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Grade K-1


Gan-Kita Aleph Teacher Message

January 17, 2020

20 Tevet 5780

Have you heard? There is an ice cream shop in our classroom!  Students are working together to organize the materials, designate roles and create signage, menus, cash (and credit cards!). Within all the fun, there are opportunities for communication, cooperation, art, math, literacy, and social skills development.  Ask your child if they have visited the ice cream shop yet - or if they are an employee!

This week we concluded our How-To writing unit with a group activity - making oobleck (corn starch and water).  Students all followed directions to make their own oobleck, then needed to write a How-To book to explain the process.  Now you can make oobleck at home! (just in case, the most important detail is that the ratio of cornstarch to water is 2:1. Enjoy!)  Our next genre will be persuasive or opinion writing, which we will begin next week.  

In math, one group is comparing numbers and how to express when numbers are greater than, equal or less than.  One group is practicing the math strategy of addition with doubles and near doubles, and the other is practicing the math strategy of “making ten” to add.  Your child may have mentioned the “math minute”; this is a weekly assessment where students see how many addition problems they can answer in one minute. The goal is to improve their own score from week to week as we learn more addition strategies.  Practicing addition with flash cards at home is a good way to help solidify automaticity (and speed) in problem solving. 

In social studies, we have been learning about Martin Luther King Jr, his life and accomplishments.  We read two biographies, A Picture Book of Martin Luther King (David Adler) and Happy Birthday Martin Luther King (Jean Marzollo).  We discussed the goals of a biographer, and decided that they want to teache readers about famous people, and answer the questions that a reader might have.  .We generated a list of questions and then listened for the answers in the books we read. Each student chose four facts about MLK, wrote and drew about them, and then put them in chronological order in a mini book that they will take home. We read Martin’s Big Words and students chose their “big words” and illustrated them.

In Ivrit, first graders finished the letter ח and started the letter ט. We learned the words: טבח, טוסט, אוטוand added two more words to our זכר/ נקבה list: טוב (good for a boy) טובה (good for a girl). The students also learned a new vowel- צירה- סגול that is markes with two or three dots under the letter and make the sound “eh”. Next week they will be getting the third vocabulary list for practice.

Kindergarten students finished the letter כ and learned (ך (כ סופית. We got to know words that end with ך such as מלך (king), ברך (knee), כריך (sandwich) and חיוך (smile).

Yahadut- we are getting ready for Messibat Hasiddur! All the students are excited and are practicing their roll in the play. They were given their lines to practice during the weekend.

Parashat Hashavuah- this week’s Parashah is Parashat שמות. We built pyramids from different materials, learned about Paroeh’s order to kill the baby boys, and told the story about משה בתיבה. The students learned the Passuk ” של נעליך מעל רגלך” and discussed the story of the burning bush and the special signs that hashem gave Mosheh. We concluded with Mosheh and Aharon going to talk to Paroeh to let B’ney Israel go.

Happy birthday to Libby; thanks to her family for bringing in the yummy treats!

January 10, 2020

13 Tevet 5780

Has your child mentioned the new structure we have for reader’s workshop?  After the vacation, we started having “rotations” during our language arts period.  Students are divided into groups and move between stations; the four activities that are offered are: read to yourself, word work, IPads and small group.  Read to yourself is a time for students to read self selected and teacher selected books to themselves. Students “book shop” for new books about every two weeks, and we try to ensure that they have a mix of high interest books as well as books specifically at their reading level.  Word study groups address different topics, based on the needs and skills of the students in the group. Topics this week range from when to use upper case letters in writing to rhyming words and sight words to letter recognition and correspondence. Students have been very enthusiastic about using the IPads.  Each student can select from a folder of apps including Starfall, Teach your Monster to Read and Epic books for kids - this app allows students to select from a wide variety of books that are read aloud or to independently read digital books. Finally, in small group, all the students reads the same text together and work on different skills such as comprehension, vocabulary, predicting, making text to self connections as well as decoding.  Our writers workshop is also moving along and students are becoming very adept at writing “how to” books.  

In science we have been very busy investigating snow.  We read Snowflake Bentley, about a Vermont farm boy who was fascinated with snowflakes, and invented a way to take magnified photographs of snowflakes in order to study them.  Luckily for us, one day this week it flurried, and we quickly went outside with black paper and magnifying glasses so we could see the beauty of snowflakes for ourselves!   We grew a big crystal to study the structure of the snowflake, used decorative items to make snowflake designs, and did a snowflake maze, and everyone wrote a book of interesting facts about snow. Ask your child to share it with you!

Our new Open Circle topic is giving and receiving compliments.  We started reading the second “Danny book”, which is set in Danny’s school!  We will follow along and help Danny use his power to choose and see how his choices affect his day.  We introduced the idea of “two glows and a grow”; two things that went well during the day, and one thing that we could try to improve.  You might ask your child if they would share their “two glows and a grow” with you at home.   

This week in Ivrit, kindergarten students finished the letter כ and the words: כף, כחול, כתום, כוס, כובע, כפפות, כדור.We practiced the letters that we’ve learned so far using games and worksheets.

First grades finished the letter ז and learned the words: זהב (gold), זז/ זזה (moves), אוז, אוזה.

Our new topic is the difference between feminine and masculine ( זכר ונקבה) in Hebrew. As we progress in our learning, the students will encounter and practice more of these differences. We started learning the letter ח and the words: חדש/חדשה, משפחה, אח/אחות.

