Every parent wants to give their child the best possible start.
The Schechter Manhattan Elementary School curriculum provides a solid foundation that introduces students to academic experiences and habits that will serve them throughout their lives.
Students are taught how Jewish practice weaves in and out of each area of study, and their curiosities are kindled to help them understand how to identify and pursue their interests.
Experience Schechter Manhattan.
In the Lower Elementary years of kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, each class is staffed with two teachers, allowing for individual attention to each child. Children spend much of their day working in small groups; classrooms buzz with active learning. Co-teachers also serve as adult models for menschlich interactions that are mirrored in the expectations for the way our children collaborate. All teachers in the Lower Elementary grades are bilingual in Hebrew and English, and work together to plan and teach all areas of the curriculum, creating an environment rich in connections among teachers, students, and subject matter.
Upper Elementary students at Schechter Manhattan actively dive into study as they continue to acquire the skills of independent learners. Close relationships form among students, as well as between students and the two co-teachers who – as in the Lower Elementary grades – work together to plan and teach all the core aspects of the curriculum, in Judaic Studies and in General Studies. Teachers and students work together to create an active and engaging classroom community.
The atmosphere in class is full of dialogue and conversation around tasks and inquiries that ask students to think deeply, and the physical space in the room is set up in ways that make it easy for students to use materials and resources independently, to do their work, and to facilitate their own learning. Often students work in pairs or small groups, eventually bringing their problem solving back to the whole group. Work in each subject area is often organized around large projects that simulate real life scenarios, such as the elaborate bake sale planned in math class or a writing process that is modeled on the ways adult writers express and communicate their ideas in the real world. Similarly, in the co-curricular areas of studio art, music, and physical education, students don’t merely learn about their subject; they are immersed in making art, playing an instrument, and participating in team sports. Throughout these grades, students increasingly become aware of and participate in the extended school and surrounding communities. They continue to be asked to apply what they see in class to what they see in the world around them: their physical world, their social world, their Jewish and ethical world.
Teachers and students work together to build a supportive learning community founded on positive relationships, respectful discourse, reflective practice, and collaboration. Each school day begins with a morning meeting that allows students to greet and engage each other and sustain community before formal learning begins; it works to establish a positive tone for the day. This is also one of the formal forums in which students can offer their voice in classroom-related issues. Other opportunities for student input and choice are found throughout the academic program. Morning t’filah (prayer) also reinforces the sense of community and highlights the spiritual and ethical tenor that defines the classroom culture and guides interactions and learning throughout the day.
LOWER ELEMENTARY YEARS
The kindergarten year is a time of continuous discovery, excitement, and affirmation for children. In this year, they learn that they can read, write, do math, speak Hebrew, think about and communicate with God, solve problems, ask great questions, have wonderful ideas about the world around them, and do of all these things in playful ways. In addition, they learn to cooperate, trust and care for one another, resolve conflict, and rely on their teachers and each other for support.
The curriculum that promotes this learning is integrated and hands-on. Explorations are interdisciplinary, multi-sensory, and, in many cases, responsive to student choice, enabling each child to connect new learning to both prior learning and personal experience. Experiences are designed to elicit children’s native curiosity, creativity, and passion to make meaning.
The art program in kindergarten provides an introduction to a variety of media through which children have the opportunity to explore materials and build skills, such as painting with a brush, cutting with scissors, and drawing with a variety of implements. The program also guides children to explore their creativity and take pride in their unique abilities. The subject matter is a combination of directed and open art exploration. Lessons are also integrated with the children’s other studies, in particular the Jewish calendar and literacy activities. Children are exposed to the work of a wide variety of artists through books, posters, and museum visits. Each class starts with the children looking at an art poster and talking about their observations. The children explore in a variety of media including drawing, painting, collage and sculpture.
In addition to the formal art curriculum, children are also engaged throughout the year in a variety of art activities that relate to other curriculum areas.
Hebrew is an integral part of the kindergarten day and is a language of communication in the classroom, from teacher to student, from student to teacher, and among students. Students enter kindergarten with a wide range of Hebrew skills; some are native Hebrew speakers others have never been exposed to Hebrew before. Hebrew lessons are designed to meet the needs of all students. By the end of the year, students are able to participate in structured conversations about classroom routines, family, clothing, weather, shapes, numbers, fruits and vegetables, meal times, the seasons, and feelings.
Parts of morning meeting are conducted in Hebrew, as are transitions and many games and activities, particularly in art, music, and t’filah (prayer). In addition, stories are read to the children in Hebrew as they act them out, and they learn an extensive repertoire of Hebrew songs.
One goal of the kindergarten year is for children to encounter written Hebrew so that, in first grade, they will be able to learn efficiently to read and write in Hebrew. Children are taught to recognize letters and their names, to associate letters with sounds, and to write the letters. The daily schedule is written in Hebrew, and many classroom objects, including the pages on which they illustrate their daily prayers, are labeled in Hebrew. Students also learn many beginner vocabulary words that begin with each of the Hebrew letters. Fun activities are used to reinforce letter/sound recognition. Towards the end of the year, the children celebrate their mastery of the Hebrew alphabet at the aliyat hagan (kindergarten moving-up) celebration.
Children participate daily in t’filah (prayer). During this time, they not only learn to recite and sing excerpts of the Sh’ma and Amidah prayers correctly, but also discuss them, inquiring into the meaning of the prayer texts and relating them to their personal experience. Their understandings are recorded in picture and word on large Bristol board siddur (prayer book) pages; the class refers to these pages daily to help structure their prayer experience and remind themselves of the significance of each of the prayers they have already learned.
In the middle of the year, the children begin to assume leadership roles in t’filah by serving as chazanim(leaders). They also begin learning about the idea of an aliyah, and each have an opportunity to be “called up” to the Torah with their families present.
At other times of the day and week, as well, children are initiated into the rhythms, sights and sounds, and emotional tone of Jewish life. They look forward to a Kabbalat Shabbat celebration and parashat hashavua (weekly Torah portion) activities each week. They also learn the rudiments of kashrut and recite b’rachot (blessings) before and after eating.
Throughout the year, kindergartners experience the rhythm of the Jewish year through stories and experiences, art and drama activities, and a variety of inquiries and explorations that involve all five senses. They learn to associate the smell and taste of apples and honey and the sounds of the shofar with Rosh Hashanah, feelings of remorse and forgiveness with Yom Kippur; the chill of the air in the sukkah and the body language of lulav and etrog with Sukkot, lighting candles, spinning the dreidel, and eating latkes and jelly doughnuts with Chanukah, planting trees and tasting dried fruit with Tu Bish’vat, reading the megilah, giving and receiving gift baskets of food, and costume parades with Purim, hunting for chametz, making matzah, and celebrating the seder with Pesach, unfurling the Israeli flag, learning about Israel’s geography, and eating pita and other Israeli foods with Yom Ha’atzmaut, running relay races and eating a picnic in Central Park with Lag Ba’omer, and receiving the Torah and eating cheesecake with Shavuot.
In Gan, listening, speaking, reading and writing go hand in hand and support one another. As children learn the basic skills of reading and writing, they do so with an eye towards both understanding the alphabetic principle and making meaning.
Activities that support each child’s language development are infused into the curriculum throughout the day. Children are actively engaged in literature through both reading and listening. They have multiple opportunities to develop their oral language skills by sharing their ideas with classmates through play and storytelling. As each child is ready, they begin to express their ideas in both pictures and print.
The curriculum in Gan builds on each child’s existing knowledge and linguistic experiences and provides appropriate and individualized literacy instruction to allow each child to grow and develop a love of reading. Daily phonemic awareness activities help children understand and internalize the underlying structure of language with a focus on how sounds blend together to make words and how words can be segmented into sounds. As the year progresses, these activities increase in complexity and provide students with the building blocks for skilled reading and writing. Children are immersed in meaningful reading experiences in a variety of genres throughout the curriculum. They learn to share ideas about reading with their peers and think deeply about literature through guided discussions and small group interactions with teachers and peers.
