Lower School Curriculum
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Reading and Writing is taught through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project from Teachers College at Columbia University. The mission of this program is to help young people become avid and skilled readers and writers. We use state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading and writing, including using performance assessments and learning progressions to accelerate progress and provide literacy-rich content-area instruction. The reading and writing units all intersect with and reinforce each other, aligning in how they develop content, skills, and habits. Each day’s instruction is designed according to research-based principles. All teaching follows the “gradual release of responsibility” model of teaching. Students first learn from a demonstration, then from guided practice and then from independent work. Writing workshop includes four units of study, including one unit each in opinion, information, and narrative writing. Reading Workshop includes four units of study with an equal division between fiction and information reading across the units and support for foundational skills. The kindergarten program supports a balanced literacy curriculum, which includes Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, Read-Aloud with Accountable Talk, Shared Reading, Phonics/Letter Study/Word Study, Interactive Writing and Small Group Instruction (Guided Reading and Strategy Lessons). In addition to The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, teachers utilize Wilson FUNdations Language Training. This program is used to teach phonics and handwriting as part of the language arts curriculum.
Kindergarten students study mathematics using the Everyday Mathematics program created by the University of Chicago. Everyday Mathematics is a researched-based curriculum that emphasizes real-life examples, continuous exposure to mathematical concepts, regular practice of computation skills and the introduction of multiple methods and problem-solving strategies. Kindergarten math activities are designed to enable students to build a strong understanding of mathematical concepts, as research shows that students have more success with written and symbolic mathematics in later grades if their kindergarten year focuses on building a strong foundation based on experience. Kindergarten math topics include counting, numeration, measurement, geometry, patterns, sorting and data-collecting.
The kindergarten science curriculum centers around the theme of change. Kindergarten scientists observe changes in the environment and nature, the community, and themselves. Students learn to observe, make predictions, make comparisons, problem solve, and communicate and evaluate their discoveries. Additionally, each week a kindergartner is selected to be Scientist of the Week; the child demonstrates a science experiment to the class on a topic of interest to him/her. Scientist of the Week usually happens during the 2nd semester.
In kindergarten, the social studies focus is on the student as an individual and then as a member of the class and school community, as well as his/her home and Jewish family. Activities and learning are designed to build an understanding that people are interdependent with many groups and that we have rights and responsibilities within these groups. Themes connected to this learning include: self-esteem, our Jewish families, our school, our community and Jewish holidays and traditions.
The primary goal of the kindergarten Hebrew program is to introduce the students to Hebrew and to spark their love for the language. By developing listening and speaking skills through various learning experiences student hear and practice speaking in Hebrew. These skills are reinforced through the use of songs, games, art, and other hands-on activities. In addition, students learn to recognize and write the letters of the alef-bet, they learn common Hebrew expressions, as well as useful Hebrew vocabulary. Students in Kindergarten attend Hebrew classes three time per week.
Children are introduced to the basic themes, symbols, and traditions of each holiday. Holiday units are interwoven with art and literacy. Children learn Hebrew words associated with the holidays and develop skills in reciting certain blessings. Songs, craft projects, and school-wide celebrations help bring the holidays to life.
A family Shabbat is celebrated every week in the classroom with candle-lighting, tzedakah (giving money to charity), Kiddush, and Hamotzi (prayers over grape juice and challah). Children learn the connection between Shabbat and the story of Creation and begin to understand the concept of a day of rest. Classic Torah stories are explored in Jewish Studies by engaging the children through “Torah Play,” using symbolic objects while telling the story to create a spiritual connection to the text.
Two kindergarten traditions are the Consecration ceremony where each kindergartner is presented with their own personal Torah and a beautiful Passover Seder in which the kindergartners and their families come together for a meaningful Seder led by the kindergarten, Jewish Studies and Hebrew teachers and students.
In addition to the Tefillot kindergartners attend with the entire Lower School, kindergarten comes together for an additional kindergarten Tefillah where students are able to learn specific prayers and discuss the Torah portion of the week. Kindergarten children take great pride in their Judaism.