If you’ve heard your child singing Havdalah songs lately, it’s because we are getting ready for our Melaveh Malkah :)

The students learned the Havdallah tune and made their own “סדר הבדלה”. We talked about the different Brachot and explained each one of them. We also learned about the verb :הבדלה - separation and what are the things the Hashem separated from each other ( קודש/חול, או/חושך, ישראל/העמים, יום השביעי/ ששת ימי המעשה). 

This week’s Parasha is Parashat Vayechi. We learned about the brachot that Yaakov gave his sons, and discussed the names and the special symbol of each tribe.  We learned about the Bracha of Menasheh and Efraim, and demonstrated how Yaakov crossed his hands over their heads. We heard the song : המלאך הגואל אותי and made a card to use when we go to sleep(קריאת שמע שעל המיטה). 

This is the last Parasha in Chumash Bereisheet! We celebrated the “Siyum” with a special treat and singing חזק חזק ונתחזק.  

December 20, 2019

22 Kislev 5780

This week has been quite busy in Gan Aleph!

Our new Language Arts unit of “How To” books has been very popular; students are feverishly writing about many different things they know how to do - play piano, peel clementines, brush hair, do backflips, refill markers, play pranks, and even how to write how to books!  We have read some stellar mentor texts from this genre, including How To Wash a Wooly Mammoth and How to Teach a Slug to Read.  On Wednesday, we visited the 2-3 class to listen to the students read their personal narratives.  We heard some special “small moment” stories and were able to ask the authors questions about their writing process.  In word study, some students are almost finished learning the vowel pairs for all the long vowel sounds; after the vacation, we will focus on consonant blends, and then move into grammar.  Another group of students have been practicing letter sounds and substituting letter sounds in words. All students are now also receiving one instructional period per week of handwriting practice.  At home, please remind your children that English begins from left to right, and that letters are written from the top down!

In science we turned our attention to olives and olive oil for a few days.  We read Harvest of Light; written from  the perspective of a young girl in Israel, this book shows the process of making olive oil and then its use during Chanukah.  Your child may be interested in seeing this short video which also documents the process  We used this opportunity to draw and write about the sequence of making olive oil - a mini “how to” book!  We investigated the property of oil and water not mixing, and used oil in a number of art projects, including paper marbling and “stained glass” (making a colored picture translucent by rubbing the back with oil). Of course, we also ate some olives!  At the end of the week, we began learning about snow; we read some books about snow and snowflakes, and made our own paper snowflakes. After vacation, we will grow our own crystals - thank you to all the parents who sent in jars for this project - we are all set now!  We have been keeping up with our daily weather journals - lucky for us, the changeable New England weather has meant a lot of variety to record!

Math studies right now are either addition or teen numbers, but all students had time for some Chanukah math fun, including dot - dots, sodoku and logic puzzles.  The booklets will hopefully be sent home on Monday if your child wishes to enjoy the activities over the vacation.  

In Ivrit, first graders finished the letter ו and the vowel או (o) and started the letter ז. We will have a big Hachtavah after Hanukkah break to review all the words we learned so far. Please take the time to review the 2 word lists that were sent to you. 

Kindergarten students finished the letter ט and learned the words: טלויזיה, טלפון, טלית, טבעת, טרקטור. 

We started the letter י and were very excited to have יעל as one of the words :) . we played the game ים-יבשה and learned about ילד (boy) ילדה (girl). We sorted our names to boys/girls. 

For Yahadut, we continued our learning for Hanukkah. The students learned the brachot for הדלקת נרות and made a placemat to use at home. We compared different hanukiyot and came up with the rules that make a kosher Hanukiya. The students made their own Hanukiya and סביבון and decorated a song book for the family. 

On Monday we will have a Hanukkah fair and we will celebrate Hanukkah with games, art, singing and dancing. 


Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom!

The Gan Aelph Team

December 13, 2019

15 Kislev 5780

One of the highlights of our week was sharing our personal narratives with the NPK class. (check out smugmug for great pictures!) Our gan aleph students were so proud to read to a rotating variety of partners, and did a great job of reading their books, and even explaining what a personal narrative is!  We had a chance to reflect about this readers/writers workshop unit, and wrote about our favorite and most challenging parts. Many students cited books that they enjoyed as mentor texts and read alouds; others thought about goals that they had met. Students were very honest about things that were hard, including sounding out words, drawing details and writing neatly. Overall, this was a very positive and successful unit. 
Now we are switching from narrative to procedural or “How-to” writing.  We began this unit by having the class direct me in making a cup of hot cocoa.  Students had to be very specific in their instructions, because I was quite literal.  When they told me to put hot water in a cup, I brought out a shot glass...and then a 2.5 cup measuring cup!  When I finally got the right kind of cup, I put in a tiny amount of hot water, and when they told me to put in powder...out came the baby powder!  I think you can figure out where this is going, and so did the class. This was an easy way to learn that when you are giving instructions you need to be detailed and specific.  (Don’t worry; I made normal cups of cocoa for all the students to drink while they worked on a list of things that they can do well enough to teach someone else!) We read How to Read a Story, which is a “book in a book” look at the steps of being a good reader.  I look forward to reading How-to books all about a wide variety of topics from our class of experts!

This week in our weather study we learned about the water cycle.  Ask your child to sing you the “Evaporation, condensation, precipitation” song.  It’s quite catchy! We made water cycles in a bag (although we’ve been missing the sunlight necessary to make it work) and a rain cloud in a cup.  Both of these activities lent themselves to thinking about sequencing, temporal words (first, next, then, last, finally) and how to clearly communicate directions to others - just like in a “how to” book!  We read Cloudette, a book about a small cloud who learns that she can be as helpful as the larger clouds she envies.  Cloudette thought she could rain, and eventually, given the right circumstances, she did!

