In the intermediate grades at Hillside, differentiated instruction across the curriculum supports individual needs, and students establish a more in-depth understanding of their own learning style, including their strengths and weaknesses. A caring environment provides students with the appreciation for their own unique abilities and those of their peers. Additionally, these grades focus on helping students broaden their interests, take academic risks, and practice using Executive Skills. Weekly science labs and STEAM projects are included into their curriculum.
Students participate in hands-on learning to build understanding in the academic subject areas, increase recall of the information, and strengthen memory for future applications. Teachers model how to complete an assignment or solve a problem, and then step back, offering support and developing strategies as needed. Assignments can be modified to accommodate different learning styles. This approach gives students practice in learning how to reduce multi-step processes into manageable steps in order to be independent learners. Students explore ways to minimize distractions in order to take increased ownership of attention to task.
All students are assigned a device for in-school use and has the opportunity to use assistive technology for a variety of purposes like using text-to-speech software to dictate thoughts, listening to audiobooks online, and using software to conduct research, take notes, and edit writing. We focus on strengthening keyboarding skills for success in the middle school and beyond.
Direct instruction of Executive Skills helps students understand how to build a foundation for success in the real world. Through guided practice, students learn how manage school and life tasks effectively, collaborate and cooperate within groups, and experiment with strategies and tools for focus and attention.
Explicit instruction in Project Read® is a focus for intermediate students in order to improve reading skills and increase comprehension. The EmPOWERTM method is used across content areas to teach writing in a variety of forms and range of purposes.
For students who transition to Hillside at the intermediate level, school becomes a place where they feel successful and builds and restores self-confidence.
Project Read Phonics®
Direct phonics instruction via the Project Read® curriculum is scheduled in the intermediate grades. The program honors diverse learning profiles and provides lessons built on direct concept teaching, multisensory strategies, systematic instruction and higher-level thinking skills. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham method and has been regarded by reputation for over 45 years.
Project Read® Report Form
Intermediate students expand their ability to interact, read, analyze, organize, classify and write informational text through a systematic multisensory process that readies them for higher-level thinking and test-taking.
Visualizing and Verbalizing® by Nancibell®
Students are exposed to fiction and non-fiction selections, children’s literature, novels, poetry and short stories that encompass a variety of genres. The Visualizing and Verbalizing® program teaches students to visualize while reading and verbalize their images, which helps them strengthen their concept imagery–the ability to create a “movie in your mind” when reading.
Explicit guided reading instruction helps students to develop and independently apply reading strategies and build their vocabulary. During Guided Reading, teachers model reading processes, monitor individual students’ progress to apply strategies and continually assess for accurate comprehension.
Listening, speaking, reading and writing vocabulary learning is directly and indirectly embedded into the curriculum. Direct instruction includes providing students with specific word instruction and teaching students word-learning strategies. Assistive technology programs are available for school and home use.
Language is a reflection of thinking and research shows that the patterns of language and thinking can be represented graphically. Brain Frames®, a component of the EmPOWERTM writing method, are a collection of six visual-spatial displays of language used across all content areas and grades that allow teachers and students to “frame” what is in their minds.
The EmPOWERTM method is utilized across grade levels and content areas to explicitly teach how to write in a variety of forms and for a wide range of purposes. The six steps of EmPOWER are:
Evaluate…pick apart my assignment to figure out what I have to do
Make a Plan…plan how I will do it and choose strategies
Organize…organize my ideas
Work…work my ideas into writing
Evaluate…assess the quality of my text
Re-work…make necessary changes
Additionally, grammar instruction is designed to teach the rules of English with lots of practice and help students become better writers, readers and speakers. Basic spelling skills are emphasized throughout the curriculum with the transferring of correct spelling into everyday writing being the goal. Students are instructed on how to use multiple technology and assistive technology programs which are available for school and home use.
Handwriting Without Tears by Learning Without Tears was developed by occupational therapist Jan Z. Olsen and was founded on research-based principles of early childhood development, including how children learn best. It teaches handwriting skills using developmentally appropriate practice and multisensory approaches from printing through cursive.
Saxon Math takes an incremental approach to math, scaffolds instruction of each concept and continues to review information introduced earlier. This allows students the time and practice to retain math concepts to the level of mastery. Students build skills and confidence through daily opportunities to review, develop mathematical reasoning, and apply knowledge. Engaging manipulatives and hands-on learning tools help students develop and demonstrate understanding. Concepts from every math strand are woven together and connected throughout the year. Skills or concepts are reinforced throughout the years, helping students build a strong foundation of understanding.
Students who are unable achieve success in Saxon Math are placed in Alternate Math. Teachers use a wide variety of instructional materials to look at useful ways to solve problems, analyze data and make associations, build number sense and how to adapt newly learned concepts into everyday life.
The purpose of social studies is to enable students to understand, participate in, and make informed decisions about their world. Students engage in activities based on grade level content. Social studies instruction supports practice with reading and comprehension strategies with text materials, the introduction of research skills and student participation in off-site field trips and various onsite community related presentations
Science at The Hillside School provides students with meaningful opportunities to understand and explore the natural world. Our science programs implement the same tools and strategies used elsewhere in the curriculum to strengthen academic, executive, and social skills. Students in grades 4 and 5 meet twice a week in the East Wing science room for hands-on activities and experiments based on grade level topics such as landforms, the solar system, and engineering problems and solutions.