Kodesh Curriculum

 

We at Beit Shvidler firmly believe that Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) is not just a subject or lesson, but rather like the Torah itself, it is a living topic. It is our lifestyle, it is our guidance and role model.

Our intent, whilst giving over knowledge and skills of Kodesh, is to simultaneously imbue a deep sense of love, excitement and enthusiasm in all areas and facets of Torah Judaism and to develop a lifelong thirst for Torah and Shmiras Hamitzvos(Observance). 

Limudei Kodesh at Beit Shvidler is taught with a multi-faceted approach. There is a strong emphasis on skills, knowledge and understanding, whilst aiming to appeal to all types of learners. This gives a broad and varied range of experiences to teach, enthral and embed the messages conveyed in the Torah.

As part of the awareness that Kodesh is a living topic, our staff understand that as well as offering instructional teaching, they are in fact role models of what an Eved Hashem (a follower of G-d) looks like, ambassadors of continuous learning as well as striving for self-improvement and Middos Tovos (excellent character traits). The teachers work hard to develop positive relationships with pupils ensuring that the Kodesh experience is enriching and spiritual, which places a strong value relationships and connections.

We endeavour to ensure that every pupil will reach their potential and to that end, we engage in a variety of teaching methods that reach out to every child. We are cognisant that children learn at their own pace and in their own unique style and aim to provide a range of activities and tools that will engage and excite children in their learning.   This is done using a range of tools from  Hebrew texts, ICT and real life experiences to bring the messages of Torah, Mitvos and Chesed (Kindness) alive to the children.

The curriculum is undergoing a major overhaul to reflect the school’s desire to grow and follow the latest educational guidance. We are reviewing each subject that is  taught and what we want our pupils to come out with both in terms of skills, understanding and practical knowledge. This will   ensure that  there is a consolidation, building on firm foundations and taking their learning to a new level at each stage of their education.  The outcome will be  a fresh, relevant and exciting curriculum that enthuses and engages the pupils in their learning and personal growth.

Our Kodesh staff blend traditional teaching methods with a range of technology to captivate the children, and maintain their interest.  The school continually supports the professional development of staff and is keen to promote teacher training to ensure that all staff are at the cutting edge of educational development and change.

Taking responsibility for society and beyond is a key theme- every half term the school adopts a Tzedokoh (charity) to learn about the charity’s valuable work for the community and raising funds so they can continue to function becomes a whole school endeavour. This reinforces to the children that they too have a role to play and a contribution to make. That  the giving of Tzedokoh is core value, encouraging the pupils to be thoughtful and considerate to those around them by  giving  extra support in the form of time or money.

Beit Shvidler seeks to nurture and encourage a sense of Achdus (unity) with Klal Yisroel (Jewish People) together with love for Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel).  This close association with Israel is recognised through special Assemblies and events to commemorate Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

Years 5 and 6 commemorate days of national reflection such as Yom HoShoah (Holocaust memorial day) and Yom HaZikoron (remembering Jewish soldiers lost in battle) with special Mincha assemblies followed by activities and guest speakers.  These assemblies have a reflective and more sombre mood to which the children apply themselves with maturity and give dignity to the day in an appropriate manner.

The informal program also includes activities such as Rosh Chodesh assemblies and activities, visiting local old age homes, model Sedorim, Tu B’Shevat celebrations, Shofar practice, Succah decoration design and Menorah building competitions. We also have Siddur and Chumash celebrations all designed to contribute to the unique Ruach (atmosphere) that permeates the school.

Reading

Fluent and accurate reading skills are the entry point into many areas of Jewish life and learning. Without good reading skills many activities become difficult, stressful and at times fraught with anxiety. This could be  when reading, Davening or exploring new texts.

At Beit Shvidler our intent is to create excellent readers and then to ensure that this high level of reading is maintained by instilling the habit of practice, reading and text awareness.

 

Reading programme

Nursery

Environmental Hebrew texts in the classroom and around the school.

Reception

Hebrew Reading is taught. This includes the learning of all letters, vowels, simple words and Shevoh rules. By the end of the year most children can read slowly, from a Siddur,  with a good Shevoh rule awareness.

