Haazinu for Tots

Haazinu, Deuteronomy 32:1–52

D'Var Torah By: Ellen and Peter Allard

Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; / Let the earth hear the words I utter!

- Deuteronomy 32:1

Have you ever asked someone for directions? When you are listening to the directions being explained to you, do you remember them without writing them down or do you have to commit them to paper? By answering this question, you'll be on your way to figuring out your dominant learning style.

Both of us (Peter and Ellen) are visual-kinesthetic learners. This means that we have to see and/or do in order to learn and retain information. For us, sometimes seeing is all it takes to learn something and sometimes it takes a little doing... In some cases, it requires the combination of seeing and doing to learn something. But for sure, just hearing something is much less likely to make an impression on either of us unless we hear it numerous times.

Knowing this about ourselves helps to explain the consistent result when we've asked others for directions (though this doesn't happen much anymore since buying a GPS for the car). If neither of us repeated them aloud (over and over-turn left at 2nd light, turn left at 2nd light, turn left at 2nd light-you get the picture!) or even better, wrote them down, we would most certainly need to stop and ask another person for directions to the same place, this time with paper and pencil in hand!

This week's Torah portion, Parashat Haazinu, begins with Moses reciting a poem to the Israelites as they are waiting to enter the promised land. In the previous parashah, Parashat Vayeilech, God speaks to Moses, saying the following:

Therefore, write down this poem and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, in order that this poem may be My witness against the people of Israel. -Deuteronomy 31:19

In Parashat Ha'azinu Moses does as instructed and speaks the following words:

Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter! -Deuteronomy 32:1.

Both of these verses speak to the way in which information would be delivered and/or received.

  • Those of us who learn best by either writing or typing information can relate to the call for Moses to write down this poem and then teach it to the Israelites. This is visual or kinesthetic learning.
  • Those of us who learn best when hearing information can relate to the beginning of the poem recited by Moses: Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; /Let the earth hear the words I utter! This is auditory learning.

Knowing your dominant learning style can help you learn and retain information most effectively, regardless of your age. Knowing how your children learn and retain information can be most useful when helping them learn anything new or in creating learning environments that are most conducive to their learning style. The overview of visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning styles that follows might be a helpful tool in pinpointing your child's learning style.

The Visual Learner

The visual learner uses his eyes to access information most effectively... He likes things to be orderly because it enables him to organize his world and find things easily. Visual distractions are a nuisance and take away from his ability to focus. Instructions are best given one at a time, since too many spoken directions can be confusing and frustrating. Instructions that feature pictures are hugely helpful, as are lists (for those who can read). Your visual learner benefits greatly from having things color-coded so for example, all the wooden blocks go in the red bin, all the Legos go in the green bin etc.

The Auditory Learner

The auditory learner loves words! She loves to listen to stories being told, songs being sung and can easily commit words to memory. When reading a book, she will often read aloud in order to hear the words. Distractions for the auditory learner could include other voices within the same vicinity. So for example, if your auditory learner is reading a book, giving her a quiet place to read would be more beneficial than having her read while listening to the radio or while the television is on.

The Kinesthetic Learner

The kinesthetic (or tactile) learner likes to make contact with and manipulate things in her environment. She likes taking things apart and putting them together. She will doodle with a pencil while she daydreams, she will tap her toes when listening to music, she will learn from direct, physical hands-on activity. Manipulatives (anything that can be touched or moved) are ideal for the kinesthetic learner.

Every child has their own unique ability to learn and take in information. Determining the way that your child accesses and processes information will not only help you create successful learning opportunities for your children but it will also be enormously helpful in enabling them to understand and maximize their own strengths.

Perhaps we can interpret God's instruction to Moses to write down this poem and put it in their mouths or Moses saying Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; /Let the earth hear the words I utter! as a nod to the varied learning styles represented by the Israelites. In order for Moses to teach the Israelites what they needed to learn before entering the land of Israel, the message needed to be presented in a few different ways. This rings true even today: By acknowledging and respecting the learning style of your child (and yourself), you will be empowering them to take advantage of their strengths and helping them learn how they can successfully make their way through the world.

Questions and Ideas for Parents:

  1. What do you think your learning style is and why do you think so?
  2. Observe your child when he is presented with new information, what does he do? What do you think his learning style might be?
  3. Based on your observation of your child, what would be the best way for you to give her instructions for brushing her teeth? Setting the kitchen table? Putting his toys away?

Questions for Children:

  1. Do you have a favorite picture book? What do you like about this book?
  2. What do you like to do when you listen to music?
  3. What do you do when you are trying to learn something new?
Reference Materials

Pages 1400-1408 in The Torah: A Modern Commentary Revised Edition, by W. Gunther Plaut.