Curriculum by Grade
Our kindergarten program emphasizes reading readiness, beginning writing, verbal communication and firsthand, active experiences. A multisensory phonics program, student journals, literature, dramatic play, computer software, cooking and crafts are part of the teaching tools. In mathematics, students are exposed to basic concepts and skills including patterning, classifying, sorting, graphing, ordering of numbers, problem solving, writing numerical symbols and place values. The kindergartener's world of self, families, communities and transportation is explored in social studies. In science, students learn about plants, animals, insects, the human body, nutrition, solids and liquids through hands-on activities. Hebrew language instruction is introduced to the children through an immersion approach using songs and characters. The students begin their Judaic studies with celebrations of Shabbat and Jewish holidays and the recounting of bible stories and prayers. All areas of development - intellectual, social, physical and emotional - are stressed.
In first grade, students work as a whole class, in small groups and individually to become readers. Using phonics and a whole language/literature approach, students become authors early in the year by creating a wide variety of books, keeping journals and participating in daily writing experiences. Mathematics includes classification and patterns. Emphasis is placed on cardinal numbers to 100, addition and subtraction of numbers to 20, place value, word problems, money, fractions and telling time. In social studies, friends, school, city, suburbs and farm life are explored. In science, students learn about color chemistry, the senses, oceanography and magnetism. A hands-on approach is emphasized with the understanding that developmentally, students at this age continue to learn by firsthand experience. The Hebrew immersion approach incorporates reading and writing of the Hebrew alphabet, while the repertoire of prayers and bible stories is expanded. In Judaic Studies, students learn about Israel's geography. As students are exposed to a wider variety of activities inside and outside the classroom, they accept more responsibility in becoming independent.
Literature is the basis of our teaching approach in second grade, with an emphasis on gaining proficiency in reading comprehension, work attack skills, vocabulary building, and grammar skills. To gain skill in written communication, students engage in different types of writing, including creative and factual letters, reflective journals, and book reports. In mathematics, manipulatives continue to be utilized for instruction and learning. In addition to mastering addition and subtraction facts, students learn two to four place addition and subtraction, beginning multiplication, word problems, measurement, logic and problem solving skills. Communities and how individuals shape our world form the social studies framework, while in science, the experiments and study look to weather, geology, matter, and characteristics of living things. In Hebrew and Judaic Studies, students continue their instruction in modern and biblical Hebrew and begin their closer study of Israel. Students grow more independent as thinkers, readers, speakers and writers. The students' growing critical thinking skills sparks them to see beyond the classroom and their immediate environment.
In third grade, cursive writing, familiarity with a wide variety of literature, and reading for meaning are stressed. Writing themed paragraphs and language mechanics are emphasized. Guided research reports in science with topics including mammals, the solar system, and simple machines all increase the students' skills and knowledge. In social studies, students extend their view to the community of Pasadena. Students expand their sight vocabulary, and develop greater proficiency in reading dictionary and organizational skills. At this level, mastery of multiplication facts, time, fractions, decimals and geometry are emphasized along with continued mathematics instruction on place value and addition and subtraction of larger numbers. Hebrew language instruction focuses on oral communicative skills and greater comprehension of biblical and liturgical Hebrew. In Judaic studies, students learn about the rich and diverse history of Jerusalem. Third grade is a year of growing independence, increased responsibility, and preparation for the upper elementary years.
In fourth grade, students gain greater skills in reading for meaning, comprehension and vocabulary development. In literature and language arts, an emphasis is placed on students' abilities to express their ideas and thoughts in writing with attention to style, punctuation, spelling, grammar, use of vocabulary and conventions of writing. In mathematics, instruction moves to more complex concepts including algebraic equations, multi-level multiplication and long division. The study of California's diverse history, culture and geography provides the framework for social studies. In science, the curriculum focuses on astronomy, plant and animal life and human systems. In Hebrew and Judaic studies, students continue to improve their oral communication skills, their comprehension of liturgical and biblical Hebrew, and deepen their study of the ethnic and religious diversity of different communities in Israel. Because this is an important year in becoming a self-motivated student, students are guided to increased responsibility for their work and behavior. Study skills, work habits, organization and the opportunity to become a peer mediator highlight this focus. Letter grades on report cards are introduced.