Our literacy curriculum emphasizes the interconnectedness between reading and writing. Through daily writing experiences, children learn to understand and use writing as a way to communicate and express a variety of ideas. The children begin by discovering the many uses of writing in their everyday lives, such as making signs for their block building or creating lists for projects in which they are involved. Then, they begin to write in a variety of genres such as personal narratives and factual texts (“all-about” books). They share their writing with one another and respond to their own writing and to each other’s. Students also participate in shared writing and interactive writing activities, such as writing class books and poems that become a part of the classroom library.
Gan students are also involved in word study on a regular basis. They learn a bank of sight words and study the alphabetic principle, mastering the sounds that letters and letter combinations make and appreciating patterns in language. The development of these skills supports language development both in reading and writing.
The math program in kindergarten cultivates both mathematical understanding and the development of basic mathematical skills. Using tangible objects to promote exploration and inquiry, children are encouraged to think about numbers and numerical relations, space and shapes, patterns, estimation, sorting and classifying, and measurement. Working in small groups, they gain hands-on practice in recognizing and forming numbers, adding and subtracting, solving story problems, and representing their data pictorially, verbally, and numerically. They also verbalize their solution strategies, explain their work, and respond to each other’s mathematical explanations.
An important goal of the kindergarten math program is for children to understand the role that math plays in the world. Therefore, math takes place throughout the school day. For example, children count, add, estimate, and record attendance during morning meeting. They count the number of school days; make graphs about themselves, their class, and their school; identify patterns wherever they see or hear them; use fractions and whole numbers when they cook; play many board games and card games that nurture mathematical thinking and skills; and identify and create two- and three-dimensional shapes.
Music permeates the kindergarten classrooms. Israeli music is often heard in the classroom, and the children learn traditional Israeli songs of childhood. Students are also exposed to other genres of music. The primary means by which music is taught is through movement. The goal is for children to be able to feel the music in their bodies – they dance, they toss scarves, and they march. They become flowers, soldiers, and animals. In one notable lesson, the children respond through movement to Brahms’ Hungarian Dance #5.
The primary goals of physical education in kindergarten are for children to become more aware of their bodies, to exercise more refined control, to develop physical fitness, and to learn how menschlichkeit applies to the realm of physical education. The beginning of the year focuses on locomotor skills as well as interpersonal (“sportsmanlike”) relationships. The focus then shifts to skills relating to movement and sports, such as jumping, kicking, tossing, and catching. There is great emphasis on independent learning; students are encouraged to focus on their own growth and development rather than compare themselves to others. Kindergarten is a crucial time to instill the “positive play” approach and celebrate the joys of moving.
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
Theme, or thematic studies, is the focal point of the integrated kindergarten curriculum. It incorporates science, social studies, writing, art, and Jewish Studies, and often spills over into reading, Hebrew, math, and drama.
Theme is a source of great excitement in kindergarten, as children have the opportunity to help determine the direction and content of their learning. The process begins by asking children to think about what they already know about the topic and then to generate questions they have. Teachers aim to design the unit around these questions. Students begin the year by learning and discussing the idea of community, and how it is essential both inside and outside our school. Other units have included Trees, Keeping Our Parks Clean, Animal Homes, Israel, and Wheat. Our lessons are hands-on, child-centered and often inquiry-based.
Among the science skills that are developed in the process are observation, recording, measurement, graphing, data analysis, modeling, and simulation, as well as predicting and experimenting. Science concepts explored include animals, plants, seasons, and the five senses. The social studies concepts and skills that children learn include understanding themselves and others; the characteristics of community; the variety and diversity of their communities; working effectively in a community; making observations and comparisons; listening, asking, and responding; and voting and compromising.
Students learn basic coding skills and engage in various STEAM projects. They work collaboratively to identify a solution to a real-world problem that’s meaningful to them. In their weekly coding class, they learn foundational concepts such as sequencing commands and repetition of steps (loops). Students explore these concepts through a series of “unplugged” games and activities, as well as through iPad-based exercises. Students apply their understanding of coding by programming robots to navigate obstacles and follow simple commands.
We start first grade off with a project that will continue, each year, till graduation. At the beginning of every school year, each student draws a representation of his/her shoe. By eighth grade s/he will have a portfolio of the “shoe collection” to look back on and to use as a retrospective of the work that was completed in the studio over the almost decade of art work at our school.
The kick-off to the formal first grade curriculum is an exploration of the seven days of Creation. Each day is understood through the reading of the source text from Genesis and interpreted through a wide range of art supplies. This project introduces and reinforces the use of many materials to create different effects. Over the rest of the year, students complete two dimensional assignments that include still life,pattern drawing and painting, through which they develop skills in observation and representation. First graders also have opportunities for three dimensional work when they build figures and sculptures using various materials. The year-end, in-class literacy study of author Mo Williams’ books culminates in drawings of the book’s famous characters – pigeons.
In addition to the formal art curriculum, children also engage in a variety of art activities that relate to other curricular areas throughout the year. Students also visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see examples of artwork that inspire them.
The Hebrew program in first grade incorporates both oral communication and literacy skills. The Tal Am program provides the structure and the foundation for reading and writing skills. Hebrew language is a safa moreshet, a heritage language, which is connected to t’filah (prayer), Shabbat, Parsha (weekly Torah portion), and of course Israel. Through games, books, stories, songs, puzzles, brainstorming sessions, and worksheets, the children review and build on their vocabulary and knowledge of basic language patterns and sentence structures. Daily routines and parts of morning meeting are often conducted in Hebrew.
In t’filah (prayer), the children phase out the class siddur (prayer book) that they used in kindergarten and begin to create the personal siddur that will accompany them throughout their elementary years. Each page contains the text of a prayer, as well as their illustrated commentary on it that they create based on class exploration and discussion of each prayer.
By midyear, they complete their study of the Amidah, and, having learned excerpts of each of the 19 b’rachot (blessings) and categorized them as prayers of praise (shevach), request (bakashah), or thanks (hodayah), they demonstrate their newfound proficiency by presenting a Siyum HaAmidah (culminating celebration) to family and friends. Later in the year, they learn more of the Sh’ma and excerpts of the b’rachot that precede and follow it. In addition, when they are called to the Torah for an aliyah, they recite the b’rachah before and after the reading.
First graders encounter the daily, weekly, and annual cycles of the Jewish calendar through new learning and immersive experiences. In their study of the Jewish holidays, they experience practices and review many of the stories that they encountered in kindergarten, and they also uncover new material and ideas that build upon what they already know: the book of Jonah during the high holidays; a midrash about the lulav and etrog on Sukkot; an exploration of the concept of pirsum ha-nes (advertising the miracle) on Chanukah; a character study for Purim; an exploration of the concept of symbols for Pesach, focusing on the seder plate; and the midrashic origins of the customs of Shavuot. In addition, the children are exposed to the counting of the omer. They continue their study of parashat hashavua (the weekly Torah portion), focusing on sections different from those learned in kindergarten.
First grade is a year of tremendous growth in both reading and writing. Students build on the skills that they developed in Gan in reading, writing, listening and speaking. A key goal of the reading program is for children to become independent readers and writers who have mastered a variety of word attack and comprehension strategies to help them analyze increasingly difficult texts and derive meaning and enjoyment from a range of genres.
Our first grade literacy curriculum strikes a balance between continuing to develop phonological awareness and decoding skills to increase children’s accuracy and efficiency, and comprehension strategies to promote meaning-making and understanding. Children learn and practice working with the sounds associated with various letter combinations; they learn sound out words, break down words into beginning sounds, middle sounds, and ending sounds, look for clues in language patterns, and use pictures to help build understanding. They learn new vocabulary, learn how to self-monitor their reading for meaning, to make predictions and check them, to ask questions of the text, to make connections, to retell a story, and to read with fluency. Small guided reading groups and individualized reading goals provide opportunities for first graders at a wide variety of skill levels to grow as readers throughout the year.