This is a message that was reinforced through our Open Circle discussions of “positive self talk”.  We read The Most Marvelous Thing, about a girl who works very hard on a building project, but even after multiple attempts, it doesn’t turn out quite right.  We talked about what she might be saying to herself during the process, and how to redirect her internal dialogue to be more positive. 

With great excitement we started learning about Hanukkah! We told the story of Hanukkah and learned the words: מכבים, יוונים, יהודה המכבי, אנטיוכוס, מתתיהו, כד שמן, ניסים. We had a class discussion about the heroes of the Hanukkah story and each student chose their hero and wrote about it. The students put up a Hanukkah play and it was so much fun. You can watch the pIctures and the videos from the play on smug mug.

We talked about the connection between the miracles that happened back then (בימים ההם) and the things we do to remember them today (בזמן הזה) . The students learned the song  על הניסים and watched this cute video: and enjoyed singing and dancing. 

We decorated a jug (כד) and learned the song כד קטן.

For Ivrit, kindergarten students finished the letter ח that came right on time for the words חנוכה, חנוכיה, חושך. We practiced the previous letters and sounds using songs and games. First graders learned the letter ו and the vowel “cholam”. We read a story about אדון בלון and noticed that a lot of colors have that vowel in them, such as: אדום, צהוב, כחולetc. Both groups are taking part in an Aleph beit game with Hanukkah words. 

Parashat Hashavua this week is parashat “Vayishlach”, we talked about the 3 ways Ya’akov is preparing himself to the meeting with Eisv: תפילה, מלחמה, מתנה. We heard the song of this beautiful Tefillah composed by Yonatan Razael. You can listen to it here:

Shabbat Shalom!

The Gan Aleph team

December 6, 2019

8 Kislev 5780

Hopefully you and your family had an enjoyable Thanksgiving!  Here at school we have shifted our focus away from the Pilgrims and their search for religious freedom, and back to the topic of weather.  And just in time for some real winter precipitation! We began keeping a daily weather journal; each student made their own graphic key to represent the weather we observe. We are also graphing the weather to see what type of weather is most frequent.  This week we have been learning about clouds; how they are formed, the four most common varieties of clouds, why clouds are different colors; and the precipitation that can fall from clouds (and why they are different). We also read that old favorite It Looked Like Spilt Milk and made our own cloudy creations!

In Language Arts, we are concluding our unit on personal narratives. We have recently read some great books, including Shortcut by Donal Crews, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli and A Chair for My Mother by Vera B Williams.  In our word study, one group studied the vowel “o” and the other focussed on different ways to write the long A sound (ai, ay, a-e).   In writer’s workshop, each student is working on either finishing up a current piece, or “shining up” an older one. Next week we will read to our friends in the NPK, and then it will be on to informational books!

Open Circle this week introduced the idea of “positive self talk”.  Students shared skills that they have tried to master or experiences that were difficult for them, and we discussed how  we can support ourselves when we are trying to do something. Next week we will continue this topic, and read the classic The Little Engine that Could, as well as a newer book, The Most Magnificent Thing.  

This week first graders finished their first “Ariyot” book! We learned the letter ה, and the words: הדסה, הלל, הר, הרים, הבהב, המורה שירה. We read the story: איפה הבהב? And used the new word: הנה (here- when pointing at something). We used it in a short sentence to say: הנה ילד (here’s a boy), הנה שולחן (here’s a table) and so on. The students learned about adding a ה before the word to specify a certain object. For example: שולחן (a table), השולחן (the table).

Kindergarten students started learning the letter ח. We learned the word חורף (winter) and talked about the fun things they did on their snow day. The students cut out the Hebrew sentences that describe what they did. Such as: החלקתי במזחלת (I went sledding), בניתי איש שלג (I built a snowman) and shared it with their friends. 

For Yahadut, we learned parashat “Vayetze”. The students took part in a short play about Ya’akov’s dream and learned the midrash about the stones under Ya’akov’s head. We discussed the dream and hashem’s promise to Ya’akov that he will inherit the land and will have many children.  We told the story about Ya’akov rolling the big stone from the well, and learned about the wedding with Leah and the long wait to marry Rachel. 

Happy Birthday to Uri and thank you to his family for the yummy treat!

We work, sit (lie down!) and play on our floor all day, and we would like to keep it clean and dry.  Please help us by ensuring that if your child wears boots to school in the morning, they should have a change of shoes (sneakers, slippers, sandals are all fine!).

November 22, 2019

24 Cheshvan 5780

Did you have a chance to see our version of the story of the first Thanksgiving, illustrated by our own students?  After learning about the Pilgrims’ voyage on the Mayflower, and the experiences of their first difficult year, pairs of students illustrated pages of the book.  Now each student has their own copy! We also have “storytelling bracelets” that help us retell the story of the first Thanksgiving; each bead signifies another part of the story.  Then we learned about Pilgrim life. How are our lives similar to those of the Pilgrims? How are they different? The students generated a list of categories to explore - food, clothing, transportation, education, play, housing...and then we compared life then to life now.  We read a book that highlighted all of the work of Pilgrim children.  Their chores included caring for siblings, gathering food, collecting eggs, planting and harvesting crops, getting firewood, tending the animals, getting fresh water and much more.  Don’t worry though; Pilgrim children also had toys - wooden or cloth dolls, hoops to roll and balls, and they did learn to read and write (although there were few books other than the Bible to read).  The students imagined what they would do if they were Pilgrims, and then made a fun craft of themselves dressed in Pilgrim clothing. Finally, we thought about things we are thankful for, and made lovely woven placemats to share with our families.  

