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How We Educate: Kindergarten-7th Grade

 

We provide opportunities for students to explore and understand how our ancient tradition provides meaning and direction in our lives and how we educate students about the most foundational parts of our tradition, including history, theology and culture.

Our curriculum focuses on three core questions:

  1. What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish family?
  2. What does it mean for me to be Jewish?
  3. What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish community?

 

During their time in our programs, students will learn about holidays, God, Israel, Hebrew, Torah, history and values in a cyclical pattern using the material learned in each unit in order to answer these core questions.  We rely heavily on Project-Based Learning (PBL), which is both a philosophy and a process that focuses on differentiated learned, real world connections and a depth of meaning making.  This gives us an organic structure to incorporate a variety of topics into each year's curriculum.  We believe this range of content (rather than studying one topic for the majority of the year) will be more interesting for students and help them better understand and answer the core question for their grade. 

Kindergarten and First Grade - What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish family?
- Jewish names and naming ceremonies
- Shabbat
- Jewish holidays
- What do you do and who do you see at the synagogue
- Families in the Torah

Second and Third Grade - What does it mean for me to be Jewish?
Jewish holidays
- God
- Shabbat 
- Torah
- Israel

Fourth and Fifth Grade - What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish community?
- Facing History, Facing Ourselves
- Immigration as a Jewish narrative (Biblical, America, Israel)
- Jewish history
- Israel
- Jews in popular culture

Sixth Grade - What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish community?
- Exploring Torah and Torah study by looking at two biblical themes: second chances and freedom

Seventh Grade - What does it mean for me to be part of a Jewish community?
- Exploring what it means to be an upstander by learning about contemporary issues and what our tradition says about them


 

HOW WE TEACH HEBREW: KINDERGARTEN-7TH GRADE

 

We teach students the building blocks to read Hebrew and recite our liturgy.

We think of our Hebrew program like a toolbox which is filled with a variety of philosophies and techniques that, when combined, allows us to make the best use of our time and resources.  Moreover, we understand that, just as students learn the English language and grammar in a different way each year they are in school, so too do we differentiate between what students are developmentally able to learn in the younger grades versus the older grades.  We are also part of #OnwardHebrew, a group of synagogues committed to reviewing, modifying and strengthening our Hebrew programs.  

Here are some of the tools in our Hebrew toolbox:

  • Hebrew Through MovementHTM is a language acquisition strategy in which students learn Hebrew by hearing and responding to Hebrew commands.   HTM uses joyful movement, songs, chants, rhythmic activities and repetition to help students learn Hebrew vocabulary.  For auditory learners, this is a great way to connect actions (lighting Shabbat candles) and the prayers which go along with the motions (blessing for lighting Shabbat candles). 
  • "Let's Learn Hebrew Side by Side"Rather than having students decode Hebrew words without context, this program contextualizes prayer vocabulary.  Students will meet with our song leader, who will teach the melodies or trope associated with each prayer and teachers will give context when a student is having trouble reading a word (“You know the prayer goes, ‘Baruch atah adonai eloheinu’ so the word starting with a mem must be meleh.’”).  Children learn English first by hearing and then by seeing and “reading” a word they already know, so this is a familiar learning process.

  • TefilahDuring each session, students participate in tefilah (services).  The goal of services is for students to have time to practice the prayers they have been learning in an authentic setting.  Throughout the course of the year we discuss the meaning of the prayers, learn different melodies and give the students opportunities to lead their classmates in prayer.  We encourage all families to attend our monthly Family Shabbat Dinner and Service, for additional prayer practice. 

  • Jewish Life VocabularyTeachers are provided with a list of Jewish Life Vocabulary wordswhich they should incorporate into each class (“I am here,” “teacher,” “pencil,” etc.).  Although our Hebrew curriculum focuses mainly on prayer-based Hebrew, this is a natural time to incorporate and teach some modern Hebrew vocabulary.  Additionally, School Signage is used to mark things like doors, windows, bathrooms, sinks, etc. so the students can sync the object with the way the word looks in Hebrew. 

  • Phonetic Reading ExercisesThese reading activities allow students to practice blending letters and vowels into syllables and eventually polysyllabic words.  With one packet for each prayer, students can slowly work on each word and then sentence, before putting it all together to read the prayer.  

Beginning in fourth grade, students begin learning the Aleph Bet more formally and they start in our Golden Aleph program.  As students master the Hebrew alphabet (names and sounds of all letters and sounds of all vowels), they earn their Golden Aleph dog tag.  As they master the other prayers, they earn blue, purple and black dog tags, eventually becoming a "Hebrew Ninja."

We understand that Hebrew can be extremely intimidating for many of our students and we work hard to provide a safe, comfortable, supportive environment for them to learn in.  We find that, through working with their Hebrew tutor, most students gain confidence in their Hebrew skills fairly quickly and enjoy learning the prayers and progressing through our Hebrew Ninja program.  


 

HOW WE KEEP OUR 8th-12th GRADERS INVOLVED

 

After 7th grade, students can select from a variety of programs, all of which are a la carte, allowing them to connect with their Judaism in a way that they choose.  

  • 8th Grade: During 8th grade, we will evaluate how different aspects of Jewish rituals, philosophy, theology and values fit into their lives, empowering our teens to make educated Jewish decisions for themselves as they enter adulthood. Examples of topics include, Shabbat and self-care, Kashrut and ethical food choices, Tzedakah and creating a more just world, and more. Each class will allow space for students to bring things they are interested in or challenged by. (8th grade)
  • Madrichim: In our Madrihim program, students in 8th-12th grades have the opportunity to volunteer as assistant teachers and serve as role models for the students in the Jewish Experience Center. Madrihim can choose to volunteer on either Sunday mornings or Tuesday afternoons, subject to availability, and receive a stipend or community service hours for their time. Madrihim will learn how to be a role model, develop leadership skills, and learn how to make a difference in their community. It serves as an excellent first job! (8th-12th grade)
  • Teen Social Action Trip: The Teen Social Action Trip provides our high school students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience supporting communities in need in different parts of our country while learning from individuals and organizations doing crucial work in those areas. Our teens have traveled to Houston, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Phoenix, and more. The trip rotates annually, making sure to address current issues and emergency relief needs. (8th-12th grade)
  • Confirmation: Confirmation is a space where students are expected to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and push the boundaries of what they know Judaism to be and what it can be. Over the course of the sixteen sessions (two years) students will wrestle with contemporary issues, forging relevant connections to their Jewish heritage through values, ethics, and culture. (11th-12th grade)
  • Kehillat Israel Tzedakah Teens: KI Tzedakah Teens is a Jewish teen philanthropy program Over the past 10 years, KITT has donated $343,792 to national and international nonprofits. KI Tzedakah Teens meet monthly to: Form together as a board of a foundation and develop a mission statement; Develop a deeper understanding on how Jewish wisdom can help inform philanthropic decisions;  Learn about important local and international issues facing our world; Research and understand how Jewish and non-Jewish organization are working to address these issues; Send Requests for Proposals to applicable nonprofits, review grant proposals, raise funds, and interview organizations; Make difficult but critical funding decisions; Build a community of Jewish teens who are passionate about changing the world. (9th-12th grade)

Tue, December 11 2018 3 Tevet 5779