First grade is an amazing time for greater acquisition of reading skills. Students can deepen their understanding and enjoyment of language. Utilizing The Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University emphasizes the interaction between readers and text. Students learn to ask questions and make connections with prior knowledge and previously read texts. Various authors and genres are presented as students progress from simple to more complex readings. The first grade series of the program is designed for children who are just tapping into their burgeoning talents as writers and readers. First graders write small moment stories, non-fiction chapter books, and persuasive reviews. These units of study provide opportunities for individualized learning and enable students to become highly proficient writers while also aiding students who may need additional support as they develop the skills. The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System provides an assessment tool to monitor the growth of each student and match reading levels to readers to support individualized learning. The Wilson Fundations curriculum provides a systematic and explicit approach to reading and spelling with phonics. The handwriting component of this program helps the students develop small motor and printing skills
The Everyday Mathematics program in first grade builds on mastery of early mathematics skills. Multiple learning strategies are implemented, and instruction is built upon prior knowledge. Students learn through cooperative learning opportunities, inquiry, manipulatives, mental math, discussion, and direct instruction. Ongoing formative and summative assessments provide a balanced and complete picture of each child. Key learning subject areas include addition and subtraction, number concepts, patterns, story problems, place value, measurement, time, money, fractions, geometry, and problem solving. Students who have demonstrated mastery of first-grade math concepts at the start of the school year have the opportunity to take accelerated math coursework.
In first grade, students’ natural curiosity and interest in learning provide a guiding base for scientific study. Students learn to ask questions, investigate, predict, problem solve, evaluate, and communicate. Scientific inquiry and science journaling provide an application strategy for learning. Lessons of investigation are included in the following themes: the study of the sun, desert characteristics, habitats, plants, insects, animals, fire safety, and environmental awareness.
First-grade students continue to explore their world, their communities, and their Jewish traditions and holidays. Students have now widened their understanding of past and present as they study the United States. Students learn about the country’s symbols, facts and historical events, map and globe skills, careers, and types of communities. Additionally, students learn key information related to Arizona. Students learn to explore multiple sources of information and make connections to their lives. First graders also look forward to the annual Thanksgiving play and the Siddur ceremony.
Our Hebrew program, Tal Am, is based on the notion that the best learning environment for children is one in which knowledge is acquired through a variety of activities and by using each of the five senses. In addition to studying from textbooks, students use music, games, and visual aids to acquire Hebrew proficiency. By the end of first grade, students should be able to identify letters and vowels in print and script. Additionally, they should be able to decode words of multiple syllables and read and comprehend sentences of up to three words, using vocabulary learned in class. Students learn to write sentences of three to four words and begin to follow basic classroom instructions and stories in Hebrew.
The theme of first grade Jewish Studies is B’tzelem Eloheim; we are all created in the image of God. Students learn that God created us to be a partner in taking care of the world. Students study a selection of stories from the Book of Genesis and explore various Jewish values, lessons, and mitzvot. Torah stories such as Avraham, Sara and the visitors (Vayera) which teaches the importance of “welcoming others” and Jewish holidays (chagim) such as Tu B’Shevat which encourages recycling all relate to our responsibility to make the world a better place. Students enjoy celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat and the monthly celebration of Rosh Chodesh (the first of each month on the Jewish calendar), in addition to units such as connections to G-d, Jewish symbols in the synagogue and home, and the land and people of Israel.
Each week the Parasha (Torah portion) is discussed in English, focusing on major themes and making them relevant to first graders. Tefillot addresses children’s natural curiosity about God and the world. Through activities and discussions, we strive to communicate the meaning of the prayers on a first-grade level. Students are given the opportunity to create their own prayers. They begin the year by following tefillot orally, and by the end of the year they are able to read prayers from the Siddur (prayer book). Prayers learned in first grade include Modeh Ani, Barechu, blessings surrounding the Shema, and the beginning of the Amidah. A highlight of first grade is the Siddur Ceremony, a milestone event during which students receive their first prayer book.
Our Hebrew program is based on the notion that the best learning environment for children is one in which knowledge is acquired through a variety of activities, using each of the five senses. Students are engaged in conversations and role play, use music, games, and visual aids to enhance confidence in using the language and to acquire Hebrew proficiency. By the end of first grade, students should be able to engage in a simple conversation in Hebrew, ask and answer questions to introduce themselves and their family. Additionally, they should be able to identify letters and vowels, decode words of multiple syllables and read and comprehend a short text. Students learn to write sentences of three to four words and begin to follow basic classroom instructions and stories in Hebrew.
