Middle School - Academics

Fifth Grade Program

 In the Middle School, the fifth grade is a transitional year when students acclimate to departmentalized learning while enjoying the comfort and familiarity of a single classroom environment. Our program enables students to learn from content specialists as we ease students into a departmentalized structure, which is the norm of the Middle School program. Students in the fifth grade remain in a “home base” classroom throughout the day, but they enjoy the departmentalized experience of Middle School as different teachers who are content specialists visit their classroom to teach them throughout the day. Language Arts and Social Studies meet back to back under an umbrella Humanities program, which enables the teacher of the two subjects to foster cross- curricular development goals. Similarly, for Hebrew, Science, and Chumash, students learn from subject specialists who come to the students in their home base classrooms. The math program is leveled based on skill, as determined by fourth grade teachers and results from the fourth grade Terra Nova standardized tests.

General Studies

Language Arts

Language Arts is at the heart of the General Studies program at JKHA Middle School, as we believe that reading and writing offer a lifetime of pleasure, as well as one of life’s great journeys. Students learn to write to be understood and to speak to be heard—skills necessary not just for future academic success, but for every aspect of life.  

WB Nagy In the fifth grade program, Language Arts focuses on several goals: reading comprehension, critical thinking, writing, and oral interpretation. The curriculum for fifth grade starts with the Treasures program, with differentiated instruction for students based on their reading abilities. Using the Treasures program enables the fifth grade teachers to bridge the student learning experience from the Lower School division to the Middle School. As the year progresses, students transition into the literature-based program that characterizes the Middle School's Language Arts program in older grades. Students in the fifth grade read works of growing complexity in a variety of genres. To enhance and grow students' writing skills, students engage in frequent writing activities to build their facility and strength as writers. Writing assignments stress process and revision in order to foster and nurture academic independence.

The English curriculum for grades six, seven, and eight is a literature-based program designed to encourage fluency in reading comprehension and mastery of the writing process. Students read works of growing complexity in a variety of genres, including prize-winning fiction and non-fiction, newspaper and magazine articles, poems, essays, and plays. Teachers use project-based learning activities, computer technology, movies, journal projects, and creative writing projects to spark a love of reading and enhance student engagement with both reading and writing. In addition, newspaper and magazine articles are used to promote and improve the reading comprehension skills necessary for success on standardized tests.

Mathematics

Because it is both an eternal language and a universal language, Mathematics provides a unique foundation for critical thinking and logical interpretation. Mathematics enhances skills in art when applied to color and shape; to music when applied to sound; and to Gemara when applied to textual analysis. JKHA Middle School teachers seek to foster students’ appreciation for the beauty of mathematics, building on previous concepts to ensure in-depth understanding. We expect student to master each topic as it is completed, enabling them to model real-world applications, and to problem-solve by incorporating all previously acquired knowledge and skills.

Upon advancement from Middle School, students will have developed a strong foundation for algebra, as well as competency in using a variety of problem-solving techniques; determining the best strategies for solving word problems; estimating the reasonableness and effectiveness of solutions; and taking standardized exams and other kinds of tests. We are proud of our students’ participation in many national math contests, including Mathematical Olympiads, Continental Math League Contest, New Jersey Math League Contest, and the New Jersey Math League Algebra Contest

Science

The Science curriculum at the Middle School focuses on exposing students to the scientific principles of the world we live in.

The fifth graders are learning science this year following a curriculum known as  STC- Science and Technology concepts designed by Carolina Biological Company. The curriculum is designed to enhance critical thinking and scientific inquiry by conducting many experiments to reinforce the scientific knowledge they learn. They begin the year by covering a unit on ecology where students get to build their own self sustaining ecosystem with plants and living organisms. They then conduct experiments demonstrating the negative effects of pollution on their ecosystems.

The next module covered is known as Floating and Sinking. Students are introduced to the concept of density and basic chemistry. Students experiment with different objects to understand the relationship between mass and volume. They complete the unit by using the knowledge they have learned to build their
own boats that float in water.

The last part of the year is spent on the classification of living things. Students learn how the kingdoms are divided and understand the process of assigning scientific names to living things.

The 6th grade science curriculum focuses on the concept of “Stability and Change.” Students learn about the conditions that affect stability and the factors that control the change.Students investigate these small and large changes in the Earth and discover how the disruptions affect the environment where we live. Specifically, the students learn about plate tectonics understanding how the shape and position of continents, earthquakes, and volcanoes explain the changes that are found in the Earth. Additionally, when studying the ocean systems, students investigate how the water cycle provides stability to the amount of water found in our environment both above ground and underground. Throughout each unit, students are developing the following critical thinking and processing skills: making inferences, communicating using written expression, classification of information, experimenting, collecting and recording data, note taking, as well as problem solving.

