All homework assignments are included in the LBH Workbook. Assignments include vocabulary memorization, grammar exercises, translations, and daily oral readings. The workbook also includes all the answer keys for the exercises and translations. We require students to correct their own work before they submit it (see instructions in the LBH Workbook, pages 79–80). These assignments will be daunting unless you help your students understand the objective of each one.
- Vocabulary memorization aids short-term memory.
- Grammar exercises practice the application of newly learned material.
- Translations are reading practice and exposure to concepts in context.
- Oral readings provide at least one passage that feels familiar when read in Hebrew.
Language is communal in nature, and, not surprisingly, is learned best in relationship. While we encourage students to be invested in their own learning, we also urge them to take advantage of one another’s strengths by studying with their classmates. Homework can be done in groups as long as each person submits their own homework. Submitting answers arrived at together is not considered cheating. Accountability for the individual student is maintained through classroom interaction, testing, and oral readings, but during the semester, our campus is littered with weekly student-directed study groups as they work together to complete their assignments. We also train tutors to work on exercises and translations with students by providing encouragement, guidance, and asking leading questions (see Tutoring Program). The results of this community approach to learning are amazing.
Located in the LBH Workbook, vocabulary lists consist of high-frequency vocabulary taken from the translation assignments. We strongly suggest that students be required to learn the vocabulary words the week before they use them in translation. Keep in mind that the main purpose of the weekly vocabulary lists is to get the words into short-term memory so that students can concentrate on grammar and syntax when translating. Vocabulary moves from short- to long-term memory through use and repeated review. Read more
Instructors and students sometimes worry about the amount of vocabulary assigned. Keep in mind that the concentration of learning occurs when students read the text. Without vocabulary acquisition, reading slows to a grinding halt after only a few weeks. Remind your students that the overall objective is short-term memory, not immediate mastery. If you are concerned about the amount of vocabulary, consider adjusting the weight you place on it while grading or adjust the way you test it. For example, we provide Hebrew words and only require the students to provide English definitions. Though we test vocabulary cumulatively, we place more weight on words from the most recent vocabulary list (see Tips for Quizzing). Since the goal is short-term retention, you might also consider matching quizzes. (When we tried that approach, we found that students got lazy and did not end up with adequate short-term memory. Thus, we keep our requirements higher but adjust how vocabulary affects their grade.) Do not panic if your students are overwhelmed. Just coach them on study practices, remind them of the rewards, and reassure them that your grading intentionally focuses on finding the balance between incentive (study!) and reward for the pursuit of knowledge.
Note: All infrequent vocabulary is glossed for the student in the translation. The disadvantage to this system is that there are some frequently used words that do not appear in the Joseph narrative. We add those words in the second semester lists so that by the end of first year, the student has memorized all verbs that occur 50 times or more and all nouns that occur 100 times or more.
Guide to Exercises
Located in the LBH Workbook, the exercises are designed to help students see how the grammar components are applied. This process also exposes students to the way memorized grammatical elements will appear in context. Although students have been taught all the facts needed to get the correct answers, remind them that they will make errors as they learn. Also reassure them that the exercises are designed to be a learning experience. Read more
We require the grammar exercises to be completed in the following format: 1) study the concept; 2) complete the assignment in pencil; 3) correct the assignment in pen; and finally, 4) highlight what they do not understand. We do not always get to review the assignments in class (reading the text trumps everything), but a teacher or a teaching assistant can answer the highlighted questions when reviewing the assignment. You may decide to review a few of the exercises in class if the whole group is struggling.
