Holidays Parenting Passover Songleading Young Children

Step Up Your Seder

So- you want to throw an awesome seder?

Me, too. Admittedly, this ritual is a complex one- it can be intimidating…but I promise, you can do it! The good news is…like so many things in life…there is no ‘one right way’ to go about hosting a seder. You can do this.

In order to step up your seder, increase your intention. 

In today’s multi-media universe, I think we can collectively do better than dusting off a Hagaddah (that may or may not have been thoughtfully chosen) and reading through the highlighted parts. “Haggadah Download” and “Hagaddah online” are high ranking keywords in google searches each year- and I think we can do much better than googling a guide for this sacred ritual. 

I implore us to treat the seder like the learning opportunity that it is, and borrow a few principles from curriculum design to radically deepen the meaning making opportunities that our seders provide.

Seder KWL Chart

One simple instructional strategy you can borrow is using a KWL chart. It breaks down information into three categories: what you Know (K), Want to Know (W) and Learned (L). A common practice in early learning environments, you might be surprised by what your kiddos share discover with the Seder KWL framework in conjunction with your seder celebration. Here’s my SEDER KWL chart. We’ll work on it as a group just before Seder commences and again at dessert!

Understanding By Design (UbD)

I’m a nerd and a REALLY big fan of  organizing my ritual plans with the support of pedagogical framework. I constantly wonder how y’all pull off parenting without multiple advanced degrees…I’m so grateful that I learned about how children learn before I had kids…kudos to all y’all who are figuring it out in real time! One of my person favs is by Grant Wiggins called Understanding By Design. Their approach features “backwards design” in lesson planning- and I find it extraordinarily useful in thinking through celebrating Jewish life at home with my own kids. The premise of Understanding By Design is simple enough- begin planning your activity with the end goal in mind. In this approach- the skills and knowledge shared in a given experience are coordinated elements that work together to serve a grander purpose. 

Articulating the goals helps organize thinking so that the goals immediately become more achievable.

The goals you identify are completely up to you! If you want, feel free to borrow and edit some basics of mine:

Example Goals of Seder

  • Bring family and friends together in a social, celebratory setting
  • Involve each individual participant in a way that honors their individuality 
  • Observe central mitvot (commandments): tell story, drink 4 cups, eat matzah, eat maror
  • Sing & share traditional and contemporary songs & blessings 
  • Expose, explore and explain seder rituals to kids and guests in meaningful, memorable ways
  • Prepare and enjoy Passover food: family recipes and updated classics

The next step in journeying towards your goal is identifying meaningful ways to track your progress. 

This “assessments” step simply seeks evidence of understanding…how will we know if the goals are accomplished? 

I’ve found that the mental exercise of trying to brainstorm these goals and identify ways to measure them is extremely useful. 

The appropriate ‘assessment’ differs from person to person… 

  • In order to assess my kids’ understanding of matzah and maror, I might invite my 5 year old to explain it to a non-Jewish friend during a playdate. 
  • In order to gauge the understanding of passover story, I might give my kids these sequencing cards while we prep dessert to see if they can re-tell the story we shared during seder 
  • In order to evaluate my goal of serving delicious foods, I might text the attendees the following day ‘Looking for feedback for next year’s menu- which two dishes should be included again?’

If you want to take another plunge towards the more advanced part of what the principles of curriculum design can offer folks at home- the goals that you choose can be assigned to specific people. 

If I’ve got a dozen folks around my table, I am keenly aware that each have their own motivation for participation, level of background knowledge, attention span, and learning styles. 

Understanding By Design (UbD) encourages educators (which is you, in case you were uncertain) to identify Enduring Understandings- central statements that highlight recurrent themes, provide context, and are applicable to life outside of a specific learning experience. 

So- seriously- what is the big idea here?

The UbD framework guides intentional leaders to articulate the main ideas of whatever I’m doing and then separate those ideas into categories: Enduring Understandings, Important to Know and Do, and Worth Being Familiar With. One of the reasons I appreciate this framework is that I can recognize that participants of different ages can have slightly different goals- my children are different ages and because there are a variety of goals with varying complexity- every participant is able to achieve at least some of these goals.

Your Enduring Understandings should be a full sentence, a declarative statement. It should be directly related to the content of the Hagaddah, the seder experience, and the goals you identified. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself stuck on this step. It is hard but it is worthy.

Example Enduring Understandings: 

  • We enjoy freedom because the people who came before us worked for it. 
  • The exodus story and experience has shaped the identity of the Jewish people.
  • Jewish people tell stories of our history to connect our community to its’ history.

Important to Know And Do:

  • The 4 Questions
  • Choreography of seder ritual
  • How to navigate hagaddah 
  • Symbolism of Seder Plate items

Worth being familiar with:

  • Global passover traditions
  • Entertaining Passover Parodies
  • Current Events related to Passover

Once you identify your goal- consider how all of your other Passover preparation related decisions might relate to those goals.

There are plenty of articles about seder schtick (check out 4 Hacks To Make Your Seder More Fun by yours truly)  and there is room for all sorts of celebratory shenanigans within your Seder. I hope you choose wisely and carefully- as you decide what HaGaddah will guide you or which props you might want to add to your table. No matter the people, the food, or the minhag around your table, I hope your intention setting guides you towards a joyous and meaningful holiday. 

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