- Building Lifelong Learners
- Literacy: Readers and Writers Workshop
- Hebrew Immersion
- Mishna Studies
- Torah Beyond the Classroom
- Parashat Hashavua
- Resource Room
Building Lifelong Learners
In elementary school we seek to develop the intellectual, social, and physical potential of each student in a nurturing learning environment. To ensure that all students become strong, successful thought and action leaders, they need to master the essential components of the curriculum, acquire knowledge, and develop skills consistent with 21st century learning and beyond.
The elementary school's mathematics program is rich, alive, and rigorous. Teachers have many tools at their disposal to reach every young mathematician in the classroom, including SmartBoards and an innovative and highly effective curriculum: the Morris Grunstein Singapore Math Program. From first grade, students build a critical conceptual foundation in mathematics. Whenever possible, math is learned and practiced across the curriculum. Using Singapore Math approaches, each concept is taught to establish mastery, enabling Hillel students to think more deeply and connect their learning more richly to other content areas.
Hillel uses an inquiry/project-based approach to learning science. Using a variety of tools and programs, students are able to experiment, build, hypothesize, test, and collaborate with one another in class. True to its mission, Hillel prepares all students to be stewards of the earth. Sustainability principles are routinely explored and practiced both on and off-campus, whether children are recycling paper goods in the art room or hiking a trail on Catalina Island.
Using Lucy Caulkins's Readers and Writers Workshop from Columbia University Teachers' College, teachers focus language arts classes on promoting high literacy skills that will last a lifetime. Students are exposed to a variety of literature using many exciting approaches such as read-alouds, literature circles, weekly visits to the school's library, author studies, and writing celebrations. Critical skills include fluency, comprehension, and analysis. At all times, emphasis is placed upon developing critical thinking skills through effective written and oral communication.
Writing workshops are found in every elementary school classroom. Students most often write about personal experiences, and are also assigned to write about literature or poetry.
Hebrew immersion at Hillel is a cumulative building process. Exposure begins in the earliest years. In elementary school, students enjoy dedicated periods for Hebrew language immersion instruction with educators that are trained in teaching language acquisition. Students begin to converse in Modern Hebrew. As their skills improve, time dedicated to conversation grows. Students explore and advance their Hebrew through web-based research projects and other forms of technology. Learning the modern, living language of Medinat Yisrael also connects students to our homeland and its people and culture.The curriculum we use in grades 2-5 is called "Chaverim B'Ivrit". This approach to teaching Ivrit is based on the most current understanding of language acquisition in children, including the need to transfer and apply learning in new contexts and situations. Our approach is based on developing the communicative competence of the learner so he or she will acquire the ability to converse in Ivrit in various situations. The effectiveness of the Chaverim B'Ivrit curriculum is supported by an objective test from the NETA Hebrew Language Program, administered at the conclusion of fifth grade.
Our students' exposure to the study of mishnayot begins in fourth grade. One of the most important goals of Mishna studies is the acquisition of foundational concepts of the oral Torah, Torah shebeal-peh. Students learn to analyze, compare and reconcile divergent opinions presented in the Mishna. At Hillel, we emphasize the importance of exposing our students to a wide breadth of mishnayot as we place an emphasis on conceptual ideas and structures that are used in the study of Mishna and Talmud. Students develop both familiarity and the facility to argue the manifold positions of the Mishna through class debates. Students develop a connection to the text through memorization of the mishnayot, and they explore how major themes in the Mishna apply to their daily lives. The third year of the Mishna program concentrates on preparing students for a smooth transition into the study of Gemara.
Our Tanach program begins in Pre-1, when our children spend a year gaining kriah fluency in order to begin learning Chumash in first grade. The educational model that we emulate at Hillel is known as Barkai. Every student learns to read every pasuk b'ta'amei hamikrah (cantillation notes) from the very first time that they are exposed to learning Chumash. Over the course of their elementary school experience, students develop an appreciation for the contextual meaning behind the cantillation notes and their place in helping us understand the p'shat. Our students learn the entirety of Chumash with a focus on the acquisition and ownership of the content and associated skills by sixth grade. Hillel employs a "building-blocks" approach to Torah starting with Chumash. Each year builds upon and expands the skills acquired in the previous year. The goal at all levels is for students to be confident to independently learn the text of the Chumash and Navi. For our Elementary School students, this means becoming proficient in learning of the pshat level understanding of the text.
Torah Beyond the Classroom
The study of Torah at Hillel does not stop when the school day ends. Motzei Shabbat offers a meaningful learning opportunity. Geared mostly toward elementary students, the Motzei Shabbat Parent-Child Learning program brings parents and children together in an intergenerational setting. Parents have the opportunity to interact in a Bet Midrash setting with their young children. Parents, grandparents or friends have the additional opportunity to get to know the Judaic Studies faculty through an interactive Devar Torah given by alternating staff members. A Hebrew language section of the evening is offered by the four dynamic Bat Ami young women helping to enrich Hillel's curriculum this year. The evening wraps up with prizes and pizza each week, and a grand prize at the end of the winter season.
Hillel has completed its first year of an exciting and ground-breaking new initiative to create and implement a unified, school-wide, Parashat Hashavua curriculum. This expansive undertaking is led by a group of educators, dedicated parents, and rabbis. Each teacher presents a new component of the parasha at a more advanced level than the previous, making an efficient progression in the student's growth from year to year and a logical scope and sequence. Our new parasha curriculum concentrates on the mastery of knowledge of the pshat of the Chumash text, and distinguishes between this, and stories or lessons advanced by Rashi and Midrashei Chazal. Students learn to think critically about the pesukim in Chumash. Each week's parasha sheet brings thought-provoking issues home to the family Shabbat table for further discussion and investigation. Last year, the curriculum was successfully implemented in our Nursery through 5th grade.
At Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy we seek to provide an opportunity for students to learn and appreciate what it means to live as a Torah Jew. With this in mind, we developed a new Halacha curriculum with the mission of creating knowledgeable Halachic Jews who are familiar with the standard halachic terms and customs. The Halacha syllabus focuses on teaching and exposing the students to practical halacha as well as the theory of halacha. The students are able to then relate and apply this halachic theory to their daily lives. Students study the source of the halacha from text of the primary source and then track the process of the mesorah as we learn its applications in modern day life.Our Middle School curriculum is being designed and guided jointly by the Machon Lehalacha v'Hora'ah led by the very popular Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon together with our Middle School Judaic Studies department.