Students in second grade continue to hone their reading and writing skills by reading and responding to more difficult text at a more detailed level. Using the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University, students engage in conversations about books, learning to respond to reading both orally and in a written format. Reading instruction and writing instruction are integrated throughout the day and across subject areas. Whole class, small group, and individual reading and writing activities are conducted in the classroom. Each unit of study provides young writers with multiple opportunities to move through the different stages of the writing process to take their pieces from draft to publication. During mini-lessons, students are taught strategies that will help them expand their writing pieces and move independently through the writing process. Over the course of the year, second graders write small moment stories about their lives, information books, realistic fiction books, poetry, and science books. Wilson FUNdations provides a research-based program that includes instruction and assessments. It provides students with thorough practice and does everything to help them become completely proficient. The instructional principles for teaching reading and writing have been identified by research and FUNdations provides us with a program that incorporated these important principles. Handwriting continues to be practiced with students merging writing more into the everyday learning than a separate subject. The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System provides an assessment to monitor the growth of students and to match reading levels to individual readers.
In second grade, the Everyday Mathematics program continues to build on core standards and practices, maintaining and teaching skills. Real-world examples to teach higher-order and critical thinking skills are included. Content area subjects are integrated into the mathematics learning through daily routines, cooperative and partner learning, practice through games, ongoing review, mental math, sharing ideas through discussion, and the home-and-school partnership. Learning is connected to, and built upon, existing knowledge. Differentiation, providing multi-teaching strategies, provides a variety of ways for all students to learn. Ongoing, formative assessment provides a balanced and complete picture of each child. Multiple assessment options are used, including paper and pencil activities, oral response, activities, games, observation, slate answers, drawing, and one-on-one assessments. Summative assessments are also varied and provide a measure of students’ growth and achievement through the academic year. Key learning also occurs in subtraction, (to include two and three digits), place value, measurement, time, money, graphing, problem-solving, fractions, and geometry.
In second grade, students are natural scientists with boundless curiosity for the world around them. Through scientific inquiry, students explore each topic, learning through investigation, problem solving, observing, evaluating, and communicating. Students follow the steps of the Scientific Method as they conduct each experiment. Lessons of scientific learning include the topics of Earth, space, human body, weather, and the water cycle.
Second-grade students expand their knowledge of self and community through understanding their responsibilities. Students have a widened understanding of cause and effect and relationships. Students are able to express their understanding through projects, drawings, and writing. Second graders explore units in geography, local and state government, economics, and Native American culture. Students also learn about inventors, heroes, “then and now,” transportation, communities, and people/events that changed the world. Students can explore current events around the world and appreciate the American holidays.
In addition to learning about and celebrating all our wonderful Jewish holidays and traditions, the goals of second-grade Jewish Studies are to develop a love of Torah study and a love of Israel. Second graders learn selections from Torah portions in the Book of Exodus and relate daily experiences to issues that emerge from the Torah narratives. Themes discussed include the values of faith in God, generosity, hospitality, justice, compassion, and strong family relationships, as well as the mitzvot (commandments) of tzedakah (charitable giving) and bikur cholim (visiting the sick).
Israel is explored through a variety of activities such as utilization of resource material, maps, multimedia presentations, photographs, Israeli visitor presentations, tasting Israeli foods, and much more. Children “travel” through Israel not only learning about important sites, but the culture, geography, history, language, and daily living, all from a child’s point of view.
Finally, we aim to provide students with the language and opportunity to express their spiritual needs and relationship to God. Second graders assume greater independence as hazzanim (prayer leaders) during Tefillah, and enrich their repertoire of prayers, with additions such as the blessings before and after the Shema, the Gevurot and Kedusha blessings of the Amidah. Children learn to recite and understand these selected prayers and to develop kavannah (connection to the spirit of the prayer experience).
Our second-grade students continue to expand their skills in Hebrew reading, comprehension, and oral and written expression through songs, games, pantomime, and puzzles. Students in this grade level use Hebrew language to describe their everyday activities and events. The Hebrew language is also learned through the routines of working with the daily calendar and schedule. Grammatical concepts are introduced through conversational Hebrew. Children write sentences on topics such as their families, seasons, and holidays.
