Dr. Susan Autry, Academic Supervisor
At Oakwood, there are many parts that come together to make an exceptional educational experience. The key to making it all work is integration. What does this mean?
While many programs for students with learning disabilities and dyslexia rely on pulling students out of classes to provide small group instruction or individual tutoring, Oakwood has focused on providing high quality, targeted instruction within the homogeneous Reading and Literature classes. The small groups are made up of students who are at a similar level. Due to this composition of the group, the teacher can concentrate the instruction at targeted areas of need, rather than trying to teach to diverse levels within a class period. We have found this to be an effective method for helping our students develop the skills and strategies needed to be productive learners.
All of our teachers are reading teachers. They are all trained to teach reading using the Orton-Gillingham approach, currently via the Brainspring program. This means that each teacher understands the way students with learning disabilities and dyslexia learn best – using multisensory techniques.
Since each teacher understands how students learn to read, each teacher incorporates reading instruction into all subject areas. When students are reading a passage in Science, for example, the teacher will guide the students to decode the words using the syllable types and morphemes they have learned in Reading. Don’t tell the students, but we even use decoding techniques in Math! There is a lot of math language to learn – not just in word problems.
Multisensory teaching is an essential part of math instruction, as well. Hands-on manipulatives help students learn math concepts through the Concrete – Representational – Abstract sequence. When new concepts are introduced by using manipulatives and hands-on learning, they can more easily develop mathematical thinking. This hands-on approach is directly related to Orton-Gillingham teaching methods, in which all teachers are trained.
When we integrate the teaching of reading throughout all the subject areas and use multisensory teaching techniques, our students benefit. They practice their decoding skills more often during the school day and understand how these skills apply to every area of the curriculum.