A Day in the Life - Kindergarten
There is a lot going on in a school day for Liora, and at six years of age she has loads of energy to keep up with all her activities. But what’s really going on is overall childhood development, in a style unique to Maimonides School.
The Kindergarten at Maimonides School consists of one large cohesive class with three full-time teachers, resulting in an 8:1 student-teacher ratio. This format allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet a wide range of needs, with flexibility for grouping students across the grade for reading, math and Hebrew instruction. It also maximizes socialization opportunities for the students.
The Kindergarten teaching team consists of Limudei Kodesh teachers, experts in Judaic instruction, and General Studies teachers, leaders in literacy and math. The entire team is qualified to lead or assist in science, social studies, math and literacy. Kindergarten students also enjoy specialized art, music and physical education classes.
Maimonides Kindergarten is an environment that exudes familiarity and warmth, not just in the classrooms but throughout the first floor of the Brener Building. The Kindergarten classrooms are built for young children. The furniture, the bathrooms, the dedicated playground, even the smaller set of railings in the corridors and stairwells are all the right size for five and six year olds.
Liora’s typical day begins with davening, followed by “morning meeting,” a classroom gathering with her teacher that incorporates many important elements -- children greeting each other, sharing discussions about friendship, sharing stories -- in essence building a community together.
Once a week, the students have “Open Circle,” an element of the curriculum dedicated to building and teaching social skills such as listening, providing appropriate responses and problem solving. Earlier in the week, the teachers and students talked about how to show interest with an active listening look.
After their meeting, Liora and some of her friends convene in one of the classroom centers, where Kindergarteners explore a variety of things. Liora’s group learns mathematical concepts like sorting and measuring. Other students may address the English calendar and the weather. They learn to work as partners, create with different media, and follow directions. They learn intangibles—not only independence but also how to be part of a group, and how to be organized. Sessions are broken up with physical activities using music or poems or just stretching.
Liora next turns to her parashah booklet that she is illustrating this week for her family. Limudei kodesh instruction focuses on the weekly Torah portion as a significant element of the curriculum. The weekly portions afford Kindergarteners the opportunity to learn not only the main story line but also appropriate middot of chesed, ahavat Hashem and the concept of mitzvot. Every page in the parashah book also helps children with skills such as cutting and gluing and learning colors in Hebrew.
Judaic and general studies are balanced in the Kindergarten program. They’re often taking place in the same room at the same time. For example, the teachers incorporate a lot of science into Limudei Kodesh. The rescue of Moshe in the basket is a lesson on the principle of floating while the Chanukah story is an opportunity to teach about light.
Liora is also learning some conversational Hebrew as part of her experience at Maimonides School, with semi-weekly visits from a Hebrew language instructor. These sessions of theme-based songs and stories in Hebrew supplement the alphabet and words which Liora has been taught throughout the day by her Judaic Studies teachers.
Morning for Liora always includes a snack and recess; after lunch, she and the other children rest for about a half-hour. Weekly and special occasions include holiday celebrations, Shabbat parties, and baking challah or honey cake in the Kindergarten kitchen. Today Liora is especially excited about going to the computer lab. Each day includes different enrichment activities, whether trips to the art or music rooms, the gymnasium, the library or time on the computer.
Last week Liora was the Student of the Week, a regular element of the Kindergarten routine in which each student has a chance to tell others more about themselves and their family. Colorful posters line the walls of the classroom, each one highlighting a different student. At the end of each child’s special week as the featured student, his or her parent(s) visits the classroom and leads a classroom activity which connects to a special interest of their son or daughter.
Liora, like all other Kindergarteners, keeps a daily journal, recording observations and thoughts at an individual level, through drawings, words and even sentences. Her teacher says this not only helps Liora and her peers reach the next level of English literacy, but also is a chance for them to express their feelings. This approach is another component of the Maimonides Kindergarten classroom which promotes educational and emotional development.
The exciting and engaging Kindergarten experience that Liora receives at Maimonides has her clearly headed in the right direction, providing her with the tools necessary for her educational journey through Maimonides School. Liora, with a smile, tells it best. “I love my teachers…we have lots of fun reading, learning the mitzvot, and playing with friends. I’m learning why it’s special to be Jewish.”