Curriculum Update from Mrs. Natalie Lichtman July 22, 2019
It is hard to believe that we have reached the conclusion of another school year.
As I gather my thoughts and reflections about this past year, it is with great hakaras hatov I have to you, our partners in educating your children, our wonderful faculty, who are responsible for the learning and development of every child at YBH, and the rest of the administrative team. B”H, this has been a positive year of academic growth, innovation, experimentation with new approaches and resources, and continuation of the “tried and true” effective routines and pedagogy which have been successful in the past. I would like to share with you some of the highlights of this year across divisions and across all of the domains of learning in the General Studies Department.
Dr. Sasson, our Literacy Coach continued to collaborate and train faculty in the implementation of Guided Reading in elementary classes. This model facilitated more differentiated instruction in the classroom, allowing students to access text
that was at an appropriate level of challenge. Students expanded their horizons by reading more expository text and varying the genres they read independently.
In some classes, teachers piloted a literacy routine in which students were empowered to choose their own books, read to partners as well as teachers, investigate more challenging word structures and vocabulary and develop more autonomy in their reading. Students in our third grade benefited from a revised writing curriculum that included focused units of instruction on narrative, expository and persuasive writing. Various classes held publishing parties at which parents were treated to a sampling of our students’ original work.
In our fifth grade, students used Chromebooks to draft and edit various writing assignments, including original poetry and their state report. Students in one class studied various types of poetry culminating in a poetry reading which parents attended. In another class, students applied skills in expository and persuasive writing by researching and debating a topic close to their hearts, the pros and cons of homework! Pollsters agreed that homework is not necessary or beneficial to students!
Students in our Middle School Language Arts classes delved into models of persuasive writing literature read in class, such as Animal Farm, or advertisements. They explored different types of propaganda through the lens of the 6 Traits of Writing studied, including word choice, sentence variety and organization. For the first time, the girls published a Literary Journal at the end of eighth grade, representing the creativity and diversity of writing experiences in Middle School.
This past year, we incorporated more differentiated math instruction into elementary classes by team teaching math in fourth and fifth grade or adding a math enrichment group in grades in which we identified a cohort of students who would benefit from acceleration or deeper learning opportunities. This model proved to be beneficial to all, as teachers were also able to provide on or approaching level learners more time for targeted math instruction. Enrichment groups were taught by colleagues in other divisions or by our Math department Chair, Mrs. Herzog. In addition to her direct teaching responsibilities, Mrs. Herzog mentored new faculty; demonstrated or modeled how to teach difficult math concepts and offered support to teachers piloting the Eureka Math program, an approach that syncs well with our current program, GO Math. Some teachers have found that the resources/explanations in Eureka Math have worked well with students and have replaced some units of instruction with this program. We also piloted an online math program, Dreambox, with some middle school students, focusing on ratios, rates proportions and geometry in sixth grade. We are exploring ways to give more students access to this program which customizes learning for each student and provides teachers with data that helps direct and support instruction. In all math classes, teachers continued to emphasize “real world” applications of skills taught. When applied to sports statistics, sales when shopping, calculating tips in a restaurant, or even averaging grades, students appreciated the relevance math has in their lives!
In Middle School, we were recently pleased to hear that our students applying to NY High Schools placed out of Algebra 1, having achieved high scores on their recent Algebra Regents. We acknowledge the excellent prep they received in our Algebra 1 class taught by Mrs. Herzog, as well as the additional test prep after school students received from Mrs. Hack, a veteran YBH math educator.
This year, each grade made expanded use of our experiential learning kits to provide more hands on opportunities to do science in the classroom and in the lab. The first graders studied light and sound as well as the five senses. Second graders watched the stages of metamorphosis and saw their butterflies emerge from their cocoons; Third grade students visited Sterling Mines as a culminating activity related to their study of rocks and minerals. Our fourth grade scientists delved into two topics that related to energy transfer; the first an in depth study of our planet, stars, constellations and galaxies; the second a comprehensive unit on energy and how the sun is the source of all energy on earth. Students used batteries, wires and bulbs to explore the transfer of energy and circuits and the relationship between magnetism and electricity. Fifth grade held various investigations into states of matter, a foundation for their continuing study of chemistry. They learned methods of measuring/titrating powders and liquids; the differences between compounds and mixtures and saturated and supersaturated solutions. In our middle school, highlights included the study of our dynamic earth in 6th grade; a study of weather which lead to investigations into electricity. Our seventh grade, through our CIJE grant, spent the year in true STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) study as they study the Engineering Design Process. Seventh grade study of physics and biochemistry provided the foundational knowledge for eighth grade study of the human body in eighth grade. We are especially proud of our science department chair, Rabbi Wieder, who was recently recognized by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education for his excellence in science education.
This past year our teachers followed the curriculum map established by a faculty committee under advisement from Mr. Nagel. A well-articulated developmental sequence helped ensure each grade was meeting the expected academic standards. We piloted a new curriculum in third grade which the students found more interesting and provided more opportunities for exploring topics related to communities and our environment. The middle school introduced American History into the curriculum sequence allowing students in the sixth grade to explore the foundational principles and values our country was founded upon. Our American History curriculum also taught students about Jewish immigration to the United States and the vital role Jews played in helping to build America.
As in past years, the core General Studies program was enhanced by co-curricular classes. The Girls division enjoyed sharing their original musical selections and artwork at our yearly Night of the Arts. All classes ventured beyond the walls of YBH on field trips connected to classroom learning. Finally, our Middle Schoolers enjoyed the variety of selections offered in our Enrichment program. Many thanks to Mr. Nagel for undertaking this huge endeavor twice a year.
As a faculty committed to professional development and as lifelong learners, several YBH teachers will be taking courses this summer in literacy, math and STEM. We look forward to learning from them and tapping into their new knowledge and expertise as we plan for the coming year.
We are now actively planning for the coming year. IY”H when we get closer to opening day of the 2019-2020, I will share our vision for the coming year as well as new initiative and faculty members who will be joining the YBH family.
For now, I hope you and your family enjoy a relaxing, fun and healthy summer.
See you in September!
General Studies Principal