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At the heart of the Purim activities is the reading of the Megillah – the Book of Esther. The Megillah tells the dramatic story of the Jews of Shushan, the capital of Persia, who were saved from a massacre by the actions of the Jewish Queen Esther. The Megillah is written by a scribe on parchment and is often illustrated with traditional decorations and drawings of the events.
Besides following in the tradition of illustrated Megillot, illustrating a text promotes reading comprehension at a deep level.
The following selection explains some of the educational theory behind illustrating texts.
By: Lesley Roessing
Good readers visualize as they read a text. They use the words from the text, in combination with background knowledge and prior experiences, connections from their lives and other texts, and inferences made, to construct mental images. When readers create images in their minds that reflect or represent the ideas in the text, they comprehend text at deeper levels and they retain more information and understanding.
The most effective way to teach students to visualize is to teach readers to draw images as they read a text as a during-reading response strategy—visual response or "drawing through the text." When drawing through text, readers draw the important details, images, people, places, and events they are reading, noting the words from the text that helped them, as readers, form the image.
Illustrating the Book of Esther
Start with the text. Choose one of the methods below:
- Send the URL of the book of Esther to your students.
- Send your students to the Sefaria library page and have them find the book of Esther.
- Guide your students through the library page in order to find the book of Esther. Ask where they think they might find Esther and guide them until they find it. This activity helps the students to understand the structure of the Jewish text library.
How will the students read the text?
- Choose the language - The text can be set to English, Hebrew, or bilingual by clicking on the A/א button. Make a decision for the entire class or differentiate based on individual students' levels.
- Give an overview of the entire book. Depending on students' familiarity with the book of Esther:
- Ask one student to start telling the story and then "popcorn" to another student to continue the story. Jump from student to student until the entire story has been told.
- Tell the story to the class in general terms.
3. Decide how much of the text each student reads. Choices include:
- Assign each student or pair a portion of the text.
- Ask each student or pair to pick their favorite portion of the text.
- Students skim through the entire text.
4. Ideas for illustrating the reading selection.
- Add the entire book of Esther to a Sefaria sheet. Set the privacy settings to "Anyone with Access can Add". Students take photos of their illustrations and add them using the media button on the sheet.
- The entire class or a group of students create a Jamboard. Students add portions of text (copy and paste from Sefaria), illustrations, explanations, and more to pages of the Jam. If you need help with Jamboard, watch a video.
- Add text and photographs of illustrations to Powerpoint, Google Slides, or other presentation platforms and use the students' work while reading the Megillah on Purim.