While Hill’s basic curriculum structure is similar to traditional programming in many ways, there are some significant adjustments made for the instructional needs of individual students and the class as a whole. At its foundation, Hill School curriculum is correlated with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and includes state-adopted textbooks as well as Common Core curriculum. Just like other schools, the instructional day includes classes in reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as science, history, physical activity, and fine arts. Unlike other programs, we intentionally design structures around our curriculum to include:
- Ability-grouped, needs-focused instruction in language arts and mathematics
- Extra time for English Language Arts programming – more than 90 minutes per day spent on reading comprehension, writing, grammar, and vocabulary
- Integrated 21st century technology usage to support academic needs and develop organizational skills
- Study skill instruction to support academic content acquisition; explicit practice of varied study strategies throughout the curriculum
- Differentiated instruction providing multiple formats to meet the needs of students with different learning styles – auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.
- Explicit, dedicated focus on social communication skills for identified students; leadership and character development instruction and opportunities for all
- Active use of student-identified accommodations if remediation is not the primary focus
Hill School instructors rely on their expertise with the All Kinds of Minds neurodevelopmental model of learning. Student academic goals are built in consultation with families and take into account a student’s profile of strengths and weaknesses. The All Kinds of Minds framework for understanding learning takes into account both the capabilities of the brain as well as the developmental expectations for a child’s age-group. The neurodevelopmental framework focuses on eight major areas of brain function and their associated sub-categories.
Our attention system is like an orchestra conductor for the brain’s activities. It has three major categories: mental energy, our ability to process incoming stimuli, and how we respond to it (production)
It’s all about time management; how well does our brain prioritize, use sequences, or estimate how long something will take to complete.
What are the brain’s capabilities to manage materials and organize the necessary elements to complete a task? How well do we use visualization skills to accentuate our learning – think of geometry class!
Recalling information is one part of this – but how well can we manipulate components from our memory with new concepts to create learning? And if we struggle with this area, is it a storage problem or a retrieval problem?
Communication is critical – reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The language centers of our brain are complex and we can compensate remarkably well
Of course our brain controls our muscles but those used for sports and large movement are distinctly different from the ones used for artistic endeavors and fine motor skills. In a system of its own, are the muscles associated with handwriting and producing legible text.
Probably the most “public” brain function we have – our social behaviors and verbal/social interactions with others define how other people preceive us and react to us.
From comprehension to problem-solving to creativity to reasoning … our higher order thinking skills can take us to the next level of understanding abstract ideas and complex situations.
While all students should understand how their minds work, it is of vital importance for children who learn differently to develop meta-cognition skills. This self-knowledge helps alleviate frustration, it encourages growth and progress, and it helps them become self-advocate as they move into new learning environments over their lifetimes. Providing time for introspection, structures to catalogue strengths and weaknesses, and an active partnership with parents and students, Hill School programming helps students to demystify their learning and learn to take responsibility for their successes and their struggles.
Hill School builds empowered learning through:
- Interactive instruction that is student-centered, not teacher-directed
- Explicit planning and practice to develop organizational systems through the use of planners, Outlook, notecards, and other means to assist the disorganized student
- Self-advocacy training and practice; students explore their learning diagnoses, learn how their brain works, and examine their learning profiles to predict how they can tackle new projects or subjects
- Goal-setting by students, parents, and teachers creates buy-in and partnership in learning
- Students are expected to demonstrate their understanding of a topic before homework is assigned
- Outside learning opportunities (field trips, community projects, student travel) are provided to explore areas of strength and affinity
- Affirmation of students’ strengths and recognition that we all have weaknesses is part of our daily routine
- Students learn to be accountable for their own learning as developmentally and chronologically appropriate – hard work is valued as an important key to progress and eventual success