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Lower School

Junior Kindergarten through Grade Five

Chicago Jewish Day School offers an exciting and innovative dual curriculum, encompassing integrated General Studies and Hebrew/Judaic Studies. From our youngest students to our oldest students, we employ principles of Responsive Classroom in which social and academic learning is inextricably connected and fully integrated throughout the day. Our social/emotional and academic curriculums foster safe, challenging, and joyful classrooms. 

The CJDS academic curriculum is designed to inspire engaged learning, leading to deeper understanding and critical thinking. Through the development of experiential thematic units, CJDS encourages a sense of ownership, allowing students to construct their own learning and make it come to life. Students acquire and apply knowledge in a setting that is both authentic and meaningful. Rather than merely thinking or reading about the topic, the students live and breathe it!

Integrated learning allows children to broadly explore knowledge in various subjects as they relate to a certain theme. We strive to integrate all of the curricular disciplines. This holistic approach to learning reflects the real world, which is interactive, and promotes lifelong learning.

Our faculty recognizes the multiple ways in which students learn and approach teaching using differentiated, innovative and creative methods that address the learning styles of each individual student.

Junior Kindergarten

In the Beginning • Beresheit 

The theme of Junior Kindergarten is Beresheit (in the beginning). This is a connection to the first words of the Torah, “In the beginning, God created…”. For the Junior Kindergarten student, this translates into a year of new beginnings and the student’s awareness of the expanding world and his or her own place in it. Students will discover they, themselves, have the power to bring things into creation. They will navigate new classrooms and social structures, create new projects, implement new ideas, develop friendships, and learn they can contribute and impact the world around them through the creations of their own two hands.

Classroom Highlights

Young children construct knowledge through having meaningful experiences and making connections to the world. Within this framework, the Junior Kindergarten students immerse themselves in learning about and celebrating the holidays, literature and literacy, early math concepts, and the physical world. During the year, the Junior Kindergarten classroom is filled with sounds, sights, and tastes of learning. Entering the classroom, you might find students making and blowing a Shofar; turning the entire block corner into a huge castle using boxes, tape, glue, and paint; participating in a Pesach (Passover) taste test; observing seeds and making journal entries about those observations; immersing themselves in an in-depth author study; sorting and classifying beans, beads, seeds, and other manipulatives; learning about symmetry in nature by observing snowflakes and then using blocks to build symmetrical structures; hearing stories read aloud and then acting them out; and dictating original stories to their teachers.

Junior Kindergarten Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Junior Kindergarten!



Community • Kehilla

Throughout the school year, we will integrate the theme of Kehilla (community). Our goal is for our students to leave Kindergarten with a strong sense of belonging to a community of learners that is based on mutual respect, trust, kindness, and responsibility. Our community will be built as we learn about our Jewish traditions, holidays, and values and as we form habits of goodness in our daily language and social interactions. We will learn about our responsibility toward the different aspects of a community with our thematic units on names, friendship, family, animals, and Israel. Kehilla will guide us as we learn, play, explore, and discover together.

Classroom Highlights 

At Chicago Jewish Day School, students are regularly provided with experiential learning opportunities. From language arts to math, science, social studies, and Hebrew and Judaic Studies, students are frequently engaged in active learning. A Kindergartner can be found cooperatively working to build and manage a stuffed-animal shelter during the animal unit, creating structures using different solid materials in the solids and liquids unit, and working on a Kibbutz as we explore Israel. They are encouraged to act out a story they have just read in shared reading or play a math game to reinforce concepts introduced earlier in the day.

Kindergarten Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Kindergarten!

Grade One

Repairing Our World • Tikun Olam

The theme of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) is integrated throughout the school year. We learn about our environment, the opportunities it presents, the challenges it faces, and what we can do to help keep the world a clean, healthy, and wonderful place to live and grow. Our students will leave Grade One knowing the importance of taking care of the world — both its people and the environment — and knowing that each person, no matter what age, can make our world a better and more peaceful place to live.

Classroom Highlights

Grade One students may be seen researching marine life as they slowly transform the classroom into the Great Barrier Reef. The “marine scientists” investigate the properties of water through hands-on experiments as they begin to learn and apply the scientific
process. As the students read Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, they identify story elements, perform dramatic interpretations, and observe the life cycle of a frog inside the classroom. Through research and collaboration, the rainforest comes to life as the students create the flora, fauna, and animals. A visitor might crawl through the understory of the rainforest and come eye to eye with a jaguar before being asked to sign a petition written by students asking for better laws to protect this natural wonder.

Grade One Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Grade One!


Grade Two

Respect/Honor • Kavod

The theme of the Grade Two is Kavod (respect/honor). Through the integration of this theme, students learn what it means to be a part of a respectful community and to move through the world as kind and caring individuals. They apply this Jewish value to their everyday lives as they practice showing honor to their environment, their community, and their culture. Through studies of various countries, students acquire an appreciation for diverse communities throughout the world. They learn to value and cherish the individuality in us all.

