General Studies

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At Hillel Torah, we provide an engaging general studies curriculum that establishes the foundation for each student’s educational and professional career. We align with the Common Core State Standards and focus on developing lifelong learning skills in addition to content-specific knowledge. We see each student as a mathematician, scientist, reader, writer and orator who learns and explores each subject in their own unique way.

Reading: From “Learning to Read” to “Reading to Learn”

Early in the primary years, students learn to read. Students in the primary grades work on decoding (what some may call “sounding it out”), fluency (the ability to read at an appropriate pace) and comprehension, and students in these early primary grades typically achieve rapid growth in their reading skills.

Primary grade students gradually make the shift and begin to read to learn. Moving from the comprehension of basic texts to the deep analysis of highly complex pieces will be the focus of their academic reading for the remainder of their educational career. From this type of reading, within non-fiction, they’ll learn about historical events, scientific phenomena, how to analyze arguments of differing opinions, to name a few. In their more advanced fictional reading, in addition to enjoying compelling stories, they’ll learn about human nature, how conflicts develop and are resolved, and how authors can use imagery and figurative language.

Writing

Throughout grades 1-8, students move from learning their letters, word spacing, and basic punctuation all the way through writing complex literary essays, argumentative and editorial essays, personal narratives, and fictional stories.

Teachers guide students through this exciting development of skills through direct (teacher-led) instruction, small group skills-specific learning, and individual, student-driven learning. Students have frequent opportunities to develop their writing skill within the context of ideas and subject matter that is of interest to them, which promotes individual student engagement while simultaneously learning grade-appropriate writing technique.

Speaking and Listening: Learning how to listen to one another and be heard

While reading and writing are the two most evident areas within language arts instruction, speaking and listening are also extremely important skills that are learned in language arts. The collaborative learning that takes place in our classrooms provide natural environments for students to increase their abilities to communicate ideas and opinions verbally. Students also become skilled at critically listening and responding (and sometimes disagreeing) through discourse that is appropriate and moves ideas forward.

In classrooms at Hillel Torah and across the country, mathematicians are learning the conceptual understandings of how math works – the “why” and “how” of solving math problems. For many parents, this looks different from the mechanical approach we learned when we were children. Our students today are growing into problem solvers who will be better prepared to apply their learning and critical thinking skills to solve the increasingly complex challenges they encounter in school and the real world.

In grades 1-5, students learn math through a curriculum called Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. Backed by over 20 years of research in the teaching and learning of elementary math, Investigations aims to meet six fundamental goals:

  1. Support students to make sense of mathematics and learn that they can be mathematical thinkers
  2. Focus on computational fluency with whole numbers as a major goal of the elementary grades
  3. Provide substantive work in important areas of mathematics—rational numbers, geometry, measurement, data, and early algebra—and connections among them
  4. Emphasize reasoning about mathematical ideas
  5. Communicate mathematics content and pedagogy to teachers
  6. Engage the range of learners in understanding mathematics. (https://investigations.terc.edu/overview.cfm)

Investigations provides a superior fundamental education and preparation for math learning in grades 6-8, which is taught through the Connected Math Project curriculum.

CMP is a problem-centered curriculum promoting an inquiry-based teaching-learning classroom environment. Mathematical ideas are identified and embedded in a sequenced set of tasks and explored in depth to allow students to develop rich mathematical understandings and meaningful skills.

Science instruction provides an exciting look into the world and how and why things work (in nature, physically, chemically, etc.) the way they do.

Hillel Torah scientists learn through engaging, hands-on, project-based learning. In first grade when students learn about the different states of matter by exploring with Ooblek, a concoction that resembles both a solid and a liquid, to eighth grade when students are tasked with building a roller coaster with very specific required components while using only paper and tape.

Through these types of activities as well as real and virtual experiments, dissections, and in-class demonstrations, our students gain an understanding of scientific principles while being encouraged to explore their curiosities and seek answers to better understand the world around them.

For students at Hillel Torah, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is not just a world-class cultural institution at their fingertips. It’s part of their curriculum.

Since 2016, we have been working in close partnership with Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). Educational staff from MSI are helping us to bring our science instruction to even greater heights, including helping us move toward adoption of the newly developed Next Generation Science Standards.

The museum’s Science Leadership School Partners Program works with K-8 schools in the greater Chicagoland area to integrate a cross-disciplinary approach to science education. As the only Jewish day school in that cohort, Hillel Torah has provided its students with an unparalleled opportunity to enhance their STEM studies.

Students at Hillel Torah have the opportunity to learn about civilizations, social/global issues, geography and history from the beginning of recorded history to present day. They learn about these topics as they relate to our local, national, and global communities, with a special emphasis on how they relate to the Jewish people and our history.

Through major projects such as The Chicago Fair and The State Fair, significant trips to Illinois’s and the nation’s capitals, and cornerstone academic events such as the eighth-grade U.S. Constitution Exam and the profoundly powerful Names, Not Numbers © project, Hillel Torah’s students gain a deep appreciation for their role in the world, and – perhaps more importantly – the world’s influence on them.

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