Sei sulla pagina 1di 62

PARTICIPATION

The
Fundamentals Book 1

INVOLVING EVERY STUDENT


IN THE LEARNING PROCESS

Rabbi Moshe Bak


INTRODUCTION

AS A FORMER CLASSROOM TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL for more than twenty


years, I have been fortunate enough to come across several ways in which
to improve my performance and as a result improve the learning experi-
ence of my students. Most of the time, it was a principal or veteran colleague
who gently redirected me toward more productive behaviors and teaching
techniques. But from time to time, I would experiment with new ideas and
techniques, attend a workshop that was practical or spend time perfecting
methods that I knew were working in my classroom. As I grew as an educator,
I began to see how these improvements changed the entire learning experi-
ence for my students and myself. And because success motivates, I became
passionate about finding even more ways to inspire myself to become a
master of my trade. And although I believe I still have a way to go, the joy
these efforts have brought me is something I desperately want to share with
teachers throughout the Jewish educational community.

When I was a fourth-grade rebbi, the biggest challenge I had was quality vs.
quantity — how do I teach the entire curriculum (at the appropriate level)
with so little time afforded me? My desire to see students learn “more, better
and faster”, particularly in Torah classrooms, led me to a world of intense
research and ultimately exciting solutions. Solutions that inspired me to
taking pen to paper – hoping to set before the reader an easy-to-use tech-
nique that can bolster the classroom experience from listening to doing and
from studying to internalizing. A classroom environment where all students
feel accountable to the learning and where a teacher can feel well informed of
his or her students’ progress every minute of the class, every day of the week
throughout the entire year.

The ideas I put forth in this book are built on a combination of research, class-
room experiences and other well-studied methods developed by educational
leaders throughout the last fifty years. It is my hope that this book will bring
all of this knowledge together in a cohesive, all-purpose technique that will
give educators a way to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms
immediately and bring them greater fulfillment as they perform the greatest
task in the world – teaching.

Moishe Bak
WHY TOTAL PARTICIPATION?

WE ALL KNOW THAT TEACHERS ARE ALREADY BOGGED DOWN with relentless
demands on their time. The very idea of adding more to that workload is
enough to prompt any teacher to tune out when presented with new methods
or techniques. When I was a classroom teacher, I felt a bit of resentment
every time my principal suggested a new approach or technique for me to
learn. I have sat through numerous seminars which claim to be assisting me
in my work only to find out the effort it takes to accomplish what they have
proposed is unrealistic and burdensome to the learning process – many times
making my life more difficult and making reaching my daily goals almost
impossible.

The technique I will share with you in this book is not only practical and
easy to perform but it will actually reduce the time and effort you need to
accomplish your goals, allowing you to become a better teacher and your
pupils, better students with less effort. Total Participation, is based on thor-
oughly researched ideas presented in the 1970’s when the Active Participation
teaching model was introduced as a scientifically backed technique to assist
teachers. Based on this model, I developed a tool I call “Total Participation,”
which is designed to engage the student in the learning process in a way that
will instantly improve the speed and quality of student learning.

The world is changing before our eyes, both inside and outside the classroom
and while untethered technology and diminishing student attention-span
all seem to work against our classroom dynamic, we as teachers can counter
these imbalances by implementing Total Participation in our classroom.

In addition, Total Participation will offer the reader a chance to grow as a


professional and to imbue within his or her classroom a sense of renewal and
joy that will reinvigorate the teaching and learning experience for both the
instructor and student for many years to come.
ōACTIVEō
PARTICIPATION
The Foundation
HOW WE TEACH
IN 1978 ALLYN AND BACON , an educational research company, revealed that
the amount of information children remember depends not on what we teach
but on how we teach it. In other words, two teachers can teach the exact same
passuk in Beraishis with the exact same meforshim and one group of children
will remember the lesson better than the other.

Over the years, I have asked myself the following two questions hundreds of times:
■ What is the best way to teach?
■ What can I do to ensure that my students will remember the material?

I asked myself these questions because I believed that if I could figure out
the best way children learn and remember then I would want to design my
lessons exclusively toward that style. Why would I want to spend hours each
night creating lessons and materials that most of my students can’t learn well
or remember when it actually counts? Can you imagine how depressing it
would be if you would stay up until to 2:00 in the morning preparing a lesson
and the next day, toward the end of the class, you turn to one child and say,
“So why don’t you summarize the information for me?” and he says it all wrong
or can’t articulate the main idea or your lesson?

This question and its answer is the foundation to Total Participation. And,
although, Total Participation branches out to include so many more benefits
than teacher presentation and student retention, our conversation begins
here.

Rabbi Hillel Mandel, a world-renowned educator, once told me when I first


entered the teaching profession: “The inexperienced teacher says: I gave a great
shiur today. The great teacher says: My students learned really well today.” Nobody
cares if you gave a great class – everybody cares if your students learn well. If
a teacher delivers the most dynamic, inspirational and motivating lesson in
the world but the students retained only 10% of everything discussed, what
good was his or her teaching masterpiece? We are in this business of raising
the next generation of productive young adults – our lessons need to last a
life-time or at least enough time to build upon them. Our goal should not be
to “give the most creative lesson” (although creativity is great). Our goal should
be to achieve the highest standard of student learning; and research tells us
how students learn best. Let us study the research of Allyn and Bacon and
then discuss what we, as classroom teachers, can do with it.

8 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
THE STYLES
EVERY TEACHER EMPLOYS CERTAIN TEACHING STYLES in his classroom. Some
because it complements their personality, others because they think it is the
most effective way to teach. The teacher that has artistic abilities, for example,
may spend more time illustrating the learning than the teacher who is a
natural orator and loves to come up with the most creative way to explain
the learning. Integrating various teaching styles into ones lessons creates an
environment that allows for children to internalize the learning in their own
way – something good teachers do throughout the day. The question is, what
style helps the children retain the information longer? Which style assists
children to build upon their previous knowledge – providing them a way to
build upon their successes? After studying a number of teaching styles, Allyn
and Bacon published their findings and this is what their research says:

TEACHING STYLE # 1: Reading: There is no doubt in my mind that you had


an experience similar to the one I had when I was in elementary school. At
least once a week, my teacher would say to my class, “Read the following chapter
and answer the questions at the end.” What did you do when you heard these
instructions? I’ll tell you what I did. I went directly to the end of the chapter,
read the questions first and then went back and read the entire chapter. Why
did I and the rest of my class do that? Because intuitively we knew that by the
time we got to the end of the chapter, we would not remember everything we
had read. We understood that it is easier to remember five questions than to
remember five pages.

According to the research, if we tell our children just to read, the sad news is
they are only going to remember 10% of the information they read.

How many teachers instruct their students to read information and then
build an entire lesson based on it? Reading is important; but if your entire
lesson is based upon the knowledge you assume your students have because
you told them to read it, you may be in for a very unpleasant surprise when
you begin marking your exams.

Teaching Style # 2: Hearing: We can raise the probability of retention when


a lesson is given as a lecture (which is probably the second most common
style of teaching). When a teacher verbally explains a concept or idea, the
good news is that learning-success-rates double! Teachers around the globe
employ this method of teaching (especially in high schools) and many believe

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 9
that their classroom is a beacon of light for teachers around the world. The
students sit respectfully as the teacher gives an impassioned lecture, speaks
words of wisdom and imparts, in his opinion, invaluable knowledge. There
is no question that this style is important and sometimes very effective. But
the reality is that it still only leaves the children with a retention rate of only 20%.
Is 20% retention a level you can be proud of? I think we can all agree that it
is not. It makes one wonder why so many teachers and parents yell, “How
many times do I have to tell you . . .?” The truth is, a lot. If a parent or teacher
“tells” a child a rule without some other form of input, odds are, he or she will
probably not remember it.

Teaching Style # 3: Seeing: A higher level than hearing a lesson is visual-


izing something. Seeing a lesson can be achieved in various ways; some-
thing written on a blackboard, designed as a poster, or in any other format
(print media or digital) that is visually instructive to the students. Teachers
throughout the country put up graphs, posters and visual charts on their
bulletin boards – they have their students look at pictures, maps and
PowerPoint presentations – and they do all this to help process the infor-
mation using another learning modality. This should push learning levels to
new heights – right? Well, sort of. A teacher who uses Seeing as his or her style of
teaching has now optimized retention of the lesson to a whopping 30%! Will this
level of retention satisfy you?

Teaching Style # 4: Saying: If a teacher can get the students to participate in


a way that demands of them to verbalize the lessons and ideas then we see a
marked jump in the retention rates. When we have children communicating
their knowledge, they process and retain the information better. We all know
that higher level thinking skills (such as that described in Benjamin Bloom’s
Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain) demands that one is able to take infor-
mation in his mind and communicate it in another form. The research tells us
that when a child can convert your words into his own, then not only has he
understood the information but takes ownership of it as well. When students
involve themselves by speaking on the subject being taught, retention rates reach
70%. This may not be considered a full-blown success but it shows significant
progress at this juncture and hints at things to come in our study of learning
styles. 70% is excellent. A lot of information is transmitted to our students
throughout the day. We don’t (or shouldn’t) expect children to remember
everything.

When giving a workshop on Total Participation, Reb Mechel Rottenberg, the


menahel of Vein in Monsey New York, would often say: The more the Rebbi

10 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
repeats something in class, the better the Rebbi will know it – I can’t make any
promises for the children, though.

If you want your students to learn and retain a piece of information, have
them repeat it – give them the chance to “say over” the critical information
heard. Give the potential that “saying” holds to the very people you want to
retain the information.

If the reader would make a commitment, right now, to demand of his or her
students to communicate their learned materials with each other, to the teacher
or in any other form of communication that requires processing the informa-
tion, your learning environment is already a different place. Your classroom is
already a better place for a child to be in.

