In the early years, the seeds for successful learning are planted. Through the Elementary School’s reading and language arts program, we endeavor to give children not only the foundation they need, but also to inspire them. Our dual goal is to teach students solid skills in reading, writing, and speaking, as well as to produce readers, writers, and speakers who joyfully express themselves and understand and appreciate the ideas of others.
Children learn to read in different ways and at their own pace. The reading curriculum at Maimonides School is designed to respond to those individual differences using a variety of creative strategies in a balanced literacy program. Phonics and comprehension are both emphasized, along with oral fluency and the building of vocabulary. Students may work in flexible small groups, with partners, or in large group activities. They enjoy reading a wide range of materials from many genres including fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. In the primary grades, a reading specialist supports the classes as they build reading skills. In the intermediate grades, reading activities are often integrated with the social studies or science curriculum. When possible, students at all age levels are offered opportunities to make choices about reading materials and about their responses to them. Overall, the goal of the Elementary School reading curriculum is to promote a love of reading, as well as the confidence to use reading to learn independently.
Students develop writing skills through journal writing, crafting original books and poems, and other open-ended activities. Some pieces are edited and students learn to use standard spelling and punctuation. Research and report writing are introduced in Grade 3, and these skills are refined in subsequent grades through regular responses to books and through social studies and science projects. By Grade 5, students begin to develop their own voice and can recognize the elements of good writing. Spelling and vocabulary skills are acquired and strengthened through explicit instruction, as well as through student reading and writing. Frequent opportunities are provided to share ideas orally, helping students gain confidence in expressing themselves. Attention is also given to developing students as respectful, active listeners to the ideas of peers and adults.
Systematic handwriting instruction is provided to help students learn and refine these skills. The Handwriting Without Tears method is used in Kindergarten to introduce the letters, and Zaner-Bloser materials are used for instruction in the other elementary grades. Both cursive writing and keyboarding skills are introduced in Grade 3, providing students with the tools to express their ideas. These skills are polished and fluency is attained through regular use, for meaningful writing, in the upper intermediate grades.
Introduction to English for Speakers of Other Languages
Maimonides School is a diverse and vibrant community. As the oldest and largest Jewish day school in Boston, we have nearly 70 years of experience in helping students acquire English language skills. Teachers are able provide a variety of creative materials and activities to immerse children in English, while at the same time celebrating the languages spoken in students’ homes. Most of all, Maimonides faculty and students are welcoming and encouraging to students who are newer speakers of English, providing a climate which promotes rapid and sustained language learning.