May 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Kreative Kidz: Coming to a School Near You

Keli Teichman has a dream that one day all preschool children will dance and sing and become educated through music as Kreative Kidz expands regionally. Certainly, “Morah Keli,” as her eager music students affectionately call her, who has been teaching music to children for 14 years, has already begun to fulfill that dream, as her program has been continually expanding for the past eight years. In fact, Kreative Kidz is already implemented in 10 different programs in North Jersey, and will be added to Yeshivat Yavneh and He’Atid, as well as crossing the bridge to Manhattan for the 2018-2019 academic year.

It is easy to understand why preschools are clamoring to hire Morah Keli just by witnessing the energy and creativity that she brings to music class. In general, engaging children and soliciting their participation and attention for a significant amount of time is a challenge, but Morah Keli makes it look easy. What is her secret? She explains, “I try to think what’s fun and surprising from a kid’s perspective. I listen to songs many times and think of ways to make them come alive. I also search for trendy fun songs that are a cross between traditional and modern. I create eye-catching props and draw the kids into the lesson by including them in the conversation. I think what probably grabs their attention most is that they never know what to expect when they come to my class.”

Eye-catching is almost an understatement for the gorgeous handmade and handpicked props that Morah Keli brings along to music class so the kids have a full sensory experience. Some of the props are only used by Morah Keli, but the majority of the time it’s the kids who manipulate the props. For example, when singing her summer “shark song,” each child is given a pair of black knee socks decorated with white felt teeth. She explains, “They easily slide them onto their arms, and magically, they become shark jaws! The children love costumes, especially when they get to chomp on each other!”

Because music with Morah Keli is so much fun, children fail to realize that they are in reality learning important words, skills and concepts. Morah Keli explains, “Kids are not necessarily aware of what I am doing, but I have strategy behind the lessons. For example, many of my songs involve memory recall and verbal building.” Similarly, she stresses the importance of visual aids: “If they are just singing songs, they don’t necessarily know what they are singing about, but once I bring in the props and they are actually touching them, it becomes a whole other level of comprehension.” For example, Morah Keli has a life-size Sefirah hopscotch game with numbers 1-49 for the Omer that the kids use for a Sefirah counting song. She describes the lesson, “We jump on the hopscotch and put a marker on the number of the day of the Omer and the kids jump over that number on the hopscotch. They also know the end goal is day 49 and at the end of the hopscotch I have a Har Sinai mountain.” She also facilitates word recognition by preparing the children for what they are going to be singing about before teaching the song. As a result, “When they leave my class they could easily recall what they learned. It’s not hard for them to remember because they have reviewed the words and they experienced that visual and tactile stimulus which makes it easy for them to cognitively bring it back.”

These educational insights also help Morah Keli when she teaches Hebrew language through song. She describes an example, “I teach a song about kids sharing an umbrella. If I were to just sing the song in Hebrew they wouldn’t understand its meaning, but since I illustrate it with puppets, it allows me to teach this very complicated Hebrew song. I also tell the story in English first and the kids see the characters going through the motions of the story and then I repeat it in Hebrew and they see the same motions. The kids in turn know the storyline along with key Hebrew words in the song.”

Morah Keli provides a positive emotional atmosphere for her students. As she explains, “For kids who don’t excel in a classroom setting there is another platform where they may succeed. A space where creativity is fostered and body expression is welcomed.” In addition, one of her goals is, “to create happy kids. If children have positive experiences in a Jewish school, when they look back at their school years, they will think ‘Wow that was really fun! I really liked school!’ and that will give them a positive association with Judaism.”

In addition to Morah Keli’s weekly musical programs, she also runs assemblies and special programs for different events throughout the year such as Chanukah, Yom Yerushalayim and Thanksgiving. In these programs, instead of working with one class at a time she engages a much larger group of students. Morah Keli explains, “The benefit of an assembly is the magnitude of school spirit. I can get the crowd to sing, dance and chant in unison, which is incomparable to that of a classroom setting. I am able to get the masses involved. The effect of having the whole preschool celebrate together creates a memorable achdus (unity) and an energy.” She gives an example: “I perform a weekly Shabbos assembly at Lubavitch on the Palisades, and through song we say the brachos for Shabbos, and when I hear all the children say ‘amein’ together there is an energy to it!”

Another program under Kreative Kidz is Bugle Babies, a mommy-and-me music program that began even before Morah Keli started teaching in preschools, which she teaches every morning before school starts in schools, gyms and private homes. The benefit of Bugle Babies is “exposing the youngest learners to music and socialization.” She adds, “The mommy-and-me is a great opportunity for kids and moms to get acquainted with prospective schools. It also gives the parent the opportunity to meet the administrators and get a glimpse of the school’s atmosphere. It assures the parent that their child is in the hands of somebody warm, caring and fun.”

Kreative Kidz is in high demand; that is why Morah Keli is focusing on expansion. She has already hired new teachers necessitated by the fact that she continues adding new programs while sustaining her initial programs as well. She has plans for transitioning to hiring even more teachers to work for her in the near future. Morah Keli has a curriculum that she created from scratch. She has her units formatted in a script to familiarize her teachers with the lesson, and then trains them for each unit. She adds, “What I am trying to do in the coming year is video every class to make a tutorial, so my future teachers could simply watch the video. That way, even if we are not in the same geographic area they can still learn the way to teach the unit.”

Kreative Kidz combines the use of imagination, dance, song, education and creativity. Teichman hopes to spread these educational experiences and happy memories for little kids throughout the Jewish community. She is currently seeking part-time teachers and other communities to be included in her program. For more information see http://www.kreativekidz.net/ or email [email protected].

By Sara Schapiro

Sara Schapiro is a rising sophomore at Stern College for Women and a resident of Bergenfield.

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