BY LEAH SUMMERS / AJT //
As Greenfield Hebrew Academy students and parents enjoy the steamy days of summer, teachers and administrators have been busy making plans for the coming school year. Exciting initiatives are underway!
Among those developments on the horizon are more enrichment programs for students at all grade levels; the “Thinking Maps” approach to speaking and writing; and blended learning efforts, among others.
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- Expanding ETGAR into the middle school – ETGAR (from the Hebrew for “challenge”) is GHA’s enrichment program, which will expand into the Middle School this year. The students have already been assessed in reading and math, and we are committed to challenging each child to reach his/her potential.
- Enriched reading program – Based on the success of the lower-school reading program, GHA’s curriculum will now extend several key elements into fifth and sixth grades. This entails guided reading according to assessed levels in homogeneous groups and Book Club reading in heterogeneous groupings according to interest.
- Focus on speaking and writing – All students in kindergarten through sixth grade will benefit from the powerful writing program developed by Dr. Lucy Calkins of Columbia University’s Teachers College. This rigorous, cutting-edge approach focuses on units of study in opinion, information and narrative writing. The work will culminate in the eighth grade with both a research paper and creative writing.
In addition, all the teachers will be exposed to an approach to teaching higher-order thinking tools that lead to better expressive language, both oral and written, through the system of “Thinking Maps,” developed by David Hyerle. It is a system of structured thinking using powerful visual tools based on the way the brain organizes information in networks and maps.
- Blended learning – Several administrators spent the spring formally exploring best practices in blended learning, an instructional model that seeks to customize (or “differentiate”) student learning. Utilizing online tools combined with face-to-face teaching, teachers can optimize the opportunities to teach to various styles and levels.
Many middle school teachers have already committed themselves to learning more about this model and spent the summer creating pilot courses and units of study for this coming year.
- Middle school choices and leadership – Two highlights that will be instituted in the middle school this year are electives and peer mediation. With the former, students will once per week be able to explore passions and interests that may not be covered in the structured curriculum; electives such as psychology for kids, a podcast newspaper and technical theater are just some of the choices.
And with the latter, each child in the eighth grade will be trained in protocols of peer mediation during the first week of school by Sylvia Miller, school counselor. The students will then be given the option of serving on a panel to arbitrate issues that arise in the middle school.
Such a program that affords students responsibility and practice in leadership will only enhance our identity as a “NO Place for Hate” school.
GHA is proud that the school graduates confident and prepared students. As the educator John Dewey said:
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, then we rob our children of tomorrow.”
Here’s to a bright future!