A Day in the Life - Elementary School
For Adam, the daily experience as a Maimonides School fifth-grader is a comfortable fit. Everything has its place.
“I daven for 40 minutes, with the other boys,” he relates. “Then I go to my class and we learn until 10:10, either General Studies or Limudei Kodesh. After we have recess -- I usually play basketball with my friends. From 10:20 to 11:00 we learn more, and then we go to our first ‘specials block’. Every day we have different specialty classes—art, Ivrit, science, or gym. On some days there are activities to choose during lunch and recess, such as Chorus, Art Studio, Math Team, or Shulchan Ivrit. I like the Writing Circle—we’re making our own literary magazine. We also have afternoon chugim, such as Israeli dancing, newspaper, chesed and science. At 2:30 is mincha, 2:45 to 2:55 is recess, and then we learn the rest of the day.” It’s a challenging, stimulating and rewarding schedule.
Adam offers examples of Judaic Studies at his grade level. “We learned the beginning of Shemot… slavery in Mitzrayim, leaving Mitzrayim…” His teacher, Rabbi Dovid Reisman, “goes into a lot of depth about things. When we come to a mitzvah, we’ll go into that mitzvah. We look at commentary, look where the commentary finds a connection between two places.” He adds that Rabbi Reisman also tells great funny stories.
Technology is paramount among Elementary School students, who first learn English keyboarding in grade 3, with Hebrew keyboarding the following year. A computer lab serves the needs of the fourth and fifth grades. Teachers like grade 5 General Studies teacher Mrs. Zippy Portman use it to enhance the research, writing, and revising process. In the lab, each student is able to wirelessly connect to the Internet for research, then easily write and edit reports or create PowerPoint presentations. Fifth graders also have their own school-based email accounts and learn the fine points of technology etiquette through using them. Technology is also used in the classroom with SMART Board interactive whiteboards and the Sentio clicker system, which are used to assess students' grasp of subject matter.
Fifth-grade science makes a big impression. “We also learned about electricity, taking wires, a bulb and a battery and making it light. We started off with an experiment—we found you had to make a circuit. Then we did a project with switches, moving a paper clip to complete the circuit. Then we had a double pole switch, like with two light switches, one at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top. We went to the Museum of Science and saw an electricity show. We learned about conductors and insulators, which disrupt flow of electricity.” Grade 5 students also have a make-your-own-battery project, build model rockets, and work in teams to create cars which move using air pressure.
Grade 5 social studies includes units on the American Revolution, the Constitution, and the Civil Rights Movement. “In fourth grade there was a different style. We learned about the explorers,” Adam comments. Lower grades concentrate on spelling; fifth-graders combine spelling and definitions in their vocabulary sessions, and read literature books related to social studies. “On Fridays we have current events, and we get to talk into the microphone when we present to the class.”
“We have different groups for Hebrew, and my Ivrit teacher really makes it fun.”
Hebrew language studies concentrate on the basics of tense and gender. “We have different groups for Hebrew, and my Ivrit teacher really makes it fun.” Students also write stories in Hebrew and visit Israeli sites on the Internet.
Opportunities for creative writing are frequent, and students learn to edit their own pieces. The fifth-graders also maintain weekly reading response journals. Every week each student tries to achieve his/her reading goal, and every Friday students “write a letter to the teacher about what we read last week.”
Adam and his fifth grade classmates also participate in Tzelem, a 10-week program developed by Yeshiva University that targets issues of maturity, emotional and physical changes and general well being of this particular age group. Boys and girls are divided into separate Tzelem groups for these candid discussions.
Physical education is a landmark on the class schedule with two 40-minute periods a week with teacher Mr. Ernie D’Agnelli. Units on team sports like soccer or baseball alternate with “some of the not-so-realistic games, like two-base kickball,” Adam reports. Art classes meet weekly with Mrs. Anne-Marie Moore, where students study famous artists and create projects with a variety of media. Music is offered twice a week, and children not only sing but also “a lot of times learn the background of the song we’re singing,” Adam says. “I also play violin in the Elementary School Orchestra and take lessons during the day.” Students in the Elementary School can choose from a wide variety of after-school activities ranging from music to chess to fencing to hockey.
At 3:45 p.m., Adam heads home excited to tell his parents about his latest science experiment as well as a mitzvah that Rabbi Reisman discussed in class.