The writing program in first grade guides and encourages students to grow into confident and expressive writers. Children learn to write non-fiction books, personal narratives, fictional stories, folk tales, and poetry. Through both direct instruction and collaboration with peers, children practice skills such as brainstorming, drafting, editing and revising. Students reflect on the writing process and their individual skills by re-reading their work, conferencing with teachers, sharing their writing with other children, and publishing their completed work. Phonics instruction helps children learn how sounds and letter patterns come together to form words, and transition from inventive to conventional spelling. Students learn and practice the use of proper punctuation and basic grammar, and appropriate use of capital and lowercase letters. The emphasis on language development through both oral and written language extends into play and to all content areas including theme, science, math and Jewish Studies.
Mathematics instruction in first grade is inquiry-based, with a balanced emphasis on mathematical thinking and developing fluency in computation and other mathematical skills. Teachers introduce concepts and teach specific skills; children gain proficiency in these skills and concepts through guided practice in pairs, groups, or individually. Children share problem-solving strategies throughout their math sessions.
Key goals for first grade include understanding place value, adding and subtracting, developing number sense, and identifying and describing numerical and geometrical patterns. Tangible objects, such as cubes, a number line, and a hundreds chart, help children comprehend mathematical ideas and support them in their early attempts to use them in calculation and problem-solving.
The concepts, skills, and strategies studied in first grade math may include the following:
- Addition (1-20 for all children; two-digit for those who are ready)
- Subtraction (1-20 for all children; two-digit for those who are ready)
- Odd and even numbers
- The number line
- Tens facts, doubles facts, and near-double facts (doubles plus 1 and doubles minus 1)
- Counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, and 10’s
- The 100’s chart
- Place value to three places
- Greater than and less than
- Estimation and prediction
- Solving and posing word problems
- Geometry – vertices and sides, symmetry, tangrams
- Measurement – non-standard, and the beginnings of standard measurement
- Data collection
First graders continue to develop a love for music and skill in singing and using percussion instruments. They have a more nuanced understanding of the elements that make up music – not only can they identify soft and loud, they can also listen for high and low notes. Rhythm work continues and children are introduced more explicitly to 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time. Naturally, music in the first grade continues to be taught largely through movement activities. In one notable lesson, children interpret, through movement, the music of Ketelby’s “Persian Market.”
The first grade PE classes begin to explore the idea of “organized sports.” After reviewing and building upon previously learned skills, students learn the boundaries and rules to sports like soccer, kickball, and softball. Students begin to understand what is means to be part of a team and work together to achieve a common goal.
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
Theme is the focal point of the integrated first grade curriculum. It incorporates science, social studies, reading writing, art, Hebrew, and Jewish Studies.
Student choice is incorporated into projects and activities within the theme study of New York City: its architecture and parks, with a focus on the history, geography, and ecology of Central Park. Based upon essential questions that build upon the children’s prior knowledge and questions, children read books, do research, conduct science experiments and explorations, go on museum visits and other field trips, and record their observations.
After spending most of the year exploring the Park’s central role in the daily life of New York City residents, in the spring, first graders investigate the topography of Israel. They study the different geographical regions and what makes each one unique. Additionally, the study about how this diversity affects people’s daily lives.graders investigate the importance of nature and outdoor experiences to people who live in Israel. Students learn about the value of teva (nature) and tiyul (hiking) in Israeli life and how the natural landscape is cherished. They study about the diversity of terrain in different regions of Israel, and how this diversity affects people’s daily lives.
First grade scientists develop skills such as observing, recording, measuring, graphing, comparing, analyzing data, and creative and logical thinking, hypothesizing, and experimenting. Science concepts explored include the physics of playgrounds, and animal classifications and adaptations. Social studies concepts and skills that children learn include understanding the characteristics of community, working effectively in a community, reading informational texts and taking notes, interviewing, and making observations and comparisons.
Students have a weekly coding class in which they learn foundational concepts such as sequencing commands and repetition of steps (loops). Students explore these concepts through a series of “unplugged” games and activities, as well as through iPad-based exercises using block-based languages. Students apply their understanding of coding by programming robots to navigate obstacles and follow simple commands.
LOWER ELEMENTARY YEARS
First Grade כיתה א
The first grade curriculum builds upon the early steps taken in kindergarten and cultivates in each child a growing ability and confidence to take initiative, learn independently, and contribute actively as a member of a learning group. An enriched and stimulating learning environment provides the supportive setting within which children’s emergent academic skills – as beginning readers, writers, mathematicians, speakers of Hebrew, scientists, artists, and so on – are further developed and refined.
First grade is also the year in which many of the conventions of study and learning are introduced to help children internalize and take responsibility for their own academic skills: editing in writing, standard notation in math, following directions, and completing tasks independently and in a timely manner, to name a few.
LOWER ELEMENTARY YEARS
Second Grade כיתה ב
Second grade marks the start of a gradual shift in the balance between kinds of learning: from primarily learning basic skills to using basic skills to further learning. The focus of reading instruction shifts from seeking accuracy and fluency toward reaching meaningful understanding. Writing expands from learning how to write to writing in order to communicate ideas and from inventive spelling to conventional spelling. Math develops from learning basic calculations to also using calculations to solve more complex problems. Homework also evolves over the course of the year, beginning with 20 minutes of reading in English and 10 minutes in Hebrew daily and expanding, early in the year, to include specific math assignments and a reader response journal on a regular basis.
A shift takes place in social development, as well. With support from their teachers, using the Second Step social-emotional curriculum, second graders become increasingly responsible for their own interactions and work patterns. Many students experience their first meaningful change in social dynamics and teachers support them in growing to understand these shifting dynamics as normal. More of their learning takes place in small independent groups, and children are given a greater role in the conduct and management of their classroom life.
The second grade art class starts in the classroom but quickly moves to the art room, as students are ready to graduate to this advanced workspace. The focus of the second grade curriculum also moves from exploration of materials to exploration of art concepts. Children learn about design through projects in symmetry and asymmetry as well as other skills seen in the work of well known artists. The whole class works on a couple of projects that require each student’s work to become part of a whole. For example, the artistic work of children’s author Eric Carle is the inspiration for a painted animal project where each child adds his/her part to create a whole animal. Other art skills are explored by imitating other classic children’s books. The year culminates with work related to the classroom’s Creation Celebration unit–teams of students plan and execute projects based on an assigned day of creation..
In addition to the formal art curriculum, children in second grade are also engaged throughout the year in a variety of art activities related to other curricular areas. They also go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, focusing on the art exhibits of various cultures.
In second grade the Hebrew program shifts to a balanced emphasis between oral and written communication.
The structured speaking patterns that children use in their daily routines are expanded and extended, and children are also asked to take more risks in their speaking and initiate their own spoken sentences. They also practice speaking in Hebrew during games, skits, interviews, and art activities throughout the day.
In reading, as the children become more fluent readers and learn how to read without vowels, the focus remains on reading for meaning, using many of the skills already mastered in English reading – prediction, using picture clues, breaking down words and looking at their parts – as well as some strategies specific to Hebrew – using the shoresh (verb root), recognizing prefixes and suffixes, and learning new vocabulary and concepts prior to encountering them in context. Reading materials are drawn from a variety of sources and supplemented by teacher-produced materials that extend children’s understanding of the topic.
Writing is supported by a focus on learning language patterns that are reinforced through diagrams, movement, readings, exercises, and colorful and accessible reference charts. Group writing is also used to support phonics and reading skills. Opportunities for writing Hebrew often emerge out of children’s reading experiences, pictures and photographs that are used as writing prompts, and their work in Torah. Students learn to write in script, and they are increasingly asked to spell high-frequency words correctly. Students’ conventional spelling consequently improves significantly over the course of the year.
Language elements that children learn in second grade include agreement in gender and number, correct use of the present tense, and accurate use of possessives and prepositions.
Complementing their continued parashat hashavua (weekly Torah portion) activities, second graders begin studying the Torah narrative in a sustained way with Bereshit (Genesis) 1, 12, and 17. Using a shared text, children become increasingly independent in their ability to study the text and use it without having to translate it word-for-word into English. Our Bereshit 1 unit culminates in a multidisciplinary student showcase. The Creation Celebration includes music, dance, student divrei Torah and a STEAM tie-in.
