Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Gemara Berura: A Skills-based approach to learning Gemara and Mishna too!
I have always been a firm believer in teaching skills in Gemara. This is obviously very difficult on the high school level with the demands of Gemara in terms of language, syntax, lack of punctuation, and unique debating style. However, by communicating a clear methodology to students on how to attack a new Talmudic text, I have had a great deal of success in teaching students how to independently "read" Gemara. I even created a website with my ninth grade students almost ten years ago where my students communicated their approach to learning Gemara.
However, teaching skills is tough and anything that can help make this easier is MUCH appreciated. Enter Gemara Berura. Gemara Berura is a windows based computer application which can help scaffold for students all the steps necessary to learn Gemara. It contains a number of databases including over 900 keywords which are the syntax which helps one figure out "what the Gemara is doing", biographies of all the sages of the Mishna and Talmud, and the Melamed Hebrew/Aramaic Dictionary. It also includes textual formatting tools to divide the Gemara into sections, classify these sections according to their function in the sugya and connect these sections to each other to create a flowchart. The program includes color and shape coded classifications for sections to distinguish different parts of the debate like questions, answers, and proofs.
Full disclosure, I got so excited by Gemara Berura when introduced to it a number of years ago, that I became a teacher trainer for the program. I have had the privilege to train teachers in over a dozen schools and to work collaboratively witha group that created a beginner's Gemara curriculum based on Tefillas Hashacher, the fourth chapter of Mesechet Berachot.
I have found Gemara Berura to be an excellent tool for frontal group learning when coupled with a projector and Smart Board, for chavruta, cooperative learning when working with pairs of students on a computer, and for teacher preparation in creating worksheets and other activities to enhance the regular Gemara instruction from a standard page using the Vilna Shas.
Gemara Berura has recently added a new tool that they call, Mishnayot Berurot that helps divide up the various parts of the Mishna using a similar approach. While in Gemara, these parts are classified according to their function in the Talmudic debate such as Statement, Question, Answer, and Reinforcement; in Mishna, these parts are classified according to Title, Speaker, Case, Ruling, and Reasoning which are more in tune to the "case law" style of most Mishnayot.
You can watch a video demonstration of this new tool below:
For more information about Gemara Berura and/or to schedule a demonstration at your school you can contact Rabbi Meir Fachler or go to Gemara Berura Sales.