General Studies

/ Academics/ Grades 1-8 / General Studies

At Hillel Torah, we provide an engaging general studies curriculum that establishes the foundation for each student’s education. We align with the Common Core State Standards and focus on the whole child, 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 his/her own unique way.

Our general studies curriculum across subjects is a “spiral curriculum”, students learn and revisit the same key concepts throughout their years of education, each time at a deeper level of complexity or with different applications.


In Hillel Torah classrooms, 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. Students learn multiple strategies to solve math problems in order to comprehend all vantage points of the concept, building a strong foundation for future math learning.

Primary School
Grades 1-4 follow the Eureka Math curriculum, “the why behind math.” Using this curriculum, students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and rationale the math is based on and apply that understanding to mathematical algorithms and problem-solving.

Middle School
In grades 5-8 math classes are leveled into Core Math and Accelerated Math. Both sections learn the same concepts and topics, with Accelerated classes moving at a faster pace with a higher level of rigor.

5th grade continues with the final year of the Eureka Math curriculum and 6-8 grade uses the Connected Mathematics curriculum, 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.

Children reading in librart

Literacy:  Reading & Writing

During their years at Hillel Torah, our students progress from “Learning to Read” to “Reading to Learn.” Students begin in early literacy with working on decoding (or “sounding it out”), fluency (the ability to read at an appropriate pace), and comprehension, and then 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.

Students in all grades experience three genres of writing: information writing, opinion writing, and narrative writing.

Primary School:
Grades 1-4 students follow the Reading & Writing Project Units of Study and participate in a daily Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop during which they “learn it and try it.”  After being taught a new skill, the students immediately try it out by applying the skill to a project. As the year progresses, the students continue to add new skills, or new tools, to their reading and writing toolbox, which they will continue to utilize and apply throughout their education and beyond.  

Middle School:
In grades 5-8, English Language Arts (ELA) classes are informed by the Reading & Writing Project Units of Study curriculum.  There are three thematic units. Each unit includes reading a class novel, a central writing project such as an essay or narrative, and completing an independent book project. Themes vary by grade and include topics such as: Inner vs. Outer Strength, Multiple Perspectives, Teen Activism, Codes of Honor, Community, The Power of Journalism, and Freedom of Thought.



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. Our science curriculum is aligned to NGSS national science standards, building on itself year after year.

Primary School
Students in grades 1-4 learn that science is all around them. They look at everyday phenomena in the world and learn the science behind those phenomena through in-class demonstrations and hands-on experimentation to gain an understanding of scientific principles while being encouraged to explore their curiosities and seek answers to better understand the world around them.

Middle School
Students study science daily in middle school, including physical science, earth and space science, and life science. Science in middle school is inquiry-based, hands-on, collaborative, and student-driven. Based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) students:

  • Ask questions and define problems
  • Develop and use models
  • Plan and carry out investigations
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Use mathematics and computational thinking
  • Construct explanations and design solutions
  • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information


Partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry
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, Hillel Torah has been working in close partnership with Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Educational staff from MSI are helping us to bring our science instruction to even greater heights, including a move toward adoption of the newly developed Next Generation Science Standards for middle school.

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.

Explorer Project

Social Studies

Students at Hillel Torah have the opportunity to learn about civilizations, social and global issues, geography, and history from the beginning of recorded history to the 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.

Primary School
In primary school, social studies lessons are woven into Morning Meeting, Reader’s Workshop, and Writer’s Workshop. For grades 1 and 2, social studies topics are focused on holidays such as Veterans Day, MLK Day, Presidents Day, Columbia Day, etc. In grades 3 and 4, in addition to holidays, the students complete a major, experiential research project–The Chicago Fair in 3rd grade and The State Fair in 4th.

Middle School
Middle school social studies covers General US History, Ancient Civilizations, World History, and US History with a focus on the American Revolution and the Constitution. Students in 7th and 8th grade have an additional, two-year Jewish History course during which they study Jewish History from the 10th century BCE through the early 20th century CE, with an emphasis on primary sources. Through major projects, 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.


Specials & Choice Time

To enhance the academic subjects and enrich classroom work we encourage our students to think more deeply and get creative with the study of the arts (visual and performing), literature, technology, and physical education

Primary School
All primary school grades participate in weekly specials:

  • Fine Arts
  • Music
  • Gym
  • Digital Literacy
  • Library
  • Science


Middle School
In addition to Fine Arts and Gym, which all students participate in weekly, twice a week each middle school student has the opportunity to participate in an additional enrichment subject of their choice:

  • Art
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • Study Hall

Social/Emotional Focus

At Hillel Torah we are focused on the whole child. Social/emotional learning goes right along with academics. Social/emotional well-being is central to the school environment and the foundation upon which learning and academic growth take place.

Primary School
In grades K-4 we implement the Responsive Classroom approach to increase academic achievement, decrease problem behaviors, and improve social skills. Students have daily social/emotional learning through Morning Meeting and at various times throughout the day, and classroom teachers collaborate with the school social worker on creating social/emotional lessons for the classroom. The children learn self-awareness, calming techniques, and proactive life skills for self-regulation.

Middle School
In middle school, each student has an advisor who serves as the student’s go-to for support within and beyond academics. Supervised by the School Social Worker, during advisory middle school students learn time management skills, social skills, organizational skills, online safety, and mental health tools in an effort to strengthen them as they head to high school and beyond.

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