Later in the year, to read the text for understanding, the children learn to work in chevruta (study pairs), where they are supported by vocabulary lists and comprehension questions that supply necessary information for each verse. In addition, the children learn elements of biblical grammar, such as shorashim (verb roots), vav hahipuch(the conversive vav), and compound words, to expand their repertoire of strategies to figure out unknown words.
In addition to understanding the text, children respond to questions that require inference and sensitivity to the nuances of the text, as well as invitations to place themselves in the shoes of the biblical characters. In class discussion, they inquire into philosophical questions, relate the stories to their own lives, and use art, drama, and movement to enhance their learning.
In t’filah, second graders continue to expand their knowledge of the liturgy, returning to the Amidah, which they previously encountered in Gan and Kitah Aleph in abbreviated form. In studying the Amidah this time, they begin to learn the full text of the b’rachot, and in their discussion, they compare the understanding they gained based on the excerpt learned previously with their more comprehensive understanding based on the full text. In some cases, their commentary on each siddur page now incorporates both pictures and words.
The second graders’ insights into and knowledge of chagim (Jewish holidays) continues to deepen as they both revisit previous years’ experiences and introduce new elements: for Sukkot, they learn the liturgy of the holiday and lead a portion of the service. They also learn the concept of hadar (aesthetically pleasing, beautiful) as it applies to Sukkot, they analyze the nature of the miracle of Chanukah as it is presented in the Al Hanisim text, they chart the emotional landscape of the Purim story by graphing the changing mood of each of the main characters from scene to scene, they take a fresh look at the Four Questions, interpreting them as setting up a contrast between two opposing themes of slavery and freedom in their own hagadah on Pesach, and they explore the agricultural link between Pesach and Shavuot.
As in the early years, reading and writing are inextricably linked, and both are increasingly used to support children’s learning in theme. Routinely, children make connections between what they are reading and what they are writing.
The second grade reading program is extensive and varied. Children continue to build on the decoding strategies that they learned in previous years, using class-wide lists of high-frequency words and new knowledge gained from word study; in addition, they vastly expand their repertoire of comprehension strategies, including making inferences from the text structure and using visual representations, as well as predicting, summarizing, asking questions, and making connections. As the children gain more experience with factual texts, they learn to make use of text features such as: captions, headings, sidebars, index, table of contents, and glossary.
Elements of the reading program that support these goals may include independent reading, paired reading, reading from a script (“Reader’s Theater”), guided reading in groups, author studies, and exploring the nonfiction genre deeply by writing a nonfiction text.
By second grade, children are becoming more independent in their writing and able to use each other as resources comfortably. They appreciate that writing is a process and that finishing a first draft is only one step on the way to completing a piece of writing. Students practice writing personal narratives, poetry, factual pieces, and fictional narratives. Direct instruction in the elements of writing, writing workshop, and journal writing continue to be emphasized. Skills learned in previous years are reinforced: handwriting, planning, sequencing, editing, and revising. New skills are introduced, as well, such as knowing and using parts of speech, character development in fiction writing, and line breaks in poetry.
In word study, children learn to notice and think about words and their components, such as vowel patterns, prefixes, and suffixes. They also focus on other grammatical constructs, such as contractions and plural endings. These experiences enable children to become more skilled and independent spellers.
The dual emphasis on mathematical reasoning and skill development continues in second grade. Sharing and cooperation remain important learning skills, as children are regularly asked to share problem-solving methods with each other.
Key goals for the year include mastery of math facts for addition and subtraction, measurement skills, place value knowledge, and the study of money, time, and fractions. Second graders study the following concepts, skills, and strategies:
- Two and three-digit addition and subtraction
- Place value
- Addition and subtraction word problems
- Money (identifying coins, counting, adding, and subtracting)
- Fractions (halves, thirds, fourths)
- Two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and their characteristics
- Time – telling time, timelines, calculating the passage of time
- Collecting and representing data
- Understanding arrays as a precursor to multiplication
In second grade, the children continue to expand their repertoire of American and Israeli songs and are excited to participate in the school-wide monthly shirah b’tzibur (community sing). The second graders sing with a spirit that is all their own. In addition to singing songs, children learn elements of music theory. The can identify volume (soft and loud), pitch (high and low), and tempo (fast and slow). They can identify moods in music and begin to learn to identify motifs. They are introduced to the rhythmic organizing principle of bar or measure. They continue to be exposed to classic works of Western music, such as Haydn’s “The Creation” and Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” and interpret and express their musical ideas and moods through movement.
An important part of the second grade curriculum is the Musical Explorers program run by Carnegie Hall. Through this program, students learn about the music of different cultures and are introduced to musicians from the five boroughs who represent a range of musical backgrounds and traditions. Students have studied music from Africa, Asia and South America as well as jazz and salsa.
By the time children are in second grade, they have developed skills that allow them to play more organized team games, such as kickball and soccer, with greater skill confidence. We begin to explore strategy in second grade. Students also begin to understand force and control, balance and agility, and well as more competitive play. Many discussions surround the ideas of “winning” and “losing,” how to be a “good” winner and a “good” loser. Time is also spent on reflection and self-talk. This helps the students build a better bond with their classmates as well as a greater understanding for sport.
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
At the beginning of second grade, students focus on community as a theme, with a concentration on neighborhoods. While exploring the life and structures of community in their local neighborhood on the Upper West Side and others around New York City, students develop an understanding of what constitutes a community, why people come together, and how each community expresses the values and lifestyles of a group of people. Throughout the study, students look at the surrounding geography of each community and learn how that influences lifestyle and commerce. In addition, they develop mapping skills, including how to use a compass rose and how to read and use a map.
In science, students start the year doing a hands-on study of matter, and in the winter, complete a science unit focused on the water cycle. Through these different units, students make observations, develop hypotheses, collect and record data, and learn the basics of the scientific method and scientific thinking. Students combine their knowledge and skills learned during the community and water cycle units and learn about communities in Israel and how they developed ways to increase their water resources.
Later in the year, students engage in a study of how things are produced; From Raw to Refined, focusing on the manufacturing journey of a product. The unit culminates in a project where students collaborate on a chosen product and research how it is transformed from a raw material to its final object. This project includes a written piece and a presentation.
They also do a natural science unit on the beaver and investigate their habitat, adaptations and affect on their surrounding environment. In all units, book research is supplemented by field trips, museum visits, scientific observations and experiments, interviews, and other means of science and social-science investigation.
Students have a weekly coding class where they explore structures of code such as sequencing, loops, and conditionals. Students explore these concepts through a series of “unplugged” games and activities, as well as through iPad-based exercises using block-based languages. Students apply their understanding of coding by programming robots to navigate obstacles and follow simple commands.
In third grade, students learn to observe and offer comment on other’s work. They learn the language of art, what to look for, and how to offer feedback and critique in a constructive and respectful manner. With this in mind, a central unit of the year is a study of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. They look at her large flower paintings, and explore patterns in nature in drawing and painting. Other themes covered during the year include symmetry, patterns in nature, and three dimensional work with clay and/or fabric.
Work relating to the general third grade curriculum is sprinkled throughout the curriculum. Third graders take an annual November trip to the Canstruction exhibit in the Financial District, and explore the sculptural designs created entirely from cans of food.
Third grade students are divided into groups according to Hebrew language proficiency. This arrangement makes it possible for students to study at the level best suited to their needs.
The language series on which the program in these grades is based, and which provides the continuity from class to class and year to year, is Chaverim BeIvrit. A sequential program, Chaverim BeIvrit follows a structured linguistic progression and integrates the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – in each unit. Based on the most current understanding of language acquisition in children, it exposes students to multiple genres, including stories, conversations, poems, songs, albums, journals, bulletin board notices, and the like. Students are challenged to speak and write, using the language patterns they are learning in both familiar and new contexts. Additional reading materials and language exercises developed by the school complement the published units and ensure that students have ample opportunity to practice their emerging language forms and structures within a naturally occurring, functional context.