Teaching Style # 5: Doing: Many teachers have a hard time understanding


that learning from teaching is not automatic. Learning takes place primarily
through active and effortful information-processing by the students.

Rashi in ‫ מסכת ביצא‬tells us, ‫– מידי דעביד איניש בידיה לא מנשי ולא מסח דעתיה‬some-
thing that a person does with his hands is something that he doesn’t get distracted
from or forget.

This doesn’t mean that people cannot learn without doing – most people
learn that snakes are dangerous without handling them or that a bat to the
face will hurt without actually getting swung at. Nor does it mean that if one
does he always remembers. The research tells us, though, that when a learner
is actively participating in the lesson by doing something, he or she has a
greater chance of remembering 90% of the information than one who only
sees or hears the same information being taught. As the famous saying goes:

I hear, I forget
I see, I remember
I do, I learn

Here’s an important concept to remember: Our job as teachers is to raise the


1
probability of learning in our classrooms . Our entire approach to teaching – our
classroom management methodology, worksheet design and teaching style

1. It is worthwhile to mention at this point that retention and memory of our lessons are relative. The truth is we
don’t necessarily want our students to remember 100% of what went on during the course of a given class. There
is a lot said in a forty-five minute period and not everything is important for future learning. The anecdote and the
time you needed to re-explain a concept to a child who got confused are two examples of “teaching moments” that
aren’t essential to remember or retain. When we talk about retention percentages and styles teachers can use to raise
those percentages, I am referring to critical information. Trying to employ doing to every moment of your lesson is
nonsensical and a waste of time. But planning styles that raise the level of retention on the most important parts of
your lesson is good teaching.

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 11
all contribute toward a productive learning experience and in turn raises the
probability of our students’ success. If we can somehow stimulate our students
to do more and in turn retain more, then the probability of success is at our
fingertips.

As you continue through this book, always remember the primary objective:
When one does, one learns – Period.

TOTAL PARTICIPATION: WHAT IT ISN’T

Continual Participation Vs. Eventual Participation

TO TRULY APPRECIATE WHAT TOTAL PARTICIPATION can do for the children


in your class, I’d like to share with you two, seemingly harmless actions that
teachers can do in the classroom that not only prevents total involvement but
creates total shutdown instead.

A number of years ago, I gave a Total Participation workshop to a group of


elementary school rabbeim and teachers. Right after the workshop, a History
teacher approached me and said, “You should come into my classroom and see
how all of the children in my class are involved.”

Excited to see Total Participation in action, I was more than happy to oblige.
That afternoon I sat in a classroom and watched a teacher do two things – two
negative actions that, I believe, are the exact opposite of Total Participation.
Not only did it not raise the probability of learning and retention, but it
created an environment that encouraged student disengagement instead of
participation as well.

The first thing he did, was something many teachers do but have no idea
how it creates an environment contrary to total involvement. Here’s what
he did: Whenever this teacher wanted to ask a question, he always called
on a specific child before asking his question. For example, let’s assume Mr.
Educator was teaching the events that led up to the Civil War. He had been

12 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
teaching this topic for a few days and now he wanted to make sure the class
was with him before he began discussing the details of the battle at Fort
Sumter. He turned to a boy in the fourth row and said: “Chaim, what were
some of the events that took place in the United States that led up to Civil War?”

What happened at the moment he asked this question? What happened to


the rest of the class at the moment he said Chaim’s name? Everybody else
shut down.

There is a difference between what is called continual participation and


eventual participation. When a teacher calls on a student and then asks a
question, the chances are pretty good that only the teacher and the unfor-
tunate student will pay attention to the question being asked. The rest of
the class has received the message that their participation is not required
at the moment. When Mr. Educator said the name of the student in row four
before asking his question, all the other students shut down because they
got a very clear message that the only one who has to listen, right now, is
Chaim.

Understanding the wrong way, at times, helps us master Total Participation


the right way. Mr. Educator had all the right intentions, but participation by
ALL his students was made almost impossible by his own subtle actions.
If we want our students to do more – to participate more – we will need to
figure out a way to continually keep them involved in the learning – from
the moment they enter our classroom until they leave. Total Participation will
help us achieve this goal by providing the reader with methods and strategies
that will continually engage the students with that being learned.

Democratic Participation Vs. Autocratic Participation

The second “technique” Mr. Educator did was also contrary to the goals of Total
Participation. It is a teaching practice that produces a total shut-down and it
occurs in the classroom in which the teacher has a distorted view of democ-
racy that implies that everyone should be called on at least once, or equally
often, per class period. These teachers have a checklist of all their students in
their class and make sure that everyone gets “equal time”. The problem is, that
as soon as a student answers his obligatory question, he or she knows that
they can relax for the rest of the class period, since the others need to have
their turn.

When I was in elementary school, my name was always on the top of the
teacher’s list (my name is Bak, in case the author’s name wasn’t big enough

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 13
on the cover). For the first five minutes, of every day, you wouldn’t find a
more serious student. I listened to every word, started every task on time and
stayed on task until it was complete at least until my rebbi or teacher began
to “involve” the class. Within the first five minutes of class, the teacher would
always ask a number of questions to make sure the class was with him. “Bak,”
he would bellow. “Who was the oldest son of Yitzchok’s second son’s wife
whose name started with a reish?”

“Yoseph,” I would confidently reply.

Excellent. Well done. Check. Then came out the tic-tac-toe, the mazes, the
coloring books and everything else I needed to keep myself busy for the rest
of the day. The teacher sent me a message; yes you need to participate, but not
always... eventually.

Once again, if the reader would put the book down and never pick it up again
but makes a commitment to avoid these two damaging behaviors toward
classroom participation, my efforts have not be in vain. Total Participation
has the power to elicit positive learning behaviors from our students but can
only work if we are committed to involving every student in our classroom.

Allow me to suggest that from now on, when presenting a question or activity
to your class, make sure to address the entire class before choosing a specific
student to demonstrate his or her knowledge or ability. It may look something
like this:

Look around at all the students and let them know (with you facial and
body expressions) that
“Before we go on,
every child sitting before I have an interesting question
you needs to be part of this for the class: If the passuk
tells us that the pit was empty,
conversation. Let the chil- why does it need to tell us that it
didn’t have water in it – if it was
dren know that you may, empty, isn’t it obvious that it
at any time, call on ANY didn’t have water in it?”

child to participate in the


learning.

In addition, those teachers


‫והבור רק‬
who would like to have a ‫אין בו מים‬
class list in order to keep
track of who participated
and how well they did,
might create a list or have

14 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
a system that is random. Some teachers create such a random list the night
before to make sure that every student is involved or keep track of which
students were called upon by the checks next to the student’s name.

I once visited a classroom where a Rebbi created, the day before school began
in early September, a stack of small index cards that had his students name on
them. Actually, he created three stacks – three cards for each child – and shuf-
fled the deck before entering the classroom each day. The Rebbi demanded of
himself to go through the entire deck
every day. Can you imagine the chil-
dren in this classroom? Will there
ever be a moment that a child
would assume that the general
question Rebbi just threw out
to the entire class is certainly
not for me?

The key to successfully avoiding Eventual Participation in your classroom


is simple. Send a clear message to the children: Stay alert and be able to
constantly participate all the time and for every question.

Participating Vs. Performing

The last thing we need to discuss before introducing Total Participation is


the importance of understanding the difference between participating and
performing. The mistake many educators make is that they do not have a clear
understanding of what kind of participation is most beneficial to the learning.
And with the possibility of a student giving a “performance” instead of actually
being present in the moment of learning, a teacher must understand that the
difference will deeply influence the end result. A ‘performance’ of learning can
be defined as anything a student does that is not indicative of actual engaged
learning. To demonstrate this further please consider the scenario on the top
of the next page and decide whether or not the teacher is actively involving
the students in his lesson or is he allowing room for a student to deride actual
learning with a performance of learning.

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 15
“Close
"O.K. your Chumashim,
class, we have I have a picture of
just finished the mishkan that you
learning all about can color and bring
the Mishkan" home for your
parents to shep
nachas.”

Now, although the students are all actively participating in the activity of
coloring, are they participating in the learning? Will the students have a
chance to think or reflect on the actual learning? Absolutely not! They now
refocused their attention on the picture of the mishkan and what color
crayons they would use to enhance it.

Here’s an important phrase to always remember: Students performing is not the


same as students participating.

We want our students “to do” so that they remember more (90% retention
when children do), but we also want them to remember the main objective
of the lesson and perhaps its meaning. For that to happen a child must be
actively participating in the learning and not just participating in the class-
room activity. We want our students “to do” what it is they are learning like
the teacher in this next scenario.

“I would
like everyone in "...and
“O.K. this class to take a draw on a piece
class, we have moment and think about of paper the
just finished the four sections of sections and label
learning all the the mishkan“ what each section
verses about the was called.”
mishkan.”

16 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
Did the teacher say something that helped the students think about the
lesson? If you thought “yes” you are correct. When the teacher said, “Take a
moment and think about . . .”, he made the students consider what they had
learned. And when he said, “and draw on a piece of paper the sections and label
what each section was called.” he gave his class an opportunity “to do” – an
activity that raised the probability of retention and future success. The key
idea in understanding the concept of Total Participation is simply in the goal
of the activity. If the activity is designed to engage the students both mentally
and physically then you are on the right path. If it is “busy work,” the results
may be disappointing.

TOTAL PARTICIPATION: WHAT IT IS


NOW THAT WE KNOW WHAT TO AVOID and some techniques to include in our
teaching to promote active learning, we are ready to discuss Total Participation.
Here, in this section, I will outline the elements of Total Participation with a
brief overview and in the following chapters, expand each element and share
with the reader different ways to master each them.

Total Participation is a technique teachers use to engage each student in the


classroom to continually participate in the learning process. Research tells
us that when the mind is continuously engaged with that which is being
learned, the speed and quality of learning is increased.

