Becoming a reader is one of the most critical milestones in elementary education.
Many of the children who come to Dearborn Academy in the elementary school have language-based learning challenges. We're one of the few schools in the state with significant expertise in addressing both language-based learning disabilities and behavioral, emotional or social challenges. Since so much of learning depends on reading and writing, language-based delays can obstruct a student's growth in many areas and be devastating to a child's self-esteem.
The Dearborn Reading Approach
We start with a comprehensive assessment to learn what's holding a student back. We then employ explicit interventions, exercises and activities to address the student's specific learning difficulties. When students receive skilled one-on-one support, they can often make progress very quickly. All students benefit from the specific reading instruction provided in the classrooms. Some students will require supplemental services provided through our Learning Center professionals (Reading Teachers, Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapist) in addition to their classroom work. Since many students have had difficulty over several years with reading, we often assign simpler books at first that we know will capture their interest and build their confidence. As they gain greater fluency and comfort, we'll offer more challenging books.
Not all Dearborn students struggle with literacy. When students are reading and writing at grade level or above, we create small groups where we can continue to expand their higher-level comprehension skills, literature appreciation and more complex writing skills. Our teachers are excited to introduce new worlds to our students through books.
Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Language arts classes are held four times a week for 40 minutes at a time. Some students may spend additional time in one-on-one instruction; other may spend their class time in one-on-one sessions as well. All students also have two writing classes each week in addition to the writing activities they do in social studies, science and other language arts classes where we focus on carefully developing each student's expository writing skills.
Reading and writing strategies used in classrooms include the use of vocabulary imaging to build an understanding of new words and phrases, graphic organizers to help increase comprehension and organize thoughts, setting a purpose when reading to build focus and creating a sense of safety before encouraging a student to read aloud, present their writing or participate in a classroom discussion.
Short writing assignments allow young students to organize their thoughts and ideas. As they grow, students write stories and essays and give class presentations. We talk about finer points of grammar and structure as they are ready to learn. Lessons and games on parts of speech and sentence development help generate more vivid language and improve sentence formulation and grammar. Our aim is to build confidence as well as fluency and to give each child the support he or she needs to feel successful.
Our language arts classes study many different types of literature. Young students start with folk tales, poetry and myths, but soon move up to chapter books, science fiction and historical novels. Elementary students greatly enjoy reading books like Spiderwick Chronicles and The Transmogfrication of Roscoe Wizzle, while middle school students are often ready more challenging books such as Ender's Game and The Old Man and the Sea.