This past SBL conference, a short video clip was shown (a second time – it was first presented at the SBL conference in Atlanta the previous year) as to how it is possible to introduce the ו”ו ההיפוך (conversive waw, narrative waw, etc.) concept to a class using TPR.  Since there have been requests for it, I post it here.

I have been blessed to have my wife Rachel come and teach with me.  Of course, this is not always the case, but a well-prepared TA can fill in just as well.  The use of the scroll (book) is to communicate to the students that we are now dealing with a story, or in other words, a sequence of events.  Since speaking in ו”ו ההיפוך can be a challenge, a scroll has the added advantage that one can use it to hide the correct forms that have been written out and pasted in the scroll/book ahead of time so that one can read them and ensure one does not make a mistake.

Since that clip was filmed, I now introduce the ו”ו ההיפוך somewhat differently.  Rather than repeating the sequence of events the student did using ואחרי כן as a kind of “divider” between the various simple past statements while recalling the events in order, I simply restate the various actions in random order, without having to repeat ואחרי כן each time.  Better yet, I turn to the TA (or the TA to me) and ask what the student did.  Then we will start recalling various actions the student took, in random order.  This justifies our answers being in the simple past tense (קטל), since we are not talking about a sequence of events.  After recalling several of the student’s actions, I can then turn to the students and ask them for more actions performed by the student.  Once all the actions have been recalled (in random order), I then repeat the entire sequence of events, this time using the ויקטול forms.

Of course, the first time I do this drill, I (or my TA and I) have to say several of the actions (in random order) before the students catch on and provide more of them, all in the קטל form.  But if I do the drill a second time immediately right after, the students have already caught on, and when I ask “מה הוא עשה”, I can turn to them directly, and they will start giving me the various actions, hopefully in random order.  To make sure they do, I will sometimes begin by being the first to answer my own question by giving one of the actions that was done in the middle of the sequence.

One big advantage of doing it this way is that it does not require the students to remember how to describe all the actions, or remember in what order they took place.  Even if they remember only a single action, they can still answer the question, and not feel the extra stress of having to say it in the proper order.  Immediately, there is more participation from the students, because the scenario is simpler, easier, and therefore less stressful to them.  All of this boosts learning.

Finally, I find that by the time I do the drill a third or fourth time, using only a limited set of verbs, the students start wanting to produce the ויקטול forms as well, saying them along with me as I retell the sequence of the student’s actions.

One other practical piece of advice.  In the midst of the sequence of events, one can throw in a קטל form to describe some background information.  For example, if in the sequence the student opened a door, before I say “ויפתח את הדלת” (“And he opened the door”), I will say “והדלת הייתה סגורה” (

[Now] the door was open).  The students immediately feel the break in the narrative sequence and realize that I am giving background information necessary for the continuation of the sequence of events.  This helps them get a feel for discontinuity in the narrative.

This past fall, after I did that with the קטל and ויקטול forms several times, I decided on the spur of the moment to finish off with a scenario that used the יקטול and וקטל forms.  I asked what I would do, gave a bunch of actions I would do (in random order) using the יקטול forms, then, before doing them, I gave them the entire sequence in the וקטל forms, then did it.  And of course, the students knew immediately what what going on, even though they had never encountered the וקטל previously.

At a more advanced level, one can even turn to the students and ask them to say what the student will do in the יקטול forms.  When the students have suggested a sufficient number of actions, I as a teacher will give the sequence of actions the student will do them in, or prompt the class to come up with the order, using the וקטל forms.  Thereafter, I will command the student to do them in the agreed order.  (Optionally, one can even describe the actions as the student does them.)  After the student has done them all, I will then ask the class to tell me what the student did, their answers being in the קטל form, making sure that they are out of order (to ensure it, I will very quickly throw in an out-of-order one if I see they are going in order), and finally, I will summarize everything in order again using the ויקטול forms.

Of course, one can do variations on this drill by having a male student do the sequence of events, a female student, several students, oneself, etc.

If you have other ideas about how to effectively teach the ו”ו ההיפוך, I would love to hear of them.  Similarly, if you try to teach it using my suggestions above, I would like to hear how it went.

One thing is for sure, it is so much more fun for the students to learn in this way.  It is also way more fun for the teacher to teach in this way.