Humanities and Language Arts Curriculum
The English Language Arts program is multi-faceted and provides a balanced approach within a structured curriculum across the grades. Word study explores how our language works and builds skills in phonics, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. Reading and writing skills, which are so critical to all learning, are often taught using a workshop model. Leading practitioners in the field such as Lucy Calkins, Ralph Fletcher, Fountas & Pinnell, and Lester Laminack greatly influence our practice.
Our students read both fiction and non-fiction selections in small guided reading groups, explore a wide variety of genres through both class literature books and their independent reading choices, and engage in substantive discussion of both content and craft in response to read aloud selections. Our extensive classroom and all-school libraries support our commitment to helping children find books suited to their interests and skill levels. While teachers maintain extensive classroom libraries that students use daily for language arts studies, curriculum research, and enjoyment, the school’s Lander Library is a hub that serves the entire community. An extensive collection reflecting a wide variety of topics fills the shelves including Judaic and Hebrew studies and along with parent education.
With constant exposure to high quality literature in a variety of genres, our students develop a love of story, learn how to use reading to explore topics of interest, and develop an appreciation of the craft of writing. Writing at LGA, whether it is narrative, expository or persuasive, emphasizes clear communication, recognizing and valuing different voices, and finding pleasure in the written word. Reading and writing often are tied to topics in history, geography, science, math, or Judaic Studies. Our ultimate goal is to teach students to read like writers and to write like readers.
Public speaking skills are nurtured at LGA. Whether in the classroom, or on the stage during performances our students have ample opportunity to hone their public speaking skills beginning as early as kindergarten.
The Everyday Mathematics curriculum is used from kindergarten through grade six. Everyday Mathematics is a research-based curriculum developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. The authors of Everyday Mathematics believe that it is crucial to begin laying the groundwork for mathematical literacy at an earlier age than offered in traditional programs. Based on their own and supporting research, the authors also firmly believe that children are capable of learning a great deal more than previously expected. A number of features distinguish the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, including:
- Real-life Problem Solving. Everyday Mathematics emphasizes the application of mathematics to real-world situations. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but linked to situations and contexts relevant to everyday lives. The curriculum also provides numerous suggestions for incorporating mathematics into daily classroom routines and other subject areas.
- Balanced Instruction. Each Everyday Mathematics lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations, long-term projects, and ongoing practice.
- Multiple Methods for Basic Skills Practice. Everyday Mathematics provides numerous methods for basic skills practice and review. These include written and choral fact drills, mental math routines, practice with fact triangles (flash cards of fact families), daily sets of review problems (called math boxes), homework, timed tests, and a wide variety of math games.
- Because no mathematics program can meet the needs of every student, LGA teachers supplement Everyday Math with additional resources such as Singapore Math, especially in the areas of computation, math fact fluency and problem solving.
Our science program includes learning about the lives and work of professional scientists, both past and present. Classes combine hands-on experiences with clearly presented content using printed texts, web-based materials, videos, guest experts, and field trips. In typical science classes, you might see children raising earthworms, building simple machines, or using microscopes.
Beginning in the Gan students watch the metamorphosis of caterpillars into Monarch butterflies. They examine and study mushrooms, learn physics through experimenting with balls and ramps, explore the five senses, and study the life cycles of the moon, trees, bulbs, fungus. They spend a great deal of time using their powers of observation, learning to be scientists and then translating their observations into drawings, stories and other works of art. The Science Curriculum at LGA spirals. Certain topics are revisited in depth as the children progress into the older grades. Students in first grade study states of matter focusing on solids, liquids and gases. They are introduced to the five main body systems: circulatory, muscular, skeletal, nervous and respirator. Habitats are researched and studied along with the solar system and electricity.
Second grade students delve into life cycles and study the food pyramid and nutrition. The study of the weather including the seasons has included a trip to a local TV station to meet with a meteorologist and making rain gauges. Students are also introduced to simple machines.
Third grade students spend time exploring the three body systems; skeletal, nervous, and muscular as well as learning about vision and hearing; sound and light and a study of the planets.
Four graders study use hands-on experiments to learn about electricity and electromagnetism. The respiratory and circulatory systems are studied in depth along with matter, atoms, elements, molecules and chemistry experiments.
Fifth graders are introduced to the endocrine and reproductive systems. The study cells and classifications of living things, plants and plants reproductive systems.
Sixth graders learn about plate tectonics, oceans, electricity, heat transfer, density and the reproductive system as it relates to puberty.
History and Geography Curriculum
The history and geography curricula are based on the Core Knowledge Sequence, a spiraling curriculum offering a coherent plan that builds grade by grade. This curriculum is distinguished by its specificity, solid content foundation on which to build skills instruction, and logical, grade-by-grade sequencing.
All grades have both American and world history components, and students learn about geography by tying it together with history. Beginning in kindergarten, students study American history sequentially up until the present time. In world history, students study ancient and modern cultures around the world by establishing foundations in the early grades, and then revisiting topics in more sophisticated depth later. The history curriculum is taught through readings, reenactments, films, guest lecturers, artifacts, and field trips. Students learn not only the content of history and geography, but its methods as well. The geography sequence includes mapping, map and globe literacy, and learning about the characteristics of basic geological features.
Modern Hebrew Curriculum
Modern Hebrew is a significant element of our curriculum. Our goal is to provide students with substantial knowledge of Modern Hebrew grammar and vocabulary, leading to fluency. For students who join us in the later grades, a variety of strategies are used to introduce Hebrew and help establish comfort with the language.
