לַעֲשׂוֹת as “to do” and “to make”

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לַעֲשׂוֹת as “to do” and “to make”

The video clip below is from the first year Hebrew class I am teaching at Fresno Pacific University.  It is from the 8th class period of 50 mns each (if one counts the first class period in which all I did was hand out syllabi and explain the dynamics of the class).  The point of the clip is to illustrate how, through very clear actions and commentary (in biblical Hebrew) one can teach a semantic difference between English and Hebrew, namely that in biblical Hebrew the verb לַעֲשׂוֹת is used both where the English would say “to make” and “to do”.

Some items of note:

1.  I use לעשות both for fashioning something and for drawing on the white board.  The reason for this is that I need a way to distinguish between asking a student to write (as in spell out) something and to draw (as an artistic representation) of an item.

2.  You will notice that the students are not talking.  Best practices for learning a language are those that emulate how a child learns its mother tongue.  In the same way that a child listens to hours of speech before attempting to produce it, so I instruct my students not to produce any of the language for at least the first 6-10 hrs of class.  Instead, they are hearing much biblical Hebrew: live in class and again for homework where they are to listen/watch depictions of objects and actions being described to them in recordings (see a demo of the homework here).  Because everything that takes place is comprehensible through context, it is rare that any English is used in class or in the homework.  The student is immersed.

3.  Notice the second teacher in the class.  That’s my wife Rachel.  She started helping me out a couple years ago as an experiment, but student evaluations that year revealed that having two teachers in class was the most cherished and/or helpful element of the class.  You will note in this clip how it can be helpful to have a second person teaching, and makes for a much more natural communicative environment from which students can internalize the language.  While I am spoiled to have my wife come and help me, this could also be a TA.

4.  Notice how differently the classroom is laid out: no sitting behind tables (they have been pushed to the side), no textbooks, all the props (toys), etc.

5.  Because it is hard to see, you need to know that the female student on the right is given play-doh.

6.  We are speaking slowly as ‘caretaker speech’.

Any other ideas about how one can illustrate how the Hebrew לַעֳשׂוֹת means both “to do” and “to make” without using English explanations?  Those of you who use Communicative Language Teaching, how have you done it?

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  1. […] my last post, I posted a video clip of one of my class sessions for beginning biblical Hebrew.  One of the […]

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