Primary Grades 1-3

Supported by decades of research, early education is critical for children’s school and life successes.  Dr. Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, states in her book Overcoming Dyslexia, “The human brain is resilient, but there is no question that early intervention and treatment bring about more positive change at a faster pace than intervention provided to an older child.”

Language skills encompass reading, writing, speaking, and listening. At Hillside, receptive (understanding) and expressive (producing) language are at the core of the primary classes. Broadening background knowledge through exposure to real-world topics and strengthening everyday and content-area vocabulary help provide a foundation for reading comprehension and writing. 

Teachers emphasize phonics-focused pre-reading and reading skills and strategies in a wide variety of formats throughout the school day. Direct instruction of the Project Read® curriculum occurs daily. Primary students build confidence by participating in multi-sensory activities across the curriculum. 

Opportunities to develop fine motor skills like cutting, pasting, folding, and keyboarding help students to achieve success with school-related and daily life activities. Students handwrite regularly not only to develop letter writing automaticity, but also to build a foundation that can positively influence their reading, writing, and language skills.

The structured classroom provides predictability and the routines that are essential for practicing organizational skills and smooth transitions.  Teachers model classroom expectations and appropriate behaviors, and introduce tools and strategies to facilitate focus and attention. 

Teachers design lessons for short attention spans, focus on engaging all the students, and embed frequent opportunities for movement breaks throughout the day. We explicitly make connections between guided instruction of skills and their applications.

Strong bonds develop between teachers and students in our very small classes. Teachers capitalize on impromptu moments to support and practice acceptable social behaviors.  As relationships grow, students learn how to participate in cooperative and collaborative learning experiences.