Total Participation requires three elements: Private Participation, Public


Participation and Accountability.

ELEMENT #1: Private Participation

If our goal is for the students to participate in the learning, we need to figure out
a way to have them participate privately (in their own mind) before we can ask
them to do something. If I were to hand you a Rubicks Cube right now and say,
“Go ahead, do it.” You would need to take a moment to see where the different
colored cubes are positioned to actually begin. We can’t ask students to partici-
pate verbally or physically without having them think about the learning first.
For Total Participation to work, teachers will need to master the art of Private
Participation. In Chapter Two we will explore the world of Private Participation
and how it sets the stage for total involvement from all your students.

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 17
ELEMENT #2: Public Participation

Once we get our students to think about the learning, we can then ask them
to do. By doing we are not only raising the level of retention and thereby
laying the building block for future learning, it also gives teachers a way to
see that learning is actually taking place. If a student can correctly draw the
four sections of the mishkan and label them properly, his activity has not only
enhanced his retention but it also proved to the teacher that learning took
place as well. In Chapter Three, we will study this second element of Total
Participation to ensure that not only are the students thinking about the
learning but they are actual doing the learning – raising his/her retention
level and in doing so, raising the speed and quality of the learning in the
process as well.

ELEMENT #3: Accountability

Developing ways to direct your students toward productive thinking and


doing is all good and well if they actually felt accountable toward the learning
before the lesson began. If a teacher would enter her classroom tomorrow
and say, “We’re all going to be doing a lot more around here from now on,”
may be sending a clear message to the class about her goals for learning but
it doesn’t help the children develop into participating students. Teachers who
want to change the culture of their classroom into an environment where all
students enter the room knowing that they are responsible to participate both
privately and publically will need to insert Accountability into their classroom
culture. Accountability is the battery behind Total Participation and in Chapter
Four we will take a look at ways we can insert Accountability into the learning
and create an atmosphere of Total Participation by all the students.

Advantages of TP

The advantages of Total Participation can be measured in higher test scores,


happier students, empowered teachers and in more focused individuals. Other
advantages may include, total student engagement, deeper student/teacher
connections and most importantly, the probability that they will remember
you and your lessons long after they graduate from your classroom.

In short, Total Participation is simply a technique that will:


■ Raise retention levels to 90%
■ Involve all of the learners – all of the time.
■ Facilitate and accelerate the learning process.

18 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
TP Activity:

Before reading the next chapter, see if you can complete the following activity.
If you can, you know you are ready for Chapter Two.

Directions: Ask yourself what do the following terms or words mean to you:
■ Doing = Higher Retention
■ Continual Participation Vs. Eventual Participation
■ Democratic Participation Vs. Autocratic Participation
■ Performing Vs. Participating
■ The Three Elements of Total Participation

AC T I V E PA RT I C I PAT I O N : T H E FO U N DAT I O N 19
ōPRIVATEō
PARTICIPATION
Element I
PRIVATE PARTICIPATION: AN OVERVIEW
I ONCE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBSERVE Rabbi Yisroel Meir Rubinfeld of
Torah Umesorah teaching a gemara class in Toronto, Ont. The gemara class
was scheduled to begin at 9:00am just after the boys finished the breakfast
served to students in grades 5-8 after davening. At 8:50am the boys began
filing into the classroom – some hanging around the lockers in the back of
the room, others were schmoozing around a popular boy’s desk – when Rabbi
Rubinfeld entered the classroom.

“You wouldn’t believe this,” he said in a loud voice. “I was just walking through the
parking lot and there standing straight up on the concrete between two cars was
a can of Coke. I looked at it pretty closely and noticed there were no identifying
marks – no one’s name or phone number on it.” (Then he dramatically paused
and stroked his beard for effect.) “Do you think I could keep that can of soda or
do I need to find its rightful owner?”

As an observer sitting in the back of the classroom, I looked around and


noticed something pretty amazing. The boys who moments before were
schmoozing, kidding around and/ or reading to themselves, were all staring
directly at their Rebbi. Every single child in the room was thinking about that
can of Coke and whether or not they would be able to keep it.

“Well, this is a serious dilemma,” continued Rabbi Rubinfeld. “But have no fear.
Today we are going to learn a gemara that will discuss this very shailah.”

I once heard a great line from internationally known educator, author and
lecturer, Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg: A good teacher makes you think even when
you don’t want to. To engage your students in Total Participation, you will need
to engage their minds first. It is very difficult to ask your student to do if you
haven’t given them the opportunity to privately participate in the learning.
In this chapter we will discuss the science behind Private Participation, how
it works and what pitfalls to stay away from in order to ensure maximum
productivity. Private Participation, the first element of Total Participation, is
behavior we cannot see – it’s a prerequisite, though, to public involvement
(and thereby public participation) from our students.

22 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
PRIVATE PARTICIPATION: WHAT IT ISN’T
AS IN PREVIOUS SECTIONS, I like to start with the unconstructive before intro-
ducing the constructive. Sometimes it is easier to understand what something
is by demonstrating what it isn’t. Private Participation isn’t a component
that simply grabs your student’s attention to focus on what you are saying.
Any teacher worth his weight in salt can grab his students’ attention at any
given time. A teacher can walk into the classroom wearing big colorful shoes,
a red nose and a flimsy hat. A rebbi or morah can tell unbelievable stories
that captivate their talmidim all day long. I am sure these educators will have
their students on the edge of their seats and listening intently to everything
they have to say, but will their behaviors help engage the students in Total
Participation? I think we can agree, it won’t.

As matter of fact, doing things that dramatically grab your student’s mind
can have very negative effects and create an environment that is exactly the
opposite of Total Participation. Allow me to illustrate this point with a story.

When I was in elementary school, my class had a substitute one day. I will
never forget this young man’s enthusiasm and flare for dramatic stories. He
entered the classroom with a big bright smile, slapped his hands together like
he was about to test-drive the space shuttle and told us the most dramatic
stories ever. Three-decades later I still remember his introduction to ‫מסכת‬
‫ברכות פרק ד‬.

“Boys, when I was a bachur learning in Eretz Yisroel, my chaveirim and I did the
wildest things. Every bein hazmanim, we would rent a car and drive to the craziest
places.” (He squinted and sang these last two words like the very thought
of it brought back a flood of adventurous memories.) “One summer day, we
were driving along a highway and we happened along a mountain. We pulled
the car over and decided to climb that mountain. We were determined to reach
the summit before sh’kia so we could watch the beautiful sunset HaShem had
prepared for us. We quickly pulled out the mountain boots we had in the trunk and
began to climb the mountain with our bare hands, using our Mountain Boots to dig
footholds for ourselves as we began to ascend higher and higher up the side of the
mountain. After two hours of climbing, our clothes were torn and our hands were
bleeding but we were determined to make it to the top. Finally, after seven hours we
pulled our way up to the plateau just in time to see the sun set over the mountains
of Yerushalayim.”

The substitute then looked at us, wild-eyed and a tad over-enthusiastic and

E L E M E N T O N E : P R I VAT E PA RT I C I PAT I O N 23
said, “We are about to learn a mishna that discusses the different times one can
daven mincha. Who is excited as I am?”

I don’t know about anyone else in my class but I spent the rest of the day
wondering, why would anyone carry around boots in their trunk looking for
mountains to climb?

This substitute’s dramatic story grabbed my attention and certainly made me


“privately engaged” in his story, but it also took me far away from his learning
objective which was ‫תפלת המנחה עד הערב‬. This teacher created something called
a negative transfer – he successfully transferred my mind from thinking
about random things to his story but he also transferred it to something that
had nothing to do with ‫ברכות פרק ד משנה א‬. Good teachers who understand the
need for private participation and mental involvement also know that the ideas
that we direct our students to think about, must be congruent with the intended
learning objectives. Any other teacher-led discussion would be damaging to the
students and the learning outcomes.

So, when considering the first element of Total Participation, Private


Participation, teachers need to be cognizant of the fact that private involvement
can have undesirable consequences if done poorly or without proper planning.

PRIVATE PARTICIPATION: WHAT IT IS


AS I MENTIONED, PRIVATE
PARTICIPATION is behavior
we cannot see but is a
vital part of the Total
Participation model. Private
Participation takes place in
the minds of the students
and serves as a prerequisite
to getting public participa-
tion from our students. If
our goal is for our students
to do, then we must direct our students’ mind toward the learning – we must
create positive transfers throughout the lesson by saying and doing things that

24 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
makes them think about the learning at hand. In other words, if our goal is to get
students engaged with learning and we can’t get them involved with the learning
if they’re not thinking about it, then we need to be the ones to start the engines
in the brain moving.

Many educators call this component, Directed Thinking: A suggestion or


activity, on the part of the educator, that make the students think about the
learning at hand.

The following are some basic examples of short phrases or questions teachers
can say to stir the students mind, into thought that will lead to doing. These
examples are intended to give the reader an idea of the element but the
examples are limitless – bound only by the imagination and creativity of each
teacher.

■ What do the names ‫ יעקב‬and ‫ עקיבא‬have in common?


■ Read the mishna, keeping the following question in mind.
■ Recall the steps we discussed yesterday to solve this math problem.
■ Remember . . .

PRIVATE PARTICIPATION:
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
PRIVATE PARTICIPATION CAN COME IN MANY FORMS but always maintains that
the child is engaged within their own minds with the learning at hand or with
previous learning with the intention to build upon it. Let us say for example, I
would like to insert Total Participation into this book. What would I need to do?
Perhaps I would say something like this:

Do you remember the difference between Continual and Eventual Participation?


Or, Take a moment and think about how an alphabetical list of your students may
hinder continual participation in your class.