KS1

The teaching of Hebrew reading is still a major part of the Kodesh lessons. Hebrew reading is strongly reinforced with regular revision of all reading rules, ensuring the children understand and are familiar with  using the rules from a range texts such as Davening, Chumash or Nach.

KS2

As well as continuing to focus on accurate reading, the children are encouraged to build on the fluency of their reading. Rashi font is introduced to the children with an emphasis on reading Rashi texts with vowels. The children are further exposed to texts from Tehillim, the Sedra and a further range of texts that  may occur in their  Kodesh learning opportunities.

Reading in Reception is taught in a systematic, fun and engaging method, following the methodology of the sefer “ HaMesores HaSholem”. The lessons are varied and  creative, working in small groups to give lots of personalised attention and opportunities for differentiation. In KS1 and KS2 reading is revised using the “Rule of the Week” programme developed in house. Each week the whole school focuses on one reading rule to revise, reinforce and practice in an age appropriate format. This is followed up in the homework reading practice booklet given out each Monday. The rule of the week is further explained and promoted in its own column “Read it Right” in the weekly Shvidler Shmooze newsletter.

We assess the children three times a year, in November, February and June. Assessment of Hebrew reading helps the school to ensure that every child in Beit Shvidler is reading accurately and at a good pace. The KS1 assessment focuses solely on accuracy, whilst the KS2 assessment focuses on both accuracy and fluency. The children in KS2  need to pass both elements of the assessment, being both accurate and fluent readers,  in order to be deemed to be reading at a good level.  

The data collected allows us to examine where each child in the school is holding, whilst ensuring that no child slips under the radar. Every child must be given the best opportunities to improve their skills and where a child is deemed below the expected level, the school endeavours to implement a plan to help boost the child’s reading with a multi prong approach of both home and school support.

Davening

The purpose of teaching Tefilloh (Prayers) at Beit Shvidler is to ensure that the pupils develop into long term Daveners (those who Pray) who feel a strong connection to Hashem through Davening.

The children, who at this stage in their lives have no obligation to Daven, should begin to engage with Tefilloh. They should understand whom we Daven to and  what Davening is; thanks, praise, request and a chance to “touch base” with Hashem.

The children should develop an appreciation of how Davening evolved and was set into the Siddur as we have it today, and how our individual, private Tefillos should fit into this communal Davening. By sowing the knowledge of deep Mesorah (tradition) found in our Tefillos, we aim to instil a firm relevance of Tefilloh for today, tomorrow and beyond.

The children in KS1 Daven parts of Shacharis (morning prayers) every morning. Monday and Wednesday we have whole school Davening assembly. The other days of the week the children Daven in their classroom.

KS2 Daven both Shacharis and Mincha (afternoon prayers) on a daily basis. Being mindful of the 20-minute slot dedicated to Shacharis it is not possible to Daven everything well each day. Teachers should pick and choose a variety of Tefillos to Daven each day,  ensuring that all Tefillos are said over the week.

The children learn the Tefillos of their year group, as per the syllabus. The first term of each academic year should be ensuring that prior learning is well embedded, with new Tefillos being taught from January. When teaching new Tefillos the emphasis is on the accurate and correct reading so that they Daven the Tefilloh correctly.

One element of teaching Davening is teaching the Tefillos, however this on its own will not achieve the goals of long term engaged Daveners. The children need to understand the structure of the Davening and the gist of the Tefillos they are saying.

To this end we have set aside one Davening slot each week for every class to focus on the meaning of the Tefillos, focusing on a different element of Shacharis, focusing on what Davening means to them and to Hashem. These sessions are known as “Tefilloh Talk”, allowing the children time to question, reflect and build their personal rapport with Tefilloh and Hashem. Tefilloh talk is largely discussion based, however there is some written element to Tefilloh Talk, presented as a project, wall display or booklet.

Year group

Areas of discovery

1

Birchas HaShachar

2

Birchas HaTorah and concepts found in  Adon Olam

3

Shema

4

The Amidoh

5

Pesukai Dezimroh

6

Revision, Hashkofos and to be familiar around the siddur, with time being given to the Shabbos Tefillos.

