Report written by Jack Pillemer October
In an attempt to increase pupil
motivation when learning English in classes in the Central Galilee,
Israel, a program called
Virtual Visitors has been established.
For detailed description
of the project , Click here or go
The program was particularly successful in a Grade 6 class
in the Habad School in Nazareth Elite taught by Tobi Hendel.
Tobi's class of girls was paired
up with Virtuial Visitor Tova Britvan of
Michigan, USA who volunteered to write regular letters to the class
via email which were then used by Tobi as
texts for the the English lessons.
Over the year, Tova wrote about
her family, her home and her work. She wrote about a previous visit
she had had to Israel and mentioned
places where she had been. She talked about the snow in Michigan and
going snow sledding. She wrote about things she used to do
when she was in school such as putting on a school production and
tells about her sister's school play. She discusses "shmitta" in the
wonders what it feels like in Israel.
the class need not respond personally to each letter (according to
the demands of the program), Tobi required
her girls to respond each time. This was done individually or in
groups in various ways with the girls expressing themselves and
asking questions which made the entire process very
meaningful. The pupils sent pictures of themselves and a
video of their Bat Mitzva performance and
Tova sent a surprise Purim package for
It is clear that all of the English skills for that
grade level (reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary-building,
grammar and later even speaking) were taught and practiced
throughout the year alongside the regular English
program. The requirements of the Israeli English curriculum
were being met and authentic relevant and very
meaningful performance tasks carried out .The principal of the
school Dani Levy explained the the Virtual Visitor project became a central
motivating factor in the class around which much of the learning
The climax to the Virtual Visitor program in this
class arrived in October 2008 when the girls were already in Grade
7. Tova Britvan
came to visit Israel and a meeting
between her and the class was arranged.
I was invited to attend and left feeling
elated and inspired.
When Tova came
into the classroom, the girls all stood up and held welcome signs.
No sign was the same as Tobi had insisted
on this to increase the vocabulary used. Then each girl, in turn,
got up and read out aloud, fluently and well-practiced, a personal
comment to Tova, a little about
themselves and they sometimes related to an object
that was meaningful to them which they had brought with.
part of the face to face meeting was an all-girls event so I
left the room together with the principal. The girls sang songs they
had prepared for the occasion. I had to be satisfied with a booklet
of the lyrics and a CD. Yet again, the learning process
was made relevant and exciting. The use of songs and chants and
repetition of this kind makes the learning of chunks of new
vocabulary so natural.
We returned for the game "Jeopardy" which
Tova had agreed to prepare and run. Tobi had sent her a list of 100 words the pupils
should be expected to know and the game was prepared using this
vocabulary. The girls played with interest and enthusiasm and
indicted that they knew what was expected of
The success of a very simple program which
aims at bringing English from outside the classroom into the
classroom and opening a window to the real world, was achieved here
as a consequence of the exceptional dedication of Nazareth
Elite Habad School English teacher Tobi Hendel and a
wonderful willing Virtual Visitor volunteer Tova Britvan.
I, with the help of Stephanie Fuchs, hovered
in the background to try to make sure that the project succeeded.
Five other classrooms in the Central
Galilee benefitted from the Virtual Visitor program
and it is hoped that many other teachers will appreciate the
simplicity and effectiveness of having a Virtual Visitor "come in"
from time to time.
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