Standard FAQs

B”H

Q How do I refer to each level of these standards? I’m confused.

The 6 overarching standards can be referred to as “Standard Areas.”

Their numbered components – 1.01, 1.02, etc. – are the Standards.

Their lettered components – 1.01A, 1.02C, etc. – are Sub-Standards.

Q I’ve been using the Zekelman Standards for Chumash for a while. How different is Standards 2.0?

This website reflects the Zekelman Standards for Chumash 2.0, which were updated in 2017. The changes are minimal, but if you have been using the previous version in an LMS or other systematic fashion, you might want to familiarize yourself with them.

Primarily, Version 2.0 includes a few new items in Standard 3: Vocabulary and Language (such as familiarity with לשון ציווי), which has affected the sub-standard numbering slightly, and a tweaking in the wording of a number of standards throughout to improve the clarity of the items. In the Standard 4: Passage Comprehension, “Finding the Main Idea” has now been included under “Higher Order Thinking”. This has affected the numbering in this section. Throughout the standards, there have been other minor changes to improve clarity and accuracy.

You can download a full comparison chart of the two versions here.

Q What if my class is not on the grade level indicated?

A: Think of the standards as “levels,” instead of grades. What’s important is to assess where your students starting point is and advance them from there.

It’s normal for there to be a lot of variability based on school and community, not to mention student ability. These grade levels were based on a group of mainstream pilot schools, and are meant to serve as goalposts for schools to aim toward.

For some classrooms and settings, such as resource rooms, enrichment programs, or supplementary schools, the “level” model is far more appropriate. The beauty of the continuum that the standards provides, is that you can view the levels as a ladder to advance your students along. By assessing your students vis a vis the standards, you can identify where their  starting point is, and set goals for what  they will reach for next.

Q Help! I have a multi-level class.

A: Perfect! The Zekelman Standards for Chumash allows you to differentiate instruction for your students in order to customize their goals.

Administer a baseline assessment to determine which “level” of the standards each of your students is currently on. (The answer will vary not only per student, but also per area of the standards. For example, a child on a grade 2 level in Language Skills may be on a grade 6 level in Comprehension. For this reason, it is advisable to assess one area of the standards at a time in such a situation.)

Then, you can customize learning goals for different students, or different segments of your class. You now have a framework for planning differentiated instruction, and designing learning activities that take students up a level from where they are currently at. (For more on how to do so, check out the Menachem Education Foundation’s teacher training offerings at www.MyMEF.org.)

Q I see that these standards end at grade 8, but I teach in high school.

High school level Chumash learning predicates independent facility with learning and understanding Pesukim and Rashi. Currently, however, many students arrive in high school with significant gaps in these skills. No wonder they often flounder through long and complex Meforshim, when they have not even grasped the basic grammar of the Posuk from which the commentator’s questions might arise. As such, it is important to utilize the standards as a catch-up tool before delving into high school level learning. Use the guidelines in the answers to the questions above in identifying gaps in your students’ knowledge and abilities and to catch them up.

If this is not the case in your school, and students are on the whole at grade level (as reflected in the Portrait of a Student in the introduction to the standards), then you can use the standards for grades 7-8 as your reference point. Since independent learning is meant to be achieved in grade 6, grade 7-8 learning is very similar to high school learning. Standard 6, for learning Meforshim, is applied to a few select Meforshim in grades 7-8, but when applied to the full range of Mikraos Gedolos becomes a high school standard.

Q: I love the idea of standards based learning, but I’m just one teacher! What can I do without the full system in place?

While full standards implementation requires coordination between teachers and a systemic approach, if you are an individual teacher in a school that is not yet on board, there is still a lot that you can do with standards to promote your students’ success.

The key is to start small, and take off a bite that you can chew. By choosing one or two standards – the ones that you are most comfortable with, or those you think your students are most lacking – to focus on at first, you are accomplishing more than you realize.

Firstly, you are systematically building student skill in one area that you deem important for them (and as their teacher, you most likely know best). Secondly, you are building a habit of thinking systematically about what the components of Chumash learning are, and how to transmit this to your students.

Starting small typically snowballs, as it becomes easier to think of other skills and standards in a similar fashion. Your enthusiasm might be contagious, and you might find that your colleagues or administrators are catching on and might offer you their support and backing. But even if not, you are giving your students a gift of Torah study that no one can take away.

And you can always pick up a phone or send off an email, and our team of educators will try to answer your questions or direct you to the kind of support that you need.

Q: I’m in a position of school leadership, and I’m ready to dive in!

Great! We have a Deployment Guide filled with tried and true tips from school leaders like you. We also have consultation models and other offerings that might help you succeed. If nothing else, pick our brain, and let us pick yours, so pick up the phone or send off an email so that we can connect!

Q:  What if I don’t teach Chumash?

Then don’t go anywhere just yet. These standards are comprised of pieces that are needed for success in Chumash, however they work best when it isn’t only the Chumash teacher bearing the load! The following is a suggested distribution of the standards amongst Judaic (and other) subjects, in support of the ultimate goal of text based learning.

 

Standard Area Subject to Support Chumash
1 – Torah Shebichsav Essentials
  • Yahadus
  • Hashkafa
2 – Content
  • Parsha
3 – Vocabulary and Language Skills
  • Ivrit
  • English (to understand parts of speech)
4 – Comprehension
  • Any text-based subject
  • Ivrit
  • English
5 and 6 – Rashi and Meforshim
  • Parsha (Dvar Torahs that are based on Rashi and Meforshim)
  • Sichos and Maamarim

 

In addition, many teachers have found that the standards have provided them with a framework for their own subjects, in their own right. Here are some examples for how:

 

Standard Area Which Subject it can Support
1 – Torah Shebichsav Essentials
  • Yahadus (e.g. a unit on the Nature of Torah, especially as combined with Torah SheBaal Peh Essentials in the Talmud Standards)
  • Hashkafa
  • 1.06 – 1.09 Text Referencing Skills – any text based subject requires comfort in navigating the text itself, including Navi, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, or Sichos and Maamorim
2 – Content
  • Parsha, ensuring that the Parshas Hashavua is taught each year with increasing rigor, and is a source for “Bekius” knowledge of Chumash
3 – Vocabulary and Language Skills
  • Ivrit, ensuring that the language skills taught will not be isolated units but will build a solid foundation for fluency in Lashon Hakodesh
  • Any text-based subject. Ensure that your students build vocabulary or terminology as relevant to: Navi, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, or Sichos and Maamorim
4 – Comprehension
  • Ivrit
  • Any text-based subject
  • Readings provided to support learning in Hashkafa or Yahadus
5 and 6 – Rashi and Meforshim
  • Parsha (Divrei Torah that are based on Rashi and Meforshim)
  • Sichos and Maamarim which conduct textual analysis based on Rashi and Meforshim