Classroom Highlights

Students in Grade Two may be seen setting sail on the Mayflower, taking on the identity of a real individual who made the journey to the New World. A Grade Two student might also be found cooperatively preparing a Chinese dragon and performing with it in a Chinese New Year parade as they study this country and culture. As students read literature by a featured author, they will learn to recognize the different acts of Kavod performed by the characters, as well as identifying the literary elements of the story. A visitor in a Grade Two classroom might have the opportunity to sample the sights, smells, and tastes of a variety of countries at a multicultural fair or read a classic story adapted and retold in another way by different countries and cultures. In science, the diversity of the butterfly world may be explored as students watch them move through the many stages of their life cycle.

Grade Two Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Grade Two!


Grade Three

Acts of Kindness • Gemilut Chasadim

The theme of Grade Three is Gemilut Chadasim (acts of kindness). Our students are asked to think about what it means to bestow chesed (compassion) on others and how those acts contribute to their own growth. Students learn they can actively work towards creating kindness in their classrooms, their social interactions, their families, and our community. Can they share their personal strengths with their peers? Can they help a peer finish a project? Can they make younger or newer students at school feel at home? Can they use their words to build shalom (peace)? Teaching our students to see chesed as a skill that they get better at through practice prepares them to become active, positive participants in society and allows them to see that, even as an 8-year-old or 9-year-old, they can make a difference in the lives of other people.

Classroom Highlights

From language arts to math, science, social studies, and Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Grade Three students are constantly engaged in active learning. Grade Three students may be found cooperatively learning about Native Americans and the cultures of early America. At another time, they might be applying to medical school, where they listen to a surgeon describe a surgery, checking their reflexes and blood pressure with instruments brought by a pediatrician. A visitor may have the opportunity to attend the Grade Three medical school graduation, where the audience will listen to a third grader’s dissertation on a system of the body. Grade Three students might be conducting a trial to decide whether Mrs. O’Leary is, in fact, guilty of starting the Great Chicago Fire or creating corn-husk dolls and building wigwams so they can gain a better understanding of what life was like for Native Americans. The students can be found acting out a story they have just read in a reading group or playing a math game with a friend to reinforce math concepts introduced earlier in the day.

Grade Three Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Grade Three!

Grade Four

Journey On • Lech Lecha

The exploration of this theme helps our Grade Four students understand why people move from one place to another and how they re-establish themselves in their new environments. Lech Lecha comes from Genesis 12:1 when God tells Abram to leave behind what Abram knows and journey to a new land. As students study their units in General and Judaic Studies, they will understand the challenges and rewards of discovery,
will think about what necessities exist in their own lives, and what responsibilities they may have to help someone who just arrived feel welcome and supported.

Classroom Highlights

On any given day, if you visit the Grade Four classroom, you might see students engaged in the trial and error process of science experimentation regarding the components of flight — or they may be discovering the properties of rocks using microscopes, chemical reactions, and their own sense of taste. From language arts to math, science, social studies and Hebrew and Judaic Studies, students are engaged in active learning. They can be found reading, and then creating their own American tall tales, researching the regions of the United States, while virtually and collaboratively traveling along the major US routes, creating a business to practice bank deposits and withdrawals, and trying out different strategies to multiply and divide. Political parties and elections in our country, the Edot (people from different lands) in Israel, and the uniqueness of each individual are a part of the rich diversity of curriculum in Grade Four.

Grade Four Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Grade Four!


Grade Five

Marking Distinction • Havdalah

The Torah teaches that God created the world by making distinctions — first between light and darkness, next between water and empty space, and finally between earth and water. When we recite Havdalah at the termination of Shabbat and holidays, we emphasize the distinction between the sacred and the ordinary and how people, as well as God, can bring holiness into the mundane. We challenge our Grade Five students to think about how their actions can be beyond ordinary and add sacredness to our daily lives. Our students will come to understand that meaningful and thoughtful action is not something that happens haphazardly but through asking themselves what impact their decisions and actions have on themselves, their classmates, and their school and wider communities.

Classroom Highlights

Grade Five students approach their studies through the lens of thinking before they act. Through activities, trips, reading and discussion, students are encouraged to consider the world we live in and its history, reflecting on the concept of cause and effect. Through intensive, inquiry based, experiential studies, students travel back in world history, examining the arts, sciences, and cultures which shaped our world today and directly connect to our current methods of learning and living.

On any given day, if you visit Grade Five, you might see students testing different variables in a science experiment, engaging in text-driven discussion of a book, or learning about Meso-American cultures. Through experiential learning, students are consistently provided with hands-on learning experiences and opportunities. From language arts to math, science, social studies, and Hebrew and Judaic Studies, students are engaged in active learning.

Grade Five Curriculum Guide

Learn more about Grade Five!


Daily Schedule

Junior Kindergarten

  • Mon-Thurs: 8:15 AM-3:15 PM (optional half day at 12:30 PM)
  • Fri: 8:15 AM-2:30 PM

Kindergarten-Grade Five

  • Mon-Thurs: 8:15 AM-3:15 PM
  • Fri: 8:15 AM-2:30 PM

Lower School Leadership

Jill Kushnir LeVee
Assistant to Head of School
Email, 773-271-2700

Penina Berdugo
Director of Hebrew
Email, 773-271-2700