In language arts we have been talking about mood and what an author does -other than telling us, or showing character’s emotions - to make a book seem cheerful or creepy or idyllic or tense.  We are noticing and thinking about how and why an author might use different lettering or writing styles in their books, about their word choice and of course about how the illustrations establish and support the mood.  The students are extremely skilled at noticing very small details, and thinking about what they contribute to the story. As we write, we are trying to incorporate these lessons into our own personal narratives.   

This week we had a visit from an author, who shared with us the details of her craft - how she generates ideas, her writing process (including drafts, revisions and editing), and what motivates her to write.  She shared two rhyming books that she has written - one about how to be Jewish in space and another about the similarities and differences between two girls - one Ashkenazi and one Mizrachi. This author is actually related to a student in our class - it is Elana Arryoyo, Golan’s mom!  Thank you to Elana for coming to speak with our class authors!

We have hit the 50th day of school!  Our “10’s” necklaces are getting longer!  During calendar each day we engage in a variety of activities that support the development of our math skills, including  patterning, number order, counting on, before/after, odd/even, place value and number writing. Of course, we also practice the days of the week/months of the year, and develop a sense of the passage of time.  

During our Open Circle time we have been working on playing the sock game.  To begin, we just had to call a classmate’s name and gently throw the sock across the circle to them.  Then we called the name and made eye contact. This week we tried to throw the sock just with eye contact, not using the person’s name.  It was hard! Next week we will add an additional challenge! We have also really been enjoying reading What Should Danny Do; every time we read the book, we need to make choices about how Danny should handle various situations that come up during his day.  We have read the book multiple times to see how Danny’s behavior influences how his day turns out. The book has eight different endings, and we have heard about half of them.  

 This week in Yahadut, we took a close look to the special miracles that happened in Sarah’s tent: ענן קשור ברכה בעיסה ונר דולק מערב שבת לערב שבת. We learned that there are Mitzvot that are special for women: lighting candles and hafrashat challah. This shabbat you will enjoy the special “mother’s kit” that you child made for you and includes: candle stick holders, a challah recipe, the blessing for the candles and a challah cover. The students also participates in a shot “play” telling the story of Eliezer and Rivkah.

For ivrit, kindergarten students finished learning the letter ו and shared a ופל (waffer) with their first grade friends.  They started learning the letter ז and the first word :זהב. First graders finished learning the letter ד and practiced reading and writing the words: דן, דינה, דג, דגיג, דגים. We read a story with these words and continue practicing the vowels : קמץ (A) and חיריק (i). 

Happy Birthday to Carmella and to Shterna Sara!  Thank you for bringing in such yummy treats! Thank you also to Tzvi, who donated two very nice books to our classroom in honor of his birthday last month. 

November 15, 2019

17 Cheshvan 5780

This week in Gan Aleph we have begun to study the weather.  Weather is a great topic to focus on, as it is something that we have all experienced - although we did take time to acknowledge that there are children in the world who do not get the excitement of all four seasons.  Our weather unit integrated seamlessly with the rain gauges that the class made last week in conjunction with reciting “mashiv ha ruach” in tefillah! We began by making a list of over 50 weather related words, ranging from foggy to calm to blizzard and supercell!  Students wrote about their favorite type of weather, and why they like it. Then we read an introductory book and watched a “Mystery Science” video about how to classify various types of weather. On Thursday, out we went, to document our own weather (spoiler alert: it was cold!).  Students were encouraged to observe the sky, the temperature, the air and also what people were wearing for clues about the weather. We will take a short break for the next two weeks to focus on Thanksgiving, and then when we return to school in December, we will continue to learn about various types of weather, tools for observing the weather, and patterns in weather.

In writer’s workshop, students were encouraged to choose goals for their writing.  These are skills that they will specifically focus on to make their books easier to read.  Ask your child what their first goal is! In reader’s workshop, we continue to think about words that “pop” for us to put up on our popcorn word wall.  These are words that are significant to the reader - they could be new words, words that were challenging to decode, words related to a theme, or just something that catches their interest as a reader.  In Word Study, one group is practicing various vowel combinations - for instance, ee/ea and ai, while the other group is learning letter sounds (we now have covered t/d, b/p, f/v, k/g a, and both sounds of th - as in “the” and as in “three”).  

All three math groups have completed their first unit of study, and will be moving on to the the second.  Two groups will be learning basic addition facts, while the other will be focussed on numbers 11-20. All students can benefit from real world exposure to reading two and three digit numbers - sports scores, price tags, digital clocks, addresses, calendar dates and page numbers all offer opportunities to read numbers from left to right.  This helps students avoid confusion in reading numbers - is it 27 or 72? 15 or 51?  

While Morah Hila has been in Israel this week with her family celebrating Maoz’s bar mitzvah, Morah Yael and Hodaya have provided games and activities to review the aleph bet letters and vowels that the students have been learning.  In parashat ha shavua, we learned of the three visitors who came to comfort Avraham after his brit, as well as the birth of Yitzchak and the story of Sdom. Students each prepared a page with their address and phone number for a class book - this will allow students to call each other for playdates and also to reach out if a classmate is sick and has not been in school. These mitzvot; hachnasat orchim and bikkur cholim are central to parashat Va’aira.  We also made beautiful “bruchim ha’baim” (welcome) signs for our homes and name plaques for our bedroom doors. Students really enjoyed learning about the special significance of their names, as we learned that Yitzchak was named for the laughter of his mother when she heard that she would be having a child at her advanced age. 

