Core Curriculum for Elementary School

Message from Elementary School Principal, cindy kirsch

At Beth Yeshurun Day School we are committed to helping our children develop confidence and success in their academic studies and social skills. We offer a strong academic curriculum, enriched with a Judaic Studies component. Our staff seeks to nurture the individual strengths of each child. Students have opportunities in the classroom and school for leadership and partnership. Our students are taught an awareness of their responsibility as a part of a community that supports each other. At Beth Yeshurun Day School, we feel it is important to develop a strong relationship with our families in order to provide the most positive experience for every child. Our goal is to prepare our students to advance in future educational endeavors with the confidence and skills to succeed.


In the kindergarten year, students take pride in all of the new things that they are beginning to master. They can read and write, do math, speak Hebrew, solve problems, and ask important questions. Beth Yeshurun promotes learning through integrated and hands-on experiences that are interdisciplinary, multi-sensory, and responsive to student choice. In this way, we enable each child to connect new learning to both prior learning and personal experience.

Language Arts
In kindergarten, reading, writing, and word study all work in conjunction and support one another. Children are actively engaged in storytelling in a variety of ways, including reading picture books, listening to stories, telling stories orally, acting them out, and writing them in pictures and words. Each child is periodically assessed by his or her teacher. In this way, the teachers can provide those children who are already readers with appropriate books, and they can provide those who are emergent readers with the space and support they need to develop a love of reading, as well as pre-reading skills.

Reading is a skill that can be done independently, but most often in kindergarten, it is something to be shared with classmates and teachers. When we read together, we can discuss reading strategies, think out loud, and share ideas. Reading is enjoyed as a conversation so that children can experience what it feels like to really get into a story.

Children are involved with word study on a regular basis. In word study, they learn the sounds that the letters and letter combinations make, rime and onset, rhyming, and sight words and syllables. The development of these skills supports language development both in reading and writing.

Our primary goal in our kindergarten writing program is for students to feel comfortable expressing themselves with words and pictures. Throughout the writing process, students learn to understand writing as a way to communicate and express a variety of ideas. They learn many uses for writing such as making signs, creating lists, and wishing a sick friend well. Children also participate in shared writing and interactive writing activities, such as writing class books and poems.

Mathematics
The teaching of mathematics follows a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach in the BYDS kindergarten classrooms. Our kindergarten teachers will incorporate math daily, both in formal lessons and also through seizing the teaching moment, and will cover the essential math topics, including whole number operations and relationships; introduction to the world of geometric shapes; learning measurement and data collecting; working with numerical sets, sequences, and word problems; and real world application through the study of time, money, space, and our environment. In addition to these skills, kindergarten students are gaining exposure to the Singapore Math methods used throughout the Elementary School program, readying our students for later success.

Social Studies
Units of study in kindergarten will focus on Transportation, Communication, Cowboys and Ranch life, and America and its’ President. In addition, they learn to cooperate, trust and care for one another, resolve conflict, and rely on their teachers and each other for support.

Science
As kindergarten students enter the science lab for the first time, they will be greeted with interactive whiteboard activities to acclimate them to their new environment. They will learn about lab safety, tools, and discovery skills, as wells patterns and how to make informed predictions. Science concepts this year will include properties of objects, how heat changes substances, forms of energy, earth and space, and organisms and environments. Among the science skills that are developed in the Kindergarten are observation, recording, measurement, graphing,OVERIVE data analysis, modeling, and simulation, as well as predicting and experimenting.



First Grade Curriculum

The first grade curriculum continues to extend upon what students have mastered in kindergarten and cultivates in each child a growing ability and confidence to take initiative, learn independently, and contribute actively to classroom discussions. First grade is also the year in which many of the conventions of study and learning are introduced to help children internalize and take responsibility for their own academic skills such as editing their writing, using standard notation in math, following directions, and completing tasks in a timely manner.

Language Arts
A key goal of the BYDS reading program is for children to become independent readers who can choose appropriate books for themselves and employ comprehension strategies to derive meaning and enjoyment from a range of genres. Students develop their reading skills through direct instruction, individual practice, partner reading, teacher conferencing, shared reading, guided reading in small groups, sustained silent reading, and written or artistic reflections.

There is a balanced emphasis in first grade on learning decoding skills to increase children’s fluency and efficiency, as well as comprehension strategies to promote meaning-making and understanding. They also learn new vocabulary, as well as to stop and re-read when they don’t understand, to make predictions and check them, to ask questions of the text, reflect on them, retell the story, and read with expression.