When I asked, “Do you remember the difference between Continual and Eventual
Participation?” if you were fully engaged in this book, your mind would
have started to contemplate: What is the difference between Continual and
Eventual Participation. You may even have cheated and gone back to page 12

E L E M E N T O N E : P R I VAT E PA RT I C I PAT I O N 25
to refresh your memory. One thing is for certain, the question directed your
brain toward a specific area of knowledge I wanted you to think about.

Total Participation requires all three components in order to be effective.


In the chapters to come, I will demonstrate how to take your students from
thinking (once a positive transfer has been made) to doing. Until then, let us
make sure we understand the importance of Private Participation and its
benefits before discussing its application.

Teachers who want to direct their students’ minds toward the learning can
sprinkle certain words or phrases into the lesson that give instruction to the
children what to do with their thoughts for the next few moments. Think of
the Rebbi who is teaching a mishna. Instead of outlining the four halachos
of the mishna on the whiteboard, he may want to say, “Watch carefully as I
outline the four halochos of the following mishna. By dropping the subtle
clue of “watch carefully”, the Rebbi influences the children to transfer from
their current state to “want to see” what is about to happen.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit an incredible gemara class. The Rebbi
began his lesson by saying, “Remember yesterday we had a machlokes
between Rava and Abayeh? Today we’re going to see that machlokes unfold...
point to the place as I read today’s gemara to you.”

When the rebbi said, “remember” he encouraged them to think about yester-
day’s lesson and the machlokes between Rava and Abayeh, and when he
said “point to the place as I read” he gave them direction as to where to focus
their minds for the next few minutes. He could have given the exact same
lesson the day before, but this time he added little clues of instruction and
directed his talmidim what they should do with their minds for the next
few moments.

Private Participation has three criteria:


1. It is a phrase, question or activity that generates learning thoughts in
the minds of the children.
2. It is a positive transfer from their current state toward the intended learning.
3. It is a clue for the student that gives instruction as to what you’d like
them to think about.

26 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
Wait Time

Private Participation may sound simple but in truth it really isn’t. In order for
Private Participation to take place you not only need to suggest, say or design
an activity that will encourage your students think about the learning (posi-
tive transfer), but you need to give your students the time to digest what is
being said as well. This digesting information time is called, Wait Time.

Wait Time was introduced to me in the mid-1990’s by my principal, Rabbi


Gideon Goldberg, when I taught fourth grade lemudei kodesh in Plainview,
Long Island. Actually, when he told it to me, I thought he was being unre-
alistic and a little idealistic. I did not think it was going to work – In fact I
thought it would ruin my class. However, since I was the employee and he was
the employer, I decided to give it a try. My experience was nothing short of
amazing. Here’s what I learned: Teachers who offer at least three seconds of silent
wait time after asking a question or after a student’s response, increases learning
in the classroom by giving students the opportunity to think, remember, and recall
related information and to express thoughtful responses.

There’s a very interesting Rashi at the beginning of parshas Vayikra.

‫ ליתן ריוח למשה להתבונן בין פרשה‬,‫ומה היו הפסקות משמשות‬


.‫ קל וחומר לנדיוא הלומד מן ההדיוט‬.‫לפרשה ובין ענין לענין‬
What is the purpose of these spaces (between parshios)? To give Moshe a pause,
to contemplate between one passage and the next, and between one subject and
another. [And if this pause for contemplation was given to the great Moshe when
being taught by HaShem, then how much more [necessary is it] for an ordinary
person learning [Torah] from another ordinary person [to be allowed pauses between
sections and subjects, to carefully contemplate and understand the material being
learned]. — [Toras Kohanim 1:3]

Rashi is telling us that whenever an individual is learning he needs to have


time to think – ‫ריוח להתבונן‬.

Rabbi David Bernstein the Director of Aish Dos Teacher Training Program
for Torah Umesorah explains this concept in a film entitled Bridging Worlds
rather succinctly. “A good Rebbi is sensitive to the momentum in the class-
room and he knows you have to have activity – you have to have action other-
wise airplanes are going to fly. But if that’s the only way we’re conducting our
class, in a certain sense we are not giving our children ‫ – ריוח להתבונן‬time to
think. All too often classrooms are conducted is such a way that the children

E L E M E N T O N E : P R I VAT E PA RT I C I PAT I O N 27
who raise their hands the fastest get called on the most. If I’m a child in the
bottom third of the class and I’m sitting next to another child whose hand
always up, at a certain point I’m going to have ‫חלישת הדעת‬.”

Children process information at different speeds. This often has little to do with
being brighter or smarter or more intellectual, it is simply the way we are made
as individuals. We all process information at different speeds. The problem in a
classroom with multi-level processing children comes when teachers (and many
teachers do) intuitively want a flow in their classroom. Gaps in the learning
process, causes the lesson to stall – often leading to problems in classroom
management. And because these teachers want their lessons to flow smoothly,
they are naturally drawn to the first two students who raise their hands shortly
after a question is posed. But the truth is that because they can answer first, it
doesn’t mean they know the information better or more thoroughly. It just means
that they have processed your question faster and they’re ready to share their
response sooner.

In education, the term ‘Wait Time’ refers to the moments of silence that
immediately follow a question (Wait Time I), as well the moment of silence
following a student’s response (Wait Time II). This allows time for all the chil-
dren to process the information so that every child can be involved. If a child
feels that he has no chance of processing information quickly enough, he will
shut down. But there’s another important result of Wait Time. When a teacher
asks a child a question and he responds correctly, that correct response is a
reinforcement of the information – it is giving the other children another
chance to hear the right answer.

Wait Time doesn’t demand that a teacher waits a minute after each question and
response. Three seconds – three taps of the foot is sufficient and you will see
more students participating and hear more thoughtful responses. You will start
to see changes that benefit all of your students’ performances and your overall
class dynamic over a period of time.

Too many times, I encounter teachers who tell me they tried a technique but
it didn’t work for them only to find out they tried it wrong. If you are going
to try Total Participation, I must urge you to consider the small things that
set the stage for its success. Wait Time is a perfect example of this. Wait Time,
a seemingly small classroom technique, allows the children, who normally
don’t participate, to get in the game. It gives them a chance to join the
conversation and look forward to demonstrating their knowledge and under-
standing when you demand to see it.

28 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
As my wife’s grandfather, Reb Baruch Gerlerenter, used to say to his grand-
children as they poked at the overcooked string beans: “Just try it. What could
happen, you might like it?”

In short: Private Participation directs your students to the learning at hand – it


provides a positive transfer with their minds that begins the learning process.
When Private Participation is done right – when it creates a positive transfer AND
allows time for your students to process all the information being presented –
then your students are primed for a productive learning experience.

Now you are ready to take your students from “thinking” to “doing” – the ultimate
goal of Total Participation.

TP Activity:

Before reading the next chapter, see if you can complete the following activity.
If you can, you know you are ready for Chapter Three.

Directions: Close your eyes and see if you can answer the following three
questions.

1. Why is Private Participation important if the goal is for the children to do?
2. Why is Private Participation referred to as Directed Thinking?
3. Can you explain the term, Negative Transfer?
4. What is Wait Time?

E L E M E N T O N E : P R I VAT E PA RT I C I PAT I O N 29
30 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
ōPUBLICō
PARTICIPATION
Element II

~~~~~
‫ברוכים‬
‫הבאים‬
‘‫לכתה ו‬
~~~~~
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION: OVERVIEW
WHEN I WAS A KID, I mastered the R.R.A. technique to perfection. For those
readers who have never heard of the R.R.A. technique, allow me to enlighten
you for a moment or two.

There are some children in your class who are masters of


the facial expression that symbolize pure reflection and
intellectual thought. They will sit before you nodding,
looking upward in a thoughtful pose and sending
clear body-language messages that they are fully
captivated by your words of wisdom. Many of
these reflective looking children also have a keen
ability to repeat word-for-word anything you ask
of them. And because they are so adept at these
skills, these teachers, who do not call for a deeper
proof of learning, simply award these children with an A (or Aleph) at the end
the term. These children are the masters of the R.R.A., the reflective, repeat-
back and get an A technique.

If a teacher would just prompt Private Participation, he may direct many of


his students toward thinking about the learning. But how do we truly know
our students are actually thinking about the learning? How do we know they
are making a positive transfer and not a negative one? How do we know they
are thinking at all? If I have students in my class who are R.R.A. masters, how
can I be certain that learning is actually taking place? Introducing the second
element of Total Participation: Public Participation.

In this chapter, we will discuss Public Participation, how it works and


what pitfalls to avoid in order to ensure maximum productivity. Public
Participation, the second element of Total Participation, is the behavior that
we can both see AND measure. It’s our proof that learning is taking place.
And if you can actually see the learning then it means the students are doing
something to prove that learning took place and by doing so, we are raising
their chances of retention by 90% – every teacher’s dream.

32 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION:
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
WHEN A TEACHER CREATES a Public Participation activity, it is very important
that he keeps two criteria in mind:

a. An activity that demonstrates that learning is actually taking place by the


learner and

b. That the learner participates by doing because doing raises the level of
retention thereby increasing the chances of future learning and growth.

If a teacher asks his class what the names ‫ יעקב‬and ‫ עקיבא‬have in common
and the children are able to circle the letters ‫ ע‬,‫ י‬,‫ב‬, and ‫ק‬, then not only have
the children demonstrated that they have thought about the question and
have arrived at a correct answer privately (in their own mind), but they were
also able to demonstrate their knowledge publically as well. And by doing so,
they have done something that will assist their future learning – they
improved the probability of retention by 90% !

The teacher who asks the students to respond chorally with the entire class,
write the answer on a pad or worksheet or to share the answer with a partner
is in essence asking for Public Participation. What makes an okay teacher
great is creating these public activities with the right goals in mind. If we
design our lessons in a way for every student to participate AND in a way
that the teacher sees progress, then the ordinary worksheet turns from “busy
work” into a teaching tool.

