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. Teachers design handwriting activities to help students 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.
Children need to understand the relationship between written letters and spoken sounds in order to develop the ability to read words in isolation and in connected text. Direct phonics instruction via the Project Read® curriculum occurs daily in the primary grades. The Project Read® program honors diverse learning profiles and provides lessons built on direct concept teaching, multisensory strategies, systematic instruction and higher-level thinking skills. The phonics section of the program is based on the Orton-Gillingham method and has been regarded by reputation for over 45 years.
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).
The goal of Guided Reading is for students to develop strategies to apply independently and build their vocabulary. During Guided Reading, teachers model reading processes, monitor individual students’ progress to apply strategies and continually assess for accurate comprehension.
Language is a reflection of thinking and research shows that the patterns of language and thinking can be represented graphically. Brain Frames 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.
Pre-writing and Writing
Together, the students and teacher begin by making a Brain Frame® to organize their thinking based on a common experience. The teacher acts as a model, demonstrating how thoughts and words can be represented in writing as students dictate their ideas. This process leads the way to students producing their own text. Accompanied drawings either before or after writing will often complement the written text.
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.
Science and Social Studies
Science and social studies concepts allow students to understand, participate in, and make informed decisions about their world. In the primary grades, these concepts are used as vehicles to teach reading and thinking skills, build background knowledge and vocabulary with an equal importance on “how to learn” as “what to learn.” A hands-on approach to thematic grade level content is emphasized.