In the advanced classes, students read short stories, write extensively, creating travel pamphlets and short stories, and speak in full sentences using verbs in several conjugations, in all tenses, and in active and passive voices. In addition, they prepare and perform their own plays and make oral presentations.
In the intermediate groups, students review and reinforce their basic reading skills and learn to conjugate verbs in present tense and the infinitive form; in addition, they study agreement among nouns, verbs, and adjectives in gender and number. For all students, spoken Hebrew is reinforced through classroom routines and classroom phrases.
In third grade, Torah study focuses on B’reshit (Genesis) 18-25, continuing the lives of Abraham and Sarah and moving on to Isaac, Rebecca, and Jacob. Working in chevruta pairs and guided by their teachers, students read, comprehend, discuss, analyze, and interpret the text, and pose “juicy” (probing) questions and share answers about it.
Among the grammatical skills students learn are identifying the subject and verb of a sentence; recognizing direct speech; transforming the tenses of verbs using vav hahipuch (the conversive vav); and analyzing complex verbs into shorashim (verb roots) and suffixes.
A new subject in third grade is Pitgam (rabbinic sayings), which serves as an introduction to Mishnah. Over the course of the unit , students study a rabbinic saying each lesson, mostly relating to a Jewish value or a moral dilemma. The value or dilemma is often contextualized by means of a written scenario, a story, or a skit. Students then read and comprehend the pitgam using familiar vocabulary and shorashim (verb roots). Following a discussion about the meaning and possible interpretations of the text, the value or dilemma itself, and its application to students’ lives, the students prepare a page illustrating the pitgam.
In t’filah, the third grade students complete their study of the Amidah, learning the full text of each b’rachah, identifying its main themes based on key words, class discussions, and activities, uncovering its personal significance to them, and illustrating it in their individual siddurim. In addition to the Amidah, third grade is also introduced to new sections of the Shema, Hallel, and Kabbalat Shabbat and additional prayers for the high holidays, Sukkot, Chanukah, and Purim.
The third graders’ insights into and knowledge of chagim (Jewish holidays) continues to deepen as they both revisit previous years’ experiences and introduce new aspects: studying basic texts from Rabbinic literature and the Torah. Students are exposed to different interpretations of these texts and form how they relate to our own observance of the holidays.
In Israel studies, the students study the various cultural groups within Israel and learn about their culture.
Writing and reading workshops are coordinated throughout the year. In writing workshop, students use their own experiences to learn the craft of writing both from the writing of professional authors and by living the writer’s life themselves. In reading workshop, they learn to live rich, literate lives by working from their chosen books to become expert readers and to understand the world complexly. At the same time, their teachers model the thinking, language, behaviors, and strategies of successful writers and readers and build communities in their classrooms in which the students can engage in reading and writing text in active, individual, and personal ways.
In reading workshop, students continue to build upon the comprehension and decoding strategies that they learned in the lower grades. Units studied during the year include character, non-fiction, and comprehension strategies. The students keep reader’s notebooks to help keep track of their thoughts and to record their predictions, inferences, and interpretations. In independent book club discussions, students develop ideas and insights that arise from their reading and learn to extend their conversations.
In writing workshop, students learn to build upon the writing process that they experienced in earlier grades. In a workshop setting, they keep writer’s notebooks in which they record entries from their personal experience; choose writing “seeds” that seem promising; expand, extend, and build upon them with detail and description; share their writing with each other and respond to each other’s writing; and edit, revise, and publish their work. They gain experience in writing sentences, paragraphs, and multi-paragraph pieces; work on developing strong beginnings; and proofread for conventional spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.Students also participate in writing clubs, where they experiment with various genres.
Students use many styles of writing in third grade, such as biographies, articles, informational books, reading response, and across-curriculum writing, including writing based on research.
The following routines support and reinforce a mastery of written language: ongoing class work and homework on spelling: a word wall of high-frequency words, spelling explorations based on sounds, direct instruction in spelling rules and patterns, word puzzles, and independent work on personal spelling mistakes.
Third grade continues to place a balanced emphasis on understanding mathematical concepts as well as speed and accuracy in computation. Students work both individually and cooperatively with partners. Key goals for the year include understanding multiplication and division, studying multiplication tables up to 10, adding and subtracting two- and three-digit numbers, and explaining solution strategies orally, in writing, and with pictures. To help students understand new concepts, tangible objects, physical models (e.g., number lines, 100’s and 300’s charts), and arrays are used; to help build fluency in computation, students use flash cards, mental math, and 60-second challenges.
Third graders study the following topics:
- Review and extension of basic skills
- Addition and subtraction of two- and three-digit numbers
- Skip counting
- Multiplication and division
- An introduction to fractions
- Measurement with standard units
- Problem solving using alternative strategies
- Math puzzles
- Multi-step math projects
- Graphing and surveys
In third grade, students are introduced to the recorder. They learn to read, write, and sing (solfege) the notes using the European method of do re mi (A B C). Among the elements they learn are measures, sharp notes, and 1/8 notes. The recorder study also facilitates playing in ensemble and being able to listen to others while playing. They also cover elements of rhythm, composition and ear training. A highlight of the year is preparation for and participation in the Carnegie Hall-sponsored Link Up! program, which focuses on guiding students through learning recorder and playing with others. The unit culminates in a field trip to Carnegie Hall, where students play in an “audience ensemble” of thousands along with the orchestra.
Throughout the year, students are also exposed to different kinds of music, from Baroque to Classical, and Romantic to modern. They also study work from composers from different periods, and create dances and movement in relation to music.
Students of Kitah Gimel continue to build their repertoire of Israeli and Jewish songs, including holiday songs. Students participate actively in the annual school concert in the spring. They perform both a vocal selection and one utilizing the recorder.
Students in third grade continue to strengthen their basic sports and movement skills. Soccer, kickball and softball are among the team sports that are played at this age. As they are bigger, stronger athletes and now more familiar with the rules of different games, students engage in more gameplay than before. At the core of everything we do, is the expectation of menschlichkeit – respectful interactions and sportsman-like play. When needed we stop play for a “teachable moment” and, through discussion explore what happened, why it happened, and what, if anything, could have be done differently. Third grade is serious but fun!
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
The theme in third grade is culture. The students begin the year by inquiring, “What is culture?” Looking at both environmental and cultural influences, they explore a variety of constructs, including language, art, religion, values, and survival needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. They investigate the connections between people and the physical characteristics of the place in which they live.
Following a unit on the geography of the United States and New York City, in which students learn to read maps, the focus shifts to in-depth studies for the class’s exploration of culture. The class focuses on studying a variety of cultures in NYC. Students research specific topics of their choice relating to the culture they are focusing on in NYC. Students explore elements of cultures of New York City, such as clothing, language, values, history, and food. In their research, they learn to read and comprehend non-fiction, identify the main idea of a paragraph, take notes and produce a final product that is several complete paragraphs long. In the process, they learn to manage time and materials, organize an extended project, and work independently.
The children express their understanding of culture in writing, through a creative component, and in an oral presentation. These products are on display at a Culture Fair, the culminating presentation that is a highlight of their culture study and of the third grade year.
In science, students develop an understanding of soil and landforms, tying together the theme of culture and the way the environment impacts how and where we live. They learn about examples of basic landforms, how they form, and how different forces shape them over time. Layers of Earth, rocks, volcanoes, and earthquake patterns are addressed, as well as how weathering, erosion, and even people shape the land. Students use their STEAM skills to design farms that can better withstand erosion and neighborhoods that can better withstand flooding. The unit is supplemented by a study of climate and weather. Students learn about different climates and types of weather on Earth, how meteorologists measure temperature, air pressure, rainfall, and wind speed, and examples of extreme weather. The year will end with a study of plants. Students will study the different parts of a plant and the things it needs to survive. They will explore photosynthesis and the pollination of flowers. Each of the units includes many hands-on activities and experiments, through which students learn about scientific methodology and develop skills in scientific thinking.Students will design an experiment of their choice, planting under different conditions to understand the needs of plants and the role they play in our world.
