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Elementary Experiences

Elementary Experiences


Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Candy Kahn


A day in the life of a kindergartener!

Our fantastic Kindergarten class has been hard at work and play. They have all made the huge transition from Pre-K into their first school class beautifully! We are so proud of them!

The children are learning to recognize their numbers, letter names and sounds, and sight words. They each read in class daily, either individually or in groups and receive a short reader to take home and practice with their parents.

The Kindergarten day is jam packed with activities! We start out with our “Daily Fix-it”, where children are learning to correct grammar in a sentence. We have learnt about spacing, a period and having uppercase letters for names and the beginning of sentences. The children use editing marks to correct the sentence. Next we move onto centers which include our Journal writing where our emergent writers craft sentences to match the picture they have drawn. They use best guess spelling which shows their knowledge of letters and sounds. Another center includes phonics where children practice matching sounds and letters, alphabetic order, sequencing of stories, rhyming and other language skills. The third center is guided reading. Here the children read in small groups or individually, or learn a new reading skill like blending consonants or digraphs.

After centers we have a short read aloud story and work on listening, comprehension, sequencing of events, characters, setting and story plot. Their literacy skills are emerging and I love seeing the little lights go on in their eyes when they can answer and ask questions about the text.

We then have snack and some playtime outside! After recess is Calendar time! We count the days of the month, sing songs, practice skip counting, counting on and other math related skills. Our oral language comes next. Each day three children share their “Share Boxes”. Inside they have an item related to a theme, this week was animals. Each children gives three clues and the class tries to guess their animal. Thanks to the parents, who help them prepare for their sharing. The children are learning to project their voices, speak articulately and confidently.

We then move on to math skills as a whole class or in small groups. We use our math journals to record data, practice writing numbers and doing math problems. We try to squeeze in an alternating science experiment or social studies activity.

Finally, we end with a story and the children are off to lunch! Kindergarten is filled with work and play, constantly switching activities to keep their growing attention.

I am so proud of our Kindergartners!

Always playing!

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Lauren Wolder

Hi from First Grade!

WOW.....Its October already!😀 

After a VERY busy time with all our holidays, it feels good to get back into a 'full week' routine. 

In English, we are already nearing the end of our first classroom reader, and 5th weekly story. Each story in our Pearson Reading Street Program, focuses on specific readingwriting and  grammatical skills.

 This week, we read " Get the Egg". Our students discussed how we can help animals in the wild, and followed the writing process, ( planning, rough draft, editing and final copy ) as they completed their non- fiction, information paragraphs. We identified words with the short e vowel sound, and sorted our story parts into their correct sequence. Making sure that all sentences have a subject, a predicate, and the correct punctuation, is practiced daily in our Journals. 

Math is fun in First Grade.🔢

We use manipulatives, smart board interactive activities and our Envision Math program, to facilitate engaging and meaningful learning!

At the moment, our students are working through Unit 3, representing and identifying numbers in ten frames.

We are using math facts and different problem solving techniques to read word problems, identify the question being asked, write the number sentence, draw the problem and find the answer.  

A favorite of ours is "Magic Circle" time.

Sitting together as a class and discussing interests , friendships and being part of a community, gives us opportunities to understand each other better, while discovering new problem solving techniques, that help us move closer to independently working through challenges. 

These are just a few of our First Grade Highlights!🌼

Wait until you walk past our classroom and see our SMILES!

Elementary Experiences - Morah Rochie Popack

 Kitah Alef - is a year of many firsts! There are so many new skills we are learning, Kriyah - Hebrew reading and Kesivah - Hebrew cursive writing are just a few. The most exciting first - receiving our very first Siddur. We are very excited and are working hard on all our new reading skills, practicing and reinforcing what we already know so we can be very fluent and accurate readers.

While academics is very important and we are definitely learning so much. We are learning all the core values of the Hebrew Academy. Using the stories of the weekly Torah portion we are noticing the core values our forefathers exemplified and discussing ways we could follow in their paths. We began with the core value of kindness and used Abraham, who epitomized kindness as our primary example. We encouraged kindness mitzvah notes and began building our kindness chain. It is already so long and gets even longer with every kind deed that we do.

