English Language Arts
Mastery of the spoken and written word is fundamental to overall educational success. Continual acquisition of knowledge rests on an individual’s ability to use his or her language skills for information gathering, understanding, critical analysis and evaluation in addition to effective communication with others. HLA has set high learning standards for ELA and has chosen the type of curricula that will provide its teachers with the instructional resources to successfully develop these skills and abilities in its students.
Because mastery of the written and spoken language is critical to success in all subject areas, HLA will engage a rigorous and balanced ELA curriculum starting at Kindergarten. Our priority is to develop strong readers, writers and communicators. In the early grades, we focus on phonics and phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate the distinct sounds of the spoken word). We also introduce students to the joy of reading with “authentic literature”: texts that are written in the original, natural language of the authors rather than contrived language geared toward attainment of specific skills. Every HLA classroom has over 1,000 books (in addition to textbooks) to support individual student reading projects.
In order to compete in almost every aspect of life, HLA children will have to exhibit confidence and proficiency in mathematical skills. The competencies that arise from mastery of mathematics—aptitude in problem-solving; facility with numbers; clear communication; logic and reasoning, argument and proof; mental discipline; and strategic and analytical thinking—are skills that deepen one’s ability and effectiveness in areas beyond the math discipline. Helping students to excel in mathematics opens the doors for them to become engineers, architects, financiers, scientists, doctors and, of course, mathematicians—all professions which involve, at the core, mathematics.
But before they can become advanced mathematicians, our students need to gain the fundamentals in the early grades. To help them build this foundation, we use a grounded and structured approach to mathematics where concepts are presented in a logical fashion and complicated concepts are not introduced until children have been given the fundamental tools to master them. The study of math involves incremental steps that build upon each other and allow for the development of a solid base. Our goal is that by the time they reach middle school, all of our students will be ready for higher-order math in the form of algebra that then leads to the study of geometry, trigonometry and calculus in high school.
HLA’s science curriculum provides students with the essential skills and knowledge that they will need to undertake advanced science coursework in middle school and high school. But we go beyond building basic scientific knowledge. At HLA, we aim to help even our youngest students learn how to make connections between science and society so that they can become scientifically literate citizens of the 21st Century. Our students learn to build connections between science, technology and societal impacts so that they can better understand such topics as community health, population, natural resources, environmental quality, natural and human-induced hazards, and other global challenges.
Social studies is the integrated study of history, geography, economics, government and civics. But most importantly, it is the study of humanity, of all people and events that have affected the world. Through our social studies curriculum, we aim to help students:
- make sense of the world in which they live
- make connections between major ideas and their own lives
- see themselves as members of the world community
- understand, respect and appreciate the commonalities and differences that give the United States character and identity.
These goals can only be understood within an appreciation and analysis of diverse cultural heritages in our world. In the early grades, we emphasize social studies that extend from the child out into the world. In kindergarten, our students explore the topics of identity, diversity, ethnicity, language, beliefs, culture, and family values through a study of family history. Students create a “Who’s Who?” class book that allows them to directly relate to the study of their social world. In first grade, students study why families are important and how they influence who we are. They learn that families share a cultural heritage through special foods, recipes, costumes, stories songs and dances, and students create individual “family trees,” student family timelines and a family crest or coat of arms, among other activities.
Across the social studies curriculum, HLA emphasizes the study of world Jewish communities and Israel. The study of the Jewish people’s experience in a multitude of countries across the globe provides an opportunity both to explore how different cultures intersect and inform one another and to “visit” the lands where a Jewish minority took on the costume, language, architecture, music and art of the countries in which they lived, in many cases for thousands of years. The study of Jewish life in countries from Morocco to India, from Poland to Iraq, from Russia to China requires building a foundation of understanding and appreciation of the culture and history of the host nation. The study of Jewish history therefore will be a model of curricular and intellectual integration. The Jewish historical experience amongst the nations, while revealing the capacity of humanity for intolerance of minority cultures by larger and stronger majorities, also formidably demonstrates the mutual benefits of co-existence and the expansion of one culture and tradition by positive encounter with another. In the context of this curriculum, children will be exposed to a rigorous intellectual tradition that analyzes culture and history in an open and unrestricted way.
HLA seeks to infuse our students with values of understanding and respect for others—an important component of our mission. HLA brings these values to life through a service-learning curriculum that promotes social responsibility. As students learn in social studies about their places in their larger communities—with their view of community expanding from that of their smaller local community to that of the larger world community—they will have age-appropriate opportunities to perform community service that draws upon and further develops their understanding of themselves and the world. Service learning is integrated across the curriculum so that HLA students learn the values of understanding and respect for others in multiple contexts and communities.
HLA celebrates arts education for its creative power as well as the role it plays in the development of cognition, language acquisition, and the study of societies and cultures. In order to access the full potential of arts education, HLA provides both focused instruction on particular arts subjects as well as integration of arts education in the broader curriculum such as English language arts and social studies. For our early grade students, we offer programs in visual art, dance, music and theater; Hebrew language instruction is integrated into music and arts education.
In the changing environment outside of school where many children are not engaged in regular physical activity, HLA is committed to ensuring that its children develop sound bodies as well as sound minds. In addition to contributing to students’ physical health, the physical education program at the HLA helps students develop physical skills and athletic skills, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, excel on an individual level, learn the rules of playing fair and good sportsmanship and improve self-esteem.
HLA uses a full inclusion model for educating our students with special needs. Full inclusion involves bringing the necessary support services to the student regardless of handicapping condition or severity (rather than moving the student to the services) and requires only that the student will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students). According to this model, special education students are removed from the classroom only when appropriate services cannot be provided in the regular classroom setting.
“Full inclusion” maintains that the social interactions with regular education students are vitally important and that special services can be provided most effectively in the context of the regular classroom. For special education students, this setting provides the opportunity to model the behaviors and actions of others. For general education students, this setting fosters an appreciation and respect for the fact that everyone has unique characteristics and abilities, and helps them develop feelings of empowerment and self-control. The main objective of inclusion education at HLA is that all students regardless of their strengths and weaknesses in any area, become part of the HLA school community. As a member of the school community, every student develops a feeling of belonging with other students, teachers, and support staff.