20 Oct Students at work: A walk through Schechter Manhattan

The first grade was filled with sounds of students reading in Hebrew.  They were practicing reading the letter “bet” (ב) with different vowel sounds.  Sitting in three groups, they were reading, writing, and singing the sounds.  None of the students appeared to notice me when I walked in, they were too engrossed in the learning activity.

When I walk into a class at Schechter Manhattan, often the students ignore me.  They are frequently so busy and engaged with learning activities that they don’t have attention available to notice me walking in or out.  And when they do notice me, I am often greeted with a smile or wave, followed by the students turning their attention right back to the work at hand.  I do not mind being ignored in this way- I am so pleased to observe students busy doing the work of learning.  As I walked through school over the last few days, I was reminded of the power of highly engaged and active learning.  I saw students throughout the school hard at work.

Gan students, who have only been at Schechter Manhattan for a little more than a month, have taken to the routines of their classroom.  When I stopped in their classroom they were working on literacy- building phonics skills by matching letters to pictures that start with particular sounds.  The tone of the classroom was quiet and focused, everyone was busy at work.

It was also quiet in the second grade, where students were reading independently, most of the them sitting on the carpet, lost in their books.  Some students were selecting books from the classroom library, whispering recommendations to each other and finding their next titles.

I saw third and fourth grade students editing their writing.  They were using an editing checklist, to help them make sure they had reviewed their pieces carefully.  There was a buzz of conversation in the room, as students spoke to each other about their writing, asked questions, and offered each other help.

The fifth graders weren’t in their classroom- they were engaged in learning at the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition of the works of Alexander Calder.  Every class in the school goes on field trips to art exhibitions throughout NYC over the course of the school year, and the fifth graders were on their trip. I heard later from students and teachers about the work they did there- first observing Calder’s sculptures, then sketching elements and building their own sculptures out of metal wires.

I happened upon the sixth grade students in the hallway, organizing their lockers.  As Middle School students grow from dependence to independence, they take time to build the needed skills to manage multiple classes and varied materials.  All of the students appeared invested in the process, talking with each other about how they were organizing their lockers, and offering each other ideas and help along the way.  The time and energy invested in this habit of hand will surely help the students be ever more successful middle school students.

I observed seventh grade students using their Chromebooks to research human anatomy in science class.  Some of them were huddled together in pairs, reading through online sources, and others had headphones on, so that they could hear audio from multimedia materials without disturbing others.  As in the Gan, there was a quiet and focused tone to the work.

At Schechter Manhattan we believe that people learn best when they engage directly with ideas, phenomena in the world, texts, questions, and problems, and then work together to figure them out for themselves.  This type of learning is hard work- it requires high levels of engagement to build skills and develop understandings.  When we see Schechter Manhattan students hard at work, deeply engaged, as I did this week, that is when we know that they are learning.

Shabbat Shalom

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.


During Writing, students had the opportunity to explore different kinds of writing, both real and imaginary.
Julian – “I atA JAKLit KP KUKE” (I ate a chocolate chip cookie)
Hannah – “IHD AGRT Tim” (I had a great time)
Jonah – “mst” (monster)
Amy – “IWEtouWEDInG. wE DASt” (I went to a wedding. We danced)
Adam – “I SOWL” (I saw a whale).



This week, in Theme, Kitah Bet students have been looking at their personal communities, as well as the larger community surrounding Schechter Manhattan. They were asked to identify the values associated with these communities and/or communal institutions.

Click here to see work by Liat, Bela, Naomi, Charlie & Nava


In 5th grade we spent this week reviewing the importance of the prayers shema and v’ahavta. Our class used the text to identify daily requirements for Jews and the actions we take to demonstrate our adherence to these requirements. We used both illustration and description to demonstrate our understanding of the text.


Seventh grade teams found the heights of tall objects in the park from the lengths of their shadows.

Click here to see work by Sammy

Click here to see work by Kenzie

Click here to see work by Sarah