First Grade Curriculum
The Judaic Studies program at The Hebrew Academy is designed to foster excitement, love and security in a child’s identity as a Jew. It provides the required skills, understanding and knowledge of how and why to live as a productive Jewish citizen in our society.
In order to reach these objectives, the curriculum is tailored and individualized for The Hebrew Academy students. Our detailed and comprehensive program is revised and updated each year to meet current needs, the advancement and growth of individual classes and the unique strengths of its teachers.
The following represents a summary of Judaic Studies for Grade One.
Prayers and Blessings:
The focus in first grade is to review the prayers learned in kindergarten, to add selections appropriate to the student’s level, and then to discover them in the Siddur. They will learn the importance of prayer as a regular practice. The content of the selections will be reviewed often. The children will learn to select the appropriate blessings or prayers for the particular occasion.
Many of the prayers will be chanted or sung, many will be learned by-heart; some selections will be identifiable with the home, others with synagogue worship. The prayers will be chanted with the traditional tunes, facilitating opportunities for the children to lead parts of the service in their own houses of worship or at Shabbat dinner. This will also encourage participation during congregational recitations of prayers with which they will become familiar.
An important aspect of prayers and blessings is to understand what we are saying, to whom, and why. Children in first grade will know that their prayers are directed to G-d, the essential meanings of blessings, and the central ideas of some of the prayers.
First graders will be formally introduced to the Chumash, which will become a major area of study during their years at The Hebrew Academy and hopefully of primary interest throughout their lives. They will study about the life of Avraham; his travels, wanderings and experiences as the first Jew. The stories of our forefathers represent the religious and cultural foundations of our people. They vividly demonstrate our ancestral heritage of Jewish values and our ancient bond to the Land of Israel.
Following a cursory review of the narratives of creation and Noah and the flood, intensive study will cover the Portions of Lech Lecha and Vayera. Students will understand that the Torah “was given by Hashem, recorded by Moshe and transmitted from generation to generation to this very classroom.” In class students will read and translate from the Chumash text. Emphasis will be on correct (phonetic) Hebrew reading. Students will develop an understanding and appreciation of the Torah and the values it teaches. They will develop a base of Chumash vocabulary and grammar that will aid them in their future years of Chumash study. A highlight of the year will be the Chumash presentation. Each student will participate and students will receive their own copies of Chumash B’reishit.
Spoken Hebrew is taught in first grade in many ways. Children are exposed to the language as spoken by the teachers and through the series of readers, audio tapes and CDs within the TaL AM program. Children learn songs designed to internalize the language in a natural manner. Children are expected to follow teacher’s instructions given in Hebrew from the first day. They learn to respond, request and inquire in Hebrew.
From the very beginning of the school year, classroom management and routines are conducted in Hebrew. Class begins each day with a Hebrew conversation of a social nature (greetings, weather, date, feelings, etc.). The children are encouraged to use the vocabulary, phraseology and sentences they previously learned. They are regularly introduced to new vocabulary and forms that they will continue to reinforce in their daily dialogues.
Hebrew is a phonetic language. The early emphasis in first grade, therefore, is on mechanical decoding. This does not preclude the continued reinforcement of sight word recognition. As phonetics are important to correct pronunciation, so is sight word recognition important to fluency. Both complement each other in learning to read and for reading comprehension.
During the early part of the school year, first graders will use stick letters to complement the block forms they will be reading. These are easier to copy as they are clearly identified with printed letters. Upon mastery of the alphabet and practice, they will learn to use script for all writing exercises.
Our students will learn to form letters correctly. They will copy words and sentences and learn to read what they have written. They will learn to communicate in writing using Hebrew in simple phrases and sentences.
Cultural and Traditional Studies
Jewish cultural and traditional studies are designed to imbue children with pride in their identities as Jews. They are made aware of the multi-faceted aspects of Judaic heritage; its values, history, tradition, and the importance of Eretz Ysrael.
The students are exposed to their heritage at their level. They will be proud of their Jewishness in their world, and in the society in which they live.
Students will learn that essential to Judaism are its values. They will learn that such things as caring for and helping one another, sensitivity towards others, respect for parents and elders, and the importance of sharing our blessings with those in need are sacred to the Jewish faith.
Previously learned traditions and practices will be reviewed. Some will be studied in greater depth while new ideas, customs and concepts will be introduced. Knowledge of the holidays, songs, prayers and routine Jewish customs and traditions will be reinforced. At first grade level, almost all traditions and customs discussed with the children will be rehearsed and practiced in the classroom. A Shabbat program is held every Friday with the first grade. They practice and learn the traditions, prayers, Zemirot (Shabbat table songs) including Kiddush and Havdalah as they enjoy some wine (grape juice) and challah.
Children will learn to identify Jewish objects in the synagogue and home. They will learn how and why many of them are used. Articles will be brought into the classroom for hands-on experience. For others, they will visit the synagogue at school and be shown the many items necessary in a synagogue.
Jewish Social Studies:
Learning about the Jewish People motivates students to want to know more about their identity as Jews. The children will listen to stories told about our heroes, past and present. They will role play and dramatize some of the exciting events and narratives. They will learn to identify with our heroes as part of the same Jewish family.