This week we continued with the core value of courtesy and spoke about the courteous way Rivkah behaved when she met Avrohom’s servant at the well.

We look forward to learning more of the Torah portions each week and learn our core values through them.

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. McKenna Harkins

 Life in the Fifth Grade Classroom  

Hello! My name is McKenna Harkins, and I have had the unique opportunity of teaching fifth grade this year in the Lower School. We have had an exciting year thus far, and students have made some fantastic progress in their academic studies. In their Language Arts Unit, students have been diving into various stories and practicing a variety of reading comprehension skills, such as comparing and contrasting, determining the author’s purpose, and recognizing how the characters and setting of a story impact the plot. I would encourage you to ask students about these reading skills at home, and listen to how well they can recognize key text features to truly gain meaning and understanding from the story.

In addition, students have been working to improve their writing skills. After focusing on narrative writing for the first two months, students will begin the engaging unit on persuasive writing next. Throughout the upcoming months, students will learn and utilize various skills to help explain their opinion clearly and concisely, and motivate others to share the same perspective. Furthermore, students will be also be learning about poetry and several elements of figurative language. In the upcoming weeks, I would encourage you to see if your student can identify or create examples of onomatopoeia, alliteration, imagery, and metaphors/similes. Rabbi Naparstek and I look forward to sharing more about how you can hear your student participate actively in this poetry unit later this month.

In fact, Rabbi Naparstek and I have worked diligently to show how student learning crosses both General and Judaic curriculums. For instance, fifth graders participated in a fun project only a few weeks ago when they were asked to build a Sukkah. After learning about the traditions of Sukkot with Rabbi Naparstek, I engaged students in recognizing how Tefachim were converted into inches. Students were then asked to build their own Sukkah and explain how to convert the measurements from Tefachim to inches, as well as write a narrative essay explaining their steps and the building process. It was exciting to witness the students engage in a truly collaborative project between the two departments.

Students have also experienced significant progress in their math studies! As students have challenged themselves by engaging with decimals, place value, and some serious multiplication, I am thrilled to see them truly understanding the content and applying it to their lives. Not only are students becoming adept at solving the computations, but they are improving at recognizing when these skills would be utilized in their everyday lives. I look forward to engaging them in this type of awareness and understanding as we head into more challenging division soon!

Looking ahead, I am also excited for students to learn about how early colonists interacted with Native Americans (just in time for Thanksgiving!) and practice thinking like scientists. It has certainly been an impactful year thus far, and I look forward to lots of continued learning!




Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Susan Choi

From the Desk of Mrs. Choi

General Studies- 3rd Grade

Welcome to 3rd grade!

We had a great start to a new year! The first few weeks of school were spent reviewing the 2nd grade curriculum.  This week we finally began the 3rd grade curriculum and the students were more than thrilled. We’ve read 2 stories in our reading program, “Charlie McButton” and “What About Me?” In preparation for our first writing project/unit (personal narratives), we have been busy writing about ourselves in our writing journal.  In math, we have started to practice multiplication by skip counting.

3rd grade will be filled with lots of fun and excitement this year. In order to maintain a healthy balance at school and home, parents should remember the following:

How can you help your child succeed in school?

  1. Encourage them to read every night.

  2. Make homework time, quality time.

  3. Make sure they get plenty of sleep.

  4. Teach them to be responsible for their actions and school work.

  5. Ask them about their day.



Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Jenna Sagan

From the Desk of Mrs. Sagan

General Studies- 2nd Grade

It’s been a busy few weeks for second grade! We have been hard at work, developing routines and focusing on learning the ins and outs of our second grade expectations.

During second grade reading instruction, we focus heavily on structured literacy time that helps to develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently. This year, we have introduced “The Daily 5,”a model of reading instruction created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, which provides five authentic reading and writing choices to students, working independently towards personalized goals. 

These five choices include:

  • Read to Self,
  • Work on Writing,
  • Read to Someone,
  • Listen to Reading, and
  • Word Work.

While these five literacy centers are running, I work with individual students and small groups to further guide their fluency and reading success. Students love the freedom this reading structure gives them, and so far we are seeing very positive results. I absolutely love seeing their faces light up when they have written an exciting new story, finished reading a “just right” book, or when they have discovered a new word that connects to the spelling pattern of the week! 