In the seventh grade, students begin the study of biology by learning about cells which is the fundamental basis of unicellular and multicellular life. They discover just how complex the cell is by studying many of its important functions including transport, respiration, photosynthesis, and cell division. Students become familiar with the microscope as they view onion, cheek cells, and unicellular organisms in pond water. Students  gain an understanding of how the cells all work together to form tissues and organ systems creating the complex human body!

Our Science program for eighth graders focuses on exploring the basic scientific principles that underlie the physical world. The role of science in society is emphasized, as is the importance of critical thinking and experimentation to all branches of knowledge. Engaged by a rich variety of hands on activities and the SAE Toy Project, students also develop critical social and communications skills. Working in teams and supporting each member's ideas and contributions is forefront in the developmental growth of the students in this grade.

The curriculum covers Physics. Chemistry and an application of their physical science skills in bringing an idea for a motorized toy from a design to fruition.

Social Studies

Middle Schoolers are endlessly fascinated by every aspect of identity. Our Social Studies program is designed to illuminate the connections between personal identity and the history of humankind, focusing on the developments have shaped and continue to influence people and civilizations. 

The goals of the Middle School Social Studies program include fostering a connection between past and present that is personally meaningful to the students, teaching students to recognize the influence of past civilizations, events, and leaders upon our modern lives, and encouraging students to analyze how decisions made today, like those of the past, may affect the generations to come.  As the school’s mission emphasizes empowering students to “analyze, create, and seek out new intellectual challenges,” the Social Studies program provides students with the opportunity to analyze the past and its influence, create meaningful connections to the material, and seek new intellectual challenges in the form of research, projects, and formal assessments.

The Social Studies curriculum for fifth grade is the first half of a two-year academic program that culminates in sixth grade. In fifth grade, the students embark upon a journey through Ancient Civilizations, in which they explore the beginning and legacies of the Fertile Crescent civilizations and Egypt. Additionally, students examine current events, geography, chronology, and the foundation of civilization dating back to the Prehistory era. Using project-based learning, students engage deeply in the units covered. Additionally, there is a heavy emphasis upon skill development in the course, especially in the areas of writing, organization, test taking, listening, note-taking, and critical thinking.

In sixth grade, students continue to study ancient civilizations, picking up on where they left off in fifth grade as they explore the civilizations of India, China, Greece and Rome over the course of their study. Wherever possible, Jewish history is incorporated into units to illustrate the simultaneity of Jewish history parallel to the ancient civilizations covered. Additionally, during the study of Rome, students learn about Christianity and the way in which it specifically impacted Judaea and the fall of the Second Temple. Over the course of the year, students complete multiple independent research projects and bi-monthly current events assignments to foster their growth as critical and analytical historians. Students are assessed based on written evaluations, class participation, homework assignments, and both individual and group projects. As the students embark on their middle school journey through history, so too do they begin to determine the role of geography on the progress of a civilization’s development as well as how to analyze critical events and people in a given ancient civilization and determine the extent of their legacy within and beyond that civilization.

The seventh grade Social Studies curriculum encompasses the period of American colonization through the Civil War in American history, from 1591-1865.  In this course, in addition to learning the factual information about the historical events, pivotal leaders, and accompanying terminology of the time periods covered, students learn to analyze the historical significance of individual events, people, and terms both contextually and in the present day.  In addition, students draw connections between their work in sixth grade ancient civilizations and the seventh grade American history class.  Students are assessed on their notes, written evaluations, group and individual projects, and research-based historical fiction papers. In seventh grade, students explore and sharpen their research skills, using both library databases and texts. Additionally, students examine critical events in American history and evaluate their broader historical significance over the course of American history, internationally, and currently.

In the eighth grade, students investigate United States history from post-Civil War era to the period after World War II. A thematic approach to the history of that century includes the study of industrialization, the Progressive Era, World War I and the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and the New Deal, World War ll, and the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.

Judaic Studies

Chumash

The JKHA Middle School Chumash curriculum targets Sefer Shemot, Bamidbar and Devarim. The Chumash curriculum for the 5th grade consists of the study of the first four Parshiot of Sefer Shmot which are Shmot, VaErah, Bo, and Beshalach. The Parshiot detail the story of the slavery in Mitzraim, the Ten Plagues, Redemption and Pesach, the story of the Splitting of the Sea and the miraculous gifts given to Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar. Emphasis is placed on developing the vocabulary of the students along with strengthening grammatical skills. The process of analyzing the text and looking for questions is emphasized. In order to achieve a more thorough understanding the commentary of Rashi is used which supports the question and answer process. Seeing that the Torah is a book of life, many life lessons are drawn from the text. This is to emphasize the eternal nature of the Torah and how its lessons pertain to human grow and development.