Students have a weekly coding class where they explore structures of code such as sequencing, loops, conditionals, and events. Students explore these concepts through a series of “unplugged” games and activities, as well as through iPad-based exercises using block-based languages. Students apply their understanding of coding through game design, digital illustrations, and programming robots to navigate obstacles and follow simple commands.
UPPER ELEMENTARY YEARS
Third Grade כיתה ג
As the first Upper Elementary year, third grade both continues to build upon the skills and competencies that students bring with them from second grade and, in significant ways, represents a new beginning. Students use the skills they learned in the lower grades – reading in English and Hebrew, writing, and basic math operations – as tools for acquiring new knowledge. They reinforce and extend their schoolwork with daily homework assignments; they undertake longer-term projects and work, individually and in small groups, with greater independence; and they assume greater responsibility for their own materials and belongings. They also undertake their first yearlong sustained community service project as a class, cooking for the Ansche Chesed Men’s Shelter.
UPPER ELEMENTARY YEARS
Fourth Grade כיתה ד
The fourth grade program is rich in content and emphasizes the development of organizational and study skills. Now proficient in basic reading, writing, and mathematics, students build on these skills to analyze texts and ideas, synthesize information, think critically about issues, develop their writing, and support their claims with evidence from the text. Students in fourth grade work over the course of the year to prepare a portfolio of their work. Students thoughtfully select pieces of work and reflect on themselves as learners through that work. Students lead portfolio conferences, in which their parents and their teachers participate, in the spring.
A milestone of the fourth grade is the students’ first experience with external testing, for which they spend time preparing. In addition, students participate in an exploration of water and water habitats as they spend several hours on a schooner. The fourth grade’s yearlong community service commitment is to work with the Ansche Chesed Men’s Shelter in which students plan a three-course menu and spend time cooking and preparing a full meal.
Fourth Graders work individually or in pairs on a number of projects. Skills develop in various areas, including using a range of materials to create a piece of work, designing and creating Judaic with clay and metal, and exploring the use of layered color painting (by looking at the work of Vincent Van Gogh). One project, related to their classroom study of the Rainforest, uses art as a means of cultural communication. As part of an exchange program with students in the Guatemalan Rainforest, students share aspects of their life and culture through their paintings. Finally, still life is explored through the concept of monochrome and self-portrait is practiced by using mirrors. .
An annual art trip is planned to coincide with some aspect of the classroom curriculum.
Fourth grade students are divided into groups according to Hebrew language proficiency. This arrangement makes it possible for students to study at the level best suited to their needs.
The language series on which the program in these grades is based, and which provides the continuity from class to class and year to year, is Chaverim BeIvrit. A sequential program, Chaverim BeIvrit follows a structured linguistic progression and integrates the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – in each unit. Based on the most current understanding of language acquisition in children, it exposes students to multiple genres, including stories, conversations, telephone conversations, poems, songs, albums, journals, bulletin board notices, and the like. Students are challenged to speak and write, using the language patterns they are learning in both familiar and new contexts. Additional reading materials and language exercises developed by the school complement the published units and ensure that students have ample opportunity to practice their emerging language forms and structures within a naturally occurring, functional context.
In the advanced classes, students read short stories, write extensively, and speak in full sentences using verbs in several conjugations, in all tenses, and in active and passive voices. In addition, they prepare and perform their own plays, and make oral presentations.
In the intermediate groups, students review and reinforce their basic reading skills and learn to conjugate verbs in present tense and past tense and the infinitive form; in addition, they study agreement among nouns, verbs, and adjectives in gender and number.
All students work on projects that allow them to apply the skills they learn. For example, students interview Hebrew speaking staff and faculty and create virtual tours of places in Israel using Google Slides. Hebrew is also spoken throughout the day in class routines and in the Jewish Studies program.
The fourth grade Torah curriculum continues the study of Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau with a close reading of B’reshit (Genesis) 25-32. Key goals for the year include identifying parts of speech in context; recognizing direct speech and embedded speech and identifying the speaker in each case; and analyzing complex verb forms according to shorashim (roots), prefixes and suffixes, and tense. In addition, students review the use of vav hahipuch (the conversive vav) and ways of recognizing textual problems and anomalies.
Students work together to analyze the Torah text and create their own commentary, as well as to analyze classical and modern commentaries that address the same textual problems that they had identified in their own questions. Their interpretive repertoire expands to incorporate big ideas and essential questions.
A new subject in fourth grade is Mishnah. Students work in chevruta pairs to read and understand the text by identifying key words, verbs, and nouns, compare parts of the text to each other or to parallel texts, and ask and answer questions on the text, and come together as a class to brainstorm and to relate the text to their own experience.
In t’filah, the fourth graders continue to fill in the full texts of prayers that they have already studied in excerpted form. The focus this year is on completing the Sh’ma and the b’rachot preceding and following it. Students identify the main themes of each prayer based on key words, class discussions, and activities, analyze the text, relate it to their own personal experience, and write their individual commentaries on it. In addition to the Sh’ma and its b’rachot, fourth graders also learn new b’rachot for other occasions, as well as new sections of Hallel and Kabbalat Shabbat.
In chagim, students encounter new material and ideas that build upon what they already know: they formally study the laws and selected prayers of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, and Pesach from an Israeli school children’s compendium of Jewish law, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – M’kor Chaim. During Sukkot, students study what makes a Sukkah Kosher, and then wrote a journal entry from the point of view of the Sukkah. The Pesach unit is focused on the “Seder of the Seder”: what is the order of the seder, and how does that order help us connect to the exodus from Egypt?
In the fourth grade, reading and writing are fully established tools for learning and communicating across the content areas. They continue, as in previous years, to work hand in hand, facilitating connections with one another, not only as skills, but also, through the workshop approach, as coordinated systems of self-discovery and thinking and talking about personal experience.
In reading workshop, key goals for the year include using reading comprehension strategies effectively, including visualizing, questioning, connecting, predicting, inferring, and interpreting; identifying main ideas and supporting details; explaining how a text supports a claim or an opinion; comparing and contrasting characters and stories; and becoming a supportive learning community in which reading experiences are shared. At the same time, the students review and reinforce previously learned skills of decoding, comprehension, and analyzing plot, character, and setting.
Students continue to read many of the same genres they read in previous years: novels, non-fiction books, short stories, biography, and selected poetry. They also formally study reading comprehension as a test skill.
In writing workshop, students continue to use a writer’s notebook as a place to collect inspirations for writing. They then develop them into drafts, and revise and edit them with their writing partners. Genres covered during the year include personal narratives, responses to non-fiction reading, structured paragraphs, and poetry. Students regularly share their writing pieces and celebrate their “published” pieces as a learning community.
Key skills that are introduced or reinforced in the fourth grade include the use of topic sentences and supporting details, writing paragraphs that consist of one complete idea, writing multi-paragraph essays that incorporate introductions and conclusions, using texts to support a thesis, varying word choice and sentence length and structure, incorporating thoughts, feelings, dialogue, and inner monologues, and using quotes and other punctuation marks. Students continue to work on spelling, punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary, language, sequencing, and formatting and presentation. They also gain experience writing in Google Docs- drafting, revising, editing, and sharing their work. The steps of the writing process, with which they are already familiar, become gradually integrated in their writing.
The computational skills learned in fourth grade are significantly more challenging than students have encountered previously; at the same time, the curriculum continues to encourage mathematical thinking and understanding. Students work with tangible objects to support their early learning of new ideas and operations, undertake projects that incorporate real-life applications of the skills they have learned, and create their own problems and games to express and reinforce their grasp of the concepts they study.
Key goals for the year include multiplying two-digit numbers; understanding division; identifying and using equivalent fractions and decimals; computing perimeter, area, and volume; graphing growth; and strengthening word-problem solving skills in all topic areas.
