At the Shefa School, students who learn differently can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally in a caring and supportive Jewish environment. All instruction throughout the day is specifically designed to maximize the learning of students with language-based learning disabilities. Our program builds upon individual strengths while teaching students the skills they need to realize their academic potential, with the goal of enabling them to return confidently and successfully to mainstream settings.
Our highly structured and intensive language arts curriculum incorporates reading, writing, language skills, and study skills. We use Preventing Academic Failure (PAF), a research-based, multisensory, direct-instruction approach to teaching reading. This program uses a sequential framework based on Orton-Gillingham methods and incorporates phonics, reading, handwriting, spelling, and grammar. Reading comprehension and vocabulary instruction are taught explicitly and integrated throughout. Reading instruction occurs in small groups of students with similar skills in order to maximize targeted learning time for each student.
Our writing curriculum uses The Hochman Method, an approach that helps students enhance their clarity, coherence, and precision as they structure their ideas in both expository and narrative writing. The program builds students’ understanding and command of sentence and paragraph structure, syntax, and essay writing.
Our math curriculum is taught daily in small homogenous groups and focuses on developing students’ mathematical reasoning, problem solving, and command of key language, concepts and procedures. Developed in consultation with language and math specialist Marilyn Zecher, our approach applies Orton-Gillingham multisensory instructional strategies to mathematics.
Topics are presented with increasing depth and complexity, and are consistently reviewed and practiced using manipulatives and other multisensory techniques, guiding students as they move from concrete to representational to abstract understandings of mathematical concepts. Our concept-oriented, hands-on, and incremental approach enhances both concept integration and memory and pays particular attention to the language of math.
Our social studies curriculum uses New York State Standards to teach students about the world around them. Students gain exposure to history, geography, culture, economics, and civics and integrate content with Language Arts. Our community service curriculum promotes social responsibility, citizenship, and the values of kindness and activism. The Middle School program integrates the social studies curriculum with a research and study skills curriculum.
In science, students engage their senses and hone their observation skills through hands-on investigations and experiments. Opportunities to participate in projects and explorations develop our students’ higher-order thinking skills as they question, predict, research, analyze, and draw conclusions. Curricular units of study are selected from the disciplines of earth science, chemistry, physical science, and life science to allow students to interact with high-interest topics, build upon previously learned concepts, and apply inquiry skills. Middle school students have science three times a week and are taught formal lab experimenting and reporting skills.
Students engage Jewish learning through interactive learning experiences, such as joyous morning tefillah (prayer), explorations of Shabbat and holidays, and the study of Torah. Students also learn about Jewish life around the world, Jewish history, and the State of Israel. The Judaic studies curriculum is enhanced by the integration of music and the arts. As English language remediation is our priority and second languages can be especially challenging for students with language-based learning disabilities, Judaic studies is taught primarily in English. We introduce Hebrew language instruction according to student ability. All students gain exposure to key Hebrew vocabulary orally, through prayer and from the Judaic Studies curriculum.
As students’ English language skills progress, we introduce Hebrew language instruction according to student ability. Students may receive individualized Hebrew decoding and comprehension instruction based on their readiness.
Chug, or activity groups, provides our Lower School students with the opportunity to benefit from a variety of supplemental and enrichment activities during the day. In chug, students may receive small-group language therapy, occupational therapy or social skills intervention as needed and also participate in high-interest activities such as cooking, Lego, dance, or yoga, all of which are delivered using instructional strategies that reinforce our focus on language. Beginning in 4th/5th grade and continuing into Middle School, these enrichment groups are skills-oriented and provide time for individualized small group work based on student need such as language therapy, additional reading intervention, or Hebrew language instruction.
Our art and music curricula focus on building strengths, cultivating passions, and fostering creativity. These classes are designed to reinforce the skills taught in the core academic subject areas. Our arts curriculum is enhanced by partnerships with local artists and interaction with the vibrant arts community of New York City, and culminates with the Shefa Showcase, our annual Spring arts exhibition.
Our physical education curriculum focuses on developing basic physical skills and well-being through exposure to a wide variety of activities that promote aerobic fitness, strength, flexibility, motor skills, and balance. The curriculum fosters values of teamwork and persistence as well as mental focus, impulse control, coordination, and self-awareness. Our students work with expert coaches on a variety of sports and athletic skills.
The Middle School program at Shefa builds on the Lower School’s curriculum and approach and moves students toward becoming independent learners.