I look forward to a second grade year filled with highly productive, highly motivated learning!

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Lauren Wolder

 From the Desk of Mrs. Wolder

General Studies- 1st Grade

A warm welcome back to our 2016/2017 school year.

We are a little biased in  First Grade, thinking that our year has to be the most awesome year in Elementary school.

Whether you are biased or not, no one can deny that  First Grade is one of those school years where the growth in a child, emotionally, socially and academically is nothing short of awe inspiring!

I feel so privileged to be part of this dynamic transformation.

Our  First Grade classes are settling down well. They have navigated their way around their new playground, classrooms and lunch area and are enjoying waving hello to the new Kindergarten class.... from afar!

To see our students smile when they arrive at school is one thing, but to see them leaving school still smiling is the best feeling of all. 

As we now start working on our amazing  First Grade programs, I look forward, with such excitement, to seeing this transformation begin.

Elementary Experiences-Mrs. Jennifer Bentley

 From the Desk of Mrs. Bentley

In Kindergarten we have been learning about life cycles and observing some of Hashem’s creatures. At our Science Station we have a gel ant farm so the students can observe these magnificent creatures as they dig their tunnels and work together as a community. They really are amazing to watch! We also had ladybug larvae. The students were able to watch the ladybugs go through the stages from the larva, to the pupa, and then the adult. Within 10 days the ladybug larvae attached themselves inside the walls of the dome and began the “pupal” stage of their lives. Then, a week later, the adult ladybugs emerged. We noticed that they were pale at first and did not have their spots. I takes about 12 hours for their spots to appear and their color to darken. We learned many fascinating facts about ladybugs such as they can be white, yellow, pink, orange, red and black. Also, ladybugs can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Along with  observing these creatures, we have been doing many fun Science projects and writings pertaining to our studies of these creatures. We have created an art project portraying the life cycle of the butterfly. We have also done journal writings describing the stages using sequential order and created our own butterfly books. The students have carefully observed each stage of the butterfly. When the caterpillars first arrived they were so tiny. The students watched them eat the lore and grow into giant caterpillars. They then went into their “J’s” and hung from the lid of the jar as they went into their chrysalides. We then moved them into the net and waited patiently for them to transform into beautiful butterflies. After observing the butterflies eat and allowing their wings to harden so they are able to fly, we set them free in our garden. It was such a joyous moment for all of us! The students were so thrilled to see “their” butterflies out in the real world. It really was a beautiful moment and the students learned so much throughout the whole process.


Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Cheryl Johnson

From the Desk of Cheryl Johnson

4th Grade General Studies

Trip to Sacramento

Last week, the 4th-graders spent three days in Sacramento and the Gold Country.  The trip was the capstone of our yearlong study of our state.  During the first trimester, we focused on the geographical features of California.  In the second trimester, we studied the Native American tribes who lived in California before European and Latin American settlers arrived.  Finally, during the third trimester, we learned about the Gold Rush and its impact on our state.  Going to Sacramento allowed the kids to actually see and experience some of the things they studied during the year.

On our first day, we toured a Central Valley farm and the kids picked a seasonal fruit.  (This year, they chose strawberries over blueberries!)  Agriculture is a major component of our state’s economy; 80% of the fruits and vegetables eaten by Americans are grown in California’s Central Valley.  During our tour, the kids saw firsthand some of the Valley’s bounty – and what it takes to produce that bounty.

We spent the second day in Coloma, where James Marshall discovered gold in 1848.  The kids participated in a play that brought to life the events leading up to Marshall’s discovery.  They also made pouches to hold any gold they found when they panned.   Finally, during our hike through historical Coloma and up to the Marshall Monument, our docent described some events that occurred after the gold discovery.  She also talked about the natural environment of the area.


On our last day, we toured the state Capitol, and met with Travis Allen, the assemblyman who represents our district.   As he and our guide pointed out, we the people of California are the “bosses” of the State Assembly and Senate.  Senators’  and assemblymen’s jobs are to govern our state in accordance with our wishes.  But we have to do our part as well, by participating in the political process.