Chumash

Our aim, at Beit Shvidler  is to create independent, thoughtful Chumash learners who display a love and enthusiasm for learning. We endeavour to provide the students with the required tools, skills and thinking mind set. Skills are taught in a methodical manner, that require constant revision and opportunities to apply and consolidate previously learnt skills whilst slowly introducing new skills that build on their knowledge. Accurate reading remains an important and integral focus as good reading and translation are strongly correlated.

Accurate reading and translation skills are crucial, but these are just the keys to open the wealth of understanding, Limmudim (lessons) and key messages that the Torah gives over to us. As Torah is a living lesson we expect the children to come away with a clear understanding of chronology, the story line, main characters of the Torah, the valuable lesson they impart to us as well as an understanding of the Halochos (Jewish Law) learnt from Torah. These lessons will be taught with the help of Meforshim (Rabbinical explanatory sources), primarily but not exclusively, Rashi. It is imperative that the children have a clear understanding of Torah Sh’ Bichsav (written Torah) and Sh’ Baal Peh (orally transmitted Torah) that the two are learnt in tandem to gain a clear understanding of the Torah’s message.

Chumash is to be taught from Year 2. Each year group has its allocated Parshios, key words and Chumash translation skills to be taught to that year. Revision is the key to ensuring that the children have a good working knowledge of the required grammar skills with practice becoming firmly embedded in the children’s minds.

Chumash is generally taught from a Chumash, although the teacher should employ a variety of teaching aids to engage and further enhance the children’s understanding of the text. Flashcards, power points and Interactive technology such as SMART, sheets and colour coding all add to deepening the children’s understanding.

KS2 classes are split to help give all the children the best possible educational outcomes. The way the class is split will be decided on a class-by-class basis, dependant on the class’s needs.  This may it be due to the academic or behavioural needs of the class. The teachers constantly communicate to ensure the best outcomes for the children, with the main class teacher keeping up to date as to where the small group is up to as well as what the needs of the individual children are, in tandem with regular Chumash assessments, making changes to the groups to ensure that  on child’s learning  is left behind. 

Weekly Chumash tests for KS2 are given on a Monday morning. All marks of pupils from Years’ 3 - 6 are then recorded on an excel database, which is used for tracking and assessing pupil progress.

The teaching of the weekly Sedra, also called Parshas HaShuvoh, covers the content of the Parsha that is read in Shul that Shabbos. The weekly Sedra is part of the observance and participation of Torah life in a community, and should be understood in the context of the annual cycle of reading in Shul.

Parshas HaShavuah has always been treated by our Rabbonim primarily as a platform for values instruction. “Living with the Torah” meant deriving every-day life values from the events presented in the Parshas HaShavuoh, with principles such as לבנים מעשה אבות סימן  – “the actions of our ancestors  are  fortuitous and give guidance to their descendants”  being a major factor in the reading  and learning of the Parsha.

 The Sedra curriculum is intended to give the children an understanding of how:

  • The weekly Sedra’s centrality to Shabbos observance
  • The concept of timeless Mesorah (transmission of Torah and its traditions from generation to generation)
  • A global understanding of the Torah, events, personalities and lessons continue to pertain to us today
  • Our keen anticipation and delight in the run up to Shabbos
  • The richness that the weekly Sedra brings to the Shabbos table
  • The children’s vital contribution to the Torah discussions during Shabbos, as each child is expected to share their Dvar Torah over Shabbos.

The teaching of the Sedra is not designed for translations and knowledge of Chumash as this is covered in Chumash lessons.  Sedra lessons focus on Mesorah, an overview of events of the Sedra, a glimpse of the lessons, an understanding of the Halochos and an appreciation of the gems all contained in the weekly Sedra. 

 Another facet of the Parshas HaShavouh was created by חז״ל, this was the link and reflection to the events in the Jewish calendar – holy days and fasts, creating a cycle where the Parshas Hashavouh is almost an adjacent to the Halochos and Minhogim occurring in the annual life of a Jew. This carefully planned and constructed connection to the Parsha is dovetailed and addressed in the Sedra syllabus.