Finally, this week we attended an amazing Bracha Fair organized for us by grade 4-5!  There were projects and activities that helped us learn about the different brachot - and of course, lots of food to nosh on!  We also had the opportunity to experience hachnasat orchim as both hosts and guests during an “open classroom” visit with our friends in the NPK!

Shabbat Shalom!

The Gan Aleph team

PS  Happy birthday to Emily; thanks for the yummy cupcakes and cookies!!

PPS Please be sure your child has appropriate clothing for playing outdoors, and check if they need a seasonal update to their extra clothing box!

November 8, 2019

10 Cheshvan 5780

Writers workshop is definitely one of the most popular things in our schedule; the students are engaged and working so hard to tell their stories!  Each student is focussed on improving their writing based on their own needs. Some of the goals we are addressing are: neat letter formation, spacing between words, pictures and story matching, details in the pictures and writing, showing emotions, having a beginning/middle/end, writing the initial consonant sound of a word, writing sight words accurately, beginning sentences with upper case letters and using punctuation.  We have learned that ANYTHING can be a story! We read the book Ralph Writes a Story, in which Ralph finds out that any experience he has - from an inchworm crawling on his leg to the time his underwear was too tight - can make a story. These “small moments’ are reflected in other books we have been reading, including A Bike Like Sergio’s and Running Shoes, as well as in an original story written by Morah Devorah called “The Bad Haircut”.  During reader’s workshop, we have been looking for words that “POP”; these are words that are significant to the reader in some way - they might evoke a strong feeling, have personal meaning, be newly learned or need a specific strategy to decode.  Of course, this transfers to writer’s workshop, where our classroom authors strive to include great words that “POP” in their own writing!

Our social studies topic for the week was Veteran’s Day.  We discussed what it means to be a hero. Of course, we had to differentiate between a “real hero” and a “superhero”; and we talked about how “not all heroes wear capes”.  We wrote about characteristics of a real hero, including bravery, responsibility, helping people, fighting against bad guys, doing hard things, and saving people. We talked about things that we can do to be “everyday heroes”, like being kind to other people, taking care of our environment and helping out at home.  We read the book Hero Mom, written from the perspective of children whose mothers serve in the armed forces, and made patriotic thank you banners to hang in the hallway.  Our Scholastic News and Let’s Find Out magazines this week were also about the topic of Veteran’s Day.  

For Ivrit, first graders learned the letter ג and the vowel חיריק (hirik). We “met” two new virtual class members: גדי (Gadi) and גילה (Gila). We learned the words: גן (kindergarten), גג (roof) and גב (back). The students did very well with practicing the words that were sent home last week! Keep practicing :)

Kindergarten students learned the letter ה and the words: הורים (parents), הר (mountain), הגה (steering wheel), היפופוטם (hipo).  We practiced writing the letter and splitting the words to teir sounds.

Yahadut- This week was ז חשוון the day that we start saying ותן טל ומטר לברכה in Israel. 

We learned the bracha and made a rain gauge (מד גשם) to check the amount of rain that we get each day.

For Parashat Hashavua, we learned about Avram that was told by Hashem: לך לך”-  go to land that I will show you. Avram goes to eretz C’naan, with his wife Sarai and his nephew, Lot. We talked about the two “presents” that Hashem gave Avram: Eretz Israel  and the blessing of children as many as the sand and the stars. We sang the song לך אתן את הארץ הזאת and concluded with a game about the parashah. 

Next week Morah Hila will be traveling to Israel to celebrate her son Maoz’s bar mitzvah.  Mazal Tov and have a wonderful trip!

November 1, 2019

3 Cheshvan 5780

A five day week of school was such a difference for us!  But we were happy to fill it up with many learning experiences!  

In language arts, we were so excited to begin writers’ workshop!  We began by thinking of what behaviors writers engage in when they work, for instance; finding a good place, gathering the appropriate materials, focus on their writing, share with others, write with words and/or pictures and revise their work.  Then we started writing! There were lots of books about ice cream, a book about girls who can jump in lava, books about superheroes and even a book about broccoli! The energy level was very high as students shared their books with each other and with the class.  Using some of the excellent picture books we have read aloud (Jabari Jumps, Those Shoes and Jamaica’s Find), we generated a list of characteristics of “personal narratives”.  These include: a focus on “small moments”, strong emotions, a beginning/middle/end and a story about a person (specifically, YOU!).  We will work toward developing our sense of narrative both in our reading and writing for the next few weeks. Ask your child what they wrote about in their first book!

In math, we have introduced some new games.  Students have enjoyed trying to beat their score in games of “I have/Who has” as well as Race to 100 and Treasure Chest.  These games help students review skills such as identifying two digit numbers automatically, number order, adding up to 12, and logic and reasoning.  

Our unit on the Senses came to a dramatic conclusion - the story is that when I came to school to make some playdough for the class, but, oh no!  The labels fell off the salt and the sugar jars! How can we put the labels on the right jars? Students all of their five senses to collect information to help us!  Luckily, we were able to identify the salt and the sugar, and now we have some new playdough for the class to use! Student work on the senses should come home on Friday - please make some time to let your child share their work with you.

In Open Circle, we continue to discuss feelings.  We played a game like charades where we tried to get into groups with other people who had the same facial expressions showing boredom, happiness, anger, excitement or surprise.  We also shared scenarios where we might feel various emotions and how the same situation might make people feel different feelings, and also that the same emotion can be expressed in different ways.  