Guide to Translations
Starting in chapter 4, the students begin translating modified biblical text found in a graded reader of the Joseph story (Gen 37–50) in the LBH Workbook. Chapter 4 of the grammar concludes with a chart that helps students identify different verb forms until verbs are more fully explained beginning in chapter 11. Each translation assignment reflects the concepts covered up to that point in the grammar. The graded reader typically corresponds to a full chapter of biblical material each week. Most students will not translate that much in the allotted time, but we present the entire chapter because students continually amaze us with what they are able to accomplish. Read more
The translation assignments target what is known as the zone of proximal development (a concept developed by Lev Vygotsky). In other words, the translations provide the student with enough guidance to read just beyond what they currently know. Adjusting expectations so that homework is not a measure of performance, but a learning experience, is one of the secrets to student success. Since the objective is to gain exposure to texts, and through that to concepts in context, we encourage instructors to adopt certain guidelines for their students. (See pages 79–80 in the LBH Workbook.)
Adopt an acceptable time limit
Although some students will complete an entire translation, in our program, students are given full credit for spending five hours per week on their translation work regardless of how many verses they translate. Aside from relieving the students of excess work, this limit recognizes that everyone learns to read at a different pace. It also allows a teacher to gauge a student’s progress. Remember that there are times in the semester when they will all slow down, such as after the introduction of the different verb stems.
Require students to correct their own work
The time limit you choose (five hours a week in our program) includes time spent correcting their work against the answer key provided in the workbook. As noted in the workbook instructions (see pages 79–80), this process involves three steps: 1) complete the work in one color; 2) fill in blanks and/or correct their work in another color; and 3) use a highlighter to mark what they corrected but still do not understand. If possible, they are to word their question in the margin, but many students do not have vocabulary to express their confusion yet.
Note: The key to success in this process is helping students accept the foreign concept that you are not judging them based on what they “got right” on the first try, but rather on their engagement with the material. (An overflow of this principle is that if their performance is not based on initial accuracy or on quantity, you slowly remove any temptation to cut corners or to cheat. The student is then free to learn, even if it slows down the process.)
Move on to a new translation each week
In the first semester, we do not get to cover the entire chapter in class. However, since the translations are created by taking biblical texts and adjusting it to the students’ growing exposure to grammar, moving to the next chapter provides even more advantage than if they just completed the last chapter. Think of it as learning a language through immersion; while you only catch part of the conversation in the beginning, you grasp more and more with each exposure. Also the freedom to move on lessens the students’ feeling of being behind.
Grading the homework assignments
The homework is awarded full credit if the three steps are fulfilled and if the lesson is either completed or the student spends adequate time working on it. Usually a simple glance confirms completion. As you record their translation assignments, take note of any highlighted areas that may not have been addressed in class and either jot down a short response in the margin of their work or roll the question into a subsequent discussion where appropriate.
Note: In the past, we struggled to get translations graded and returned to students in time for them to review them for a quiz. We streamlined the process by recording translations and exercises from the preceding week while the students are taking their quiz. Because we read aloud in class, students are still held accountable to having the work completed on time, and because of the self-correcting element, work does not take long to record.
Guide to Daily Oral Readings
Oral reading is an important component of our program. Aside from reading Hebrew aloud whenever we translate, we have students read the same biblical passage aloud five days a week during the semester. The passages we use in our program are provided in the LBH Workbook (see pages 361–65). Practicing the same passage over and over helps students work on their pronunciation. The objective behind the daily oral readings is to provide the experience of reading a passage so often that students begin to hear meaning as they read in Hebrew (without having to think about the English). Read more
In our program, we focus on Genesis 1:1–5 and Deuteronomy 6:4–9 during the first semester. We work through these passages the first few weeks of class, allowing the students to practice pronouncing consonants and vowels while we explain meaning. Students should practice these passages on their own by reading them through one time each day (five days per week). They record their participation weekly by reporting how many days they read the text aloud (students cannot make up for missed days by counting multiple readings in one day). Each student meets with us once during the semester to read through the passages orally (this is not translating, but reading). We grade the reading as a pass/fail, allowing students to redo the assignment until they pass (while encouraging them not to waste our time with failed attempts). During second semester, we suggest focusing on either Genesis 22:1–14 or Exodus 20:1–17.
Interesting note: For ten years straight, every student’s oral reading participation percentage has been within five points (half a letter grade) of the student’s overall course grade at both the midterm and final points of the semester.