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Educational Approach

At KYLS we cultivate the skills and mindset children need to meaningfully analyze, comprehend and apply information. These tools allow children to succeed academically, socially, emotionally and religiously in an ever changing world.

Our pedagogy is driven by the question "what do we know about how children learn?" Influenced by constructivist theories of learning, we see children as active constructors of their knowledge through interactions with the world around them, rather than passive recipients of information.

Direct instruction is used as a means of enabling students to explore additional information on their own. At KYLS, our students develop as learners within carefully designed structures and frameworks that account for the differences in each child’s nature and experience.

At KYLS, learning is seen as a journey with multiple pathways toward the same destination. Learning is a natural process for which all children are wired. At KYLS learning goes deep. Students internalize information and can apply it to new situations and new contexts.

Learning is guided by the interest and needs of each student within the content area. Learning happens within well designed parameters set by teachers to ensure that each student meets his or her specific curricular goals.

At KYLS we begin with the big picture before delving into the particulars. "Big Questions" and "Essential Ideas" create context for everything students learn. We rely on primary sources of data, manipulatives, and materials. Our curricula are consistently and collaboratively reviewed and revised to ensure maximal social, emotional, behavioral and academic progress for each student.

Motivation is cultivated intrinsically by tapping into student interest and excitement for the material being learned. Motivation is sustained by maximizing opportunities for students to recognize and take pride in their own individual progress.

KYLS classes are fluid and dynamic. Students are taught to work collaboratively and to learn from peers.
Students are engaged as thinkers with emerging theories about the world. At KYLS significant focus is placed on providing students with opportunities to lead.

Assessments are always developmentally appropriate and designed to promote rigor and maximal challenge for every student. Each assessment is interwoven with teaching so as to promote student learning, and may take the form of individual student conversations, performances, exhibitions, portfolios, or tests. Most importantly, assessments are used by teachers to guide future instruction for each individual student.
Students are successful when they achieve their individual learning goals and demonstrate developmentally appropriate competency in a given skill or subject area. Teachers are successful when each student achieves his or her individual goals.

Common Questions About This Approach:

In what ways will a KYLS classroom look different from a traditional elementary school classroom?

Students work in various configurations around the room, not necessarily in neat rows of desks. They may be sitting or standing; working together, side by side, or alone; on a rug, mat, or floor; seated at a table or desk, or in a chair. Teachers are not behind their desks rather they are interacting with their students. Teachers act as facilitators and content experts. This means they spend valuable time in conversation with students, exchanging thoughts, understanding the child’s individual emerging view of the world, and helping them to develop their emerging ideas.

What does it mean to be a “Lab School”?

The term laboratory might sound as if untested, experimental practices are used. On the contrary-- KYLS identifies and implements only the pedagogical approaches that have been empirically shown to maximize student learning. Those methods are employed throughout the curriculum, in both General and Judaic Studies. Another laboratory-like element of KYLS is that our methodology is carefully documented to ensure that it is replicable for other schools, as well as allowing us to collect unconfounded data to ensure that the methods that we are using are most efficacious.

Is a “progressive” school the same as Montessori or Reggio?

While there are educational models that are based on some elements of the constructivist philosophy of education, the model that KYLS employs is based on the empirically supported tenets of constructivism and developmentally appropriate instruction in their pure form, not on adaptations or manualized versions of constructivism.

What, if any, are the difference between Kindergarten and 1st grade (in terms of curriculum, expectations etc.)?

Even within a traditional "single age" classroom there are actually mixed ages depending on when different children are born. In traditional classrooms, teachers often forget this fact and treat all children as if they are developmentally on par with one another. At KYLS, we use actual age - not grade - as one determining factor when thinking of appropriate expectations for a child. At the beginning of the school year we do a birthday cluster with the teachers to get a sense of who is in a similar age range and then look at what is developmentally appropriate for that specific age range. We use a book called "Yardsticks" by Responsive Classroom to guide that discussion. It outlines expectations for younger and older children at any specific age in the areas of curriculum, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Overall we look to see if children are developmentally appropriate for their age and then look for growth. The multi-age class allows us to have a range of levels for each subject, and then using small groups, to find the right one for each child in each subject.

Doesn’t a focus on greater depth and student-directed exploration mean that students in KYLS will cover less material (e.g., parshiyot in Chumash, masechtot in Mishnah, dapim in Gemara)?

The most important objective of the formative years of education is preparation for the next level of education and beyond. While this has always been the case, KYLS believes that the information explosion brought about by the digital revolution makes equipping students with the tools to analyze, synthesize, and make meaning of information – both secular and religious – all the more important. Skills for learning, however, can only be gained by interacting with foundational texts and by mastering content that forms the necessary basis for future learning. It is these skills, embedded in this type of content, which will form the basis of the KYLS curricula.

If students get to make choices in their learning, how do we make sure they learn everything they need to know?

Students make choices within parameters set by the teacher based on the curricular content and the particular student’s ability. This structure ensures that students master critical content while cultivating the autonomy necessary to take ownership of their learning.