English 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. Often using a workshop model, we directly teach reading and writing skills. 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. 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 be 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.
Clear speaking is also something we pay attention to. Within the classroom and on stage, our students have ample opportunity to practice and hone their public speaking skills.
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 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.
History & 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. From kindergarten forward, students study American history sequentially up until the present. 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:
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 lovingkindness) through both class projects and schoolwide 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 mitzvot
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 and Shabbat
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 our 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/children’s literature, Western classical music/World music, Instrumental experiences (percussion for all and recorder beginning in grade 3), Musicianship-building games and activities that teach and reinforce rhythm, pitch, notation, composition/improvisation and music terminology, Dance and movement, and whenever possible, Integration with other subjects. 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, and the community uses music and instruments to enhance holidays and special events.
Every week also begins with an all-school Morning Meeting (parents always welcome) during which the community joins together for singing, sharing, and the week’s announcements.
Visual Art 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 choice. 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.
LGA offers ultimate Frisbee after school. In the fall, students in grades three through six who wish to play meet weekly to learn and reinforce the rules of the game, build skills, and practice. Some years they are joined by alumni in grades seven and eight. In the spring, these students meet twice weekly and have the opportunity to be part of LGA's competitive ultimate Frisbee team. The team competes against a variety of upper elementary and middle school teams throughout the Pioneer Valley.
Chavayah, an integrated learning experience for students in fifth and sixth grades, serves to challenge students academically, enhance leadership skills, and guide the growing independence of our oldest students. While the grades are distinct and led by their own grade-level team of teachers, opportunities for cross-grade learning takes place through the Chavayah and offsite social experiences.
In most years in Judaics, during the first and last terms, Chavayah students choose weekly electives, such as modern Jewish music or cooking.
Field trips include a beginning-of-the-year kickoff and an end-of-year trip between the rising 5th and 4th grade classes. The sixth grade travels separately to Teva Learning Center for a four-day science workshop, and the fifth grade spends an overnight at the Boston Museum of Science.
School community is fostered in many ways. Teachers share with parents the life of the school through weekly e-newsletters. Parents are actively involved in the school through our PTO, welcoming new families, raising money, sharing expertise in classrooms, and joining in community sing and prayers. Grandparents and other friends are invited to participate in many events, and do visit regularly. Countless opportunities exist for children to share their work with other grades in an atmosphere of respect. Community responsibility is fostered through classroom and all-school jobs and community-service projects. The school’s motto – learning while learning to care – is put into practice every day.
At LGA every adult helps every child – not just with schoolwork, but with being a good person. This respectful guidance is reflected in the numerous ways children respect and help each other and the broader community. Whether it is sitting with a younger “lunch buddy,” collecting silverware for a local homeless shelter, or sharing games on the playground, students are living the Jewish values that are the foundation of our school.
Our Friday e-newsletter is another valuable resource for many of our parents to stay informed with what is going on at the school.
Teachers are committed to working closely with parents to ensure every child’s success. The school’s learning resource teacher and school counselor/inclusion specialist are resources for (and a bridge between) teachers and parents in regard to both the academic and social/emotional lives of our children. Activities such as classroom observation, individualized attention, and team approaches help with identifying needs, planning ahead, and providing necessary services for children. The specialists also serve as a “resource room” for parents, offering information, referrals, and advice and together provide a range of services for students and families.
While teachers maintain extensive classroom libraries that students use daily for language arts studies, curriculum research, and enjoyment, the school library is a hub that serves the entire community. An extensive collection of books fill the shelves for classes, Judaic and Hebrew studies, parent education, and simple enjoyment. Games, rocking chairs, and age-appropriate titles make visiting with younger children enjoyable. The room is also used for outside programs such as Jewish Family Jam, a weekly music program for parents and children ages 0-3, LGA’s PJ Pals program, a story/activity program for preschoolers and parents.
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS
Parents can choose from a variety of after-school options. The school has an after-school program from 3:15 to 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, staffed by an after-school counselor. The program allows working parents to keep their children in one place after school. A healthy snack is provided, and students have the opportunity to be outside, work on homework, play quiet games indoors or just read a book.
The school also offers various electives from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., in conjunction with the after-school program. Electives have included Mad Science, Tae Kwon Do, guitar class, chorus, ultimate Frisbee, chess, art, dance, knitting, Pet Pals with the Dakin Animal Shelter, and a Brownie and Junior Girl Scout troop. The LGA ultimate Frisbee team is also an after-school elective. Classes vary by session.
The foundation of the LGA education is the integration of rigorous academics, both secular and Judaic, with a strong, thoughtful social curriculum. This philosophy is based on:
Solid academics coupled with nurturing intellectual curiosity and astute critical thinking skills. We instill a love of learning derived from the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from active inquiry, exploration, growth, and mastery.
The value of communication. Teachers work closely with one another and with families to assure the education of the whole child.
Respect for one another. Students are nurtured to become caring, contributing members of the community.
The development of life-long learning tools. We promote good study habits and organizational skills that serve students in many pursuits and capacities.
Supporting and challenging students at their own levels. We recognize diverse learning needs and learning styles, and maintain a culture that respects the unique qualities of each and every child.
The joy of community. We seek opportunities to organize many activities across the grades, invite the larger community to join school activities, and create avenues for student and family involvement outside of school.