Students in grade three begin the process shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Discussions and conversations about texts become an exploration to think critically, clarify thoughts, solve problems, make connections to the world, collaborate ideas, draw conclusions, infer, predict, and prove points. The Reading and Writing Project from the Teachers’ College at Columbia University supports children reading a variety of genres. This allows students “personal choice” in selecting reading materials. Through the enriching writing component, connections are made as the writing process encourages students to write to inform, explain, clarify, develop, persuade, describe, reason and think creatively. Organization of a piece of writing is essential to writing for meaning while students learn to write for a purpose and to an audience. Students begin the process of using research independently in their understanding and writing, editing, collaborating, as well as demonstrating presentation skills, which will also build self-confidence. All language arts skills are incorporated in the content areas. The Independent Reading Assessment is the tool used to provide data on students’ comprehension of whole books to target specific areas for continued development to progress to more difficult reading levels. Students are continually integrating reading strategies throughout all curricular areas to build critical thinking and comprehension skills. Also, the Wilson FUNdations Program brings a multisensory, structured language program to Third Grade in addition to Teacher’s College in Language Arts. It provides research-based materials and strategies essential to a comprehensive reading and writing program. Students receive systematic instruction in critical foundational skills emphasizing phonemic awareness, phonics/word study, high frequency words, reading fluency, vocabulary, spelling and comprehension.
In grade three, the program continues to build and strengthen core standards and practices while maintaining and mastering skills. Real-world examples are used to teach higher-order and critical thinking skills. Content area subjects are integrated with the mathematics learning through daily routines, cooperative and partner learning, practice through activities and games, ongoing review, sharing ideas through discussion, and the home-and-school partnership. Learning is connected to existing knowledge. Revisiting and revising concepts and skills through lessons assists in retaining and mastering content. Differentiation, multi-level teaching, provides strategies to support all learners. Assessment practices include both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments provide information about students’ current knowledge and abilities that can be used in planning and providing instruction. Summative assessments measure student growth and achievement and provide information needed to assign grades and evaluate students’ performance. Key learning occurs in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, place value, problem-solving, time, money, measurement, graphing, geometry, algebra, and fractions.
In grade three, student scientists practice inquiry strategies through the development of the scientific method. Students focus learning through questioning, predicting, problem-solving, evaluating, writing, communicating and team building activities. Lessons of investigation and learning include the topics: Structures of Life, Resources and Simple Machines.
Students learn how our past expands and widens through research and technology awareness. Students begin the use of primary and secondary sources for learning. Map skills explore grids, symbols, and landforms. Government study includes the branches of government and the responsibilities of each, noting individual responsibilities of citizenship, and what it means to respect the law. Our rights and freedoms are explored through the study of national holidays and highlighted by current events. Interdisciplinary study, using reading, writing, research, science, and technology are all exhibited through a “Create Your Own Country Project” at the end of the year.
Third graders begin to acquire text skills that enable them to study a selection of stories from the Torah. The teacher uses the Standards and Benchmarks model, created at The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Melton Research for Jewish Education. Students are exposed to the original Biblical text to build their familiarity with its structure at which point receive their own Tanakh (Bible) with a personal inscription from their parents. Through the use of discussions, art and experiential methodologies, the teacher helps students to understand the Biblical text and its meaning. Students often study and complete activities with a chevruta (partner) with the partner changing on a frequent basis. Activities encourage students to apply their learning to their lives as Jews. Units of study include Cain and Abel, Noah, Lech Lecha as well as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Students learn about the origins and background of the holidays and practice skills related to holiday customs and mitzvot. Third graders’ understanding of the lessons of the holidays and the connections between these lessons and their lives deepen as they experience the cycle of the Jewish calendar.
Third graders enhance their conversational skills and increase their comfort with expressing themselves in writing. They read and comprehend texts in present tense using strategies for figuring out the meaning of new words. They apply grammar concepts learned in class as they write paragraphs, and dialogues. They express ideas and opinions in group discussions and ask questions to clarify content and meaning. Our program includes HaKol Chadash, a workbook oriented to the daily life in and outside the classroom of children this age, as well as stories from a variety of sources. Hebrew vocabulary is reinforced through the use of songs, games, art, and other activities.
Students in fourth grade become immersed in reading and writing using the workshop model through The Reading and Writing Project from Teacher’s College at Columbia University. The reader’s workshop approach involves the students in authentic reading experiences that focus on their individual strengths and needs. They are explicitly taught the strategies to become skillful and proficient readers, while given large amounts of time to read books of their choice. Emphasis is placed on student engagement and the interaction between the reader and text. During the writing workshop, students are invited to live, work and learn as writers. They observe the world around them while drafting, revising, editing, and publishing both narrative and expository texts. They are taught concepts, strategies, and techniques for writing in different genres and styles. In both the reading and writing workshops, instruction is grounded in assessment. Students receive direct instruction through a mini-lesson, where a specific skill is introduced. The skill is then demonstrated, and the students have an opportunity to practice that skill through guided practice before applying it on their own. While working independently, they are receiving feedback through one to one conferences and small group instruction. Students use learning progressions to formulate personal goals to raise the level of both their reading and writing.