The formal writing program in first grade takes place in a writing workshop in which children receive direct instruction, practice the skills they have been taught, edit and revise their writing, conference with a teacher, share their writing with other children, and publish their completed works in publishing parties. Among the skills children learn this year are spelling, punctuation, appropriate use of capital and lower case letters, writing full sentences, handwriting, choosing topics (including brainstorming and working with a partner when you get stuck), planning and sequencing, breaking topics into subcategories, using interesting details, and asking and answering essential questions.

Mathematics

As students transition into the BYDS first grade, the level of numeracy, mental math, algebraic, and geometric skills learned at the kindergarten level are reinforced as mathematical learning assumes a more formal approach and explores more complex models. By using real world, visual, and math manipulatives, teachers set the stage and the context for understanding standard math problem solving on paper. Significantly, the core of our Singapore Math program comes into play as algebraic functions on paper are taught in a systematic approach using the sequential and pictorial methods of the Singapore curriculum. Math is taught each day, in the scheduled math class time as well as during transition times and during segments of the day that yield teachable moments. The introduction to standardized measurements, experience with sequencing and patterns, and learning the storyboard approach to word problem solving are chief among the mathematical methods in the first grade curriculum.

Social Studies

The first grade Social Studies program focuses on the study of our families and our school community, map skills, directions, continents, oceans, the equator, and the seasons.

Science

Our first graders are now comfortable in the science lab and continue to learn more about observation and classification of matter, measurement, recording and graphing, comparison, data analysis, and creative and logical thinking. Science concepts explored include habitat, magnetism, matter, and environmental issues.

Finally, towards the end of the year, students complete a unit on insects, learning about their anatomy and life cycle, and using them to understand the basics of taxonomy. A highlight of the insect study is a month-long project on the insect of their choice.

Through this extended study, students further develop their skills of observation, as well as sharpen their scientific recording and communication skills. In addition to a written research paper, students communicate what they have learned through discussions, dramatizations, and oral presentations, as well as in homework assignments, artistic representations, models, and poster displays.


Second Grade Curriculum

In the second grade, the focus of reading instruction shifts from seeking accuracy and fluency toward reaching meaningful understanding. Writing expands in order to communicate more complex ideas, and students shift from inventive spelling to conventional spelling. Math develops from learning basic calculations to using those calculations to solve problems. With support from their teachers, second graders become increasingly responsible for their own interactions and work patterns. More of their learning takes place in small independent groups, and children are given a greater role in the conduct and management of their classroom life.

Language Arts
The second grade reading program continues to use Readers and Writers Workshops to help children build on the decoding strategies that they learned in previous years by using class-wide lists of high-frequency words and new knowledge gained from word study, expanding their comprehension strategies, making inferences from the text, predicting, summarizing, asking questions, and making connections. As the children gain more experience with factual texts, they learn to make use of captions, headings, sidebars, index, table of contents, and glossary.
Elements of the reading program that support the attainment of these goals may include independent reading, paired reading, reading from a script (“Reader’s Theater”), guided reading in groups, author studies, and exploring the nonfiction genre deeply by writing a non-fiction text.

By second grade, children are becoming more independent in their writing and can appreciate that writing is a process and that finishing a first draft is only one step on the way to completing a piece of writing. Personal narratives, poetry, factual writing, and fictional narratives are among the genres in which they gain proficiency.

Direct instruction in the elements of writing is conducted through our Handwriting Without Tears program, Writing Workshop, and Word Study. Children learn to notice and think about words and their components, such as vowel patterns, prefixes, and suffixes. They also focus on other grammatical constructs, such as contractions and plural endings. These experiences enable children to become more skilled and independent spellers.

Mathematics
As students transition into the second grade, the Singapore Math curriculum approach becomes more fully established. One of the chief principles of the Singapore method is achieving mastery and ensuring the student’s deep understanding of math concepts so that they will be able to attack more challenging problems with greater confidence. The second grade math program continues to rely on both mental math fluency and pictorial rendering of arithmetic, algebraic and complex word problems. The foundation for multiplication begins in the second grade; moreover, breaking down whole units into sub-parts, such as creating equal parts of a square or rectangle, is just one of the avenues to further the students’ facility with division and fractions. The practice of estimating solutions, graphing real world data, and understanding equivalencies gives second graders the foundation for strong aptitude when it comes to taking their initial ERB exam at the third grade level. As in all Elementary grades, second grade math is taught each day, both in the scheduled math class time but also during transition times and during segments of the day that yield the teachable moment.