The following topics are studied in fourth grade:
- Data analysis
- Review and extension of addition, subtraction, and estimation
- Arrays (factors and products)
- Multiplication – review of times tables, two-digit computation
- Fractions, including equivalent fractions
- Line and bar graphs
- Geometry – lines, area, three-dimensional (cubes), angles, triangles, polygons
- Solving multi-step problems
- Test preparation
The fourth graders enter their second full year of recorder instruction. They continue learning about the instrument by practicing higher notes, exploring new rhythmic patterns, composing their own melodies and playing them. Students apply their recorder skills to playing pieces in preparation for year two of the Carnegie Hall Link Up! program, as well as the annual school concert. Through this curriculum and program, the students learn about classical composers and their works and come to appreciate music’s building blocks, from the simplest to the most complex pieces. Students study excerpts of masterworks by composers such as Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.
Singing is central to the fourth grade musical experience. Students in Kitah Dalet expand their repertoire of Hebrew and Israeli songs, with focus on pitch accuracy, as well as understanding the song lyrics. Opportunities to perform include the Chanukah Zimriyah celebration and the annual school concert.
In fourth grade, after reviewing basic skills and techniques in various sports, the students move on to formally playing games. These situations give students the chance to practice skills in context and to learn game strategy, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
By the fourth grade, students have developed mastery of basic game playing skills. New sports like volleyball and badminton are also introduced, as well as new structures like tournament-play. In this format, students get an opportunity to compete in several days of activity to promote fair play, healthy competition, and to put previously learned skills to use.
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
In fourth grade, the theme is New York City beginning. The students begin by looking at the geography of New York City in the 16th century and how it has changed. The unit will continue with a study of the Native American tribes of the New York City area pre 1600. Students will look at the geography of New York and develop a sense of how the Native Americans lived. They will explore the customs, rituals, and values of the tribe and try to understand the ways in which the geography, weather, and climate of the time impacted the lives of the people. . Later in the year, they will look at the first the original Dutch settlement in New York, New Amsterdam. they begin a more extended study of immigration. They will consider the expedition of settlers, the conditions they were seeking to escape, as well as the freedoms they were intent on finding. They look more closely at the challenges the new settlers faced in the area and the ways in which they adapted and found solutions that allowed them to prosper. In this study, the students’ first formal introduction to the study of history in which they focus on the skills and tools of the historian, they consult non-fiction texts and conclude the unit with a project on the life in New Amsterdam. The students read non-fiction accounts and answer complex comprehension questions. Additionally, museum visits, field trips, and historical simulations increase their knowledge of the ways in which these early settlers lived.
In their study of geography, students use maps, atlases, globes, and Google Earth to learn basic geography concepts and terms and understand the relationship between culture and geography. Later they explore the layers of the rainforest, understanding how the differing levels of light, among other things, help to shape multiple habitats in the rainforest. As part of the rainforest study, students participate in an art exchange program which matches them with a partner class in a rainforest habitat in Guatemala.
In science, the overarching theme for the year is systems. Students will begin the year with a unit that integrates the study of Native American of New York City. Students learn how culture, technology, climate and environment helped shape the architecture of the people, and create scale models of typical buildings and structures from this culture or time period.
The fourth grade students will move on to study habitats, looking at this theme through geographical and environmental lenses. They study the ecology, wildlife, flora, and cultures of natural habitats, and in connection with these studies, they work engage in long term research project. Students prepare an individual research project, choosing a plant or animal and how it adapts to its habitat, its interactions with other organisms and its future. The resources available to them are primarily books, other printed matter, and the internet. In addition to the written research paper, students communicate what they have learned through discussions and oral presentations, as well as in homework assignments, artistic representations, models, and poster displays.
The year will end with a unit on simple machines in which students understand how parts work together to form a whole. As a culminating project students build Rube Goldberg inspired machines.
Students have a weekly coding class where they explore structures of code such as sequencing, loops, conditionals, and events. Students explore these concepts through a series of “unplugged” games and activities, as well as through iPad-based exercises using block-based languages. Students apply their understanding of coding through game design, digital illustrations, and programming robots to navigate obstacles and follow simple commands.
The art work of our fifth graders is both art for art’s sake, as well as art that is integrally related to the rich fifth grade Jewish and General Studies curriculum. The creation of Shabbat ritual objects kicks off the formal art curriculum for the year. These items are used throughout the school year for the class’ Kabbalat Shabbat on Fridays. As the students study units in Colonial America, the History of Eastern European Jewry, and Immigration, art creation compliments the learning and thinking they do in those academic areas. Paper quilt designs accompany the study of Colonial America, an artist study of Jewish artist Marc Chagall is part of the Jewish Studies unit (students experiment with paintings that utilize differences in scale and non-traditional colors) and the drawings of artist Ben Shan are used as a reference point for the illustrations that students create as part of their study and research in immigration. Other projects during the year emphasize observation and include a figure drawing exercise and the use of torn paper in collages. A trip to Modern Museum of Art (MOMA) is a highlight of the art experience in fifth grade.
Fifth grade students are divided into groups according to Hebrew language proficiency. This arrangement makes it possible for students to study at the level best suited to their needs.
The language series on which the program in these grades is based, and which provides the continuity from class to class and year to year, is Aleph-Bet Y’ladim Lomdim Ivrit. A sequential program, Aleph-Bet Y’ladim Lomdim Ivrit follows a structured linguistic progression and integrates the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – in each unit. Based on the most current understanding of language acquisition in children, it exposes students to multiple genres, including stories, conversations, telephone conversations, poems, songs, albums, journals, bulletin board notices, and the like. Students are challenged to speak and write, using the language patterns they are learning in both familiar and new contexts. Additional reading materials and language exercises developed by the school complement the published units and ensure that students have ample opportunity to practice their emerging language forms and structures within a naturally occurring, functional context.
In the advanced class, students read short stories, write extensively, and speak in full sentences using verbs in several conjugations, in present and past tenses, and in active and passive voices. In addition, they make oral presentations.
Students review and reinforce their basic reading skills and learn to conjugate verbs in present tense and the infinitive form; in addition, they study agreement among nouns, verbs, and adjectives in gender and number. For all students, Hebrew continues to be spoken throughout the day in class routines and in the Jewish Studies program.
A new subject in fifth grade is Jewish history. In a two-week mini-unit, students look at Jewish life in Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, using both history and literature.
The fifth grade Torah curriculum focuses on the exodus from Egypt as related in Sh’mot (Exodus) 1-10. Students work primarily in study pairs (chevruta) and small groups to negotiate the text, comprehend it, answer text-based questions ranging from basic comprehension to close analysis, empathize with the biblical characters, pose interpretive questions, and answer them. Students also learn to teach each other passages that they studied in small groups, using group presentations, dramatizations, writing, artwork, and short projects.
In Mishnah, the curriculum incorporates a number of mishnayot and related sources from the Talmud on topics relating to interpersonal behavior. In small groups, students negotiate the text with the help of a glossary, think about the situations and concepts that the mishnah presents, ask interpretive, text-based questions, apply the ideas they discover to present-day situations, and argue and debate the questions, much as the rabbis of the mishnah did. .
In t’filah, the fifth graders add new prayers to their daily liturgy, including birchot hashachar (the first morning blessings) and several chapters of psalms from p’sukei d’zimra. As in previous years, each new text is not only recited with correct intonation and melody; it is also mined for meaning, interpreted, personalized, and placed in the context of the overall structure of the prayer service. The highlight of the year is the siddur ceremony in which the students celebrate their completion of the matbe’a shel t’filah(the main prayers of the liturgy) and demonstrate their readiness to join the middle school minyan. The process begins by reviewing all the prayers that they have learned over the years and then reminiscing about the impressions that these early prayer experiences made on them. They also receive their first published siddur at this ceremony. Additionally, the fifth grade students extend their knowledge of birkat hamazon (grace after meals) to include the full text of the first b’rachah, in addition to the excerpts of the remaining b’rachot that they continue to recite, and they learn a new b’rachah to be recited after eating snacks.
