Sand Hill School’s curriculum is not experimental. Teaching practices are based on research and evidence balanced with years of professional experience in early childhood education best practices. Teachers use evidence-based programs across all curriculum areas to ensure that struggling learners have the greatest opportunity to succeed. A sampling of Sand Hill School’s academic curriculum includes:
- Reading instruction: Fundations® (Wilson Reading System®)
- Math instruction: Math Expressions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Writing instruction: Step Up to Writing® (Sopris West®)
Simultaneous, Multisensory Instruction
Instruction at Sand Hill School is designed to engage all the senses in every aspect of student learning. To engage the visual senses, teachers may show a picture or use language to help the student visualize how something works. To engage the sense of hearing (auditory processing), teachers may read a story aloud or give instructions verbally and in writing. To engage the sense of movement (kinesthetic learning), students are asked to use their finger to “air” write a letter or spelling of a word. Other options to learn kinesthetically include standing, moving, gesturing, or playing. In these ways, a teacher employs multiple modalities in one lesson to increase the potential for learning.
Academic & Content Standards
Because Sand Hill School’s goal is to enable children to successfully transition to a traditional classroom where students will be required to meet standards, we support academic and content standards. In fact, academics are a critical part of the curriculum in every grade. Our method, however, differs. By following developmentally-appropriate practices, we take the pressure off of academics in the early years to establish a solid foundation and fill in missing building blocks. Children will be given the chance to develop at their own speed and to fill in their gaps. With a solid foundation and strategies to address challenges, they’ll be able to approach grade level tasks with greater confidence.
Developmentally Appropriate Teaching
As academic standards have taken a front seat in early childhood education, children who aren’t able to achieve these standards by a specific time suffer. The reality is children reach developmental milestones at different times. By emphasizing standards, children are often rushed and the instruction they receive is often not a match with their current level of development. Sand Hill School delivers instruction at each child’s appropriate developmental level. Play and hands-on activities are critical elements of a developmentally appropriate classroom for young children. The Sand Hill School learning environment includes these activities in the curriculum to help your child build a solid foundation.
Structured, Yet Flexible Environment
An environment that provides direct, explicit instruction helps children who struggle with attention and/or learning issues. For example, a posted, daily routine helps children break down a task, focus and learn to set goals. Children who don’t fit the mold also need the flexibility to choose what interests them. For example, instead of “Write about your summer vacation,” students are asked, “Tell us about your summer vacation any way you want.” Students are given the flexibility to express themselves in multiple ways with options such as writing in a journal, drawing a picture, creating a song, or recording a video clip.
Interests as a Pathway to Developing Strengths and Strategies
Building self-confidence and nurturing the joy of learning is critical to a child’s long-term success in school and life. If a child’s learning style matches well with the dominant teaching style, learning is a breeze, but students who don’t fit one style of learning develop the idea that they’re not smart or learning is boring. Sand Hill School focuses on a child’s interests and strengths. A strength-based approach capitalizes on a child’s interests and builds them into strengths. As your child builds a bank of positive learning experiences, his self-confidence and motivation to learn increase. When children are developmentally ready to reflect on their strengths, they learn to use their strengths as learning strategies to overcome challenges.
Technology to Assist Learning
Assistive technology helps level the academic playing field for struggling learners. Some examples include: Text-to-speech technology to help a child read a book, interactive literacy exercises on an iPad to keep a child engaged and give immediate feedback during a lesson, and handheld student response devices that keep students engaged in learning and allow the teacher to quickly check a child’s understanding. These types of technology tools can reduce the impact of learning barriers, leverage a student’s strengths and provide an alternative means to achieve an academic goal. A by-product of using technology is that it engages the learner and contributes to greater self-confidence as the child experiences success and develops an “I can” attitude.
Parent Participation and Partnership
Active parent participation and partnership are a critical part of your child’s success. See profile of Sand Hill School parents.