In grade four, the math program continues to build and strengthen core standards and practices while maintaining and mastering skills, including fact recall. Using the Everyday Mathematics program, mathematics is taught by learning through daily routines, cooperative and partner learning, practice through activities and games, on-going review, sharing ideas through discussion, and the home and school partnerships. Differentiation and multi-level teaching provide strategies to support all learners. Assessments measure student growth and achievement and provide information needed to assign grades and evaluate students’ performance. Key learning occurs in multiplication and division, place value, graphing, geometry, fractions, measurement, money, decimals, time, algebra probability, and problem-solving. Students who have demonstrated mastery of fourth-grade level math at the start of the year have the opportunity to take accelerated math coursework.
Students explore the regions of the United States. Fourth grade focuses on climate, resources, products, landmarks, physical features, and customs of a region. They research information using technology and other reference materials. Collaborative learning is encouraged in both short and long-term studies. Units connect reading, writing, science, math, and research, hosting an avenue for long-term learning.
In grade four, students further explore the scientific method using an inquiry-based approach to science. Student scientists pose questions, create hypotheses, and collaborate with others in problem solving and investigation. They experiment, evaluate solutions, communicate ideas and re-hypothesize for further study. Lesson themes include: Scientific Method, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, Space Explorations, Rocks and Minerals, Electricity, and Animal Adaptations.
Fourth graders continue to study a selection of stories from the Torah. Some of the themes that the students debate are family relationships, justice, ethics and values, reconciliation, and relationship with G-d. Units of study include Jacob and Esau, Joseph and the pit, and the birth of Moses. The teacher uses the Standards and Benchmarks model, created at The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Melton Research for Jewish Education. Through the use of discussions, art and experiential methodologies, the teacher helps students to understand Biblical text and its meaning. Students often study and complete activities with a chevruta (partner), with the partner changing on a frequent basis. Activities are designed to encourage students to apply their learning to their lives as Jews.
Students learn about the origins and background of the holidays and practice skills related to holiday customs and mitzvot. Fourth graders’ understanding of the lessons of the holidays and the connections between these lessons and their lives deepen as they experience the cycle of the Jewish calendar. Fourth graders also explore the geography of Israel, connecting them to the Jewish homeland.
Fourth-grade students continue to use the Tal Am program. Students continue to develop confidence using Hebrew in and outside the classroom. Students learn to conjugate the past and future tense, identify synonyms and antonyms and use words that identify time frame. Additionally, they continue to learn to write with correct sentence structure including indirect objects and possessives as well as match nouns and adjectives according to gender and number. In addition to writing and grammar, a focus on reading independently continues to be a focus in fourth grade. Students learn to summarize simple text and stories. Teachers incorporate hands-on activities and interactive learning to enhance the students’ experiences.
Lower School Specials
The music program focuses on key aspects of music including performance, theory, history, and listening to a variety of genres. Students spend the majority of their time making music. Students in first through fourth grade have music class once a week, with Kindergarteners meeting twice a week. At the primary level, students learn music theory and history as they enjoy a variety of secular and Jewish music. They start learning basic rhythm and beat placement both through body movement and the through the use of various general music instruments. Starting in second grade, students begin learning how to recognize rhythmic values and patterns on a treble clef staff and they are sight reading by third and fourth grade. The music curriculum is based on cultivating creativity and helping students build the confidence to take on new challenges and explore new talents and interests.
The arts are a wonderful vehicle for self-expression and creativity. Kindergarten through fourth-grade students receive art instruction once a week. Students learn about Art History as they are introduced to both Jewish and non-Jewish artists from a variety of eras. Through the inspiration of these artists, students learn about the elements of art, the principles of design, and different painting and sketching techniques. They experiment with a variety of materials, including pencils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, clay, mosaics, and recycled materials.
Physical Education is an integral part of the educational program at Pardes. Sports teaches vital team building skills and fosters healthy mind-body awareness. Students in Kindergarten through fourth grade participate in two class periods of Physical Education each week. The program provides students with many opportunities to participate in well conceived and well-taught learning experiences in a safe and constructive environment. Students learn the benefits of lifelong fitness while gaining physical competence, skill development, self-discipline, and self-confidence.