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Teaching Tzedakah – 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: 2/3

Long Term Objective: Students participate in acts of tzedakah (justice) in the community

Short Term Objective: Students choose learning activities of interest to help them learn about tikkun olam (repairing the world) and pursing justice

Learning Styles Used:  

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Verbal


  • pies sufficient to feed all participants
  • plastic knives
  • plastic forks
  • paper plates
  • napkins
  • Hebrew letters
  • paper & pencils
  • markers & crayons
  • 6 iPad/Android tablets with Wi-fi connectivity
  • toy coins
  • miscellaneous magazines and donation appeal envelopes
  • story books with soup kitchen stories and animal shelter themed stories
  • Poster board
  • Assignment of 4 Madrichim to assist teacher

Enduring Understandings:

Tzedakah: What is tzedakah; What is the Hebrew root (TZ-D-K)?

Pursuing Justice: Who gets what; Teaching equal portions

Tikkun Olam: How to work to make things right; How kids can help: sharing time, sharing talents, sharing treasures


“Who gets more game”

Cut a pie into parts: one student cuts pie or cake into what they think are equal parts and other students get to pass out the pieces, they compare pieces small to large before eating and vote by hands if they think their pieces are the “same” and how it makes them feel.

Who Gets More, differentiated instructionSTATION 2

“Fuzzy Feel Me’s”

Place flocked letters in a jar, sounding out letters and arranging them in order and snapping pictures with tablet camera to save and compare with each other and the class. Or trace around the letters on paper when given the letters in word order with/without coloring them in, or decorating page.

Fuzzy Feel me's differentiated instructionSTATION 3

“Tzedakah Tracks”

  • Videos from, or (topics viewed in preparation for the lesson: Shalom Sesame (helping those in need), and Jewish Deaf Multimedia- Tzedakah done in sign with sub titles).

tzedakah tracks, differentiated instruction“The Sitting Out space”- explore counting toy coins and stuffing donation envelopes for different worthy causes, decorating tzedakah cans or boxes, talking group for ideas for helping others (soup kitchen story books, animal shelter story /picture books, kinder-helpers) Family ideas for follow through.

Assessment of Lesson:

  • Engaged students
  • Created & implemented appropriate activities
  • Used Instructional time effectively – 2 hour class
  • Time needed addressed
  • Connected students to prior knowledge
  • Promoted self-directed learning
  • Used appropriate materials
  • Modified instruction to meet all needs

Adapting the Content:

  • Rotate starting points for three groups

Adapting the Process:

  • Flexible grouping – children can go to the starting table that looks most interesting to them based on the materials prepared at each table.
  • Environment modification- adequate space between stations, some chairs, so me open spaces to allow access for assistive devices and aides (madrachim), floor mats to spread materials out on.
  • Graphic Organizer – Picture and word Chart showing components of the lesson.
  • Tiered assignment by readiness – not all children have to attend each station, only those which appeal to them.
  • Fidgit space built in, “The opting out space” where exploration related to the lesson still occurs but less structured

Adapting the Product:

Not all students will have exactly the same experiences, but all will leave activity with a basic understanding of concepts related to tzedakah in ways outlined below:

  • Learned about equality and sharing so that others feel good.
  • Viewed videos related to tzedakah concepts.
  • Experienced the word root.
  • Learned about sharing resources, their time and talents to help with tikkun olam.
  • Understood that self -discovery and their choices have influenced the lesson.

*Exit cards that are printed with pictures of the different activity stations can be used for the students to either circle their favorite or point to it for tracking purposes and future revision of the lesson.

Lisa VendelandDr. Lisa Vendeland is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist in private practice in Trinity, Florida. She is completing both her Masters in Jewish Studies and Education at Gratz College where she has been selected as a  Legacy Heritage Mid-Career Fellow.
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