Follow the path this technique has created: Private Participation ignited the
learning process inside the child’s mind that caused learning to begin. Public
Participation demanded a physical demonstration of the learning that caused
higher retention and a way to monitor the learning in real-time.

Here is an example of a rebbi using both Private and Public Participation and
by doing so, not only created an activity that required his students to think
and do but gave him instant feedback on her students’ learning as well.

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 33
Imagine a Kindergarten class learning the letters of the Aleph Bais. The Rebbi,
Rabbi Amolsky, wants the children to participate in the learning. He knows
that coloring outlined pictures of the letters is performing not participating
(unless, of course, the goal is to get a feel for the shape and form of the letter).
So, the night before his class, he created flash cards of each letter for every
child in her class. Here is how his Total Participation activity looked:

Since this is the first time the exercise is being done, Rabbi Amolsky may want to
practice the exercise with his class a few times to make sure there is no confusion.

Now, all the children have a chance to privately participate by searching


through their stack looking for the letter ‫ט‬. But now, something changes.
Rabbi Amolsky, who wants proof that learning is actually taking place
and children are not just shuffling through their flash cards, takes Total
Participation to the next level.

34 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
He gives her students ample time to privately participate (Wait Time) and
then says, “Show me”.

Instantly, all the children raise the card they believe has the letter ‫ ט‬on it.

Not only has Rabbi Amolsky created an activity that has given the children
the ability to engage in the learning (90% retention gain) but he also has the
necessary proof that learning actually took place. When those cards went up
in the air, he was able to scan his class and instantly see if the children were
able to identify the ‫ט‬.

Imagine if Rabbi Amolsky had no idea about Total Participation. Imagine if


his method to monitor his students was: “Chaim, find me a flash card with the
letter ‫”ט‬.

What would have his question done to the other children in the class? How
many children would have had a chance to actually demonstrate that the
learning took place?

Let us study one more classroom.

In this classroom the Eighth Grade Rebbi, Rabbi Alexander, just finished
teaching an important Rashi and now wants to introduce Tosephos’ question
to his class. But since Tosephos’ question is based on Rashi, he needs to make
sure everyone has mastered the Rashi before going forward. Can you imagine
how depressing it would be if Rabbi Alexander would give his bi-monthly test
(or at the end of the week) and finds out that every boy in his class failed to
explain Tosephos’ question correctly because they never really mastered (or
retained) Rashi’s question? To teach the Tosephos right the first time, Rabbi
Alexander needs two things:

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 35
■ Rabbi Alexander needs to get his students to participate in the learning
(privately).
■ Rabbi Alexander needs to get his students to demonstrate the learning
(publically).
“On your
“Rabbosai! notepad sitting
Before we on your desk, please
delve into Tosephos, write down how Rashi
I need to know that translates the
the class is with word .“
me.“

Rabbi Alexander, a veteran Rebbi, begins walking around the class reading
the boys’ notes. Thirty seconds later he finds himself back at his desk, confi-
dent that everybody know how Rashi translates the word and ready to hear
Tosephos’ question on Rashi’s interpretation.

Rebbi walking around looking at pads...

36 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
FROM PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
TO PUBLIC FEEDBACK
PERHAPS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION’S GREATEST STRENGTH is that it can be
seen. This means that the teacher can actually see learning taking place and
more importantly, it gives the teacher the ability to offer student feedback on
their own learning as well.

Nobody likes to work on a project if they have no idea if they are doing it
right. If someone stood behind you and encouraged you by saying things
like “That’s right,” “There you go” or “You’re doing a great job” how would you
feel then? Great! If children don’t do things that can prove learning is taking
place until an exam, then you won’t be able to give accurate feedback to
your students until it is too late. With Total Participation now you can. Rabbi
Alexander can take thirty-second-walk around his classroom and compliment
all the students who correctly wrote down Rashi’s translation.

How good does each child feel? How motivated are they to continue their
achievement and tackle Tosephos now? Total Participation created an envi-
ronment that:

■ directed their thinking,


■ demanded a demonstration of knowledge and then gave
■ instant feedback on the learning.

Ask yourself this: What would have happened if Rabbi Alexander would have
called on one student, asked him to say Rashi’s translation and moved on? Can
you imagine what a lost opportunity that would have been?

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 37
Here are some more ideas of Public Participation I’ve seen over the years:

PITCH CARDS

A little advance preparation can go a long


way in ensuring Total Participation. Using
what some teachers call Pitch Cards is a
really simple Total Participation tech-
nique that will ensure public participa-
tion for each student.

Before the lesson, the teacher can create


cards1 for each student with different
“answers” on them – answers to ques-
tions the teacher plans on asking in class.
When the teacher poses the pre-planned
questions in class, the students can search through their Pitch Cards (Private
Participation) for the right answer to hold up for the teacher to see (Public
Participation). With a quick glance around the room at the Pitch Cards
displayed by the students, the teacher is able to immediately gauge each
student’s understanding.

This technique was used to perfection by Rabbi Avrohom Steinman, a fourth


grade Rebbi in the Mid-West. When Rabbi Steinman wanted to review Hilchos
Sukka with his students, for example, he gave each one of his student two
cards, one with “‫ ”כשר‬and one with “‫ ”פסול‬written on them. Randomly, Rabbi
Steinman would ask his students questions such as:

“A Sukkah that has more sun than shade is...” or “A Sukkah with two walls is...”

Once the students had enough Wait Time to decide which card to hold up,
Rabbi Steinman would say “Show Me,” giving the students a chance to reach
for, and hold up, the appropriate card.

Pitch Cards can be made with words, images, phrases, punctuation marks,
symbols, etc., appealing to all teachers of all grades. They can be used to
review vocabulary words, ‫מי אמר אל מי‬, and ‫על מי נאמר‬. Pitch Cards can also
be used in a multiple choice or true/false formats as long as the questions are
projected on the board. Based on grade level, ability, and planned content, the
teacher can decide how many Pitch Cards to offer each student at the begin-
ning of each lesson or day.
1. Laminating these cards is a good way to ensure their durability from lesson to lesson and even year to year.

38 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
WE HAVE WHITEBOARDS, TOO

As we have discussed throughout this book, Total Participation that does not
result in a public behavior makes it very difficult for a teacher to know if
learning is taking place at all. This rebbi asked his students to take out their
whiteboards and write down two concepts they learned that period. But, I
think we can all agree, building into your lesson too much creativity – too
many physical behaviors - can really congest your lesson. Many teachers want
to know if there are Total Participation behaviors that are not so flashy but
still get the results they need as often as they need it.

The answer is yes.

I was once visiting a fifth grade classroom and watched a Rebbi use an excel-
lent tool for Total Participation. With only a few minutes left before the bell,
at the end of the day, this rebbi asked students to take out their whiteboards
and write down two new concepts they learned that day. After a sufficient
amount of Wait Time, the Rebbi said, “Please raise your whiteboards with
your answers facing me.” The class of 21 boys did so and gave the Rebbi to
ability to determine if the learning had in fact taken place; it also gave him a
way to compliment the class for a job well done.

Using individual whiteboards for each student is a “no-frills” way to encourage


Total Participation in the classroom.
Whether sitting with preschool chil-
dren on the carpet, or each student
at their desk, a teacher can elicit
student response in written form on
the whiteboards from each student.
With the aide of a whiteboard, the
teacher can receive immediate feed-
back about the success of the lesson
and can also give immediate feed-
back back to the students.

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 39
REPEAT THAT, PLEASE

In the beginning of Chapter One, we noted that students have a 70% reten-
tion rate when the teaching style incorporates student vocalization of the
material. When students can formulate the information in their minds, AND
express it verbally, they have a much better chance of leaving your classroom
retaining the information learned that day.

Several years ago, I observed a really simple way to have students express
and thereby retain information. I watched a teacher who wanted her students
to review the days of creation that HaShem created each day during the six
days of creation. They already had the six days of creation written down (with
pictures, too) in front of them. Each child turned his paper over and wrote
over the days he remembered. Then the teacher went around the room asking
each child to cover their paper and repeat the days of creation in his/her own
words. By doing this, the teacher was able to gauge, rather quickly, whether
the students remembered the details from class. An additional advantage to
this strategy was that the teacher also noticed whether there were any repet-
itive mistakes amongst the class, such as a specific day of creation being left
out. She understood this to mean that that was the information the students
felt most uncomfortable sharing and therefore needed review.

MOVEMENT OR SPECTRUM

Active engagement is crucial in a classroom that practices Total Participation.


Allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge of the material using
physical movement is a great tool in engaging them.

There are times where students can participate while remaining inactive in
their seats as well as activities that encourage students to utilize the space of
the classroom.

Asking students to show “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to answer a yes or


no question is a quick way to encourage Total Participation. Students can
also nod or shake their heads, put their heads down or sit up straight. As
long as there are two distinct but different movements, students can agree or
disagree in a variety of physical ways.

A fourth grade Rebbi, Rabbi Binyomin Medlowitz, knows how important it


is to get the children moving in the classroom. Whenever possible, he tries
to incorporate some movement, however small, into each day to grab the
children’s attention. Rabbi Mendlowitz likes gathering the students in the

40 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
middle of the room. He labels one side of the room “Nachon” and one side
“Lo Nachon” and uses these different spaces to review statements about the
weekly parsha. After a statement, such as “It took Noach 120 years to build
the teyvah,” the students run to whichever side of the room they believe the
answer to be. Students laugh and enjoy themselves while demonstrating
their grasp of the material and Rabbi Mendlowitz has a solid grasp on the
retention rate of his students.

An added benefit to this type of Total Participation is its versatility within the
classroom. It can be used to access prior knowledge at the beginning of a unit,
or it can be used as a great review activity at the end of a unit. Movement is
really important for the children as they sit for long periods of time during a
typical school day, and one may even want to use this type of participation as
a fun transition activity between subjects!

