LIFE @ RCS
Each student learns differently, especially one with a learning difference. That’s why all aspects of Radcliffe’s curriculum are taught in ways that incorporate the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses of each student, focusing on their strengths rather than their weaknesses with the purpose of teaching them how to learn using multiple senses.
Our curriculum is most often described as “active learning” – which could be as simple as tossing water balloons to learn about physics concepts to rhyming sounds drawn in chalk on the playground to learn about phonetics.
Specific strategies include the Orton-Gillingham method for teaching reading; small group instruction (our student-to-teacher ratio is three to one); speech and language therapy; and occupational therapy.
Each literature class is made up of a small group of proficient readers (grouped by ability) that focuses on the process of reading, developing higher order thinking skills, vocabulary, spelling, and reading fluency. The Radcliffe Literature curriculum is based on the Maryland State Reading Standards. Students read and analyze a variety of genres independently. Vocabulary is taken from the literature studied and both meaning and usage are emphasized. Spelling is approached through an examination of spelling rules and irregularities. With students at the center of the learning process, teachers individualize classroom instruction to acknowledge student strengths and develop weaknesses.
Specialized Reading Program
Following the Radcliffe model of doing things in a different way to meet the needs of our students, our reading program uses a highly-systematic, multi-sensory, phonetic approach through the implementation of the Orton-Gillingham approach. This approach has been found to benefit those struggling with learning to read. Orton follows a specific sequence, starting with the individual phonemes of consonants and short vowels to create consonant-vowel-consonant words such as cat, hip, and pet. Once this pattern of closed syllables has been mastered, students slowly progress through working with consonant blends (bl, st, cr), welded sounds (ang, ink), and into the silent-e syllable pattern. Once all six types of syllables (the other four are: vowel teams, r-controlled, open and consonant-le) have been mastered, they move into some of the more irregular patterns. While this process is often slow and time-consuming, it is important to teach to mastery because once a student knows the six types of syllables well, then they are able to read 75 percent of what is presented to them independently.
Unfortunately, not all words in the English language play fair! The words that do not follow a syllable pattern are termed “Sight Words.” As a student progresses through Orton, sight words are also introduced using both those in the Orton manual and those found in the Dolch Word list and other graded word lists, which encompass the most frequently used words in our language.
The ultimate goal of our reading program is to produce fluent readers. The truly fluent reader is one that reads aloud with expression as if they are having a natural conversation. Many things go into being a fluent reader, which is not something that comes easily or quickly for our students. Fluency combines all aspects of reading including decoding, reading rate, and overall comprehension.
Other elements of a typical reading class include phonological awareness (awareness of sound structure), handwriting practice (print and cursive), as well as comprehension of the text, read by the student.
Visualizing and Verbalizing by Nanci Bell
Wilson Reading program
Explode The Code
Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing (LiPs)
Learning Ally audiobook program
Lexia online phonics program
The Language Arts program is designed to provide multi-sensory instruction in the areas of writing, grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary. Students gain specific skills by following the systematically designed curriculum, which includes review of previously taught skills before acquisition and mastery of new skills. Students are taught strategies designed to make them successful, independent learners.
In order to implement the goals and objectives, which are derived from Maryland State Standards and current research findings, a variety of programs are utilized to meet the individual learning styles of the students. Such programs include Step Up To Writing, Language!, Framing Your Thoughts, the Write Source series, and Houghton Mifflin’s English. Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom also give students access to internet resources and activities. In addition, students in grades 5-8 are issued Chromebooks to use for writing across the curriculum.
For Orton-Gillingham students, a variety of literature selections are used in the classroom to support vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. For students placed in Literature classes, the focus in Language Arts is writing and higher level grammar.
Math at Radcliffe Creek School consists of teaching the necessary concepts of math such as numeration, place value, and computation using multi-sensory and hands-on techniques. The curriculum is drawn from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the students’ goals are selected to meet the individual needs of each student.
Math skills are taught to mastery before moving on to the next concept and emphasis is placed on the conceptualization of mathematics and not on rote memory of facts and algorithms.
Students create a math resource binder filled with templates, graphs, multiplication charges, and flow charts to help with problem-solving. As students become more proficient and confident with their math skills, the resources are transitioned out. As a student progresses through the higher levels of math instruction, Radcliffe Creek’s goal is to transition each student into a more traditional style of instruction where textbooks and less need for the resource binder becomes the norm.