The fifth grade chagim (Jewish holidays) curriculum incorporates most of the experiential elements that students encountered in their earlier years, thereby reinforcing an emotional attachment to each calendar event. At the same time, new concepts and texts are introduced to deepen students’ knowledge and enrich their experience: prior to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, and Pesach, they complete their study of the laws of these holidays and learn, for example about challenges to Jewish unity during the Hellenistic period by simulating the responses of different sects to the events of the time.
In Israel studies, students explore different Aliyot, immigrations of different Jewish communities from around the world to Israel, through the stories of individual families and reflect on the concepts of home and homeland.
Reading and writing in fifth grade are fully integrated ways of learning and communication. In their writing and reading workshops, the units of study are coordinated so that the same, or complementary, genres and topics are the focus of both reading and writing simultaneously.
Writing workshop begins, as in previous years, from a writer’s notebook containing personal experiences, thoughts, and ideas that are the seeds for essay writing in various forms such as poetry, persuasive pieces, essays, literary analysis, memoir writing, and short fiction stories. The workshop culminates in a full-length independent research project. Throughout the writing units the students develop skills in using sophisticated language and syntax, revising, and editing.
Students learn to expand their writing from several paragraphs to several pages and make effective use of craft moves, such as strong beginnings, beautiful language, transitions, details and description, and figurative language, including similes and metaphors. They continue to use the writing process effectively to plan for narrative and expository writing, edit for conventional spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammatical usage, and word choice, and revise both independently and in peer conferences.
In reading workshop, paralleling the experiences in writing workshop are internet research; themes in fiction; memoir; non-fiction; short stories; and poetry. Student initiative and active learning are encouraged through book clubs relating to genre study. Key goals for the year include achieving high levels of literal and inferential comprehension and an appreciation of literature. Students learn to be actively aware of narrative sequence, character motivation, the author’s message, theme, big idea of a story, and literary techniques; to read with a writer’s eye; and to read between the lines. During read-aloud sessions, teachers model for students the thinking, language, behaviors, and strategies of successful readers. In the spring, students run their own book clubs, where groups read a fiction novel and discuss it. Students improve their active listening and discussion skills, including how to disagree constructively, build on ideas, and extend conversation.
In a unit on internet literacy, students look at the role and function of the internet, safe communication, acceptable use, and good decision making.
Students also study a unit in both reading and writing memoir, in which students read memoirs to study styles and voice, using these skills to craft their own memoirs.
Fifth grade students perform mathematical operations and understand mathematical concepts at a high level. Contributing to this balance of thinking and doing are two extended real-world applications and numerous briefer real-life problems; regular work in pairs and small groups as a complement to independent work; and a continuing emphasis on communicating mathematical ideas verbally.
Key goals for the year include mastery of all four operations in multiple digits, fluency in all basic operations, an integrated understanding of fractions, decimals, and percents, and increased independence in problem solving.
The following topics are studied in fifth grade:
- A review of multiplication and division
- Computation and estimation strategies in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Solving word problems
- Fractions, decimals, and percents, and equivalencies among them
- Adding and subtracting fractions
- Multiplying fractions and decimals
- Pre-algebra, including growth patterns, equations, and graphs
- Geometry, including triangles, quadrilaterals, and the perimeter and area of polygons
- Real-world applications (e.g., playground plan, distribution of M&M’s in individual bags)
- Communication of mathematical ideas orally and in writing
In fifth grade, following two years of studying the recorder, students advance to the study of keyboard. Fifth graders begin by learning basic rhythms and the names and locations of notes. Each child works individually or in pairs on pieces suited to his or her own level. These range from simple versions of nursery rhymes all the way up to classical music scores. The students have an opportunity to perform their chosen keyboard piece during the Keyboard Exhibitions, a morning when students present their work of focus to their fellow classmates.
In singing, the students build a repertoire of English and Hebrew songs, with focus on pitch accuracy and lyric memorization. Performance opportunities during the year include the Zimriyah at Chanukah time, the Yom Hashoa remembrance ceremony and the school concert.
Building on previous skills and developing more mature sportsmanship continue in fifth grade. With the addition of our after-school sport program at this age, many fifth graders have the opportunity to join the school soccer, basketball or volleyball team and play in inter-school league competition. Through this experience , students begin to show preference and strength in their desired sport. Besides the continuous skill development, during game play, students are encouraged to take risks. They learn self-awareness and gain self-esteem through trial and error. Students are able to explore movement styles and techniques independently, in pairs, and in a group setting. This self-discovery enables the shy athlete to flourish and the advanced athlete to grow in differentiated ways.
THEMATIC STUDIES, SCIENCE & SOCIAL SCIENCE
In fifth grade, the theme is New Beginnings, which parallels the students’ own growing need for independence and self-sufficiency. The students begin by studying the Native American tribes of the New York City area pre 1600. Students will look at the geography of New York and develop a sense of how the Native Americans lived. They will explore the customs, rituals, and values of the tribe and try to understand the ways in which the geography, weather, and climate of the time impacted the lives of the people. Later in the year, they will look at the first the original Dutch settlement in New York, New Amsterdam. they begin a more extended study of immigration. They will consider the expedition of settlers, the conditions they were seeking to escape, as well as the freedoms they were intent on finding. They look more closely at the challenges the new settlers faced in the area and the ways in which they adapted and found solutions that allowed them to prosper. In this study, the students’ first formal introduction to the study of history in which they focus on the skills and tools of the historian, they consult non-fiction texts and conclude the unit with a project on the life in New Amsterdam. The students read non-fiction accounts and answer complex comprehension questions. Additionally, museum visits, field trips, and historical simulations increase their knowledge of the ways in which these early settlers lived.
A main focus in theme is independent research. Each student chooses a topic of his or her own interest related to an area of the theme. The in-depth and cross curricular research project extends over four months and is divided into stages with interim deadlines to help students plan, manage their time, and keep organized. They learn new research strategies, including highlighting keywords and important information; recording them on note cards; organizing the note cards into an outline before beginning to write; drafting, submitting, and receiving feedback on multiple drafts; and preparing a bibliography. Upon completion, they submit their finished paper, as well as a visual aid; they present their project to classmates, teachers, and parents; and they field questions from the audience at the conclusion of their presentation.
The fifth grade science curriculum is designed to deepen students’ experience with scientific inquiry and train them to think and act like real scientists. Students will begin the year with a unit that integrates the study of Native American of New York City. Students learn how culture, technology, climate and environment helped shape the architecture of the people, and create scale models of typical buildings and structures from this culture or time period. In the winter, the students will explore Space. They will look at the planetary system and research the question: What makes a place habitable? Finally, in the spring, the students study the human body through the health curriculum.
Students in fifth grade use physical and computer-based tools to explore the world of functional coding. The coding curriculum teaches students how to access and use the main elements and structures of code, such as sequence, conditionals, variables, and loops. Students put their skills into practice by transmitting their codes to single-board microcontrollers, including arduinos and microbits, and using these controllers to respond to real world problems.
UPPER ELEMENTARY YEARS
Fifth Grade כיתה ה
As the final year of the Upper Elementary Division experience, fifth grade marks a transition toward more independent learning. With the help of their teachers, who scaffold the independent learning skills for them, the students are asked to organize their materials, take notes in class, and sustain work on long-term projects. A key milestone of the fifth grade is a major research project and presentation on immigration, which serves as a stepping stone to the exhibition-based assessments students will undertake in the middle school. Further preparation for middle school experience takes the form of a number of test-like experiences during the year, in which students learn how to prepare for and take a formal test. Other major emphases include the development of an interfaith living museum exhibition through the American Museum for Jewish Heritage, in cooperation with the Al Ihsan Academy, the Islamic Leadership School, and Kinneret Day School, and several community service projects. The students also deepen their understanding of themselves as learners as they continue to participate in portfolio conferences with their teachers and parents and reflect knowledgeably about their academic progress. As well, the fifth grade marks the students’ first formal exposure to Jewish history, health education, and advisory.