In fifth grade, students work as a whole class, in small groups and as individuals. Students' reading and reporting cover many types of literature. Comprehension skills, critical thinking, literary analysis and writing style are emphasized. Each year, the fifth and sixth grades produce and perform a Shakespeare play. In mathematics, students acquire new skills in problem solving, complex computational operations and mental math. At the core of Hebrew language instruction is a focus on enabling students to engage in written and oral communication and to critically examine biblical and liturgical texts. Students participate in projects on American Jewish history as part of Judaic social studies. Students understand the importance of responsibility and giving. They become role models for the younger students, assume more responsibility for school activities, and apply their knowledge to the greater community.
Entry into WDS middle school is an exciting transition for sixth graders. Current events and online research are consistently integrated into student projects. Students hone their organizational and study skills and expand their writing and research abilities. Vocabulary development, critical thinking, literary analysis and effective writing are stressed. Students have mastered all basic mathematical operations, and advance to complex problem solving, applications and abstract reasoning. Social studies and science are taught on a two-year cycle jointly to the fifth and sixth grades. The social studies curriculum includes ancient civilizations, mythology, archeology in year one, and United States history, exploration, and colonization in year two. The science program calls for introducing the topics of ecology and electricity in year one and physics, light, and organisms in year two. In Hebrew and Judaic studies, students expand their study of conversational and written Hebrew by writing stories, poems and plays, while assuming leading roles in prayers and school-wide Jewish holiday events. A historical examination of the Land of Israel prior to the modern era is the focus of Judaic social studies incorporating the biblical narratives that relate to these historical events. To conclude the year, sixth grade students demonstrate their talents in a performance of a Shakespeare play in original language and in period costumes.
Seventh grade students move more deeply into the subject areas of middle school and exercise more independence in classroom and campus decision-making. The concept of The Hero’s Journey provides the theme for the literature curriculum, incorporating their own literature in the study of creative writing. Students also work on a school newspaper and develop their desktop publishing skills. Social Studies units include the study of world history and cultures after the fall of the Roman Empire, as well as world geography and global events. Seventh grade math specifically covers topics related to numbers and operations (i.e., rational numbers and linear equations), measurement (i.e., proportions and rates), probability (i.e., proportions and predictions), data analysis (i.e., estimates and graphs), algebra and geometry (i.e., properties and formulas). In Hebrew students expand their study of conversational and written Hebrew by reading Hebrew literature, poems and plays and writing narrative selections. Leadership roles are more frequent in prayers and school-wide Jewish holiday events. The study of Trope, Torah cantillation, is introduced at this grade level and throughout the year these newly acquired skills are demonstrated at prayer services. During the first term In Judaic Studies, students begin biblical exegesis of original Torah texts coupled with an introduction to cosmology from a Judaic perspective. During the second term a variety of related sections from the Mishnah and Talmud are examined and related to the history of Israel. Additionally, the second term includes a review of the Jewish life cycle of events which is studied through the original sources of Jewish texts.
Preparation for the demands of high school is a central part of the eighth grade curriculum in all areas. The government and recent history of the United States form the basis for Social Studies. The Struggle for Freedom and American Literature provide the thematic focus for the reading program, and students are introduced to the rigors of argumentation and MLA style as they produce an extensive research project. Eighth grade math covers topics typically taught in pre-algebra, as well as additional topics from geometry. Some areas of focus include exponents and roots, absolute values, scientific notation, graphing, statistics, probability, and geometric solids. In Hebrew students expand their study of conversational and written Hebrew through creative and expository writing that includes letter correspondence and the composing of short stories that are read to the elementary students. An in-depth study of the Israel, its past present and future, is the focus of the first term of Judaic studies. A historical examination of the modern State of Israel includes an exploration of the contributions made in the fields of science, technology and the arts. During the second term a study of the biblical prophets and their message of social action in the community is explored and exemplified through service learning projects. Leadership roles in both school and community events is evident and full participation in conducting prayer services and school-wide Jewish holiday events is demonstrated. As eighth grade marks the transition from middle school to secondary education, students are supported to transform their ideas into realities and engage in leadership roles in our school community.