A (Personal) Hanukkah Tradition: Teaching Dreidel in the Classroom

I have three kids, ages 10-15, and they all went to Jewish pre-school. Back then, when December rolled around, it was all about Hanukkah. Songs, food, crafts and dreidel - all good.

When they entered kindergarten in public school, however, they were one of a small handful of Jewish kids in the classroom. So when December rolled around, they experienced all their classmates' excitement about Christmas, along with some puzzled looks about Hanukkah. This produced a bit of Santa envy.

That's when I e-mailed the teacher and asked if I could come in to teach the kids to play dreidel. I've done this every year for each child until they were out of elementary school (my youngest is in 4th so I only have two years left!). Every time I asked, the teacher was happy to give me at least a half hour of class time.

This post is for anybody who'd like to start this hanukkah tradition for their kids. I put together this little guide to make it easy for you. My kids have always looked forward to my coming in to teach dreidel, and after experiencing it once, so did their classmates! 



- Schedule with teacher in advance - a 30 minute time slot is ideal.

- I like to start off by telling the story of Hanukkah. The website My Jewish Learning has one that's an ideal length called "What You Need to Know About the Hanukkah Story". You can find it here.

- Buy supplies. For each child you'll need:



• DREIDELS: I bought a 30 pack of wooden ones here.

• DIXIE CUP: I like to count out the beans in advance, and a little cup is a handy way to store them and hand them out to the kids.

• BEANS: I use dried black or kidney beans.

• PRINT OUT: (See below) Kids can refer to this as they play. Here's one I made up that has 3 per page, so you just need to print it out and cut into thirds. Download it here.



- Bag of gelt (optional). Because of allergies, your school might not want you to hand out food (my daughter's school doesn't). In this case, what I do is leave the bags of gelt in a box on my front porch. In class, I give the kids my address and let them know that if they'd like a bag of gelt they can ask their mom or dad to drive past my house and pick one up. I found a box of 24 that specify NO NUTS here.


Here's some directions on how to play Dreidel, excerpted from WikiHow:

Dreidel is a traditional game of chance, and one of the most well-known symbols of Hanukkah. The dreidel is a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The game dates back at least to the time when the Greek King Antiochus IV (175 BCE) had outlawed Jewish worship. Jews who gathered to study the Torah would play dreidel to fool soldiers into thinking they were just gambling. Now, it's usually played to see who can win the most gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil). With a dreidel and some tokens, you can take part in this holiday tradition, too. 

Get a dreidel. The dreidel you will get will depend on where you live. Outside of Israel, the four letters on the sides of the dreidel are Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin,which stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There," referring to the miracle of the oil. In Israel, where the miracle happened, the dreidel has the letters Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Pey, which means "A Great Miracle Happened Here

  1. Gather friends. You can play with as few as two, but the more the merrier! Distribute tokens evenly among all of the players. The tokens can be any little thing: pennies, nuts, raisins, matchsticks, etc. A lot of people use gelt.

  2. Ante up. Before each spin, players put one token in the middle of the circle to create "the pot." Every time the pot is emptied, or there's only one token left, every player should put a token in the pot.

  3. Take turns spinning the dreidel. When it's your turn, spin the dreidel once. The letter which comes up once it stops spinning determines whether you win, lose, or draw. According to the letter appearing, the player should perform the following action:

    • Shin ("shtel" or "put in" in Yiddish) - Put one more token in the pot.

    • Nun ("nisht"or "nothing" (in Yiddish) - Do nothing.

    • Gimmel ("gantz"or "everything" in Yiddish) - Take all tokens from the pot.

    • Hay ("halb"or "half" in Yiddish) - Take half of all tokens lying in the pot. In case of an odd number of tokens, round up.

    • If you run out of tokens, you are either "out," or you may ask another player for a loan.

  4. Pass the dreidel on to the next player.

  5. Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens.


Lastly, if you'd like to hand out a dreidel coloring sheet for the kids to take home, here's one I made last year - you can download it here.

Good luck - have fun - and Happy Hanukkah!!!


Cut Paper Florals

For this series of drawings, I first glued down areas of color using tissue paper and cut origami paper shapes overlaid with white gel pen. 


Inspired by Peruvian pottery.



Also inspired by Peruvian pottery!



One of my many Jade plants alongside a 'love rock', given to me by my daughter.



This beetle specimen has made it's way into my drawings and paintings several times over the years.



Two 'chicks' rooting in small glass jars alongside rock pile. The chicks had fallen off the mama 'hen' while being transplanted into the garden.



Imagined plants surrounding "Mr. Bluepants", my daughter's pet Beta.



More plant cuttings rooting in jars of water.

Ink Drawings for Challah Cover

This is a really fun way to design... using india ink and a paintbrush, I filled three large sheets of paper with Shabbat motifs along with florals and plant life. Afterwards, I picked the icons I liked best, and scanned them. On my computer, I arranged the separate elements into one unified design. I also played around with reversing the type to white and putting it on a blue shape. Here are the paintings... 


And here they are arranged into a challah cover design....


I sent the file to Spoonflower to be digitally printed onto fabric. I chose two different fabrics to print onto to see which one I like better - Kona Cotton Ultra and Celosia Velvet. The velvet won, hands down. It's got a pretty sheen, a hefty weight, and the color is brighter and more saturated.  Here they are side by side, cotton (left) and velvet (right).


Here are some more views of the velvet print....


Now I just need to cut the excess fabric from around the edges and and trim to finish it off!

Blue Buddha Screenprint

I didn't know that there was a service out there that make your image into a silkscreen for you until I stumbled across it on the web. The name of the sight I used is Anthem Printing, and I highly recommend them. The process was so easy - I just uploaded my image and picked a screen size. A week or so late, the screen arrived at my doorstep.


Printing the screen was NOT as easy... print after print came out flooded with ink like the one below. After about 10-15 prints, I started to get the feel for it and finally made a decent print. Even once I made it to that point, however, I had to stop after each print to wipe the reverse side of excess ink. Still not sure what I'm doing wrong, or if I should have ordered the image on a finer screen. 

More screen printing to come I'm sure...


Hamsa Notecards

The artworks on these cards are relief prints - a bolder, more graphic look than the papercuttings in the previous post.

Nature Notecards

Just got some notecards printed up - here are the nature inspired black & whites...


White Line Woodcut; a Brief How-To

Here's my second white line woodcut. Below left is the white pine wood cut to about an 8" square. Below right is the finished print.


Here's how I made this print - first, I transferred my drawing to the wood using transfer paper. Then I used an x-acto knife to cut along the lines of the drawing. Using thumbtacks, I pinned my paper to the right side border (this kept the paper out of my way when I was painting since I'm a lefty). To print, I painted watercolor onto a section of the wood up to the edges of the carved lines, then lowered the paper onto the surface of the block. To transfer the color to the paper, I rubbed the backside of the paper (in the general area where I'd just applied paint) with a spoon. I continued painting and printing until I was finished. 


Nature Studies in Ink