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The importance of reading skills developed in the early grades goes beyond language arts. The skills that are acquired while learning to read are necessary for most other subjects such as social studies, science, and even math. At Hillel, the focus is on building a solid foundation by introducing tools for reading as early as transitional kindergarten, Hillel’s challenging pre-school program.
“The reading program at Hillel is skills-based, meaning that reading is broken down into a number of skills to foster decoding and comprehension,” says Mrs. Gloria Berkowitz, Reading Specialist at Hillel School of Tampa “Instructions as to why, not just how words are put together make a world of difference as students progress through the grades. For that reason, the various components of language arts, reading, spelling, and writing must be developed simultaneously.”
Fostering a love of reading from the earliest age is a key to life-long learning. Exposing children to great literature is one way of fostering that love. Another is helping each child find books that relate to his or her particular interest. At Hillel, both are done to great success, in class and in weekly library lessons.
“We have small instructional groups to ensure that each child progresses at his or her own pace,” says Mrs. Berkowitz, “because the early years of reading skills development are so important, I serve as part of the reading team in kindergarten, first, and second grades, which makes for exceptionally small reading groups.”
By kindergarten, Hillel students write their own stories and create class “Big Books,” a collection of writing and art with contributions from each child. By first grade, formal writing instructions begin with writers’ workshop and grammar lessons.
The strong reading skills students acquire in the Primary Division prepare them for the challenging curriculum when they approach the intermediate years.
In the intermediate years, from grades two through five, reading classes progress from developing reading skills, to reading to learn. During the intermediate years, students at Hillel school typically learn using resources that are a year above grade level. Reading classes in these grades incorporate literature discussion, writing, and critical and abstract thinking skills, in addition to the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The students continue to expand their language arts skills through the Middle School years.
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