Grades 1-4

Our Curriculum

Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School

At Akiba-Schechter, we teach children–not subjects–giving them the skills of life-long learning.

Teachers at Akiba are not the “keepers of knowledge,” but empower students to find answers themselves. Moreover, open-ended and collaborative assignments promote the fact that there is not “one” right answer. Students mentor each other and develop empathy and respect for one another, secure in the knowledge that each is integral to the community. Multi-age and flexible ability groupings mean that children are always in flux, never stagnating at either the top or the bottom of a class. This promotes humility while still encouraging constant growth. Small class sizes and individualized attention mean children advance according to their own motivation.

Beginning in 1st grade, students make use of Tal Am, a Hebrew-immersion curriculum filled with song, drama, and culture. Children also learn to analyze biblical Hebrew while gaining literacy of Jewish holidays and the Torah’s portions.

At Akiba-Schechter, we teach children–not subjects–giving them the skills of life-long learning.
Teachers at Akiba are not the “keepers of knowledge,” but empower students to find answers themselves. Moreover, open-ended and collaborative assignments promote the fact that there is not “one” right answer. Students mentor each other and develop empathy and respect for one another, secure in the knowledge that each is integral to the community. Multi-age and flexible ability groupings mean that children are always in flux, never stagnating at either the top or the bottom of a class. This promotes humility while still encouraging constant growth. Small class sizes and individualized attention mean children advance according to their own motivation.

Beginning in 1st grade, students make use of Tal Am, a Hebrew-immersion curriculum filled with song, drama, and culture. Children also learn to analyze biblical Hebrew while gaining literacy of Jewish holidays and the Torah’s portions.

Multiage Classrooms

At Akiba-Schechter, classes are multiage by design, as they have been for over 25 years. Children are grouped in two-year age spans: 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th, and 7th/8th.

Multiage classrooms at Akiba-Schechter foster collaboration, allowing older students to mentor younger ones and younger students to learn from their peers. Individualized instruction is promoted, accommodating diverse learning styles. Social growth is nurtured, promoting empathy, leadership, and a sense of community. Students develop stronger relationships with teachers, creating a supportive learning environment.

Learn more benefits:

Unsynchronized Learning

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In any normal classroom, children are on a spectrum. Teachers traditionally teach to the middle, remediate one end and enrich the other. At Akiba, we take the “real” norm and make it the established norm. Students naturally progress at their own rate—regardless of what sorts of external demand are placed on them. imageThe traditional graded classroom forces them to align their progress with an imaginary timeline. Thus, students who are falling behind often fake mastery of a subject—building on a weak foundation—and faster students often are forced to slow down.

Any child who isn’t synchronized with the traditional schedule forever feels behind and begins a spiral of failure. In contrast, because the multi-age classroom covers a two-year span, children have more time to develop as they naturally would, without an external timetable. Imagine the role this plays in a child’s self-esteem.

Differentiation

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The model is beneficial not only for the student, but for the teacher as well. It allows him or her to create a more open-ended classroom and then differentiate based on the child. In traditional classrooms, teachers differentiate for the students on the ends of the spectrum, but in the multi-age classroom, differentiation is the default. In other words, the onus is on the teacher to constantly consider how best to reach each student—whether he needs remediation or is ready to fly. The two-year span also promotes creativity, because the passing of time allows the teacher to approach curriculum again with a new set of eyes.

The multiage classroom also encourages creative redundancy, the concept of teaching a child the same concept but in a different way. Because of the wide spectrum of abilities in a multi-age classroom, teachers are constantly forced to develop multiple ways of teaching the same skill.

Social Skills

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Multiage settings foster cooperative learning skills necessary in a democratic society. Children learn to work with older and younger peers, which more accurately reflects the world they’ll encounter as adults. It also creates a more natural pool of friends. While a child is a 3rd grader one year and thus on the younger side, he will be an older and more experienced student to the new group of 3rd graders coming into the class when he’s a 4th grader. In addition, because of this overlapping of grades, students are easy friends with kids both older and younger than them.

Ability levels have a wider range but are murkier. Competition is minimized in favor of collaboration. Multiage classrooms also promote deeper student-teacher relationships, since teachers work with each child for two years. By the time each student “graduates” from each class, he or she has developed a deep, nuanced, and lasting relationship with the teacher.

School Culture

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Perhaps the greatest benefit of the multiage classroom is that its culture permeates the entire school, creating a stronger and more authentic community. Cross-pollenation between ages is the norm, not the exception, so children naturally feel connected to a larger pool than simply their own age group. When students inherently understand the power of community and their ability to play a role in it, they are positioned to be true leaders.

Ability to Reach Higher

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Every student has a right to learn something in school in every class, yet often the gifted learn the least. Much of what they are asked to learn in a traditional class they have already mastered. Teachers often make them classroom helpers or let them read books on their own. Consequently, the gifted child is not given the opportunity to learn through “real struggle.” If gifted students are not exposed to challenging material, they will not learn how to learn and will certainly not develop the study skills they need for future serious academic pursuits.

The most effective form of motivation is self-motivation, and when children know they are the sole owners of their progress, they may fly to the stars and beyond. Consequently, many do.

