Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Discussion & Activity Guide for Mitzvah the Mutt

I am pleased to share this guide that can be used either at home or in the classroom for my newest book, Mitzvah the Mutt.

It was developed by a wonderful committee of colleagues, authors, educators & friends. Special thanks to Barbara Gelb for chairing the initiative.


Written by Sylvia Rouss and Illustrated by Martha Rast

“A Mitzvah for Shabbat” Chapters 1-6

Discussion Topics

1. What are some things that make you laugh or smile?

2. The mutt talks to the mommy without using words. What are some ways that you talk to your friends and family without using words?

3. Why did they think Mitzvah was a good name?

4. Who are Bubbie and Zaydie? What do you call your grandparents?

5. Do you celebrate Shabbat? In what ways?


1. Mitzvah communicates without using words. We can do the same by playing a game of charade and/or this “special” game of hide and seek. One person leaves the room and another hides a toy. The other people have to help the person who was asked to leave the room find the object without using any words.

2. The Bergers had a sign on their door. We can make our own signs for our door or a name tag with Hebrew or English name.

3. Mitzvah tree - teacher or parent makes a tree trunk on a bulletin board. Each child takes home a 'leaf' and they write a mitzvah they did that week on it (“helped my mom load the dishwasher”, etc.). Leaves are stapled to the trunk each week.

4. Make a challah for Shabbat, or make/decorate a cover for the challah.

5. Invite a visitor to your class who has a trained dog and learn about how these dogs do mitzvot for people (who are visually impaired, assist the police or fire department, visit senior centers, etc.).

“A Miracle for Mitzvah” Chapters 7-13

Discussion Topics

1. What is the difference between mutts and “fancy –shmantzy dogs”?

2. Bubbie wanted to “play” with her knitting alone. What are some things you like to do alone?

3. Do you have a menorah at home? Is it old or new? What is special about an old menorah or other “old” things?

4. Mitzvah didn’t seem to like his hat very much. Did you ever get a present you didn’t like? What did you do?

5. Who were the Maccabees? How did they light the menorah?


1. Make dreidel or other Chanukah decorations to decorate your home or classroom.

2. Have a dreidel “spin off”. Give each participant a dreidel, have them pair off and spin, winner of each pair then gets to compete, and game continues until there are only two left to see whose dreidel spins the longest.

3. Play a CD of Chanukah blessings and songs and have a sing along.

4. Have someone teach the basics of knitting and then make a simple gift.

5. Play pin the flame on the candle (like pin the tail on the donkey)

“Dayenu, Mitzvah, Dayenu”

Chapters 14-19 Discussion Topics

1. Who is Moses, and why did Rachel and David say they thought Mitzvah was like him?

2. A tradition is something special that you do with your family that has often been done for years and years. Do you have some Passover traditions? Name some of your favorites?

3. What is your favorite Passover food?

4. What does “Dayenu” mean? Are there times when you feel, “Dayenu?”

5. Why didn't Mitzvah like the maror?


1. Make different types of haroset and have a tasting event

2. Draw or color a picture of Mitzvah and his family and friends at the Seder table.

3. Cross the red sea relay race. It is time to cross the red sea. Create teams (no more than four participants to a team) and give each team a suitcase full of clothes. Line the teams up at both ends of a large room and put the suitcase on the other end. The first person on each team has to run to the suitcase put on all the clothes to go on the trip to Egypt, then run back and take off all the clothes; the second person then puts all the clothes on and runs to the other side, where t is waiting, etc. until each has put on and taken off all the clothes and put them back into the suitcase.

4. Seder charades - Students pull out of a hat a Passover custom or a part of the Passover story - they act it out and the other students try to guess what it is

5. Visit a local matzah factory to see how matzah is made, or make matzah at your home or school.

Mitzvah the Mutt Academic Advisory Committee, June 2010

Barbara Gelb, Chair, Director of Education, Temple Israel, Memphis; Lorraine Arcus, Author and Educator, Washington DC; Mike and Linda Bennett, educator and journalist, San Diego; Sara Bogen, International Jewish Community Executive, Jerusalem; Esther Elfenbaum, Director of Early Childhood Education Services, Los Angeles; Heidi Estrin; Nancy Goldberg, Director, Gordon Center For Performing Arts, Baltimore; Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Editor, Minneapolis; Zev Hymowitz, Jewish Community Consultant, San Francisco; Lauren Marcus Johnson, Director Temple Israel Libraries and Media Center, West Bloomfield; Linda Kirsch, Director of Education, Temple Beth El South Orange County, California; Avi Lewinson, Jewish Community Executive, Palisades, New Jersey; Yael Mermelstein, Educator and Author, Israel; Rene A. Rusgo, Director, Department of Jewish Programs United Jewish Council, Toledo; Diane Saltzberg, Author and Screenwriter, Los Angeles; Linda R. Silver, Author and Librarian, Cleveland; Lesley Simpson, Author, Toronto; Peggy Wolf, Jewish Community Leader and Educator, Baltimore; Zoe Zelonky, Student; and Tanya Zucker, Educator, England.

1 comment:

  1. Sylvia, hi, I work for the Association of Jewish Libraries and wanted to contact you directly about an initiative that AJL is working on. Would you be willing to send me an email to mcloutier at with a way to get in touch with you? Thank you!