In Ivrit, first graders practiced the letter ב and the words: סבתא and צבע. We learned the names of the different colors: , אדום , כחול, צהוב, ירוק, שחור חום, לבן. We played תופסת צבעים (color tag) and we had a lot of fun! We read the story: הצבע הכי יפה בעולם/ פאול קור  (the most beautiful color in the world) and wrote about our favorite color. We finished the letter ב with הכתבה.

Kindergarten students learned the letter ד and the words: דבש (honey), דג (fish), דלעת (pumpkin), דבק (glue), דגל (flag). We shaped the letter ד in the shape of a flag and practiced writing it in our notebooks. 

Vocabulary: Both groups continue practicing words that are related to school tools such as: עיפרון, מחדד, מספריים, תיק etc..

For Yahadut, we spent the week exploring parashat Noah. The students watched a puppet show of the story of Noah and the ark and got to know the Hebrew words: תיבה, מבול, עורב, יונה, ענף זית, קשת בענן, הר אררט as well as Noah's family members: his wife Na'ama and his 3 sons: שם, חם ויפת. 

We discussed the number of animals that came into the ark and read a story about how important each animal can be. Thank you to Golan's family for sending in the book. 

Then it was time to "build our own teivah" ! The students built arks using different materials and had to be ready for the flud (a cup of water) to see if the people and the animals in the ark stayed dry. 

Our next activity was shared with the 2-3 students. We watched a video about rainbows and how are they created. We created rainbows using a cup of water and a flashlight and made a craft together. 

To conclude the parashat We learned about מגדל בבל and the results of building it. 

Tefillah- we had a very special week. We took out the Torah 4 Times! We learned and added the special Teffilot for Rosh chodesh: יעלה ויבוא and הלל. 

חודש טוב!

October 25, 2019

26 Tishrei 5780

You will be pleased to know that almost all the students in our class can recognize the smell of mint toothpaste!  That was one of the mystery scents in our “what does your nose know?” identification challenge this week! Toothpaste, along with dryer sheets, baby powder, vanilla and perfume were placed in covered cups, so that students could only use their sense of smell to determine what was inside. In addition, students were challenged to sort themselves into three groups based on what flavor tea bag they were given - apple cinnamon, raspberry or lemon.  Some students have extremely sensitive noses! Others noticed that nasal congestion made it harder to distinguish the various smells. We also discussed how our senses can help us in various situations; for instance, our sense of smell can help us identify a fire through the smoke, or spoiled food through a bad odor. Next week we will conclude our investigation of our senses by studying the sense of sight, as well as a special activity that will require the students to use all of their senses together.  

In language arts, we have been reading many books that allow us to focus on emotions, and to notice how good authors show, rather than simply tell, how their characters are feeling (and how good readers can use clues both in the author’s language and the illustrations to know how characters are feeling!).  This week we read Jamaica’s Find,  about a girl who finds a stuffed dog on the playground.  Our students are getting very sensitive to expressions of emotions in the books that we read, and also finding “strong feelings” in the books they are reading independently.  When you read together with your child at home, keep looking for those feelings, and notice how the author lets you know about them.

This focus on feelings is reflected in our Open Circle curriculum; one of the foundational elements of the Open Circle is the development of the ability to identify, express, and manage one's feelings. People with these skills are more successful dealing with internal and interpersonal challenges.  Our class generated a list of over forty feeling words, ranging from frustrated to excited, from jittery to goofy and so much more! Recognizing and naming feelings, and validating that all feelings are acceptable - and that how we express them is crucial - is a process that continues on a daily basis in our classroom.  Please see the attached Open Circle home link for more information.

In Ivrit, first graders finished the letter ב (Beit) and will move on to ב (veit) in the next few days. This week we practiced reading short sentences such as: אבא בבית, בלון אדום, שלום שחר. Putting the words into a sentence helps them practice the words in a wider content and realize they can say short sentences by using the words we learned so far. 

A list of these words will be sent home soon for more practice.

Kindergarten students practiced their vocabulary for the letters: א, ב , ג and started learning ד. We shared words that start with ד and learned the song : 3 דגים יצאו לטייל בים. You can sing it together using this link:

In Yahatdut, we learned about תפילת הגשם that we said on shemini Atzeret and we are adding: “משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם” to our daily Teffilah. 

We had a wonderful opening for our Parashah learning! We learned about parashat Bereisheet and demonstrated בריאת העולם (the creation of the world) layer by layer. The students made their own creation story and were excited to see how everything combines together to create one big picture.

October 11, 2019

12 Tishrei 5780

In language arts, we are focussing on what characters’ might say, when the author does not give them words.  As we read a book, we can touch a character and imagine what they might say! What might Corduroy say when he is poised at the bottom of the escalator?  What might Frances say when Albert describes his elaborate lunch - and all she has is bread and jam?  We also practiced speaking in the way that characters do! Using the classic book Caps for Sale, we “acted” out the story by using our voices and gestures to match the story.  When you read together at home, encourage your child to put words into the characters’ mouths, or to speak the way the characters might!  

In science, we have been learning about our senses, beginning with the sense of taste and the sense of hearing.  This integrates very well into many of the experiences of the Tishrei holidays. We had a taste test of various foods, and described the different tastes - sour, salty, sweet and bitter.  Some foods surprised us; for instance, cocoa smells like chocolate, but tastes bitter! Ask your child what food tastes they prefer! We learned about how the ear is designed to capture sounds, and how the structures inside the ear transform vibrations into recognizable sounds.  We are collecting all of our work to bring home at the end of the month.  

In Ivrit, kindergarten students are learning the letter ג and the words: גלידה (ice cream), גרביים (socks), גמל (camel), גיר ( chalk) and גג ( roof). We practice our oral skills using a lotto game. The children used the structure of: למי יש____ , לי יש / אין ____

(who has….? I have/don’t have) in order to get the card.