Total Participation activities such as Movement or Spectrum doesn’t have to be


after every unit or learning objective. It can be once a day or when you determine
that your students need something different or variety. The kind of Total partici-
pation activity you choose is up to you and must be based on your students need.

POSTER ROTATION OR GALLERY WALKS

Another way to incorporate movement in a Total Participation classroom is


to post questions (on posters or chart paper) around the room. Students can
rotate on their own or in an assigned order, and provide a written response to
the posted questions. Some teachers allow the students to use post-it notes to
place their responses on the chart next to each question.

After their first walk around the perimeter of the classroom, students can
rotate again to review what other classmates have posted or to answer other
posted questions.

Rabbi Berel Katzman used this strategy when having his students review the
blatt of gemara they had learned. He posted questions such as, “How did the
Amora disprove the other proofs?” and “ What does the word, ‫אנפוריא‬, mean?”
Each student was initially assigned four particular posters out of twelve that
were hung on the classroom walls. Rabbi Katzman then had the students
rotate to another four posters. The students were all actively engaged, much
more so than when working individually on a typical worksheet. This lesson
fostered a great deal of class discussion the following day as Rabbi Katzman
shared the responses posted by the students themselves.

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 41
What’s unique about this strategy is that it can encompass so many of the
aspects of Total Participation. Initially, there is Private Participation, when
each student needs to respond to the prompt independently. After, they
engage in Total Participation as responses are shared publically, possibly even
brought to the entire class’s attention if the Rebbe wanted to call attention to
a particular insight or thought a student posted.

Poster walks are also easily differentiated. You can choose different levels of
questions and post them either on different colored posters, or in different
locations. Assigning students to these differentiated questions would be a
great way to ensure Total Participation for each student in the room, regard-
less of their level.

THE STICKER SIGNAL

Another really effortless strategy to encourage both Private and Public


Participation is to use color-coded stickers to be placed on each student’s
desk. The colors can be used randomly, or can have specific answers which
remain the same no matter the lesson. For instance, when learning Parshas
Vaeira, yellow can always represent Moshe and red can always represent
Paroah. The teacher can say, “Touch the color of the person who is responsible
for…” Very quickly and clearly the teacher can assess the students.

I once saw this used in a kriah class. The Morah put four different stickers on
each desk, each sticker a different shape and color. Then, she held up an index
card with a letter on it and instructed the girls to touch the blue square if she
was holding a lamed. The initial response, thinking about the letter is Private
Participation and when the Morah witnessing the children touching the right
sticker, they were doing Public Participation. By utilizing this simple activity,
The teacher received immediate feedback from her students, and could quickly
tailor the rest of her questions, if need be.

The great thing about this strategy is that it can be used for multiple
subjects, on many different levels. This Morah used this in an
preschool class, but the same strategy could be used for students in
the older grades as well. For example, with each sticker representing
a shofet from Shoftim, the teacher can ask the students ‫ על מי נאמר‬or
‫ מי אמר אל מי‬questions, with the students pointing to the correct sticker. Of
course, this would not be the major assessment tool used for a unit, but, espe-
cially in the older grades, using sticker signals would be a really useful exit
assessment, or quick Do Now in the beginning of the period.

42 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
WHISPER, PLEASE

A really important component to remember about Total Participation is the


initial step of Private Participation. This phase, where the student privately
reviews the material after an appropriate amount of wait time, is the founda-
tion of the next step of Public Participation. At times, you can, and will, expe-
rience a student who is always hesitant to share an answer aloud in class. In
small discussions, he may be fine, but he never raises his hand to participate.
Whisper, please is a great strategy to use to encourage all students to eventu-
ally engage in Total Participation.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to witness a terrific execution of


the first step of Total Participation, Private Participation, performed by
Rabbi Menachem Meisels as he taught his fifth grade hascholas gemara in
Cleveland, Ohio. Rabbi Meisels used a great method in his implementation of
Total Participation.

Rabbi Meisels began his lesson by saying to his class, “Look at Rashi and
get ready to share with me which words mean ‘‫ ‘הואיל ואין להם סימן ניכר‬And
remember, Whisper, please.” He then walked around the room, bending down to
hear each student whisper the phrase they found in Rashi into his ear.

He was able to accomplish Private Participation by instructing the children to


look and find the certain phrase, and then accomplished Public Participation
by giving each student a chance to say the meaning of the phrase (which also
raises the level of retention as previously discussed). Because this was also
an indivual task, Rabbi Meisels was also able to give the students immediate
feedback.

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 43
THE CHEATER
ONE OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS I GET , when presenting Total
Participation is about the child who doesn’t participate privately but is able to
participate publically by looking at everyone else’ responses.

Let’s analyze this problem by asking ourselves a fundamental question.

What is our goal? What do we ultimately want? Isn’t it that the children get
the information? Do we really care if they heard the answer from us or they
“stole” the answer from someone else? At the end of the day, the child who
“saw” another child’s answer heard a question and got the answer. Isn’t that
what we want?

But for those who morally cannot allow children to “steal”, there is another
way to go.

Good teachers know when children are paying attention. They know when a
child is engaged and involved. When I was a rebbi, right before I would say,
“Show me” I would stare directly at the child or children who I knew were not
paying attention. When he wasn’t able to demonstrate the learning I would
quietly go over to him and whisper the answer. I would ask him to do it by
himself once or twice and when I was sure he got it, I would make sure to say
out loud, “There you go, Moishe – well done!”

44 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
For the rest of the day I would make sure to keep my eye on him every time
I gave a Public Participation activity letting him know that it probably makes
sense to “participate” before the activity – you are going to have to learn the
material anyway. When we discuss the final element of Total Participation,
Accountability, we will explore some more ways we can engage our students–
even when they may not be so motivated to participate in the learning.

In short: In addition to stimulating physical activity that raises retention, Public


Participation offers educators a way to see student progress FAST. Children who
attend classes given with Total Participation reported that the positive feel-
ing-tones in the classroom from their experience of success and encouraging
teacher-feedback changed the entire environment of the classroom from mind-
numbing listening and memorizing to incredible learning and growth.

TP Activity:

Before reading the next chapter, see if you can complete the following activity.
If you can, you know you are ready for Chapter Four.

Directions: Try to complete the following four activities.

1. Please write on a scrap piece of paper what the first two elements of Total
Participation are?

2. Verbalize the two objectives of Public Participation.

3. Circle (with your finger) the correct answer: Advantages of Public


Participation are:
a. Physical Student Learning
b. Total Classroom Control
c. Instant Knowledge of Student Learning
d. Positive Teacher Feedback
e. A 25% Salary Raise

4. Which one of the following is Public Participation?


a. The students color a picture of Noach and the Taiva
b. The students complete a matching worksheet with details of Noach’s Taiva.

E L E M E N T T WO : P U B L I C PA RT I C I PAT I O N 45
46 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
ACCOUNTABILITY
Element III
ACCOUNTABILITY: AN OVERVIEW
TO TRULY APPRECIATE THE THIRD AND FINAL ELEMENT of Total Participation,
we will need to discuss the concept of Motivation. And although we will not
get into the complex details of motivation in this book, for the purpose of our
discussion, we will focus on one element of motivation called Accountability.

To understand how Accountability works, we will need to talk a little about


how motivation works in general. The first set of questions one would ask
when attempting to discover the realm of motivation, is:

■ What is motivation?
■ How does it actually work?
■ Can it impact everyone at once?

Madeline Hunter, in her book “Motivation Theory”, said it best: “No one can
make a child learn.  However, circumstances in the environment can be arranged
so a child will be encouraged to do something that will result in learning.” Our job,
as teachers, is not to make a child learn but rather to create an environment
in which children want to learn. Many educators identify Motivation as: Intent
to attend. In other words, when a child feels motivated, he becomes committed
to participate in the learning.

Accountability, which is one element of motivation, involves the level of concern


a child feels to or not to participate in the learning. If you are going to be held
accountable for something, you will be concerned about it and motivated to act
on that concern. For example: Imagine you were working in a school that hired
a new principal who has a reputation for demanding punctuality. He informs
the staff that a raise in salary, for the next year, is dependent upon getting to
work on time. Because you will be held accountable for your performance (i.e.
getting to work on time), your level of concern (or: your desire) to participate in
this “activity” goes up resulting in your being motivated to be at work on time.

If your principal did not care about your punctuality, you probably would not
care either (if not for the fact that you care deeply about children and want to
send positive messages to them).

Now, think of a class where a teacher said that the class would not be tested
on a particular perek. Unless another factor plays a role in your students’
minds (i.e. they are intrinsically interested in the content of the chapter, or
love learning ‫)תורה לשמה‬, your students may not feel accountable to that class.

48 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
Therefore, their level of concern may drop resulting in lower motivation to
participate. This is Human Behavior 101. Human beings follow a basic law of
psychology: The Law of Least Effort. If you were walking in Manhattan and a
stranger would approach you and say: Hey, would you like to lift this 150lb
bolder? You would probably accelerate a bit and try to get as far away from
this lunatic as possible. Yet we do this all the time to our students. Hey, kid,
would you like to sit behind a cramped desk for ten hours and study things that are
difficult, challenging and at times boring?

There must be elements of motivation embedded within a teacher’s lesson


so that a student will choose to participate or as Motivatioanlists say: for your
student intent to attend.

ACCOUNTABILITY: HOW IT WORKS


ACCOUNTABILITY CREATES A LEVEL OF CONCERN that prods your student to
make the right choice. If the Accountability is at the right level, then generally
your students will decide to participate – if not, chances are he or she won’t.
Good teachers know, that too much concern can have a damaging effect as
well. When the concern to perform is too high – when the Accountability
is too severe – energy needed to participate may become worry, anxiety or
panic. Let me give you three examples that will demonstrate this idea.

