Course Design using BBH

A question we have fielded more than once is how we use the textbook in class—from scheduling to assessing work to integrating the Readings with the Grammar Lessons.

Since we see any textbook as simply one tool to use in the effective language classroom, we have no doubts that there are a dozen fun and effective ways to answer these questions (and we hope instructors will use this blog to tell us how they do it, whether in the comments or in an occasional guest post). However, we fully recognize that using this textbook the first time will require some re-thinking of classroom plans, since it differs significantly from other BH textbooks. So, below we briefly summarize our use.


(1) Scheduling


How fast do you work through the textbook?


The real answer to this will change depending on how many weeks in the semester/term you have and how many days/hours per week you meet. At Toronto, for example, there are 12-week semesters and the course meets 3 days/week for a total of 4 hrs (a double season on Fridays). Although the pace is adjusted every year to fit the group of students and their collective learning pace, the course always finishes up the textbook somewhere between Weeks 3 and 5 of the second term. At that point there is a second exam and after which the class moves on to the Jonah Reader that we are developing (see here). This schedule has weekly quizzes (5-10 min max) and 3 term exams (1 in the first term and 2 in the second term). Memorization passages are also assigned—texts that aren’t covered in class (students often choose a short Psalm to memorize and read to me during office hours in the last week of each term).

To illustrate how we carry out each class meeting, we are drafting sample lesson plans. The task of turning our partially typed/partially handwritten chicken scratches into materials we could unashamedly distribute has proven more time-consuming that anticipated, though. At this point (early Fall 2013) we have only made it through week 3. Those are available through Baker as Professor eSources (go here and click through to the Baker textbook site; once there, click on the Professor tab at the top right). Eventually we will finish the plan out to a full 15-16 weeks.


(2) Integrating Grammar Lessons and Illustrated Readings


How have you most successfully “zippered” the grammar with the illustrated reader?


The textbook is designed so that the lessons in the Grammar component can be worked through briefly and the majority of class time is spent working through the Readings exercises. During the first week or two, there may be a slightly higher percentage of time in the lessons since it will take a bit of time before the Reading will make sense. But the exercises in the first section of lessons are highly interactive and fun anyway.

The essential point we want to make, though, is that the textbook is flexible enough that it can be used in a variety of ways. We prefer to go very light on the grammar lessons (sometimes we spend less than 3 minutes talking about a whole lesson, or even assign it to be read as homework) and use the classroom time for highly dynamic, engaging, and language-active exercises. We want our students to “spit out” as much Hebrew as possible.

We describe our approach in more length in the Preface to the Instructor’s Manual, which we provide here.


(3) Accessing and assessing student work


What has been your most successful strategy for being able to access and assess the interactive work students are expected to do within the textbook—e.g., fill-in-the-blank (Cloze exercises), circle correct answers, draw lines to, draw pictures of?


We have adopted the “wandering professor” approach while group discussions or board work is done. We take mental notes, make a few suggestions, ask a few questions, and don’t grade anything concretely. Very occasionally we ask them to turn in a copy of something to look over outside of class. But for the most part, we rely on the weekly quizzes and term exams to establish the objective grade. The rest is subjective (i.e., whether they bring us coffee on a regular basis—ha ha).