First graders are learning the letter ב and met a new “student” in the virtual classroom named ברק (Barak). We learned the words: בלון, בית, סבא

We continue our vocabulary learning for both groups. Our new subject is : things in the classroom and we learned words such as: שולחן, כיסא, ארון, חלון, לוח as well as: דבק, מחק, עיפרון, מספריים, סרגל, קלמר, ילקוט.

In Yahahdut- last week was dedicated to Yom kippur. We learned about the different laws of Yom Kippur, and made our own “Yom Kipppur” book. We talked about the process of “Teshuva” and the stages that are required  in order to do” Teshuva”. We concluded with the story about Yonah and the whale. The children took part in a play about the story of Yonah and discussed the connection of the story to Yom Kippur. This week we are learning about Sukkot, discussing the laws for a kosher sukkah, and  4 המינים. We made decorations to decorate the school sukkah and are excited for our sukkah hopping next week.

September 27, 2019

27 Elul 5779

What a full week we had in Gan Aleph!

In Language Arts, we have been focusing on using our “linger finger” when we read.  This encourages us to pay close attention to the details in the pictures. The author gives so much information in the illustrations and being aware of that information helps us in reading the text.  Students had the opportunity to show the whole class what they noticed to the whole class by using the document camera and the projector. For instance, one student reading a funny book about a woman who is bathing her animals told us  that the duck was running away, which he could tell because he noticed the duck’s feather’s flying. He also noticed a door with some coats and an umbrella behind it; because of this, he was able to decode the word “closet” in the text.  Our “linger finger” encourages close reading and attention to detail. Our read to ourselves stamina has increased to nine minutes! In word study, some students are focussing on gaining automaticity in letter-sound correspondence - being able to make the sound that matches the letter.  So far they have focussed on b,p,d,t,f and v. We classify the sounds as “voice on” and “voice off” - you can tell by putting your fingers on your throat when you make the sound - your throat will vibrate when the sound is on. Other students have been reviewing consonant digraphs sh, th, ch, whi, ph, kn and ck.

In math, some students have been working on number recognition and one-one correspondence, number sequencing and correct number formation for numbers up to 20,  Other students are working on the same skills, but using numbers up to 120. 

In science we are learning about our senses.  We went to Ginat SHAS to observe the beautiful setting using all of our senses.  Ask your child what they saw, heard, felt, smelled and (did not) taste! We have generated a number of questions about our senses, including: how do they work?  When do they start? Can you live without any senses? Students were very interested to learn that as you age, some of your senses become less acute. The first sense we investigated closely was taste.  We did an activity to map where on our tongues we can taste certain things better. Ask your child what the procedure was, and if they had a taste that they liked - or did not like! Next week we will continue to learn about our sense of taste, and sort various food items into categories.  

Our Open Circle discussion this week was about non-verbal communication.  We established a set of common gestures that we can all recognize and that will help our Open Circle classroom run smoothly.  Please see the Home Link to read more about what we have been doing in Open Circle.

In Ivrit, first graders finished the letter Aleph (א). We learned the words: ארון, אני, אבא, סבא, אדום, אריאות. We had our first “Hachtava” and talked about how to practice the words at home for future Hachtavot. Kindergarten students finished the letter Aleph and started the letter ב.   We continued our learning about body parts.

Yom Huledet Samayach to Golan!  We celebrated Golan’s Hebrew birthday in class this week.  Thank you to Golan’s family for the yummy cookies!

September 20, 2019

20 Elul 5779

It was great to see so many of you at back to school night this week.  We really appreciate the opportunity to share information about our program with you.  If you were not able to make it, please check your child’s Friday Folder for the handout.  If you have any questions, now or at any time during the year, please be in touch!

Some highlights of the class this week were:

  • Learning about the style of artist Piet Mondrian.  Stay tuned to see some beautiful artwork created by your children!
  • Observing, discussing and practicing the reading strategy of using pictures to help figure out unfamiliar words in our books.  We are up to seven minutes of read to ourselves time, and each child has filled their own book baskets to use during readers workshop.
  • Reading the now classic book Something from Nothing and relating it to things that are special to us.
  • Playing some new math games involving finding missing numbers (up to 120), matching numbers to their number words, and how to represent numbers with ten frames.
  • We also read Sophie and the Shofa, by Fran Manushkin.  Ask your child about the mistake that Sophie made.

September 13, 2019

13 Elul 5779

This week our students were introduced to Reader’s Workshop.  In this teaching model, students learn skills and strategies for decoding and comprehension individually or in small groups, and then have the opportunity to practice while reading books of their choice.  We began with an activity to help students understand that they all can already read! They can read facial expressions, emoji’s, environmental print such as signs and labels and even music! Using the document camera to project the book onto the smart board, we “read” a wordless picture book called A Boy, A Dog and A Frog, by Mercer Mayer.  In this fun book, a boy goes out to catch a frog, but isn’t successful...later, he is surprised to find that the frog follows him home - and right into the tub!  Using sepia toned illustrations, Mercer Mayer is able to tell the whole story without any words! The students used the details in the illustrations to explain how they could “read” this book.  We saw how the smallest thing - the quirk of a lip, the set of the shoulder, the direction that an eye is glancing - can tell the reader so much. Hopefully this will sensitize our students, both as readers and as writers, to the importance of details in telling a story.  Students finished this lesson by reading a wide variety of wordless picture books with a partner.  

