Teaching Beginning Chumash – the ITL system

Teaching Beginning Chumash – the ITL system

I spent some time teaching students who insisted they couldn’t translate a pasuk. I tried to create a systematic way of reaching them. Here are my ideas

Rationale for system – The best learning comes through authentic involvement in the process. The process is modeled after being an apprentice rather than a student. An apprentice is involved to the best of his ability, while a student is perceived as an empty vessel to be filled by the teacher. To be authentically involved, the student must be provided with scaffolds so that they can act like the experts and can learn gradually how to be an expert.
Translated from jargon to English – I need to learn with my students not teach at my students.
For chumash, the key component missing is knowledge of grammatical structure and common words.check out this post for reflections on using the ITL system
video examples of ITL independent Torah Learning –


Step 1.
  1. Teach taamei hamikra – very essential – you need to stop after these signs to be able to translate pesukim. This step must be first!
  2. Pick a logical chunk of story. Up to 10 pesukim works nicely. Pick out most common shorashim, prefixes, suffixes. Write all of them down. Translate the words using the shorashim and prefix list guide sheets.
  3. Go through the pesukim and put lines after the words with the trop signs
  4. Take turns reading the pesukim consulting the list of prepared words for help. I help break down the words initially by saying them syllable by syllable. Make sure that the reader stops by the trop signs.
  5. Summarize the content of each of the pesukim.
  6. Go through pasuk by pasuk and learn in depth (sometimes I combine steps e &f )
  7. Read rashi for the knowledge of the letters rather than translation. If rashi skills are very weak start with rashi workbook, rashi matching games, etc.
Step 2
No putting in trop signs first, don’t help syllable by syllable, don’t summarize pesukim rather make sure that phrases are understood
  1. Pick a chunk, go through and pick out most common shorashim, prefixes, suffixes. Write all of them down. Translate using guide sheets.
  2. Take turns reading the pesukim consulting the list of prepared words for help. Make sure that the trop signs are followed religiously
  3. Ask the students to find the phrase that means xyz or to answer an ?? ?? ????
  4. Go through pasuk by pasuk and learn in depth (sometimes I combine steps j &k) making sure that the student can ask good questions
  5. Read rashi for the knowledge of the letters rather than translation

Step 3

  1. Prefixes and suffixes are learned with their context – the Shorashim.
    1. Pick a chunk, go through and pick out words that have prefixes and suffixes. Write down the ones you don’t know. Pick out shorashim & write down the ones you don’t know. Translate those words before reading the pesukim
    2. Concentrate on finding ?’ ?????? and translating correctly.
    3. Take turns reading the pesukim consulting the list of prepared words for help. Make sure that the trop signs are followed religiously
    4. Ask students to make up their own “Who is it talking about”
    5. Go through pasuk by pasuk and learn in depth (mostly I combine steps j &k)
    6. Start to work on rashi skills – have students rewrite rashi by writing out phrases, underline question, answer, key words, quotes, begin rashi vocab journal)

Step 4
Almost there!

      1. Pick a chunk, orally review difficult words, prefixes
      2. Take turns reading the pesukim. Make sure that the trop signs are followed religiously
      3. Go through pasuk by pasuk and learn in depth. begin reading meforshim with nikud.