Teaching About Shabbat Through Sketchnotes

Sharing is good

Shabbat is a day of rest. What does that mean? The answer depends upon your personal perspective. How to get that point across to 7th and 8th grade students and to get them to personalize their Shabbat experience? Why sketchnoting, of course!

Common Ground

The big three Western religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – all have a weekly day of rest that is tied to their specific version of the creation story. Each honors their day of rest in a different manner.

All Jews are not the Same

Judaism has denominations like other religions. While each sect acknowledges and honors the sabbath (called “Shabbat” in Hebrew), each interprets the meaning of “rest” differently.

Teaching Critical Thinking through Sketchnoting

My friend and local Comparative Religions teacher Margaret Sequeira approached me with an idea.  She is an advocate of “choice through knowledge”. That is, not drilling dogma but sharing knowledge and the critical thinking skills to use that knowledge. Margaret had attended the August 2017 meeting of Agile Richmond, in which I presented an “introduction to Sketchnoting” workshop. She made a connection that we could teach her seventh and eighth grader students sketchnoting and then work with the students to create Shabbat sketchnotes comparing observance practices for the Jewish denominations.

We settled on a combination of teaching sketchnoting basics, my creating a Shabbat sketchnote/worksheet, and the class having an open discussion around Shabbat.

Shabbat Basics

The front side of the worksheet took a little planning because I had to figure out the right groupings of the rules. Coming up with the images was pretty easy as I drew from my own experience. This was intended to be the instructional basics with discussion being just enough to get common understanding of each rule.

Student Participation

Given that we had an hour, having a partially completed worksheet would save time. So, for the backside of the sketchnote I settled on the metaphor of Shabbat as a house with an entry and exit. Inside the house were unfurnished rooms for each Jewish denomination. It was up to the students to furnish each room based on what they heard in the classroom conversation.

Results and Unintended Consequences

Given the short time and the age of the students, I feel like the discussion on sketchnoting and the following one on Shabbat were fairly engaging. The students filled in their houses with text and pictures. The unintended consequence came a few days later when I received an excited email from a parent sharing with me a sketchnote that her daughter created in her earth sciences class. She was very happy that her daughter was interested enough to immediately apply sketchnoting in her daily life.

Life is good.