Then we talked about people who are professionals, and very good at what they do.  Using Tom Brady as an example, we thought about what it means to practice and why people who want to become very good at something will practice - even if it’s hard, even if it’s discouraging, and even if they are already pretty good at the task. If we want to become good readers, or better readers, we will have to practice regularly.  The time to do that is during readers workshop. Each student selected a space in the classroom for their reading spot. Then we practiced moving quickly and quietly to that spot and reading for five minutes. We will try to increase our stamina so that we can read for increasingly longer periods of time.  

In math, both kindergarten and first grade students worked on increasing their understanding of groups of numbers.  Kindergarten students worked on numbers 1-10, and first grade students on numbers up to 25. This includes writing the numbers correctly, representing them using manipulatives or notations systems such as ten frames or tally makes, being able to tell what comes before and after, and how to write the corresponding number words.  

In science we discussed various measurement tools that scientists use, and how to match the correct tool to the task.   For instance, how would you measure a spider ? How about an elephant? What tools are there to measure volume? Or time?  Then we worked as scientists to explore apples! We measured them using unifix cubes and teddy bear counters, cut yarn to match their circumference, drew detailed drawings of them, found out if the apple would sink or float and finally cut them open to count the number of seeds and to eat them!  We also learned about the parts of an apple and the life cycle of apple trees.  

Our Open Circle activities have been focussed on getting to know each other.  We played “would you rather” (would you rather have an extra nose, or an extra arm?  Would you rather eat only pizza for a week, or only cereal and milk? Would you rather live in an igloo or in a tent?).  We are also reading the interactive “choose your own adventure” style book What Should Danny Do? (, which features a child who has the superpower of making his own choices; as the readers, we can see how those choices influence Danny’s life.  

In Ivrit, we are learning the letter א. First graders are working in their “Ariot” books and kindergarten students are practicing sound recognition as well as words that start with the letter א. All the students have notebooks that are used to practice their writing. 

In addition to that, we are dedicating part of the lesson to Hebrew vocabulary every day. We are now learning the names of our body parts through singing, dancing and playing. 

Yahadut- as part of our preparations to chodesh Elul, we read the story, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and talked about ways to fill each other’s “buckets” and make them feel better. We decorated our own buckets and this week we will try to fill them with as much kindness and מעשים טובים as we can.

Have a Shabbat Shalom!

The Gan Aleph team

September 6, 2019

6 Elul 5779

Wow, what a great first week of school we had!  Our class started the year off very easily and has already gotten right to work!

This week we have been spending time getting to know each other; playing lots of name games, sharing information and souvenirs from our summers,  and working on a variety of activities in small groups and with partners.  

In language arts, we were all so excited to read a brand new book by favorite author Mo Willems - The Pigeon HAS to Go to School.  Pigeon is initially not looking forward to going to school - why does he even have to go? He already knows everything! And what if he doesn't like it? What if the teacher doesn't like him? What if he learns so much that his head pops off!? All the unknowns make him “stressed out” and nervous, and he wishes there was someplace calm, with experts and other birds where he could practice the skills that he is not sure about - BUT WAIT - there is!!  In the end, Pigeon is excited to go to school, especially when he realizes that he will get there by… (ask your child!). Students wrote about their own first day of school feelings, made their own Pigeon craft, and wrote about how the Pigeon’s feelings changed from the beginning to the end of the book.  We also read about Pete the Cat and Froggy’s school experiences. 

In math, we have been using our names to explore some foundational math concepts such as patterning, one-one correspondence, writing numbers, comparing numbers, cardinality, and representing data with graphs.  Ask your child who in the class has the longest name. How about the shortest? What’s the most common number of letters in our names?  

We discussed what scientists do (with a long segue into the job of paleontologists!), and how much of their work involves trying different ideas and making mistakes.  If scientists already knew all of the answers they wouldn’t have anything to do! Then we worked in partners to try to build a tall tower out of 25 index cards. It was difficult!  The towers fell down a lot! Sometimes the partners didn’t communicate well! You couldn’t use any tape or anything, just the index cards! This experience was valuable for a number of reasons:  

It gave us practice working with a partner; this is something we will do all year long.

It allowed us to brainstorm and try different ideas

It allowed us to experience frustration in a safe environment

It gave us the opportunity to evaluate various strategies for success (ask your child what you could do to the index card to make the tower taller)

In social studies we learned a bit about Labor Day and talked about various careers.  We wrote about what type of jobs each student might want to do in the future. We also had our first Open Circle.  Open Circle is a social emotional learning curriculum which proactively develops children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, empathy, positive relationships and problem solving.  This is our second year using Open Circle in our classroom; since the curriculum spirals, our first graders will have the opportunity to revisit these important topics from their new, more mature vantage point.  Please see the attached letter for more information about Open Circle.

In Ivrit, we got to know each other’s Hebrew names, through different games. We played with a parachute and got under it according to the first letter in our names. We decorated name tags and covers for our Hebrew binders and new notebooks.

We went on a treasure hunt and found a box full of our Ariot books (for first graders) and Hebrew notebooks (for kindergarteners). We are very excited to start reading and writing in Hebrew!

In Yahadut we talked about the names of the Hebrew months, we counted them and discussed the different holidays in each month. We learned a song about the months and the new year, you can listen to it here: 

The students practiced putting the months in the right order and matching them to the correct holiday.

Thank you to everyone for sending in school supplies (no worries; you can always send them in next week as well).  Look for our decorated stars on the bulletin board in the main hallway.  

Have a shabbat shalom!

The Gan Aleph Team

August 30, 2019

29 Av 5779

We hope you had a wonderful summer!  See you on Tuesday!

Shabbat Shalom