Social Studies
The second grade social studies program concentrates on the study of the following units: Famous people throughout history, Native Americans, Inventors, MLK, and Presidents. We also cover both national and Judaic holidays as they occur throughout the year. Some, such as President’s Day and Election Day include more extensive units, giving the children a sense of pride and confidence as an American.

Science
In science, students will begin the year using their investigating and reasoning skills by learning more about the various tools that scientists use in the field and in the lab. They will learn more about what scientists actually do, how to classify matter, how to identify and harness different forms of energy such as wind, electricity, and magnetic force, and about earth and space. Finally, they will end the year on life Science as the plants begin to sprout and the insects begin to repopulate in the Spring. Through these different units, students will make observations, develop hypotheses, collect and record data, and learn the basics of experimental design. Students will be able to log into our science curriculum through the STEMscopes website to further and enhance their learning at home.

Third Grade Curriculum

Third grade both continues to build upon the skills that students bring with them from second grade and, in significant ways, represents a new beginning. Students use the skills they learned in the lower grades – reading in English and Hebrew, writing, and basic math operations – as tools for acquiring new knowledge. They reinforce and extend their schoolwork with daily homework assignments and they undertake longer-term projects with greater independence and greater responsibility for their own materials and belongings. A milestone of the third grade is the students’ first experience with written external testing (the ERB), for which they spend several weeks preparing.

Language Arts

In Reader’s Workshop, students continue to build upon the comprehension and decoding strategies that they learned in the lower grades. Units studied during the year include character, non-fiction, books in a series, book clubs, and poetry. The students keep reader’s notebooks to help keep track of their thoughts and to record their predictions, inferences, and interpretations. In independent book club discussions, students develop ideas and insights that arise from their reading and learn to extend their conversations.
In Writer’s Workshop, students learn to build upon the writing process that they have already begun to learn. In a workshop setting, they keep writers’ notebooks in which they record entries from their personal experience; choose writing “seeds” that seem promising; expand, extend, and build upon them with detail and description; share their writing with each other and respond to each other’s writing; and edit, revise, and publish their work. They gain experience in writing sentences, paragraphs, and multi-paragraph pieces; work on developing strong beginnings; and proofread for conventional spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Students also participate in writing clubs, where they experiment with various genres.
Students use many styles of writing in third grade, such as personal narratives, informational books, poetry, reading response, and across-curriculum writing, including writing based on research. They also learn to write and read cursive script using the “Handwriting without Tears” system.

Mathematics

In the third grade math classes, the Singapore Math program represents the beginning to the more sophisticated approach to mathematics in Middle School algebra courses. The key element of the unknown, X, in algebraic equations is stressed more thoroughly in the third grade. While learning and practicing mental math facts and numeracy skills continue to be a staple in the Third Grade program, there is a strong focus on whole numbers and their parts, plus on the elements of fractions. Understanding comparisons and relationships between numbers and problem sets, whether greater than / less than, or equivalencies, and proving the outcome, is emphasized. Multiplication and division pick up in the Third Grade classroom, with four and five digit numbers entering into the curriculum. The geometric aspects of the class will now include perimeter and area, and comparing/measuring shapes; in addition, to enhance both mathematic and scientific literacy, measurement of liquid quantities, such as understanding volume, will support and match the science curriculum. In-class preparation for standardized testing is now in place as third grade students take the ERB tests in the Spring. As in all Elementary grades, third grade math is taught each day, both in the scheduled math class time but also during transition times and during segments of the day that yield the teachable moment.

Social Studies
The third grade social studies program centers on the study of communities and their characteristics. Communities from both the United States and abroad, as well as past and present are studied. Students learn how geography influences the economic development of a particular area. In addition, concepts related to government, citizenship, and history are introduced. A special unit of study about the students’ own community, Houston, is included. An additional unit of study concentrates on map skills and geographical concepts.

Science
In the classroom as well as in the lab, students will be taught the scientific method in order to perform investigations and interpret data. Students will develop an understanding of matter in its three basic states –solid, liquid, and gas. They will generate definitions and understandings of the properties of each state and apply these definitions and understandings to the classification of various substances. In the process of gathering and applying evidence to support their hypotheses, they have repeated opportunities to revise their ideas and overcome common misconceptions. Later in the year, they do an in-depth study of plants, specifically exploring how they grow as well as looking at a plants basic anatomy. In addition to making observations and collecting data, students explore how varying conditions impact a plant’s growth. Through these activities and experiments, students learn about scientific methodology and develop skills in scientific thinking.

