits ALL students. Each student has their own individual strengths and weaknesses in an educational environment, and it’s our responsibility, as educators, to be sure that material is presented that is accessible to all.

The language used in The Gateways Haggadah is exceptional in its simplicity. The few words express high-level concepts. As educators and adults we can absolutely appreciate that we have been exposed to explanation of holidays we do not completely understand, and have even gone through the movements of tradition that were experiential; yet I still did not feel I truly understood what we were doing. The Gateways Haggadah experience is a way to embrace both students and adults and leave them with a sense of understanding of the importance of what a Seder is. Participants are able to more fully comprehend the meaning of the story and share in the music, all with the beautiful goal of inclusion. This is what creating exceptional Jewish memories is within a religious school.

Category: Educational Practices

Tagged under: gateways, haggadah, special needs, passover, seder


Stress Saving, Back-To-School Tips

By Sharon Goldstein, Director of Day School Programs, Gateways
August 30, 2013

Have you ever really thought about all that goes on during your child’s day in school? Each time they switch classes, it can literally feel like stepping into another country. Each teacher has different rules, expectations and customs. Do you raise your hand to go to the bathroom, or just go? Are you penalized for handing in an assignment late? Can you call out an answer, or do you need to raise your hand? Can you eat in class? Imagine how much more overwhelming this can be for students with executive functioning and organizational issues. Here are a few strategies that parents and teachers can implement to help ease back-to-school anxiety and navigate the academic jungle.

  • Before the start of the school year, visit the school and walk around, find the restrooms and other important places. Also let your child check out the playground and play.
  • Butterflies can be anxiety, but it can also be excitement. Help your child articulate what s/he is feeling by asking open-ended questions: What do you think will be different this year?  What are you curious about? What have you heard about ______ grade?
  • You know your child – use her/him as a gauge as to how much information to provide. Some children need to know exactly what to expect and don’t like the unknown; some children become overwhelmed by too much information.
  • Current research is telling us that there are positive correlations between movement/physical activity and learning and achievement.  Encourage some form of physical activity before school. This gets the blood pumping and aids in concentration at school. 
  • Establish a routine bedtime prior to school starting.
  • Most children need down time after school before doing homework. Let them take a breather.
  • Establish a predictable homework routine. Give them a snack before they begin homework. Have a quiet place to study/do homework. Your child will need to take breaks – expect them to take short breaks every 20 minutes to move around (ten jumping jacks is a great tool to get out energy and refocus them). When they complete their homework, have them put in their backpack and pack anything else they need for the next day. That way, in the morning, they only thing left to put in the backpack is lunch.
  • Create a morning routine (e.g. wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and hair, make lunch, put it in backpack, go to school). Remember to eat protein at breakfast and pack healthy snacks to help boost learning and concentration.
  • For older students with longer term assignments, consider hanging a whiteboard calendar in an obvious spot with any appointments/sorts/activities so they can plan accordingly.
  • Be aware of how many/what types of after-school activities are appropriate for your child. Again, you know your child best.
  • If you point out that fact that each class/teacher is different, it will help students focus on figuring out the “customs” of each class.  Making them aware will help them pay closer attention to these rules that some students figure out easily but others need to be explicitly told.  Encourage students to feel free to ask the teacher about his/her rules and expectations, if they are not sure.

Using these strategies will cut down on typical back-to-school anxieties and help ease your child back into the daily grind. We wish you a happy, successful year!



Category: Educational Practices

Tagged under: parents, resources, behavior, Ruderman Family Foundation


Gateways' Seven Strategies for a Successful Seder for All Learners

April 7, 2011

  1. Boy with Seder plate file folder activityPreview. Show-and-tell a social story, a customized children's picture book designed to prepare the child for the Seder experience, reducing the chances of being overwhelmed.
  2. Pre-feed. Make sure the kids eat before the Seder – preferably a protein and complex carbohydrate, nothing sugary. This will extend their patience (especially since many pre-meal traditions – horseradish, charoset and gefilte fish – are not always kid-pleasers.)
  3. Program. Whether in words or pictures -- or both -- the child should have a schedule of the Seder to refer to. That way, even if they can't read the Hagaddah, they enjoy the confidence boost of being able to follow along, alone or with your help. (Click here for Gateways' printer-friendly illustrated Seder schedule)
  4. Plant the Feet. Make sure a child's chair allows them to touch the floor (or a steady chair rung) to ensure support, balance and longer sitting tolerance. Try to create 90 degrees at the ankles, knees and hips, for sitting squarely at the table.
  5. Prevent. Heavy silverware might prove difficult for children with grip challenges to manage and tall glasses or wine cups are spills waiting to happen. Make sure there's child-sized flat wear and a Passover sippy cup (why not decorate?).
  6. Participate. Having an important role, such as carrying the towel around while everyone washes, provides movement breaks and a purpose in what can otherwise seem a grown-up occasion. Another important job: "taking care" of Baby Moses: a doll wrapped in a blanket in a woven basket awaiting rescue from the Nile.10 plagues depictions
  7. Plague Play. The ever-popular plagues bag can add fun to any Seder. But fine motor difficulties can make tiny toys frustrating. Check out the plague finger puppets on the market, make your own with old socks or set up a magnetic or Velcro board, with plague symbols the children can attach. (Click here for printer-friendly plague symbols)

Click here for the full menu of Gateways' printer-friendly Passover resources.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this article.

Category: Educational Practices