Every parent wants to give their child the best possible start.
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.
Experience Schechter Manhattan.
Lower Elementary School Grades
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.