Fourth Grade Curriculum

The fourth grade program is rich in content and emphasizes the development of organizational and study skills. Now proficient in basic reading, writing, and mathematics, students build on these skills to analyze texts and ideas, synthesize information, think critically about issues, develop their writing, and support their claims with evidence from the text. In addition, students participate in their first overnight experience, an educational retreat to Camp Allen where they experience a walk through “living history” with camp staff dressed as characters off of their history pages.

Language Arts

In reading workshop, the key goals for fourth grade include using reading comprehension strategies effectively, including visualizing, questioning, connecting, predicting, inferring, and interpreting; identifying main ideas and supporting details; explaining how a text supports a claim or an opinion; and comparing and contrasting characters and stories. Students continue to read many of the same genres they read in previous years: novels, non-fiction books, short stories, biography, and selected poetry. In guided reading groups, students learn to have rich and focused discussions about the books that they are reading and learn to support one another’s thoughts and insights. They also keep a nightly reading log and formally study reading comprehension as a test skill.

In writing workshop, students begin with entries in their writing notebooks, develop them into drafts, and revise and edit them with their writing partners. Genres covered during the year include personal essays, responses to non-fiction reading, content writing (biography), letter writing, fantasy, fictional, realistic, and mystery narratives. In writers’ circle groups, students regularly share their writing pieces and celebrate their finished products with a publishing celebration.

Key skills that are reinforced in the fourth grade include the use of topic sentences and supporting details, writing paragraphs that consist of one complete idea, writing multi-paragraph essays that incorporate introductions and conclusions, using texts to support a thesis, varying word choice and sentence length and structure, incorporating thoughts, feelings, dialogue, and inner monologues, and using quotes and exclamations. Students continue to work on spelling, punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary, cursive writing, dictionary use, sequencing, formatting, and presentation.

Mathematics
In the BYDS fourth Grade math class, the Singapore Math program offers students effective strategies to analyzing all types of quantitative and algebraic problems. The Singapore sequencing helps students build intellectual capacity by taking a problem and moving from the concrete, to the pictorial, to the abstract. Students in fourth grade continue to develop the facility to apply the Singapore method of creating story boards to solve word problems, and these word problems encompass greater complexity. Long division and several multiplication strategies, using up to four digits and sometimes more, are emphasized. Work with fractions takes on all four operations; understanding comparisons and relationships between fractions is taught. The study of data uses more precise number types, including fractions, percentages and decimals. Metric measurements are taught in the fourth grade, consistent with scientific measuring taught in the Science program. In-class preparation for standardized testing continues, as ERB tests take place in the spring. As in all Elementary grades, fourth grade math is taught each day, both in the scheduled math class time but also during transition times and during segments of the day that yield the teachable moment.

Social Studies
The fourth grade social studies program focuses on the history of Texas and the multi-cultural nature of not only Texas, but the Western Hemisphere. Texas history is studied from the indigenous peoples and earliest exploration through statehood. An analysis of where people settled, how they organized their societies, and how they made their living provides students with a comparison of the common and unique features of Texas. In their study, students use maps, atlases, globes, and geography books to locate the countries around the world and explore their similarities and differences in climate and topography. Students then explore Texas heroes and create individual projects. They present these projects to the school by creating a wax museum of Texas heroes as a “kick off” to Celebrate Texas Day. In culmination of this unit, the fourth grade class takes field trips to both Camp Allen and the Texas Heritage Society.
An additional unit of study concentrates on map skills including terminology and map making. Geography is reviewed and used in the study of Texas regions, rivers, and landforms. Students then create their own imaginary states demonstrating their mastery of map making skills and enjoy a creative writing assignment in which they write a story involving make believe characters from the state that they created.

Science
The fourth grade science curriculum is designed to deepen students understanding of experimental design, scientific reasoning, and conservation of resources. Students learn to create electricity, use conductors and insulators, and experiment with different forces. They also continue learning about earth and space, and spend the final months of school covering adaptation, behavioral and inherited traits, and interesting facts about organisms and their environment.

Fifth Grade Curriculum

As the final year of Elementary School, fifth grade marks a transition toward more independent learning. With the help of their teachers, who scaffold the independent learning skills for them, the students are asked to organize their materials, take notes in class, and sustain work on long-term projects. Further preparation for middle school experience takes the form of a number of test-like experiences during the year, in which students learn how to prepare for and take a formal test.