At The Hebrew Academy we think first grade is a very important year! First, it is a primary year, the foundation for each child’s school career. We want to develop good work and study habits and to encourage a positive attitude toward school and learning in each of our children. We have high expectations in work and behavior and stress good character traits, respect for others, and responsibility. Our strongest emphasis is on reading, writing, and math. In writing we begin moving from “inventive" spelling to conventional spelling during the year. In math we move from concrete to abstract, with emphasis on problem solving and reasoning skills.
First grade is an exciting, joyful and challenging year as children make the transition to the larger world of formal learning. Although still in a nurturing, protective environment, first graders are expected to become more independent and responsible in managing their social lives and their work.
Taking turns, listening and speaking in a group setting, as well as hearing and following multi-step instructions are goals for Grade One. Wherever possible we employ a theme approach, integrating math, reading, social studies, and other subjects so that our students learn to recognize interrelationships.
Seeing the point of view of another is a major first grade step, while playing cooperatively becomes crucial in learning how to work as a team. Boys and girls interact comfortably with each other at this age. In general, first graders are interested and enthusiastic. They are busy acquiring basic skills in all areas; firmly laid foundations at this age can greatly influence their future success.
First graders become familiar with computer terminology, recognize parts of the computer such as monitor and mouse, and begin learning their way around the keyboard. They create computer-generated pictures and use interactive computer programs that illustrate and design holiday pictures.
Many computer activities are geared to reinforce their academic subjects. Writing and reading programs reinforce concepts taught in language arts lessons. A math program teaches addition, subtraction, and recognizing money. Our first graders also use computers to learn phonics and to aid in writing.
In first grade, students learn to read through a multi-faceted approach. This program comprises phonics (decoding by using sounds associated with symbols), phonetic awareness (learning to hear accurately and to produce the sounds of the English language), and "whole language" instruction. Children’s stories, poems, and songs emphasizing meaning and content are the basis of the program. We integrate reading, social studies and other subjects through shared themes.
Besides learning sight words, identifying rhyming words and word endings, our students develop strategies to decipher unfamiliar words. They construct sentences on charts, read in unison and individually, and frequently listen to stories. They retell stories to identify details and main ideas, trace sequences, and learn to compare and contrast.
As an introduction to the writing process, first graders write simple stories and poems based on their experiences, focusing on beginning, middle, and end. The variety of their writing activities includes keeping logs and writing letters, reports, riddles, and tongue twisters.
Surrounded by a print-rich and visually attractive environment, first graders gain essential skills as well as a love of language.
Mathematics in first grade is an experiential process. Our students use math manipulatives, games, and mathematical tools to help solve problems and learn to compute accurately.
First graders continue to learn addition and subtraction concepts. Patterns are the foundation of math, and thus, patterns are an important focus in first grade. Students use one-to-one correspondence to compare sets of numbers as greater than, less than, and equal to; and they combine sets to find sums, use the minus sign, and understand "difference" in subtraction.
First graders learn to "count on" to solve addition problems and count backwards to solve subtraction problems. They draw hour and minute clock hands, begin telling time to the half hour, and measure length and height. They work with money, counting pennies, nickels, and dimes; and they show fraction halves, thirds, and fourths. Our students get ready to multiply and divide, and to look for patterns in numbers in geometrical shapes and in solving problems. They identify geometric figures such as cones and cubes.
The math program takes advantage of first graders’ natural curiosity. It helps them acquire confidence in their ability to think and communicate, by using mathematics to solve problems and make appropriate decisions in selecting strategies and techniques.
The Hebrew Academy is committed to developing both the mind and body. For first graders, we focus on strengthening fine (small muscle) and gross (large muscle) motor skills. As they begin learning the rules and concepts behind many sports, our underlying goal is to foster cooperation and skill building, while developing physical strength and coordination. The objectives of the program are to help each child to develop a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, to enjoy physical activity, and to learn body control.
Science in first grade values capturing students’ interests and imaginations as much as giving them particular information. For example, for first graders there is no firm line between, art, science, and math or social studies. Because first graders have a natural interest in the world around them, at science "show and tell" they are encouraged to bring their discoveries and questions to class.
Science may begin with informal discussions in which the first graders have the opportunity to look carefully and describe accurately. They begin recording observations on sheets of paper and may draw or sketch as well as begin to write explanations. This activity supplements the new skills of students who are just beginning to write, so that science and language arts reinforce each other.
First graders are introduced to the idea of scientific apparatus by using magnets and magnifying glasses and working with many posters and scale models. Major topics introduced throughout the year take advantage of the enormous range of first graders’ interests. Thus, topics range from volcanoes to dinosaurs, to simple machines, the weather, and why the sky is blue.
First grade work in social studies focuses on children and the community around them. A lot of their work centers on interdisciplinary themes such as oceans, rain forests, dinosaurs, and creepy crawlies.
First graders begin to develop map skills. They study their immediate neighborhood and their environment in general. Through books, class discussions, field trips, creative writing and stories, they explore the concepts of cooperation and communication. Social studies and reading are well integrated through the use of major themes, and we incorporate current events into their experience of their world.