Everyone was tired but happy when we arrived back home.  If you’d like to see some pictures from our trip, please visit Mrs. Johnson’s website,

 Capitol-class 2.JPG

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Markowitz

From the Desk of Mrs. Markowitz

General Studies- 3rd Grade

Gearing Up for Open House

The 3rd graders have been working hard for the past month on a variety of academic skills in order to showcase it at Open House! It truly is a culmination and celebration of everything they have worked on during this school year. The 3rd grade teachers and students encourage and invite all parents and students to stop by and see all of the great things they have been working on. 

Aside from academics, the 3rd grade teachers have been working hard to help the students develop excellent organizational and planning skills as they get ready to step-up to 4th grade. More projects (in all subject areas) have been assigned to allow students to learn the process of planning. Projects have included, but are not limited to: class newspaper, perimeter project, surveys and graphing, and more! Through these projects, the students also have an opportunity to take pride in one's work through their efforts, application, and creativity.

It has been an amazing year so far!

Pictured: Dr. Carlson being interviewed by one of the 3rd grade newspaper teams.


Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Jenna Sagan

From the Desk of Mrs. Sagan

2nd Grade General Studies

Full "S.T.E.A.M" Ahead!

Second Grade Visits Centennial Farm and Imaginology at the OC Fairgrounds

Second grade recently had a special field trip to visit the OC Fairground's "Imaginology" S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, engineering, arts and math) festival.  All students began the day experiencing the Centennial Farm, where they got to learn from experts all about how a variety of plants are grown, and even got to plant their own radish seeds!

The students visited new baby lambs, pet baby chicks, saw a giant ox, and discovered just how loud geese can be when they sense trouble. The farm exploration connected to our current novel study of Charlotte's Web. The students discovered that the author, E.B. White, grew up on a farm, much like the one we visited. Students are reading all about the animals that live on a farm, enjoying connecting non-fiction readings about spiders and various farm animals to the novel's fictionalized talking ones. Seeing the animals in action on Centennial Farm was a highlight of the day!

After the farm, students then spent time exploring hands-on exhibits that ranged from building and racing their own robots to playing musical instruments in the Orange County Philharmonic's "Music Zoo." It was an enriching learning opportunity for everyone, and we all had a wonderful time!

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Lauren Wolder

 From the Desk of Mrs. Wolder

General Studies- 1st Grade

Our World 

Our amazing students have been busy, cross-curriculum learners, incorporating many first grade themes into our Math, English, Social studies and Science programs!

Our most recent theme was....OUR WORLD!

In English, we explored our home, school and neighborhood communities through, poetry, stories, creative writing, self expression, art and reading. 

Using Math manipulatives and number problems, we had opportunities to look at the different shapes that we see and use everyday, open up a store and work with  money to complete transactions, collect data on our weather and interests, use measurement to plan a community and so much more!

Our Project Based Learning assignment in Social Studies was so much fun. We each made a flip file of OUR WORLD, starting with.. This is me, This is my school, This is my neighborhood, This is my city, This is my state, This is my country and lastly, This is my world. What a great opportunity to look at our world map and learn about continents, countries, oceans and direction.

In Science we are busy relating this broad MY WORLD topic to... The plants around us! We will be planting  seeds and watching our plants grow at the back of our classroom. Each week, we will fill in an observation chart to record what we can see happening. This is a great hands on approach to learning parts of a plant and caring for our natural environment.

 Blending themes into different academic areas not only makes learning more relevant, but a lot more fun too!


Elementary Experiences-Mrs. Jennifer Bentley

From the Desk of Mrs. Jennifer Bentley

Kindergarten - General Studies


 In Kindergarten we are finishing up our unit on animals. Over the past couple months, we have learned about farm animals as well as wild animals and their habitats. The students went to the Irvine Zoo and Centennial Farms to observe and learn about a variety of animals. In order to promote cross curricular activities, we have integrated Language Arts and Science in order to fully understand and explore these animals. One of the projects that we have been working on is our “Farm Books”. We have dedicated a page to each farm animal.  In Language Arts we have been focusing on descriptive words and brainstorming our ideas before we write. A good writer always brainstorms before they write and my students have really excelled at this group creativity technique. We have been focusing on the major components of a sentence and “stretching out” our sentences. I am extremely proud of my students and how vastly they have improved their writing skills.