History Bamidbar is divided in half and is studied over the course of two years. In their first year, our students study the beginning of Bamidbar, Pashiyot Bamidbar through Shlach, which discusses the first of the 40 years in the Midbar (wilderness). During that year, the students analyze the preparation of Bnei Yisrael to travel from the Midbar to Eretz Yisrael. The curriculum continues with the downfall of that generation that begins with their needless complaints and ends at the hands of the Meraglim (spies) and their evil report.

In the subsequent year, our students study the second half of Sefer Bamidbar, starting with Parshat Korach and the rebellion that followed the sin of the spies. Students continue with Parshiyot Chukat, Balak, and Pinchas as they explore the events of the 40th year in the Midbar, including the sin of Moshe, Bilaam’s attempt to curse Bnei Yisrael, and Bnei Yisrael’s advance toward Eretz Yisrael.

Finally, our students study Sefer Devarim, the final words of Moshe to Bnei Yisrael. With just 37 days left to his life and at the doorway to Eretz Yisrael to which he will not enter, Moshe must decide what messages he would like to impart to his nation. Whether it is a review of essential mitzvot with special significance in the Land or foundational beliefs included in the Aseret Hadibrot and the Shema, studying Sefer Devarim is a study of one of the greatest speeches of all time.

Engaging content, however, is not the only hallmark of the Middle School Chumash Curriculum. Our department as a whole has committed to creating life-long learners who have the ability and desire to study Chumash on their own. Our three year curriculum was designed to systematically teach students the textual skills necessary to understand any passuk in Chumash. Through innovative smartboard lessons that bring the text to life, our own trademark Chumash Vocabulary League, and oral assessments, students are given the confidence to take ownership of the Chumash. Combined with the study of the Chumash’s mefarshim which helps teach students to ask, answer and analyze their own questions, our aim is to give students the tools to walk out of eighth grade ready to take their learning to the next level.

Ivrit

One of the goals of the JKHAMS is to create a community of Hebrew speakers who are able to converse in Ivrit, read Ivrit books, understand articles written in Israeli newspapers, develop a better understanding of Tanach and learn the culture of Israel. The NETA program, a curriculum initiative in Hebrew language and culture is helping students to attain these goals.

JKHAMS has been working with the NETA program; established at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to implement this innovative whole-language approach to instruction. The program enables students to enhance their reading, writing and conversational skills. Unlike more traditional programs that require memorizing grammar or “tachbier” rules, NETA focuses on conversational Hebrew as well as Hebrew literature and grammar.

The NETA program is driven by the belief that the mastery of Hebrew will promote students’ understanding of their history, culture and tradition. Every book in the scope of sequence is about a different theme of interest to middle school students. Topics range from computers and sports to friendship and dreams. Each theme is presented from the perspective of modern Israeli culture, Jewish tradition and general world knowledge. The curriculum includes art, science, mathematics, literature, midrash and philosophy. NETA is always intellectually challenging, engaging the students’ thought processes.

NETA provides intensive on-going professional development, program assessment and teacher mentoring. Teachers participate in different seminars and workshops throughout the school year and every summer. The NETA program is very carefully monitored and assessed.

Assignments, tests and class work indicate that the program is working, and that our students are learning and retaining more Ivrit language skills than ever before. Student evaluations show that they feel more confident replying to teachers in Ivrit and are able to converse with others. Students of NETA retain vocabulary words more readily and comprehend and respond appropriately to instructions given to them in Ivrit. And, test student writing skills have shown their improvement in mastering the language.

The evidence of improvement is reflected in student scores on NETA tests. As we continue our work with the NETA program, we expect continued progress and success.

Navi

The Navi curriculum at JKHAMS is designed to expose students to the timeless words and deeds of some of the greatest Nevi’im (prophets) in Jewish history. The unique lessons that can be learned from the books of Shmuel Alef, Shmuel Bet and Melachim Alef are emphasized at all grade levels, through close study of the explicit and implicit messages within each text. Students are encouraged to live the words of these great leaders, and to learn both from their example and their challenges.

In Shmuel Alef students learn from Chana about the power of sincere prayer and consider her son’s Shmuel’s dedication to the Jewish community as he travels all over the land inspiring others with his teachings and serving as judge. Students study Bnei Yisrael's request for a king, the rise and fall of Shaul HaMelech - first King of Israel - and his pursuit of Dovid, his new arch nemesis. As students watch the chase they are able to internalize the lessons of Dovid's unwavering belief in Hashem and recognize the dangers of the powerful trait of jealousy.