Language Arts

In reading workshop, the key goals for fifth grade include using reading comprehension strategies effectively, solidifying decoding skills, and developing vocabulary. Students will enhance their ability to write thoughtfully about both literature and non-fiction by identifying main ideas and supporting details; explaining how a text supports a claim or an opinion; and comparing and contrasting characters and stories. Students continue to read many of the same genres they read in previous years: novels, non-fiction books, short stories, biography, and selected poetry. In guided reading groups, students learn to have rich and focused discussions about the books that they are reading and learn to support one another’s thoughts and insights. They also keep a nightly reading log and formally study reading comprehension as a test skill.

In writing workshop, students begin will write daily their writing notebooks, develop their ideas into drafts, and revise and edit them with their writing partners. Genres covered during the year include personal narrative, literature response as well as response to non-fiction reading, expository, persuasive, and instructional writing. In writers’ circle groups, students regularly share their writing pieces and celebrate their finished products with a publishing celebration.

Key skills that are reinforced in the fifth grade include the use of topic sentences and supporting details, writing paragraphs that consist of one complete idea, writing multi-paragraph essays that incorporate introductions and conclusions, using primary and secondary texts to support a thesis, varying word choice, sentence length and structure, incorporating thoughts, feelings, and dialogue. Students continue to work on grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary, cursive writing, dictionary use, and research and presentation skills.

Mathematics
In the BYDS Fifth Grade math class, the Singapore Math program prepares students with core concept review combined with a challenging program that achieves readiness for higher level math that students will encounter in the most rigorous Middle School programs. The algebraic and geometric models use greater amounts and ask for answers to more complex problems. There is a lot of practice with order of complex operations with calculations that include up to seven digits, including more experience with fractions and decimals. Data and measurement elements of Fifth Grade math will explore percentages in depth and will also study ratios. Factorization and the use of exponents will be taught. Geometric problems will now include both two and three dimensional area calculations. The study of angles and that of coordinate geometry will offer a full introduction to more sophisticated graphing problems.

In-class preparation for standardized testing continues in Fifth Grade, as ERB tests take place in Spring. As in all Elementary grades, Fifth Grade math is taught each day, both in the scheduled math class time but also during transition times and during segments of the day that yield the teachable moment.

Social Studies
As we live in an increasing complex and violent world, it is crucial that our children develop an insight and awareness of the world around them. The fifth grade social studies curriculum focuses on man’s need to explore, understand, and often conquer the unknown. The students are given the opportunity to visit civilizations of the past, observe how and why these civilizations succeeded or failed, and relate these successes or failures to today’s world.

Students also study world geography, timely events such as mid-term and presidential elections, and major world events that occur daily and directly affect their lives. Social studies classes study how man treats his fellow man and how these interactions affect the course of history.

A key milestone of the fifth grade is a major research project and presentation on one of the fifty states, which serves as a stepping stone to the exhibition-based assessments students will undertake in the middle school.

Through this extended study, students further develop their skills of observation, as well as sharpen their scientific recording and communication skills. In addition to a written research paper, students communicate what they have learned through discussions, dramatizations, and oral presentations, as well as in homework assignments, artistic representations, models, and poster displays.

Science

The fifth grade science curriculum is designed to deepen students’ experience with scientific inquiry. Students use both classroom and laboratory time to delve deeply into subjects introduced in previous years. Students learn about mixtures and solutions, experimenting with forces, circuits, and electricity, formation of fossil fuels, and alternative energy. All of the subjects learned in science this year will be discussed at length as students are trained to think and act like real scientists and evaluate how what they are learning in the classroom applies to the world around them.

Standardized Testing

Students at Beth Yeshurun Day School are assessed by the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) standardized tests Third, fourth and fifth grade students take the CTP-4, a test battery consisting of a series of multiple-choice and open-ended questions administered to groups of students over the course of several days. The CTP-4 is an assessment of student achievement in reading, listening, vocabulary, writing, and mathematics. Verbal and quantitative reasoning skills are assessed as well.

Kindergarten, first and second grade students are administered the ERB Children’s Progress Assessment. This is an innovative computer-based tool that is used to analyze a child’s learning style and abilities.

Standardized test results at Beth Yeshurun Day School are used as a tool for teachers to individualize instruction more effectively. Results are also used for curriculum review and development and to ensure that parents and teachers are meeting the specific need of any given child.

The ERB test is written and produced by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the same service that produces the Independent School ISEE admissions test as well as the SAT and other college and graduate school admissions tests.