Another portion of our unit included in depth discussions about animals, how they move, their coverings, and their habitats. We discussed the various types of coverings that animals have including fur, feathers and scales, to name a few. The students also had to sort animals, through a variety of sorting activities, according to their habitats, coverings, and how they move. They also played a fun memory matching game where they had to match the animal footprints to the animal and also the animal babies to the adult animals. We learned about the animals’ classifications, including mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. We will finish off the unit with the students creating a mini-book about their favorite animal. The book will include a drawing of the student’s favorite animal in the appropriate environment and multiple sentences stating characteristics of the animal and why that is their favorite. The students will also identify the animal’s classification, the habitat in which they live and how the animal moves. The students and I have really enjoyed learning about, seeing and discussing Hashem’s creatures and look forward to learning even more when we dive into our ocean unit next month.

Click here for pictures!


Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Susan Choi

From the Desk of Susan Choi 

5th grade General Studies 

Overcoming Challenges

For the past few weeks, the 5th grade class worked on a collaborative unit that explored the major challenges (exiles) endured by the Jewish people and how the Jews have strengthened their identity by facing and overcoming these challenges. 

Then they wrote a personal narrative about a challenge they have faced that influenced them as a person and how they overcame their challenge.  

“Being the only boy in a household, living far from shul, academic struggles,” these are just a few of the challenges that our students are facing today. A couple students were brave enough to share their challenges and how they overcame it.  

“A couple of years ago my cousin was diagnosed with cancer. It was really hard on my family. We usually have Shabbos dinner with the entire family, but when my cousin got sick, our Shabbos dinner was not the same. It influenced me because it made me appreciate my family more. I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my cousin. Thankfully she is cancer free and now our family is back to normal and we continue to have Shabbos dinner every week.”

- Bianca W.

“Can you imagine walking 3.8 miles to shul every week?!?! Well, that’s what my family and I do. It’s hard because I have to wake up extra early, even when I’m tired.   Sometimes I don’t feel like walking so I don’t want to go, but I know it’s the right thing to do so I go to shul anyways. This challenge influenced me to be grateful of what I have and to be a proud Jew. I’m proud that I am able to go to shul with my family, even if it means I have to walk a long distance. Some people have to walk even further than me so I’m thankful I don’t have to walk farther than 3.8 miles.“

- Shlomo M.

Elementary Experiences - Mrs. Cheryl Johnson

 From the Desk of Cheryl Johnson

4th Grade General Studies

Opinion Essays 

Right now, the 4th graders are revising and editing the opinion essays they just finished writing. The opinion-essay unit is the second unit in our Lucy Calkins writing program.  The main goal of the program is to teach students how to express their ideas clearly, using three different types of writing:  narrative, opinion essay, and response-to-literature.  In addition, kids wrote an information essay (their “Jewish hero” reports) for Mrs. Marcus.

In the first unit of the Calkins program, students wrote realistic-fiction narratives.  They used several strategies to generate ideas for their stories.  They then picked one idea to develop.  They fleshed out the characters, plotted story arcs, and wrote scenes that showed  story events instead of just describing them.  After revising and editing their rough drafts, they typed their final copies.  At a “publishing party” in early March, they read their narratives to parents and interested others. Several of the narratives were very well-written!

In the second unit, we’re following a similar process:  Students used several strategies to come up with ideas for their opinion essays. They then picked one idea to develop, and turned it into a formal thesis.  They developed supporting reasons, and examples and details that amplified each reason. They will revise and edit their rough drafts, and then type the final copies. If we have time, we hope to invite parents in again to hear the results of our work.  Several kids are working on interesting theses!

“Response-to-literature” writing involves the student writing about something s/he has read.  Typically, students are given specific instructions about what they’re to discuss, e.g. “compare and contrast two characters in a book”, or “analyze the theme in the story and describe how the author showed it”.  In 4th grade we’ve been practicing that type of writing through the Book Club blogs the kids do every month. Every kid gets individual feedback on his/her blog.

Finally, in the late Fall, students learned how to write information essays. Mrs. Marcus outlined the specific content for their “Jewish hero” reports. Mrs. Johnson helped students with the mechanics of writing the report.

So this year, your child experienced several new types of writing.  H/she should be a better writer than s/he was when s/he started 4th grade!

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