“Good
“Good afternoon
afternoon class. Today we will
class. Today we will be studying Hilchos
be studying Hilchos Megillah. At the end of
Megillah. You won’t be the day, I will be giving an
tested on this but it is exam on this chapter.
really interesting. Those who get under a
You may want to pay 90% will be kicked
attention.” out of school.”

In scenario A, the teacher created no Level of


Concern. If I were in this class, I wouldn’t feel
accountable at all.

Scenario A Scenario b
E L E M E N T T H R E E : ACCO U N TA B I L I T Y 49
“Good
afternoon
class. Today we will
will be studying Hilchos
os Megillah. At the end of
’t be the day, I will be giving an In this classroom however, the teacher
it is exam on this chapter.
ng. Those who get under a took accountability and instead of
pay 90% will be kicked
out of school.” motivating his students to participate,
created an environment that is exactly
the opposite – his technique created an
environment that made it impossible for
all the students to attend and participate.

“Good
afternoon class.
Today we will be
studying Hilchos Megillah.
Scenario b Towards the end of the day I
will be handing out a
worksheet with five questions
in it. A perfect score on
these worksheets will
result in a +15 on your
next exam.”

In scenario C, the accountability may


be just right and may actually motivate
children to participate.

Scenario c

Here’s another important phrase to remember: Where there is no concern, there


is no learning. When there is too much concern, there is no energy.

Accountability is a powerful tool to motivate children. And although we are not


delving into the specifics of the technique here, I am sure the reader can see
how Accountability, even at its simplest level, boosts Total Participation. If you
are satisfied with your appearance, job or where you live, you will not put much
effort to change it (why would you?). It is only when you become concerned that
you will become accountable that you will “do something” about it.

50 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
ACCOUNTABILITY: THE BAT TERY
OF TOTAL PARTICIPATION
WHAT CAN AN EDUCATOR DO to direct his students to participate privately and
then be assured that they are doing what is asked of them? The answer is to
introduce and assert Accountability into the classroom; Total Participation
has it built in automatically.

Let us assume, for a moment, that a teacher wants to get his students involved
in the learning. He decides to insert into his lesson statements and questions
that elicit Private Participation. He may say things like:

■ Do you remember Rava’s opinion regarding this shaila?


■ Think about the three steps one needs to take to do ‫תשובה‬.
■ What would I need to do to solve this math problem?
■ Take a look at this map and try and find Yerushalayim.

We know by now that making Private Participation statements doesn’t neces-


sarily mean the children are actually participating privately. It also doesn’t
mean they are thinking about the right information at all. So what is our next
step? Public Participation.

Public Participation creates without any effort on behalf of the teacher


Accountability. When a teacher is able to say, “Do you remember Rava’s opinion
regarding this halacha?” And then adds: “Write down that opinion on your
notepad”, in essence, he is creating a situation that allows for Accountability.
By demanding a public demonstration of learning, you are raising the level
of concern.

Every day, when your student’s walk into your classroom, the level of concern
is raised since they know that you demand that your students demonstrate
their learning by doing. When you say, “Think about . . .” in your classroom, the
students experience something very different than in any other class where a
teacher would say the exact same thing. They know that your Private Activity
(in this case the request to think) will be followed by a demand to publically
demonstrate that knowledge. The moment you say, “Think” the students
become “concerned” because they know that you hold your students account-
able through Public Participation.

Here’s another example: Imagine a Rebbi teaching the laws of Chanukah. He


writes some halachos on the board and now wants to make sure that the class

E L E M E N T T H R E E : ACCO U N TA B I L I T Y 51
is thinking about the learning AND internalizing the learning. It may look
something like this:

.‫ימי ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬


ֵ ‫ֵאין ִמ ְת ַעּנִ ין ִּב‬
.‫אכה‬ ָ ָ‫ ֻמ ָּתר ַּב ֲע ִׂשיַ ת ְמל‬,‫ַּב ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬
.‫ָּכל ַה ְׁש ָמנִ ים ְּכ ֵׁש ִרים לְ נֵ ר ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬
‫ִמ ְצוָ ה ִמן ַה ֻּמ ְב ָחר לִ ַּקח ֶׁש ֶמן זַ יִ ת‬
‫ לְ ַה ְדלִ יק ַּב ֶּפ ַתח‬,‫ִמ ְצוַ ת נֵ ר ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬
.‫ַה ָּסמּוְך לִ ְרׁשּות ָה ַר ִּבים‬

“Think about the five


halachos we discussed today.
Turn to your partner and repeat
“I will be walking
those halachos to him.”
around the room to listen
in as we repeat the
halachos to each other.”

.‫ימי ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬


ֵ ‫ֵאין ִמ ְת ַעּנִ ין ִּב‬ •
.‫אכה‬ ָ ָ‫ ֻמ ָּתר ַּב ֲע ִׂשיַ ת ְמל‬,‫ַּב ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬ •
.‫ָּכל ַה ְׁש ָמנִ ים ְּכ ֵׁש ִרים לְ נֵ ר ֲחנֻ ָּכה‬ •
‫ִמ ְצוָ ה ִמן ַה ֻּמ ְב ָחר לִ ַּקח ֶׁש ֶמן‬ •

ACCOUNTABILITY:
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
ASIDE FROM THE ORDINARY level of concern embedded into your classroom,
due to his constant demand for Public Participation, a teacher can create
Accountability even when he or she doesn’t have a public activity in mind.

The teacher who uses Total Participation has the advantage of customizing
the technique based on the needs of the classroom. For example, if a teacher

52 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
wants the students to think about the 40 days between Rosh Chodesh Elul
and Yom Kippur. He may say:

“Everyone look at the calendar I just handed out. How many days are there
between Rosh Chodesh Ellul and Yom Kippur?”

The class will automatically look at the calendar because they know a Public
Participation activity is around the corner. But let’s say she doesn’t have an
activity in mind. How can she create Accountability without an activity? The
answer is by using the language of Accountability. She may want to add to her
Private Participation activity something like:

“Everyone look at the calendar I just handed out. How many days are there
between Rosh Chodesh Ellul and Yom Kippur?”

“Be ready in case I call on you for a thoughtful response.”

Or, “I will call on two non-volunteers to share their opinions with the class.”

Even though there wasn’t a creative activity planned, the teacher planted the
power of Accountability within the lesson. When she said, “Be ready in case
I call on you,” every student became “concerned” that they may be the one
called on. That concern created an intent to attend to the task at hand.

Accountable Accountability
Accountability gives teachers the power to extend the dialogue with students
who haven’t been participating – students who need some prodding to get
back into the lesson.

For example: Imagine you want to make sure the children understand a
particular concept before moving on, you can have the children write an
answer to a question on their writing pads to demonstrate mastery of the
pre-requisite skill. As the children begin writing their answers (after wait-
time, of course), you begin to wander around the classroom making sure that
learning has in fact taken place. When you approach Chaim’s desk, however,
you notice he has no idea where to begin – he simply does not know the
answer. Here are your choices:

■ Embarrass him for not being on task

■ Ignore the lack of knowledge and let him fall even further behind as you
introduce a new skill.

E L E M E N T T H R E E : ACCO U N TA B I L I T Y 53
■ Find a way to provide him with information in order to get him back on
task.

I hope you chose bullet three. Our goal should be always to raise the proba-
bility of success. We will need to analyze why Chaim may be lagging behind
or is unmotivated (after class), but right now, we have a chance to get him
back on track. Here is where a new approach at Accountably comes in.

You may want to lean close to Chaim and quietly whisper, “Having some
trouble with this?” Chaim nods sheepishly.

“No problem,” you say with a smile. “I am going to call on some boys in a few
minutes to share their responses with the class. Make sure you listen and
write down their responses. I’ll stop by to see your writing pad in a little bit.”

As promised, you then begin to call on some boys to read aloud their
responses to the entire class. As the second boy begins to answer, make your
way back to Chaim’s desk. Assuming he has heard the answers and was able
to successfully write it down on his pad, what will you do now?

Correct! (If you didn’t ask Chaim to read HIS answer aloud, you may want to
read page 37 again).

Accountability gave you the chance to give Chaim another opportunity to


participate privately by listening to other children’s responses and to partici-
pate publically, by writing his newly learned information on his writing pad.
But most importantly, it gave you a chance to give Chaim some positive feed-
back – something that may propel him to desire some more of the success he
had just experienced.

Accountability also sent a message to Chaim, in a warm and caring way, that
he is responsible for the knowledge discussed in our classroom.

When he doesn’t want to be Accountable

But let’s be realistic. Not every child “allows” himself to be accountable. We all
have students who are not motivated to learn no matter how dynamic the
learning environment.

The simple answer is, teaching techniques are not in place of classroom
management systems. Even the greatest teacher with the greatest teaching
techniques will have a student who, from time to time, is defiant, oppositional

54 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
and simply not interested. Total Participation in its purest form will not help
these children. A long-term strategy and school-wide plan is needed for chil-
dren with complex emotional, academic and/or social issues.

For the moderate discipline challenge, however, we CAN extend Accountability


to areas outside of the academic realm as well. The logic is simple: If you are
going to be held accountable for something, you will be concerned about it
and motivated to act on that concern. Let us consider the previous scenario
but with a new twist:

In this scenario, as before, you want to make sure the children understand a
particular concept before moving on. You decide to have the children write
an answer to a question on their writing pad to demonstrate mastery of the
pre-requisite skill. Again, as the children begin writing their answers you begin
to wander around the classroom making sure that learning had in fact taken
place. When you approach Chaim’s desk, however, you notice he is in the middle
of drawing a likeness of you wearing a cowboy hat on a merry-go-round – his
facial expression is similar to one waiting for a blood test. Here are your choices:

■ Embarrass him for not being on task


■ Let him know (quietly, of course) that he is wasting his life away.
■ Find a way to raise the level of concern and get him back on task.

