The hallways at South Campus are noticeably quieter this school year, not because of fewer students, but because of the increased levels of concentration and learning going on inside the classrooms. This fall, South Campus rolled out a new set of academic expectations along with the implementation of The Four-Blocks Literacy Model, which just a few weeks into the school year, has already proved to foster academic growth and achievement.
With a population consisting of students in grades 6 - 12+ with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD), and related neurobiological disorders, teaching academics is undoubtedly a challenge. However, through collaborative teaching and following best practices, stepping foot into a classroom in South Campus now feels more like a typical elementary school learning environment rather than a special education federal setting IV classroom.
During each school day, students cycle through the four blocks and lessons built upon each other to create a consistent, high-quality academic environment throughout the school. The four blocks consist of:
- Guided Reading – Students work alongside staff members on structured reading activities that use critical thinking skills and test reading comprehension
- Selective Reading – Students choose their own reading material and learn how to read on their own for pleasure.
- Working with Words – Students are introduced to new words each week and practice using word games and applied learning.
- Writing – Students work through the different parts of the writing process, going from rough drafts to polished work by the end of the week.
Staff have noticed students’ attention spans getting longer, and can see the progress before their eyes with the quality of their work and level of engagement. Previously, many of their students had difficulty holding a pencil, and as a result didn’t want to write because they were afraid of making mistakes. Now, during the writing block, students participate in error-less writing and are encouraged to write to the best of their ability, whatever that may look like for them. With the support and role modeling from the staff, students have already advanced in their writing, going from scribbles to outlines of letters for some students, and others developing an understanding of capitalization and punctuation.
The process has been as much of a learning experience for the students as it has been for the teachers. Working together, teachers collaborate on curriculum, share lessons, and share strategies for effective instruction. It has been a journey for the staff to take a risk and work outside of their comfort zone, but the efforts have paid off and students are learning more every day.