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Classroom Activities Celebrating Passover

Janelle Cox

#VibeEdu @VibeIsrael

This how-to guide serves as a reminder of TeachHUB.com’s recent trip to Israel, sponsored by the wonderful folks at Vibe Israel as part of their Education Innovation Tour. That country’s traditions, religious and secular, are a palpable part of the educational system over there, and we’ll always look back fondly on the intensely informative visit we paid to Tel Aviv back in December.

Once again, thanks to Lisa, TerryRonnie, and Utkarsh for being a multinational team of co-conspirators on this trip. I enjoyed your company and insights on the trip immensely – Dave W.

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Passover and Easter are two major religious celebrations for many public school students.

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Passover is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays of the year. Teaching about religious holidays in your classroom should focus on how and when they are celebrated in various cultures, as well as the origin and history of the holiday.

Passover usually takes place in the month of April. It celebrates when God freed the Jews from bondage in Egypt with the leadership of Moses. To commemorate the holiday, use this collection of classroom activities.

Classroom Activities: The Facts

Before you begin having your students partake in any Passover activities you must give them a little background about the holiday. Some students may have never heard of the holiday before, so it’s important to start at the beginning. First, ask students if they have ever heard of the holiday and what they think it might mean. Then, give them the facts.

  • The holiday commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
  • It is an eight-day festival that is celebrated in the early spring.
  • It goes from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
  • Passover is a time where Jewish families take part in the Seder.
  • It is a time to be grateful for freedom, and where people sing, tell stories and eat traditional foods.

The Food

During Passover, the food in which you eat is very important. The Passover Seder plate is a special plate that contains symbolic food. Even the way the food is placed on the plate tells story about exodus from Egypt. Discuss with your students what each food on the plate represents. Then give students a Seder Plate with all of the foods listed below on it to color and cut out. Next, have them place their foods on a paper plate in the proper order. Start with the first food being placed at the top left and then going clockwise around the plate.

  • Egg - A symbol of life.
  • Shank bone - A reminder of God's strong arm.
  • Bitter herbs - Represents the Hebrew's life in Egypt.
  • Haroset - Represents the promise of a better world.
  • Green vegetable - Stands for new life in nature.
  • Horseradish - Represents the bravery of the slaves.
  • Matzo (three pieces of unleavened bread) - Symbolizes the bread that was eaten before the exodus from Egypt.

The Symbolism

This holiday has a lot of symbolism. Just as each food on the Seder plate represented something, and symbolized an important memory for the Jewish people. Ask students to choose one food on their Seder plate and think about a memory they have that correlates with that particular food. Then, go around the classroom and ask students to share their memories. Once shared, ask students to think about another favorite food that is not on their plate. Then challenge them to write a brief story of what that food represents. They must also draw an illustration below their story.

The Haggadah

The Seder tradition begins by placing a book called the Haggadah on each person's food plate. This book has many stories, songs, and literature about how the Jewish people were freed from being slaves in Egypt. Jewish people use it as a guide to the Seder festivities. Discuss with students that Jewish people start Passover by reading the Haggadah, then answering the four questions that are in the book.

  1. Why is this night different from any other night?
  2. Why do we eat only bitter herbs on this night?
  3. Why do we dip our herbs twice on this night?
  4. Why do we lean or recline at the table on this night?

Next, read your students the story "On Passover" by Cathy Goldberg Fishman.  Ask students to listen carefully for the questions that you just read to them, and for the answers in the story. After you have the story, discuss the answers to the questions. For a follow-up activity, you can divide students into small groups to answer the question, "What is freedom?" Encourage students to think out of the box, not just answer that freedom is not having to do chores or homework.

The Exodus

Passover, or as many call it call it “The Festival of Freedom,” celebrates the Exodus which is the deliverance from slavery more than 3000 years ago. Read the story of the Exodus to your students. Then ask students to explain the meaning of the word Exodus (a going out; a departure). Show students this short video of the Exodus explained by a young child. Then, discuss how many Jewish festivals are centered in their home. Ask students to discuss what traditions and customs that partake in at home.

The Literature

Throughout the Hebrew month of Nissan, choose a few of these stories about Passover to read to your students.

  • "Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then” by Harriet Ziefert and Karla Gudeon
  • “Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story” by Fran Manushkin
  • “The Passover Seder” by Emily Sper

Do you celebrate Passover in your classroom? If so, how do you do it? Please share with us any activities or ideas that you have students partake in, in the comment section below. We would love to hear how you celebrate this important religious holiday.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.