For all of the above reasons, the weekly Sedra has its own place in the Kodesh timetable. The lessons are not text based, but will refer extensively to texts. The lessons are fun, engaging and somewhat less formal with practical, hands on learning opportunities, taught with a range of teaching tools in order to engage all members of the class.

EYFS spend 2-3 lessons a week teaching the basic story line, in an age appropriate manner, using lots of interactive, hands on real life experiences to teach the children the story line of the Sedra. The children take home an activity they have done to demonstrate the children’s learning and act as an aide to help them  remember and talk about their learning.  This may be a craft, a set of photos recording their learning or a song they have learnt.

KS1 have 2 lessons a week for Sedra. The children have Sedra questions and a written activity to show their learning and understanding of the story line with a simple practical life lesson learnt from the Sedra.

KS2 spend a lesson a week on Sedra. The children do a very quick review of the whole Sedra and will focus in depth on one element of the Sedra. Each year group will focus on a different area, with the intention that by the time the children reach Year 6, they will have a good mastery of the content and lessons of the Sedros.

General knowledge

We intend to give the children a broad and rich General knowledge so that the children have a detailed understanding and grasp of Jewish facts, figures and a knowledge of how the many facets of Yiddishkite interlink. The children will gain an understanding of chronology of events, dates and Halochos, as well as an understanding of how to look up and find this information.

Whilst it would be amazing if the children know all these facts and figures off by heart, this is a shallow level of learning and we strive for the children to have a far deeper understanding and appreciation of this material, its origins and how it fits into practical Torah lifestyle.

As well as having discreet General Knowledge lessons, the syllabus is interwoven with all the other Kodesh lessons, such as Chumash, Tefilloh, Sedra and Yomim Tovim. This creates a deep learning experience, in which the children gain an insight into interconnectivity of real Torah.

Each year group has its age appropriate syllabus, however this deep level of embeddedness is dependent on consistent revision of previous years’ material. This is further reinforced with our annual Ba’al Peh learning competition, a voluntary school wide competition to learn as many facts, figures and pertinent details. This has been enthusiastically received by the children who enjoy stretching themselves to learn at their personal best. This culminates with the grand finale, where the children’s success is celebrated.

The broad General Knowledge program in place throughout the school, culminates in the   Etgar program for Year 5 that sees the children participate in a class trip to partake in a national event. This event brings hundreds of 10 year olds together, highlighting that we are part of an amazing Klal Yisroel, all holding similar values and all learning the same Torah. The children leave with an incredible sense of belonging, vast wealth of knowledge and having created a wonderful Kiddush Hashem.

Yomim Tovim

We aim to give the children the most wonderful, vibrant, informative and eclectic Yom Tov (festival) experience. The lessons are joyous, interactive, engaging as possible all whilst instilling a love for the Yom Tov,  with an excitement, a deep understanding of the origins, Halochos (laws) and Minhogim (customs).

The children are taught at their level of the understanding of the story line; its origins whether it be Min Hatorah (From the Torah) or Derabonon (Rabbinical ordained). The children, as they gain maturity, are taught the Halochos on a deeper level and with each Yom Tov, according to time dependant constraints, the source of each Halocho. As we have a wide variety of family back rounds, it is always a source of pride and fascination for the children describe their personal Minhogim with their peers.

Music and crafts play a big part in any Yom Tov using the opportunity to spread the joy of Yom Tov and the understanding of Hiddur Mitzva (beautifying a Mitzva).

Many Yomim Tovim have their own special assembly and celebration which brings the school together to celebrate and consolidate the learning. On Tu Bishvat (birthday of trees) we have a school fruit party, Pesach the EYFS and KS1 partake in Model Sedorim. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) has a more serious atmosphere, with Tefillos, Tzedokoh and Selichos being said together. Chanukah is enjoyed with lively whole school assemblies and Purim has its own unique favour with dressing up and giving of Mishloach Monos (gifts of food).  Shavous is marked with an enthusiastically attended family learning programme held in the school hall.

Each Yom tov has its own distinct flavour, atmosphere and unique way of celebration. The children gain an enormous sense of connection, identity and pride.