North Bridge Academy (NBA) optimizes the learning experience for students with dyslexia. By employing established practices and empirically-based curriculum used by the best school for dyslexics in the country, NBA believes we will also be as successful as our esteemed counterparts. This approach gives us the confidence to believe that when our students continue on to high-school and graduate from college they will lead successful lives as confident life-long learners.
We have identified 9 best practices among the best schools for dyslexic students:
Hire teachers who have instructional expertise in dyslexia
Carefully monitor student progress
Provide targeted small group instruction
Reinforce a social emotional curriculum daily
Use curriculum designed especially for students with language processing issues
Employ a multi-sensory program to build Audio-Visual-Kinesthetic processing of print
Establish a strong community of inquiry and teach to the intellectual and creative capabilities of our students
Structure of the Day
Class begins at 8:30. Each day begins with a check-in and a morning meeting. Slingerland and English Language Arts happens first thing each morning and concludes at 10:15 for snack break. Following snack break there is an hour long math block. Lunch and recess is from 12:15-1:00. In the afternoon the schedule changes each day. Afternoon classes are usually are spent on the following subjects: social studies, technology training, art, drama, P.E., STEM or science. P.E. is offered daily in the afternoons. At 3pm, students rejoin their homeroom teacher for closing circle. Students are released at 3:15.
Class begins at 8:15. As with our lower school program, the morning academic blocks are devoted to core academic areas and interventions. In the afternoon the schedule changes each day. Afternoon classes are usually are spent on the following subjects: social studies, art, drama, P.E., science, technology, and STEM. P.E. is offered each afternoon. At 3pm, students have a 15 minute advisory block to get additional support with assignments or address school related issues. Students are released at 3:15.
English Language Arts
More and more, the dyslexic community has come to understand dyslexia less as a disability and more as a recognition of structural differences within the brain. This is why many call for dyslexia to be called a learning difference. We know that when dyslexic learners are exposed to strong reading and writing programs, they are able to build literacy skills within normal limits. Research has repeatedly shown that students being taught a multi-sensory, Orton-Gillingham program have been able to achieve notable learning gains. At NBA, our students participate in Slingerland Instruction, which is a classroom adaptation of Orton-Gillingham principles. Moreover, as our students build crucial skills in reading and writing, we will encourage them to find a connection to literature, as well as to use their creativity to explore ideas and concepts in order to examine the world around them.
Our math instruction combines multi-sensory, hands-on project based activities and games. We have an articulated scope and sequence aimed at covering developmental mathematics standards across grade levels. Our core curriculum is augmented by a program called Making Math Real, which provides real-world, contextual math lessons, which focus on the concept behind math processes. Students are carefully guided from concrete exploration to more abstract mathematical problem solving to ensure a deeper, more integrated understanding of mathematical functions. These techniques are shown to teach math fundamentals in engaging way that supports the needs of our students whether they require deep remediation, or are ready for deeper engagement. The pace at which new concepts are introduced depends on each student’s level. Some of our students excel in math, going well beyond grade level. Others come to us with a need for intensive remediation and support.
Science is an area offering great potential for many students with dyslexia. Their capacity for divergent and creative thinking, investigation, and inquiry often comes naturally. Our job is to help them to learn and realize this potential area of strength and to develop the necessary thinking skills for applying scientific thinking into their project-based work. Our commitment is to adhering to age-level standards with a focus on hands-on, creative work. Most every science lesson is a project. Given the natural and scientific resources in Marin and the Bay Area, a particular emphasis will be placed on natural sciences.
As with science, social studies standards met are the same as any California public or private school. Literature, character re-enactment, and group projects will drive student investigation into the past and facilitate connections with the present. Current events are brought into the curriculum, based on student discussions, and/or driven by impactful events (example: presidential election). In all lessons, students are expected to do research and writing. They will also be presented with the opportunity to engage in multi-media and art.
Every day the students have a 20 minute break in the morning and a 45 minute lunch/recess break in the mid-day. Students meet daily for P.E. Classes are forty-five minutes each. Physical education instruction is provided by Grow Fit, a Bay Area organization specializing in physical fitness.
Fundamental to our program are the following objectives:
As our P.E. program is customized for the students we serve, so is our visual arts program. The visual arts curriculum at North Bridge Academy serves gifted visual-spatial thinkers. How do we harness and challenge this strength? How do we nurture their artistic self-expression and expand their imaginations? We provide them with an art teacher, guest artists and a supportive environment to explore their artistic inclinations, to encourage risk taking and to discover alternative ways of knowing the world and relating to those in it. They will practice artistic reflection as they experiment with different art mediums and perspective: (e.g., Why does art make us feel a certain way?, What are the similarities and differences in different styles?, What can I learn that will enhance my own artistic expression? The art program will be offered twice a week.
Making Maker moments happen just seems like best practice, especially for dyslexic students. In STEAM class, mistakes are celebrated and inventiveness, originality and creative-problem solving is rewarded. For the younger grades students might be figuring out how to route a Mindstorm™ robot through an obstacle course, while at older grades (4th and higher), it will mean engaging in biomedical design of prostheses. We celebrate invention and interweave it with current environmental issues to encourage students to think globally and act locally.
North Bridge Academy strengthens our students’ sense of community and independence by taking a Fall multi-grade, multi-day camp out. The lower grade trip focuses on environmental education, examining our interconnection with the landscape and flora and fauna native to California. The students learn to work together, forming a strong connection with their peers, teachers and parents. The upper grades focus on outdoor education, personal challenge and teambuilding.