Discovery is Radcliffe Creek’s unique approach to actively learning science and social studies. For nine-week blocks, students are immersed in a subject – so not only do they learn how electricity works, but also the history of it. Classrooms are transformed from a blank slate to a masterpiece of the unit being studied (one classroom comes alive as a tropical rainforest while another is constructed into a Civil War battlefield). Students use multiple senses to create and learn.
Younger students build models on the classroom floor and role play characters throughout history while older students use technology to demonstrate their understanding of science and historical events, while incorporating textbook assignments and assessments into their daily routine as they prepare, again, for academics outside of Radcliffe Creek.
Radcliffe Creek School's art program is based on the NEW National Core Art Standards. The new standards are based on three artistic processes: Creating, Presenting and Responding that will in essence help students develop life long skills in the 21st Century.
refers to students brainstorming and developing new ideas and work while using various art materials and techniques.
involves students interpreting and sharing work.
embraces the idea of students interacting and reflecting on works of art to develop understanding.
How does the NEW National Core Arts Standards support Radcliffe Creek School's Mission?
First, creating works of art is naturally hands on and multi-sensory. Students are actively engaged in the process of making art. Secondly, students work on their communication and listening skills by sharing their ideas and their work with others. Also by sharing their ideas they begin collaborating on projects. This involves using and practicing good social skills. Thirdly, when students develop and execute their ideas they are practicing ways to organize their thoughts and plan out how to make their projects work.
How will the students learn about creating, presenting and responding to art?
This year in the art room students will be the center of their learning. This type of learning is often referred in art education as choice-based or teaching for artistic behavior. Students will select which art center they would like to work in during each class. The art teacher will plan whole group demonstrations, as well as provide small group and one on one instruction.
How does the art curriculum provide students with lifelong skills?
The art curriculum provides students with the following lifelong skills: creating and innovation, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. In art class, students have to brainstorm ideas, problem solve different ways to communicate their ideas, and work together.
Using cueing, chorusing, modeling, and audio/visual systems along with verbal and written instructions, fine motor skills are taught and practiced and special reasoning is examined while creating two- and three-dimensional artwork. In and out of the studio, students concentrate on organizing their artistic ideas and materials while creating both group and individual projects.
The emphasis in the drama program at Radcliffe Creek is around the process of bringing a play or other literary material to life through a theatrical production. In addition to acting, students develop skills in design and technical production, organization, cooperation, concentration, and delegation.
Like Radcliffe Creek’s approach to other aspects of education, music at the School is used to teach organization, cooperation, and concentration. Music provides a creative outlet and helps students develop self-confidence through practice and performance.
Radcliffe Creek recognizes the importance for its students to have non-academic pursuits and offers a variety of art, music, and athletic activities during seventh period “enrichment.” Students select from classes such as cooking, boat building, chess, music, drama, yoga, filmmaking, and more. These classes not only help broaden students’ horizons, but also reinforce skills from their academic areas, such as math in boat building and reading in drama.
Social Thinking classes are part of Radcliffe’s Integrated Studies program. These classes focus on teaching our students about their role as communicators in their interactions with others.
In class, students practice how to plan and execute appropriate language, tone, and behaviors in a variety of group settings. The students think about their friendships, relationships with peers and adults, communication styles, and ability to manage their academic life, while becoming better self-advocates.
These classes also allow for individualized objectives based upon the students’ needs. These might include social pragmatic skills such as using appropriate eye contact, turn taking, impulse control strategies, and effective vocabulary usage.
Physical Education is a sequential educational program that focuses on sportsmanship, teamwork, as well as mastering the fundamental movement skills needed to perform in each individualized activity. It is based on cooperative activities undertaken in an active, caring, supportive and non-threatening atmosphere in which every student is challenged and successful. In addition to the physical domain, students will develop a more positive self-concept, improve critical thinking skills, increase their appreciation for individual and cultural differences, and exhibit appropriate social and emotional behaviors.
The Radcliffe Creek School’s Physical Education program is based upon the acquisition that students who acquire motor skills necessary to perform a variety of physical activities, physical fitness knowledge, and intrinsic motivation, will pursue a healthy and active lifestyle. The mission of Physical Education is to empower all students to sustain regular, lifelong physical activity as a foundation for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life.