stories of the week:
The Case of the Silent “E,” and Other Lessons in Phonics
This year at Hillel, K-3 teachers are using a new phonics curriculum designed by Lucy Calkins, the author of the Readers’ and Writers’ Workshops curriculum also in place at Hillel. The curriculum unfolds in an engaging, story-like manner, with each new lesson picking up where the previous one left off, and giving students the roles of “phonics professors” who share a common language that helps them decode words in reading, improve their spelling, and grow as writers.
This year, teachers have seen improvement; students are becoming more thoughtful in identifying patterns in reading and spelling as they come to understand the difference between digraphs (two letters making one sound as in ph) and consonant blends (two consonants making two sounds as in sn); the “bossy R” that controls vowels; and the “silent e” at the end of a word that always causes the vowel in front of it to “say its name,” as in “make,” and the exception to that rule in “have.”
“What’s amazing about this program is that we’re seeing phonics transfer to reading and writing in ways we did not in the past,” say first and second grade teachers Jodi Tepper and Julie Tigay, whose enthusiasm for the program is contagious.
Mrs. Tepper pulled out a sticky note that a student had used during reading to mark words that supported (and were exceptions to) the rule of the “silent e.” “That’s just one example,” she said. “In writing, we’re also seeing students pause to apply a rule or pattern they’ve learned, and it’s truly improving their spelling.”
“The most important part is that the kids are having fun, they’re totally engaged, and feeling excited while they’re learning, which as we know, affects a positive outcome!”
manipulatives in math build strong number sense
How do you add 50+60 when you only have 10 fingers? First graders grappled with this conundrum this week as they practiced addition and subtraction. Fortunately, they had a trusty visual manipulative at hand, Base-10 Blocks that come in various sizes to indicate place value, and which teach students to express, build, and deconstruct numbers.
“These tools are especially beneficial when you move into practicing equations where a number has three digits,” teacher Nancy Cohen explained, as she worked with students on 50+60 using base blocks that represented the number 10.
“110,” they cried out triumphantly!
After completing their worksheets, students moved onto Work Places that reinforced addition and subtraction skills, such as one in which you roll a die, double its value, and subtract or add one.
“These activities build fact fluency,” said teacher Lizzie Emmer, our K-4 Math Curriculum Coordinator, “so that when they get to second grade, they can add, subtract, and multiply larger numbers in a meaningful way.”
a look at second grade ivrit
Engaging stories pave the way to proficiency in Hebrew in our lower grades, where this week second graders read “Welcome, Yehuda,” a relatable story about a boy on his first day in a new school. The students then cut out accompanying illustrations and sentences from the story, and put them in the correct order on their own, and read the sentences to one another; the activity was also a way for Morah Amalia Poris to assess their reading comprehension. Students Asher Kaluzny and Ryland Kaplan explained it best:
“It helps us learn when we play around with the words and pictures, and put them in order,” said Asher Kaluzny.
alumni focus: hannah stryk (class of 2016)
For Hannah Stryk, Hillel ticked off all her boxes - she developed close relationships with teachers who encouraged her, and recognized her strengths in math and science; she made lasting friendships; and she felt transformed by her Judaic Studies learning and eighth grade trip to Israel.
Now, the Frankel Jewish Academy senior plans to pursue medicine as a career in the fall, on the campus of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
“I find biology and how the body works so interesting,” Hannah says. “And when I was taking AP biology in eleventh grade, my study of cells in seventh grade at Hillel, with Leslie Baron, definitely came back to me.”
Mrs. Baron in particular, and all her Hillel teachers in general, exhibited regularly that “they had our best interests at heart,” Hannah recalls. “They challenged us to work at our level, and they boosted our confidence by complimenting our work.”
Hillel also taught Hannah how to work effectively in groups, an advantage she noticed over her peers coming from other schools when she arrived at FJA. “High school is always a transition for everyone, but I noticed that things smoothed out for me easily after a time, because of the work ethic and study skills instilled in me at Hillel,” she says.
Hillel’s dual curriculum also served her well at FJA, where she continues to successfully manage the rigor of a dual curriculum. Learning Hebrew at a young age helps, she said, and her admiration for Israel has only grown. After subsequent trips to Israel, and taking an FJA course on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hannah says, “it’s remarkable how Israel maintains itself as a small country in that region. What I’ve learned makes me want to get involved in AIPAC, and Hillel on campus.”
Hannah has returned to Hillel on occasion to speak to students, and plans to attend her class reunion in the spring. “Hillel will always be special to me,” she says. “I miss it, and I had a great experience there. Now, I have confidence in my abilities, and I’m ready for what’s next.”
ecc courtyard bricks
Are you looking for a gift for your parents or your children? Consider purchasing a brick for our ECC courtyard, and leave a lasting legacy at Hillel Day School. Bricks come in several sizes. All purchases and/or donations are tax deductible. Purchase a brick and/or learn more here.
support hillel with amazonsmile
Did you know your purchases can make a difference? Don’t forget to use AmazonSmile for your Chanukah shopping. AmazonSmile donates to Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit when you do your shopping here.