The strands of the curriculum are reading, grammar, and written oral expression. In the classroom, emphasis is given to speaking in Hebrew, individualizing instruction, and using music, drama, and art whenever possible. Thinking in Hebrew is encouraged, and to that end, teachers incorporate Hebrew words and phrases in all parts of the day.
In kindergarten, students are introduced to a bank of words and phrases. Hebrew is integrated into the daily routine of the school, and students are exposed to Hebrew language through a number of modalities. Students are introduced to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and learn simple phrases.
The Tal Am Hebrew and Judaics curriculum starts in first grade. The structure of the Tal Am 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. In addition to studying from textbooks, students use music, games, and visual aids, both to learn the Hebrew language and to develop a keen understanding of Jewish concepts and values.
Students develop their Hebrew and heritage literacy in a gradual, spiraled process, building new ideas and concepts on top of an expanding foundation of knowledge. The program gradually helps foster Jewish identity by allowing children to explore their Jewish roots and traditions in a fun and exciting manner. By making the study of Hebrew and Judaism relevant to the children’s everyday lives, the program enables them to develop a true appreciation of their heritage and understand the need for continued, lifelong Jewish study.
LGA seeks to nurture the vibrancy of Jewish life and traditions, producing thoughtful, committed, caring, and engaged Jews.
The Judaic studies curriculum:
- Emphasizes derech eretz—ethical behavior and civility through intensive exposure to classical Jewish texts and a school culture of respect and kindness.
- Facilitates student participation in a variety of g’milut chasidim (acts of loving-kindness) through both class projects and school-wide endeavors.
- Connects our students to God, the Jewish people, and the world at large
- Educates the whole student through integration of Judaic Studies with general studies
- Builds an understanding of Jewish civilization, and of the pivotal role the State of Israel plays in Jewish life.
- Fosters love and respect for (as well as critical thinking about) Judaism and Jewish culture, text, practices, and history. Multiple interpretations are encouraged where appropriate.
- Helps students acquire the tools—values, skills, and knowledge—to function as young Jews through learning Torah, prayer, and mitzvoth (good deeds).
- Prepares students to feel at home in a variety of Jewish communities and synagogues through study of different ways of understanding and practicing Judaism.
- Brings the Jewish calendar to life through community celebration of chagim (holidays) and Shabbat.
At LGA, we believe the arts are as important to learning and growth as academic skills. Along with weekly music and art classes with trained educators, students experience creative activities throughout the curriculum and the community. Teachers incorporate a wide range of media in many units of study, and parent volunteers bring a range of creative skills into the classrooms as well. Many of the faculty and staff participate in the arts outside of school, and regularly bring their talents to our students.
Our children meet weekly with a highly accomplished teacher whose musicianship extends outside of the classroom to public performance and composition. The components of the music curriculum at all grade levels include: Judaic music, American folk music, Western classical music, World Music, instrumental experiences (percussion for all and recorder beginning in grade 3), activities that teach and reinforce rhythm, pitch, notation, composition/improvisation and music terminology. The program builds on specific, articulated goals and objectives for each grade so that by sixth grade our students can sing in harmony through rounds, ostinato, and simple part songs, are familiar with periods of music history, representative composers, and styles; have honed their aural identification skills, learn about the science of sound, are developing rhythmic improvisation and composition and understand advanced notation. In addition, teachers regularly incorporate music into classroom experiences.
Every Monday begins with an all-school Morning Meeting (parents are always welcome) at which the entire LGA community joins together for singing, sharing and the week’s announcements
Art at LGA is part of an Emergent Curriculum that builds directly upon the interests of our students. Topics of study and project choices are captured from every-day conversations, ideas and interests that arise within art class, during other subjects and during life outside the classroom. Projects are encouraged to be viewed as an adventure, and may last one week or an entire month flowing seamlessly from one medium or topic to another
The art curriculum is scaffolded and incorporates collaborations with the General Studies program as well as the Judaics program. Together, we study various artists (both modern and classical), art theory, genres, materials and processes. Topics are explored using approaches which encourage students to think, communicate, speculate and feel.
The philosophy of our seasoned art teacher, Kitty Marshall, is to guide the ship without controlling it too tightly, offering ideas, direction, provocation and instruction. Kitty celebrates improvisation and values spontaneity and students are encouraged to come into the studio without a preordained vision of how everything is going to be or how everything is going to turn out. Each student experiences art class in various ways, with a wide range of feelings and emotions, individually and collectively.
There will always be questions to peruse, hypotheses to investigate, and discoveries to celebrate. According to Marshall, “My goal is to teach children to see.”
Performing Arts Program
Performance is an integral component of the school environment, valued for its ability to build confidence, community, and appreciation for viewing the arts. Most classes perform at least one production that reflects a curriculum unit, such as first grade’s show of fables with handmade marionettes and third grade’s Native peoples’ myths, and fifth grade’s Pi Day celebration. The sixth grade often writes and performs a Purim Shpiel with a surprise twist!
In addition there are all-school sings, assemblies and celebrations, the PTO’s end-of-year talent show, and numerous cross-grade curricular activities such as poetry readings, writing celebrations, the biography fair, the medieval fair, and the invention fair. Events such as the community-wide Hanukkah celebration also give students the opportunity to perform for larger audiences.
All grades meet weekly for a physical education class, which includes dance/movement, yoga, martial arts, and a variety of games that build skills and team membership. Teachers frequently use movement and dance in their classrooms as well.
Every class has a half-hour of daily recess, which includes team games (such as Capture the Flag) as well as abundant free choices. The playground features a climbing structure, swings, a two-lane bike and scooter path, tetherball, basketball, four-square courts, tennis on a backboard, and other ball sports, hopscotch, and dramatic play materials.