In Shmuel Bet they continue to appreciate Dovid Hamelech's faith in G-d as he slowly builds his kingdom, and admire his ability to learn from his mistakes. David’s humility, heroism and leadership are central elements of classroom discussions, as students come to recognize Dovid as a model of teshuva (repentance) with whom any Jew can identify.

Students  also explore the first half of Sefer Melachim which depicts Bnei Yisrael reaping the benefits of Dovid’s introducion of his young son Shlomo, the new king intent on building the first Beit HaMikdash. With the downfall of Shlomo, students gain insight into the fact that even the wisest of men can fail to identify and address the challenges they face.

Torah SheB'al Peh

Mishna

The Judaics department has a Torah SheB'al Peh program that scaffolds the introduction to the Torah SheB'al Peh in the 5th grade to the study of Gemara  in the 8th grade. Through a fully designed spiral of learning skills, this four year program advances the child to independence in Mishna and Talmud. Jewish identity according to our Rabbis is primarily defined by our Oral Traditions, which is housed in Mishna, Talmud and Midrash. Mastery of the Oral Tradition is a high priority, and development of passionate Jewish identity is our goal.

Recognizing that the study of Torah SheB'al Peh, like all areas of learning, has specific skills, and concepts that must be methodically acquired to promote future success, our program implements these skills in grades 5 through 8. For example, in order to transition from Mishna to Gemara, the program also teaches examples of the Tosefta and the Braita, the other Tannaic texts important when one is studying Talmud. The Mishnayot are taught in the traditional song, which creates a dynamic classroom environment and helps in the retention of the Mishnayot. Additionally, there are colorful posters adorning the walls of the classroom that  help students practice their skills.

In the first year, students will develop an understanding of the special role and function of the Oral Tradition, while recognizing the relationship between Mishna and Mikra in any topic under examination. They will also understand the structure and organizational methods of the Mishna to enable "navigation". In order to place each phrase of Mishna in its appropriate historical and cultural context., students will become familiar with the dozens of Tannaim who worked to create and promote the Mishna.

Gemara

In the 7th and 8th grades the students begin the the study of Gemara. Whereas the focus of years one and two (5th and 6th Grade) the focus of Torah SheB'al Peh was on Torat Hatannaim, the focus of the 7th and 8th grades are on Torat Haamoraim. In 7th grade students are introduced to the Amoraim, Rabbis of the Talmudic period of Israel and Bavel, according to their Batei Midrash and generations.

Students are introduced to the traditional Tzurat Hadaf of the Vilna Shas as well as the skills to be able to identify each type of Memra within a section of the Gemara (sugya). Key words that are integeral parts to understanding the layout of the Gemara is a focus of the 7th grade as well.

After reviewing the skills acquired in the 7th grade, the 8th grade begins the second year of the fundamentals of the Bablonian Talmud and its Aramaic text. They study the functions of "shakla V'taria" of the Sugyot of the Amoraim as well as the patterns of arguments within a Sugya.

Various Sugyot in Mesechet Brachot and Mesechet Pesachim are chosen. These Sugyot discuss topics of interest to the students daily life of Tefilla, Shabbat and the Chagim.

SUPPLEMENTAL CURRICULA

Computers Technology

At JKHA Middle School, we believe that every student should understand technology and become adept at using it properly. To that end, teachers in both General and Judaic Studies alike strive to incorporate technology into at least one project each semester, encouraging students to master and use computer skills in real-life situations. Students working on papers for Language Arts or Social Studies, for example, must master Microsoft Word. As students explore research topics in their Social Studies classes, they learn how to utilize online databases as they embark on academic research. Assignments in math call for competency in Microsoft Excel, while projects in science require a keen understanding of PowerPoint. Keyboarding skills are essential in all classes, and especially to the composition of a Hebrew text for the eighth grade yearbook. 

Students graduate from eighth grade knowing how to use—and when to use—appropriate technology, as well as how to evaluate Internet sources and safely surf the Internet. In addition, the eighth grade students participate in a twelve-week computer applications module. The course asks students to own, operate, and market their own professional teams. Students create logos, design t-shirts, produce advertisements and more, using the Microsoft Office package including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access, as they start up their new “teams.” As they create and market their teams, students use, improve and grow their computer skills and proficiency.

 

NJAIS

 

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Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy
Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School
110 South Orange Avenue
Livingston, New Jersey 07039
Phone 862.437.8000
info@jkha.org
info@rkyhs.org