The Orton-Gillingham Approach to phonetic instruction is at the very heart of all we do at The Schenck School. Our students are here because they are not strong readers, and we address this challenge every day. Research shows that the most successful intervention for dyslexia is intensive instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness, and our use of the Orton-Gillingham Approach provides this intervention daily.
While reading and writing are central to our curriculum, the School offers a comprehensive educational program to help students develop intellectually and to prepare them to reenter mainstream schools successfully.
Reading and Spelling
Reading instruction at The Schenck School begins at the letter and sound level in order to lay a foundation of strong and reliable phonemic awareness. Students are taught each of the letter sounds, as well as combinations of English letters and sounds. Students then study the structure of sound patterns that make up syllables, the rules that govern how vowels sound within syllables, and how words are divided into syllables. Building on that knowledge, students in third through sixth grades study prefixes, suffixes, and word roots. Direct instruction, repetition, and guided practice are reviewed, and new material is introduced systematically.
Spelling can be difficult for dyslexic learners. The School addresses this through daily instruction stressing mastery of sound and symbol. Every day, time is dedicated to spelling rules, patterns, and generalizations of the English language.
From the controlled phonics-based texts designed for the emergent reader to the rich content of award-winning children’s literature for stronger readers, students decode text through guided reading practice. Reading comprehension is taught explicitly and practiced daily. Teachers use specific strategies such as visualizing, predicting, questioning, summarizing, and drawing conclusions to strengthen comprehension.
In fourth through sixth grades, teachers explain and discuss literary elements including theme, plot, character development, and setting. As reading skills develop, students infer information not explicitly stated note the author’s point-of-view, and the historical context of the material, and determine the meaning of new vocabulary by context alone.
Research proves the strong link between fluency and strong reading signs. Fluency is practiced daily in a variety of ways. In addition to structured fluency training programs such as Great Leaps and Read Naturally, students benefit from frequent Reader’s Theatre experiences as well as responsive and paired reading.
As research continues to show, vocabulary and reading skills are closely linked. For this reason, vocabulary instruction is included in each grade’s curriculum. Words for study are taken from the context of read-aloud books, author studies, and books read aloud during group time. Instruction also includes the study of Greek and Latin suffix and prefixes.
Written Expression and Grammar
Written expression is a vital part of the School’s curriculum. Students write every day from first grade basic letter formation and dictated sentences to sixth grade expository research-based writing. Students learn and practice building sentences and basic paragraphs with increasing complexity while establishing a strong writing process. At each grade, students practice the rules of grammar, correct usage, and mechanics - learning parts of speech, role of words within a sentence, and proper use of punctuation.
Math skills and concepts are taught using sequential and spiraling manipulative-based instruction. All teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham Math Approach, which builds concrete knowledge of math algorithms using color-coded unit blocks. Teachers also use Go Math and other supplemental math materials to meet the needs of each student. Curriculum topics include:
- patterns and counting
- data analysis probability
- algebraic concepts.
Students learn organizational strategies for success in school including organization and time management. Students also use resource materials and technology to support this effort.
The social studies curriculum adapted is designed to help students understand and value the connections between themselves and other people in the community, the country, and the world as well as a historical context. General areas of study include:
- major land features and American history – first and second grade
- Georgia history – third grade
- American history through the Civil War – fourth grade
- Reconstruction to modern times – fifth grade
- basic civics and government concepts and a broad survey of major developments of European history since the Renaissance – sixth grade
The science curriculum encourages investigation, exploration, and observation. Teachers capture students’ natural interest and curiosity through the study of the earth and its diverse regions, solar system, plant and animal life, and the physical properties of matter and energy. Broad topics of study include:
- basic characteristics of plants and animals – first grade
- the human body, sea creatures, weather, the solar system – second grade
- regions of Georgia – third grade
- water, oceans, weather, air, matter, Rain Forest - fourth Grade
- classification of organisms, electricity, magnetism, plants and animals, matter and energy – fifth grade
- kingdoms of life, classification of plants, cells to ecosystems, biomes, protists, fungi and bacteria, earth, energy, circuits and electricity – sixth grade
Students in fourth through sixth grades practice the Scientific Method and complete research for special projects and oral presentations.
Handwriting and Keyboarding
Handwriting, both manuscript and cursive, is taught using the Handwriting Without Tears series. Correct keyboarding skills are practiced on devices and the Type to Learn online program.