Deepen Understanding and Build Connections

by | May 2, 2024 | Head of School, Middle School

We often talk about the interconnectedness of all learning at Rashi and how the Jewish lens provides another level. It’s an “and” not an “or.” Earlier posts lifted up the skill of effective written communication across disciplines and the focus of Rashi’s new writing curriculum in supporting students to develop this ability, as well as the value of asking good questions. Work this year by Middle School (MS) Humanities teachers clarifies and expands on these specific concepts.


Helen Ressler (Jewish Studies), Keith Civin (Social Studies), and Lauren Cooke (English) designed ways to build cohesion across their reading and writing curricula and to provide a foundational element to support students’ learning infrastructure – annotation. 


The MS universal annotation system promotes a deeper understanding of a variety of types of written content (primary sources, fiction, readings from the Tanakh, et al) and promotes reading with purpose. The system requires students to search for information beyond the text itself, to gather additional context and move beyond simply recognizing key points and underlining them. For instance, students are tasked with finding language that aids them in visualizing an idea, asking themselves questions to enhance their comprehension, searching for new vocabulary, and making inferences using contextual clues. These strategies deepen understanding, build connections, and boost memory.


Reading and writing across subjects demonstrates the interconnectedness of this learning. Strengthening students’ reading skills fortifies their writing skills as well. The reinforcement of these critical literacy skills across the study of Humanities in MS demonstrates the interconnectedness to students as well. It’s like the concept that for a novel piece of information to be memorable, it must connect to something we know. Like velcro, it takes at least two pieces to form a connection. The loops are our prior knowledge and the hooks are the new information coming in. The more loops one has, the more places new information can hook on and make lasting connections. The more of these connections, the stickier the learning – the deeper and longer lasting it is. 


Rashi Faculty empower students to find and explore a wealth of connections in each lesson, every day. By tying these elements together across subjects, students become better able to establish loops and hooks. Ultimately, this strengthens their knowledge and ability to learn new material across all modalities – a crucial skill for lifelong learners in a changeable world.