Many educational, physical, and social milestones are being reached this year as students learn to write their names, identify alphabet letters, and much more. The Hebrew Academy offers a program nthat incorporates a variety of activities and experiences to aid each child’s growth and development. Staff members evaluate the progress of each child through formal methods at various points during the year, and informally on a daily basis. The curriculum and activities are adapted to meet the needs of each child. In addition, the children are individually tested using the Metropolitan Test at year’s end to evaluate kindergarten readiness and adapt the curriculum accordingly.
Religion and Hebrew Language
Foremost, our aim is to create an aura of Jewish pride in the classroom. The beauty, excitement and joy of discovering the wonders of being Jewish are things we hope to transmit to each child in the class. Exposing our children to the routines of Torah life and the Hebrew language in a daily context of total learning is the Early Childhood formula.
Judaic materials are incorporated into each part of the daily schedule. Children daven regularly every morning (using a special teacher-made siddur) and learn appropriate blessings for foods and other ceremonial occasions. Songs and classroom routines (such as the weather and introductions) include Hebrew vocabulary, as do most class activities. Children in Pre-K learn to understand simple Mitzvot and enjoy participating in “class mitzvot” such as Tzedakah (charity), Hachnosat Orchim (hospitality), and Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick). In addition, children are taught the Alef-Bet (Hebrew Alphabet) through the use of special songs, games, and their own notebooks.
Parashat HaShavuah is discussed on a weekly basis. An Early Childhood synopsis of the Torah portion is sent home with each child every Friday afternoon. An appropriate activity (arts and crafts, song, dance, cooking, etc.) reinforces the portion taught to the children. The children learn songs about the Parsha and act out various portions of it. This makes it meaningful and enriching for the students.
The holidays are treated as large units into which every other curriculum area is incorporated. Pre-K has an Erev Shabbat party every Friday afternoon to celebrate Shabbat.
Each classroom is equipped with at least one multimedia computer. Various computer programs are used in relation to ongoing curriculum matter. Students use software to reinforce and review materials being learned. Through daily use of the computers, not only do children have the opportunity to review in an exciting manner with immediate feedback, they also become comfortable with use of the mouse and keyboard.
Our aim is to use a holistic approach to the arts, incorporating them in every aspect of our program.
Papers, crayons, scissors, hole punchers, string, tape, paste, clay, paint and easels, are available every day. Collage work is done with a great variety of materials. The process of art, including self-expression is emphasized. Art work and dramatization of stories and poems is included in all thematic units.
Language Arts and Whole Language
Montessori felt that before every formal activity, there is a preparatory one. For example, before teaching a child to sew, we can prepare him by allowing him to manipulate the pegs in a peg board. Thus, we expose our students to a vast assortment of readiness skills. We are aware of the fact that when learning to read, some children rely more on the use of one sense than another -- visual, auditory, or tactile. Therefore, our readiness activities aim to include all of the above.
The readiness skills we aim to develop are:
- Ability to discriminate between objects.
- Ability to note differences in size of similar objects.
- Ability to note differences in sound (loud-soft).
- Ability to rhyme.
- Ability to identify words with the same initial consonant.
- Ability to match objects with a picture.
- Visual memory of objects.
- Ability to reproduce a simple geometric shape.
- Ability to arrange a picture story with events in proper sequence.
- Ability to retell a story or experience.
- Ability to answer questions about a story that is read.
- Ability to remember names of and be able to identify objects common to young children.
- Ability to stand before one's peers and relate something.
- Dramatization (also a way of expressing emotion).
- Ability to interpret language through singing.
- Use of unfamiliar words in context as a way of expanding vocabulary (both in English and Hebrew).
- Identification of colors.
- Identification of shapes.
- Use of the scissors.
- Labeling of common objects (both in English and Hebrew).
- Developing an awareness of left and right (and encouraging one-sidedness).
- Exposure to the alphabet in many forms (in Hebrew as well as English).
- Use of many forms of experience charts.
- Development of both large and small muscle coordination.
- Learning opposites.
- Learning to categorize.
As we continue to emphasize the Whole Language approach in Pre-K, the children are encouraged to participate in an assortment of writing experiences. New Years Cards, birthday cards, thank-you cards, etc. are all an integral part of the classroom experiences. These are done one-on-one with a teacher. Each child is able to express himself on his own level. For some children, drawing a picture and describing it to the teacher will suffice. For others, they will actually "write" their own message. The beauty of the Whole Language approach is that it meets the needs of each child on many levels in a satisfying, non-threatening manner. In addition, children are taught basic phonetic skills including the form and sound of each letter in the Alphabet.
Use of a class mailbox, a class word box, experience charts, big books, games, puzzles, etc. are all part and parcel of the daily Pre-K schedule.
Our readiness goals in mathematics are:
- Ability to identify and define the four basic shapes.
- Ability to count out familiar objects.
- Ability to recognize numbers.
- Learning about parts of the whole.
- Exploring with unit blocks.
- Spatial relationships: (in, on, over, next to, in front of, in back of, inside, outside, between, etc.).
- Time -- past, present, future -- beginning use of the clock.
- Sequence of things -- before, after.
- Days of the week (in English and Hebrew).
- Ability to measure.
- Self-awareness through size.
Music and Movement
Outdoor play in our fields and elaborate playground equipment, circle games, exercise, and nature walks on our large grounds are all part of our daily program. Self-expression is encouraged through dance. Singing is often spontaneous and original. The rhythm band adds another enjoyable dimension to the program.
Children are given opportunities to use musical instruments to experiment with and to express themselves. Teachers offer movement activities and finger plays for the children. The children learn many holiday and seasonal songs. The children also learn songs connected with current social studies and science themes. In addition, they are exposed to classical music as well as traditional Jewish music.
Science experiments and experiences are cross-connected with current seasons, holidays, and social studies units.
Our readiness goals in science are:
- Awareness of the seasons.
- Awareness of day-to-day weather variations including use of a daily weather chart.
- Awareness of plants and animals and their role in the environment.
- Awareness of safety.
- Health and cleanliness.
- Good nutrition.
- Basics of the Solar System.
- Growing things
- Identification of colors; ability to form secondary colors from the three primary colors.
- Magnifying glass.
- Ability to discriminate light and heavy objects.
- Investigating water -- measuring -- how it changes from one state to another.
- How matter changes (experiments with cooking and baking).
- Appreciation of the beauty of nature.
The areas covered in this subject are:
- The Child -- Learning, identifying and writing one's own name. Learning the names of the other children and the teachers. Identification of parts of the body. Body awareness (also leading into the area of health and nutrition).
- Families -— Immediate and extended. The child's relation in the family structure. What is a family. Different kinds of family structures.
- Community Helpers and Careers -- Identification. The part the individual plays in society. Relating to what part the child's parents and other relatives play. Career exploration.
- Homes People Live In -- In the immediate community, in large cities, in rural areas, indifferent countries.
- The Community -- Community facilities - firehouse, police station, library, post office,supermarkets, special places of interest. Placement of the child's residence within the community.The concept of 50 states within the United States - cities, towns, etc.
- Other People in the World -- Use of the globe. Differences in language and customs.
- Eretz Yisrael - Israel -- Our special affinity as Jews with the Land of Israel. What does the land look like, and distance from the U.S., what are the people like, the differences in food, climate, dress, etc.The project culminates with a "pretend" trip to Israel. The children actively prepare for this for several weeks. The excitement and joy generated by this project is beautiful to behold!