What’s New with the Big6™ at Neveh Channah

Author: Miriam Weitman

Over the last few years we have reported about the development of the Big6-based Information Literacy program at Neveh Channah Girls High School, Etzion Bloc, Israel. The program is implemented across the curriculum in 9th and 10th grades. The aim is to integrate research skills and technology skills along with curricular proficiency. The staff running the program includes technology mentors (who also teach English and math), and a library media specialist (who also teaches Judaic studies). This staff works with other teachers who teach subjects across all parts of the curriculum (humanities, natural science, Judaic Studies, and so forth.)

10th Grade Activities

One signature of our instruction program is that we continually adapt and adjust to meet needs that arise or to improve upon past achievements. For example, last year we wanted to increase the students’ awareness of the benefits of using the Big6 model. We also wanted to introduce the students to advanced digital graphic techniques. To accomplish these two objectives, we decided to begin this year”s 10th grade program by elaborating on a 9th grade project.

Last year’s 9th grade classes had done a project on Biblical Geography created by 9th and 10th grade Biblical Geography teacher, Oded Laub. One class produced PowerPoint presentations about the geographical areas inherited by the 12 “Biblical Tribes of Israel.” The presentation illustrated and described the features and historical highlights of each area by creating a multi-layered map. The other 9th grade class produced presentations about “Biblical Journeys in the Land of Israel,” that highlighted geographical and historical factors.

The presentations were so successful that we wanted to record them on CD-ROM and give a copy to each student. However, we wanted each CD to have a custom color cover and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation to describe how the Big6 process was used in conjunction with preparing the Biblical Geographical project. To create these, we announced a contest. Each team of students had to design a color disk cover and produce a presentation to summarize and reflect on the value of the Big6 steps used in the project.

To prepare the students to produce the disk covers, the technology mentors taught them some advanced techniques for digital image processing and graphic design using Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro. The teams submitted their labels and Big6 presentations for judging. The disk covers were posted on a bulletin board at the school’s entrance where all of the students and staff could view them. The judging was done by the participants, Big6 staff, and geography and art teachers. The winning disk cover and Big6 presentation will accompany each CD.

This activity deepened the meaning of the Big6 model for the students by having them use it in a real-life situation. Including a reflective process also made them aware of the advantages of the Big6 as an effective model for problem solving.

9th Grade Activities: Verbal Skills

During the last few years, we felt that our information literacy program could do more to improve our students’ verbal literacy skills (reading and writing). To enhance verbal skills, we joined a pilot program called Writing Links, developed by the Center for Educational Technology. Writing Links developed an Internet environment where verbal expression and other curricular teachers cooperate to learn how to develop, deliver, and evaluate curricular-based writing projects. Four teachers from the 9th grade staff joined the program and are using the techniques they are learning. The Writing Links Internet environment helps their students develop verbal expression skills, which are an important part of the Big6 Model (Use of Information, Synthesis,etc.)

9th Grade Research Project: Vitamins and the Human Body

Natural sciences was another area that we felt could benefit from interaction with our information literacy program. Natural sciences has its own process approach—the scientific method—but it does seem to include Task Definition, Information Seeking Strategies, Location & Access (observation and controlled experimentation) and so forth. We felt that the generic Big6 model can be adapted to include the scientific method of solving a problem. Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld and Mrs. Yehavit Luria developed a set of materials and activities for natural science and technology problem-based learning projects, called The King’s Road. Part of our science staff attended study sessions with Sherman and Yehavit and learned to use their approach to develop natural science projects.

As a result of this cooperation, Michal Kurnitz, a 9th grade biology teacher, and I developed a Big6 biology project for the 9th grade. The aim of the project is to have the students learn about vitamins and the human body, choose an area of interest, independently study it, and formulate a question that will serve as the basis of a scientific research project. Basically, this project is the first part of an experimental science project—the study of theoretical literature and research reports, the formulation of a research question, and the writing of a survey of the literature for a research proposal. The project simulates a real-life situation. Students are to view themselves as biologists and try to convince the board of the Science Foundation to fund their research proposals.

The 60 students in the two 9th grade classes were presented with the project after participating in introductory lessons on nutrition and vitamins. They worked on the project two hours each week during the information literacy course. Students were allowed to work in pairs to locate and analyze relevant materials, but each student was to submit her own written research proposal. The assignment was given to the students on printed handouts and was also posted on the school website. A list of relevant Web resources in Hebrew and English was also posted on the school website. The library staff assisted in locating relevant articles from printed sources and digital databases on CD.

The project had a number of checkpoints when the students had to submit progress reports, which could be checked by the teachers, before the final report was submitted. In the future, we hope to carry this project further by applying the Big6 model to an actual experimental scientific project.

The Future
We will continue to encourage more curricular teachers to work with the Big6 staff to develop project-based research assignments for each subject in accordance with its specific research skills. We hope to have additional curricular teachers in the 10th and 11th grade adopt Big6 techniques into their teaching strategies, thus challenging our students to continue to develop their research skills in high-level curricular activity. We must also continuously update the technology aspects of our Big6 program to include and emphasize the newly emerging digital protocols and programs made available by the ongoing technological revolution.
The key to realizing these goals is the continued close cooperation of the Big6 staff. Their commitment to lifelong learning, creative thinking, devotion to students, and their unending efforts to implement and improve the Neveh Channah information literacy program have brought us where we are today. This commitment along with the continued support and encouragement by the school administration, gives rise to great optimism about the future prospects for the Big6 program at Neveh Channah.

Biographical information:

Reuven Werber

  Reuven Werber is a teacher of Judaic Studies and educational technology at Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls and at Herzog Teachers College. He serves as Technological Pedagogy Coordinator at Neveh Channah and is a Technological Pedagogy Counselor for the Israel Ministry of Education.Reuven was born in the U.S. and moved to Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in Israel, 1970. He earned a BA in Psychology from Brooklyn College, a Teaching Certificate in Judaic Studies from Herzog Teachers College, and an MA in Jewish History from Touro College. He has also studied Rabbinic Studies in American and Israeli Yeshivot. He has worked in the kibbutz as a metal worker, shepherd, field school guide and teacher, internal secretary and educational service secretary.Email:reuw(at)nevnet(dot)etzion(dot)k12(dot)il

Phylis Goldman

  Phylis Goldman has been an English teacher for more than 20 years, preparing students for their matriculation exam in English. For the last six years, she has worked as a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) counselor. For the last five years, she has worked with other staff members to develop a program to teach research skills and advanced technology skills using the Big6 model for the 9th and 10th graders at Neveh Channah Girls HS in the Etzion Bloc. Since 1999 she has been the coordinator of The CeT-link, http://www.cet.ac.il/ENGLISH/CET-LINK/, an online e-zine for Israeli high school students. Neveh Channah has been a part of this project since its inception in 1996. The purpose of this project is to teach the students research, writing, and HTML skills so they can put articles online. The Big6 model is incorporated into the research portion of the project.Email: phzg(at)nevnet(dot)etzion(dot)k12(dot)il

Miriam Weitman

  Miriam Weitman earned a Bachelor”s degree in Education from Jerusalem Women”s Teacher College and a Master”s degree (with honors) in Librarianship from the Hebrew University School. She has worked at Pelech High School in Jerusalem, at CHAT High School in Toronto, Canada, and is currently the chief librarian and information literacy coordinator at Neveh Channah High School, Etzion Bloc – Talmudic Studies.Email: weitman(at)nevnet(dot)etzion(dot)k12(dot)il