Self-reliance

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In a multiage classroom, given the breadth of skill levels, no teacher can instruct the entire class all the time. Consequently, children are more engaged in their own learning because the teacher is not an integral part of every lesson. This kind of control over their own learning translates into more self-reliant children who actually take responsibility for their learning and are not totally dependent on the teacher to direct it.

Humility and Leadership

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Remaining in the same classroom for multiple years provides every child with the opportunity to be both a learner and a teacher. A new student in a multiage classroom learns from older/brighter role models. As he ages in the group, he will have the opportunity to teach others—thereby building in redundancy to master concepts—and become a leader to younger/slower students. Most people will agree that there is no better way to learn a topic than to teach it. More important, this type of scenario creates character traits like humility and leadership. No student should feel he is always at the top or bottom of a class. Because the multiage classroom is a fluid learning community, he will be each at some point in time.

Alumni Spotlight

Josephine Gendler
Class of 2010: Dogs + Israel = IDF Canine Unit

About midway through Josephine Gendler’s sophomore year at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, she decided she wanted to go into the Israeli Army. So, she signed up with Machal, an IDF program that allows non-Israeli Jews to volunteer as lone soldiers for 18 months.

While Jospehine was happy to do whatever she was assigned to, she had no idea what that might be. After an interview with a commander in which she talked about her love of animals, she found herself in the Canine Unit, Yechidat Oketz.

“Akiba has invigorated my love of teaching. Teachers and students are valued for who they are, while encouraged to grow and take risks. Despite the emphasis on standardization in education, Akiba is decidely non-standard. Many schools pay lip service to the “whole child,” but at Akiba it really means something.”
Scott Salk
1st/2nd Grade Teacher & ATT Educator of the Year 2022

Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL)

At Akiba-Schechter we have used the IDL approach in 7th/8th grade Humanities for a number of years. We have found it so effective that we expanded it to the entire middle school.

Interdisciplinary learning provides us with a valuable opportunity to delve into our existing preconceptions and the underlying frameworks that shape our understanding of the world. It aligns seamlessly with the latest progress in learning science, enabling us to facilitate effective learning experiences, especially when students come with their own profound pre-existing ideas. By embracing an interdisciplinary approach, we encourage a comprehensive exploration of knowledge and create a conducive environment for students to build upon their existing knowledge and foster deeper understanding.

What is Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL)?
Student learning built around a Big Question that brings together multiple content areas in a meaningful way.

Why IDL?
IDL supports:

Authentic, real-world learning
Student ownership of learning
Student choice
Critical thinking skills
Problem-solving skills
Integration of skills across disciplines

What does IDL look like?
IDL is student-led learning. With teacher support, students will build their skills and understanding in each of the content areas in order to develop their answer to the Big Question.

Each IDL is 4-8 weeks long, culminating in an authentic final project that requires students to demonstrate their mastery of the skills and understandings of the unit.

Students will work independently, in small groups, and with each content area expert teacher.

Developing Skills

Developing learning, communication, reading, writing, and math skills at Akiba-Schechter Jewish School is essential to provide students with a well-rounded education. These skills are fundamental for academic success, enabling students to engage with Jewish texts, express their thoughts effectively, think critically, and analyze information.

By fostering these abilities, the school empowers students to become lifelong learners, active participants in Jewish traditions, and effective communicators, preparing them for future academic pursuits and contributing meaningfully to the Jewish community and beyond.

We will work on developing the following skills:

Citizenship

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  • Advocate for self and on behalf of others
  • Demonstrate active care for one another

Learning

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  • Take full ownership of learning process and work product
  • Chunk big tasks and assignments to better manage them
  • Independently manage time and workload
  • Effectively use technology

Communicating

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  • Discuss respectfully with others by clearly expressing ideas and building on others’
  • Actively listen with empathy and effort to understand
  • Recognize different audiences and adapt tone and mode
  • Present claims, findings, and/or original ideas confidently

Reading

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  • Decode and read with understanding texts in English, and in Modern, Biblical, and Rabbinic Hebrew
  • Closely read to derive literal, inferential, and critical meaning
  • Draw conclusions from text, both in writing and in discussion, based on specific supporting evidence
  • Intentionally choose text to push thinking and understanding

Writing

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  • Develop complex and reasoned arguments from evidence, including data and textual support
  • Express original ideas through narrative, creative, technical, expository and more writing
  • Thoughtfully plan for, reflect on, and revise written work

Inquiry/Research

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  • Construct critical and compelling research questions about a topic that can deepen understanding of self and world
  • Find and evaluate high quality sources that provide evidence or claims relevant to a compelling question
  • Synthesize information from a variety of sources to develop an independent and evidence-based response to a question
  • Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text
  • Effectively take notes on a variety of sources

Experimentation

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  • Recognize, explain, and draw conclusions about patterns in data’
  • Extend thinking to apply concepts and skills to new problems
  • Reflect on processes and work product to identify successes and opportunities for improvement

Mathematics

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  • Develop number sense and intuitions through repeated exposure and attention to mathematical relationships
  • Recognize, extend, and utilize patterns
  • Notice, describe, and utilize spatial relationships
  • Create visual representations of concepts
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • Revisit and improve problem solving techniques
  • Attend to precision and develop automaticity