Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ricki, Language, and “Machtesh(im)”

(Photo of the Machtesh hakatan, by Ester Inbar, available from

When Rick’s science class started studying the topic of mirrors, I looked over the material to try and determine what was the most useful part of the information for her to study. I decided that the learning of the words and concept of “concave” and “convex” would probably be the most practical area of the facts to emphasize. So I made a worksheet of various shaped objects, with a place for her to fill in the appropriate term. And even though the Hebrew word for concave is similar to that for “bowl”, it wasn’t easy. After a while, she sort of learned it, but with a rather high rate of errors. I doubted that she would even retain more than a hazy knowledge of the words beyond a few months, but I hoped for the best.
Now the class has reached the topic of “lenses”. “Great! Another chance to reinforce these words.”
But I discovered that somehow, someway, the terms had sunk in. She knew the words, and used them appropriately time and again. I was pleased that the previous efforts had worked, but there was an even better surprise awaiting me. Last week, as I sat down with Ricki to do some geography homework on the “Negev” (Israel’s desert area), and the “machteshim” (see HERE),Ricki took one look at the picture of the machtesh haKatan (small Machtesh), and said: “Hey, it’s concave!” Not only did she know the word, and use it appropriately, she had transferred her knowledge from science and used it in an entirely new context!

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