I hope you chose bullet three again. As in the first scenario, our goal is to raise
the probability of success. Success breeds success – there is nothing more
motivating than the feeling of achievement. If we could somehow influence
the environment by raising the level of concern for Chaim, perhaps we can
impact the probability of his success.

You may want to lean close to Chaim and quietly whisper, “It seems you are
not too interested right now. Here’s the thing. I am scheduled to have a phone
conference with your parents tonight. I’d love to share some nachas with
them.”

Now, you may have his attention. Close the deal the same way you did in the
previous scenario:

“Here’s what I am going to do. I will be calling on some boys in a few minutes
to share their responses with the class. Listen and write down their response.
I’ll stop by to see your writing pad in a little bit. I know you’ll do great! – I can’t
wait to share the nachas with your parents tonight” Smile. Pat him on the
shoulder and walk away.

E L E M E N T T H R E E : ACCO U N TA B I L I T Y 55
As promised, you then begin to call on some boys to read aloud their
responses to the entire class. As the second boy begins to answer, make your
way back to Chaim’s desk. Assuming he heard the answers and was able to
successfully write it down on his pad, what will you do now?

You bet. Clear feedback. Positive reinforcement and (if no one is looking) a pat
on your own back for getting a child who was drifting away, back on track.

Now, the level of concern doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You know the culture
of your class – The only one, who can effectively decide on your accountability
language, is you.

In short: Accountability provides educators with a way to influence the class-


room environment to "motivate" the children to participate in the learning. It
encourages students to make the right choice – to continually participate in the
learning at hand. Thereby raising the possibility of future success and mastery.

TP Activity:

Before reading the next chapter, see if you can complete the following two
activities. If you can, you know you are ready for Chapter Five.

Directions: Send your response to the following fax number or email address. The
authors of correct answers will entered into a raffle for a free trip for two to Israel.

1. Why do we need Accountability to complete the Total participation model?


2. Please write a Total Participation event you plan to use in your classroom.

56 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
ōTOTALō
PARTICIPATION
In Practice
FROM RESEARCH
TO RECOMMENDATION
WELL-DESIGNED TECHNIQUES ARE NICE , aren’t they? They seem to authen-
ticate teachers – they demonstrate that education isn’t simply glorified
babysitting but, rather, teaching is a highly demanding trade with an above
average skill-set needed by its practitioner. But do such techniques work? Can
a technique used to perfection by one teacher have unsuccessful results when
implemented by another?

The answer is yes and no. A good technique, at its core, has scientific validity.
It is based on how children learn and grow – it is up to the teacher, though, to
perform techniques that mesh with his or her students’ needs. In other words,
a good technique always works – it’s the application, at times, that ruins its
execution.

Recently, a colleague of mine showed me a manuscript he was writing to help


young teachers on his teaching staff navigate their first year of teaching with
ease. The document was filled with stories and anecdotes from the life-expe-
rience of the author – a thirty-year veteran in the world of Torah education.
The manuscript was certainly entertaining but definitely not valuable. We
simply cannot be any kind of mechanech other than ourselves. Statements
like, “When I was a Rebbi I did . . .” Are not helpful to other teachers unless
they explain why the specific technique worked and how it can be applied by
other teachers with different personalities.

Any technique, if scientifically based, can be modified to fit your personality


and disposition but without mastering the core steps first, you are simply
wasting your time and that of your students.

Over the years, I have learned many techniques that changed my classroom –
techniques that raised the level of learning in my classroom for my students
and techniques that raised the level of teaching in my classroom for me. Let
me share with you a few ideas I found helpful when trying out new teaching
techniques and methods.

New Ideas Never Mean Old Ones Don’t Work

This is the most obvious point. We talked about (Chapter One) the research
about traditional lectures, but for better or worse, they’ve survived a long

58 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
time and children are quite used to them. Some people who try something
new are, quite reasonably, worried that they might be making things worse
instead of maintaining the status quo. You shouldn’t let these fears stop you
from trying new things, but you shouldn’t let your enthusiasm for something
that sounds good to you, in theory, blind you. Stay away from becoming
“trigger happy” and obsessed with new ideas. When ADHD was introduced to
the educational world, it seemed like almost every child was being diagnosed
with it. Let’s calm down. Professionals are never overly excited with new
things; Professionals are intrigued. Your attitude should be, “Wow, this seems
interesting. Lets give it a try and see how it works.”

They may be working well – But how do I know?

In the past, when I tried new techniques, I was always afraid that I was not
doing it right and even when a new method seemed to me to be working
well, I was afraid that I was missing something. Most of the time, when trying
something new, some aspects of it work well, and some don’t. Grounded
professionals are aware that in the beginning there may be problems, but
rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, it’s best to keep the
parts that are working and modify the parts that aren’t. When it comes to
Total Participation, most teachers become really excited and creative when
implementing Public Participation but fall short with ideas or activities that
will generate Private Participation. Recognizing your success with Public
Participation will allow you to focus on what needs work. I have always
found that trying a new technique with a chavrusa was very helpful. Finding
another like-minded teacher in your school, who is willing to study and
practice Total Participation with you can go a long way. Sharing your chal-
lenges and brainstorming ideas will make the initial stages of your Total
Participation transformation really enjoyable.

The importance of modeling.

If you’re trying out something new, chances are you don’t know exactly how it
will play out in class. It’s important to think in as much detail as you can about
how you expect something to work out. Don’t just contemplate or jot down
ideas in your lesson plan. Instead of, “and now group-work will happen”, think
about specific behavior that you expect to occur doing group-work or during
the discussion and what signs you would like to see that prove the method is
functioning as you’d like. You may want to think about what you expect the
students to do when you suggest a Private Participation activity or what you’d
like to see when you demand a Public Participation exercise.

TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N : I N P R AC T I C E 59
Then compare what you envision with what has occurred during the actual
class. If the class isn’t going as well as you had imagined, think about how the
reality doesn’t match with your vision, and plan ways in which you can steer
the class towards more productive behavior.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid to try new methods. Honestly, no matter what you do, your
lesson probably won’t end up disaster – children are pretty resilient, and
they’ll probably learn a reasonable amount no matter what you do. The
question is how much YOU care to raise the probability of success. After all
is said and done, trying new techniques is a great life-lesson for children.
Even adults try new things to achieve a higher level of success. We are always
growing – always trying new things to be better at our jobs and to make the
world a better place.

60 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N
GOODBYE FOR NOW
TEACHING, UNLIKE ANY OTHER PROFESSION, carries multiple life-long
implications that will result in the reader either being loved or loathed.
Remembered or forgotten. And because teaching carries such weight, the
techniques we study must be mastered and applied to perfection. The teacher
who has her students color pages as a Total Participation activity (see page
15: Participating Vs. Performing) may bring joy and pleasure to her classroom
that particular day, but will not reach her objectives of total student involve-
ment – losing the opportunity to make an impact that can last a lifetime.
There is no substitute for the pleasure of success and, unfortunately, there
is no easy remedy for the experience of failure. A great teacher once told
me, “Great teaching can’t happen without great learning.” Remember, your
students are supposed to be the beneficiaries of your craftsmanship.

A number of years ago, I heard an amazing story of the impact a teacher can
make on her students.

On Sunday, December 26 2004, an earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean,


discharging a tsunami with the force of 26 megatons of TNT.

Among the countries in Asia that received the visceral force of the tsunami was
Sri Lanka, an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern
coast in South Asia. 35,000 deaths . . . 2,100 injured . . . 500,000 displaced . . . From
the devastation, one can only imagine what the moment of impact was like.
An ocean dumped upon its inhabitants with the force and weight – 1,500 times
that of an atomic bomb.

On the morning of the tsunami, a young man woke to sounds of a deafening


storm. By the time he was able to make out the wall of water pouring into his
village, the devastation had already begun. Quickly, he grabbed his wife, moth-
er-in-law and child and physically dragged them out of his house to high ground
where he believed they would be safe. Only then was he able to look down upon
his village and begin to see the destruction. The trauma of the events was too
much to bear. The noise, the carnage – the destruction and devastation – it was
all so unreal and too difficult to process. But, then, something happened. At
that moment – at the moment of total despair – the young man remembered a
line his fourth grade teacher would say to his class twenty years before: “When
something is hard you must try, when something is impossible, you have
to try harder.” Even now, years after the tsunami, this young man cannot

TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N : I N P R AC T I C E 61
imagine why at that very moment, these words began to play and replay over
and over again in his mind. “When something is hard you must try, when
something is impossible, you have to try harder.” And as the line began to
repeat itself, in his mind, again and again he found himself running down the
mountain toward the howling winds and brutal waves. There he grabbed two
people, flung them over his shoulders, carried them to high-ground and ran
back down for more. For hours, his mind kept racing: “When something is
hard you must try, when something is impossible, you have to try harder”
and for hours he ran up and down the mountain saving hundreds of lives.

I share this story with as many teachers as I can. I share it because it demon-
strates the power of our profession. There is no doubt that the schoolteacher
in Sri Lanka had no inclination that her little phrase would save lives one
day. I am pretty sure she didn’t say to herself, “I better teach this stuff just in
case a tsunami hits.” But I am also sure that she was determined to teach her
students an important value that would remain with them for the rest of their
lives. She taught it so well that, when it mattered, it cuased her student
to burst into action in a way that made him a national hero.

After sharing this story and vort with my teachers at Shalom Torah Academy,
in Morganville, NJ, the Judaic staff made me a plaque that states: When some-
thing is hard you must try, when something is impossible, you have to try harder. I
hung it in my office until the last day on the job.

I still wonder, though, why they thought my job was impossible – in fact I
never enjoyed anything more than leading a school and raising the level of
teaching and learning for the children of the next generation.

Perhaps, one day, my lessons will change a life as well.

62 TOTA L PA RT I C I PAT I O N