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Teaching Teshuvah – A Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plan

Meredith Polsky

Meredith, Matan’s Director of Training and Advocacy, teaches an online course at Gratz College entitled Special Needs in Jewish Education. This post is the product of an assignment in which students were asked to create a differentiated lesson plan.

Grade: K/1

Long Term Objective: For students to consider their actions and what they may do that misses the mark and what they might do differently.

Short Term Objectives: For students to learn to stop, take a deep breath, and relax when angry, when they may miss the mark. For students to learn about Tashlich and link it to Rosh Hashanah.

Learning Styles Used:  

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Verbal


  • Washable Markers
  • Tracing paper
  • Blue plastic table cloths
  • Bucket of water.
  • Bucket of small whiffle balls
  • Large Cardboard box with a red and white bulls eye drawn and a Jewish star shape cut out in the center large enough for a whiffle ball to fit through.
  • Pipe cleaners.
  • Beads or buttons with large holes – red, yellow, green
  • Big Poster Board with the words, “I AM A STAR” written on top
  • Crayons
  • CD Player
  • CD Rick Recht’s Free to Be The Jew in Me.
  • Copies of Star song with Jewish Star boarder.
  • Small Plastic ball with a star drawn on it – the talking ball


Learning the STAR song (20 minutes): Have students sit on the floor in a circle. Play the song STAR by Rick Recht (CD – Free to Be the Jew in Me):

STAR Lyrics-page1 STAR Lyrics-page2









  • Have student close eyes and listen to song.
  • Teach motions for when they hear Stop (arms extend forward with hands bent up at wrists). Take a deep breath (hand go up as they take in a deep breath). And relax (hand drop and they slump).
  • Teach how to sing just the words Stop, take a deep breath, and relax put together with motions.
  • Have students stand up now and make an S with their body, then a T, then an A, then an R. Let them be creative.
  • Review motions to song.
  • Play song again, when it starts have kids make the letter and say it when the song says “Give me an S, give me a T…”
  • Let them free dance but when the song says “Stop, take a deep breath, and relax” they do the motions.
  • Sit back down and talk about who & what makes them angry and how they act when they are angry. Discuss the Song. Use the ball with stars as a talking ball. They can only talk if they are holding the ball. Have kids say their name, an answer, and then another kids name and toss the ball to them.

Missing the Mark Toss (20 minutes)

  • Move to another room which has a bucket of whiffle balls and a big cardboard box that looks like a target with a star cut out in the middle.
  • Have kids stand with their back against the wall in a line and quickly tell them what missing the mark means.
  • Show them how easy it is to miss the mark by trying to throw a whiffle ball through the center of the target.
  • Tell them to think about something they did when they missed the mark (don’t say it out loud yet).
  • Have kids take turns yelling what they did as they throw a ball at the target. They go to the throw line, yell what they did, and throw ball then return to the end of the line.
  • When everyone has gone have them do it again and time how long it takes for everyone to have a turn.
  • Do once more to see if they can beat their time.
  • Return to other room, sit in circle, discuss what they said and how they felt missing the mark. And what it felt like if they threw the ball through the center. Use talking ball and same procedure as above.

Wash away and say sorry, Tashlich (20 minutes)

  • While seated, tell students about a custom called tashlich (throwing bread crumbs into a lake, river, or ocean for each thing we did that we should not have done; however, we are not using bread crumbs, but paper). Explain what they will do next.
  • Move to another room where tables are covered in blue plastic table cloths. Use their imagination that it is water.
  • Have tracing paper and washable makers on tables.
  • Have kids draw or write what they are sorry about then pretend paper is bread.
  • Take paper to bucket, and have student watch you dip paper into water to “wash” away picture/words. (They will smear to where you can’t read them).
  • Place paper back in front of student and have them crumple up paper or tear it up and throw it into the center of the table.

Pipe Cleaner Bracelet (15 minutes)

  • Return to room where they started and sit in a circle.
  • Each student gets a red, yellow, and green beads or buttons and a pipe cleaner.
  • Give example of missing the mark when you should say STOP. Put red bead or button on pipe cleaner. Red means STOP.
  • Remind the students about how they need to slow done and think about what they are doing. Add yellow to pipe cleaner. Yellow means slow down.
  • Remind the student to move forward and say, “I’m sorry”. Add green to pipe cleaner. Green means go forward and apologize.
  • Put pipe cleaner around student’s wrist. Explain they can wear it, put it on a favorite stuffed animal or doll, or hang it in their room.

Wrap-up (10 minutes)

  • Have each student say one thing they learned that day that they can tell their parents when they ask, “What did you do today.” Use talking ball. Also tell them they will get a CD and can teach song/motions to their parents.

Rabbi Holly Levin Cohn differentiated lesson planRabbi Holly Levin Cohn currently serves Temple B’Nai Israel in Albany, Georgia. A graduate of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, she is currently earning her Masters of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Non-profit Management from Gratz College and is a student in the course: Special Needs in Jewish Education taught by Meredith Polsky.

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