Our goal at Hebrew Day Institute is to educate the whole child. Integration and differentiation are crucial to the development of each child’s learning. Our children are comfortable as part of a vibrant Jewish community who can draw on Jewish and other sources of knowledge as a normal way of thinking about issues that they encounter in the world and society.
Our teachers begin where our students are. We accept and build on the premise that all students learn in different ways and bring with them a variety of strengths and challenges. This is why the concept of differentiated instruction is a core value in our teaching. It means that teachers recognize the unique abilities and learning styles of their students and tailor assignments to meet their student needs. Recognizing that every classroom is filled with diverse learners, including those with skills are above grade level, those who learn with different strengths, and those who have learning challenges, the approach of differentiated teaching means that the teacher is focused on the learner in planning lessons and activities. A teacher begins with the curriculum, the standards and benchmarks for a grade and an area of learning, and enriches and modifies what will be needed for the students who are a part of his/her class. It is important to remember that differentiation is not a strategy; it is a way of thinking about teaching.
Our school looks at learning and curriculum as interconnected. We believe that education should cross subject lines and connect in many ways, bringing meaningful association for the students and a more holistic approach. This is certainly the way that learning happens outside the classroom and, at Hebrew Day Institute, within the classroom. We believe that integration means that the morals and values of our school are carried throughout the day and from one classroom to the next. As a Jewish day school, we are able to foster a sense of living and learning through the Jewish lens.
Part of the process of differentiating and integrating the curriculum includes the Understanding by Design approach to developing lessons. This approach focuses on the enduring understandings that we want students to take away from a lesson. By asking an essential question, an over arching question that has no simple answer, students are able to research and cull the information needed to take ownership of their learning and form opinions. How we teach and what assessment evidence we need to collect in order to achieve student understanding and success is at the core of all learning.
- Students will learn best when supportive teachers create a safe environment where students can take an active role in their learning and feel they can take risks. In such a setting teachers can push students slightly beyond where they can work without assistance.
- Students will learn best when they can make a connections between all subjects they are learning and their interests and life experiences.
- Students will learn best when learning opportunities are natural.
- Students are more effective learners when classrooms and schools create a sense of community in which students feel significant and respected.
- The central role of schools is to maximize the capacity of each student, so they can be the best that they can be.
Kathy Lake writes the following in an article entitled “Integrated Curriculum”:
Integrated curriculum is an educational approach that prepares children for lifelong learning. There is a strong belief among those who support curriculum integration that schools must look at education as a process for developing abilities required by life in the twenty-first century, rather than discrete, departmentalized subject matter. In general, all of the definitions of integrated curriculum or interdisciplinary curriculum include:
- A combination of subjects
- Sources that go beyond textbooks
- Relationships among concepts
- Thematic units as organizing principles
- An emphasis on projects
- Flexible schedules
- Flexible student groupings
The heart of our philosophy on differentiated instruction is that we are dedicated to helping each child reach his or her potential.