“As independent schools move toward the idea of more differentiated instruction, Darlington has developed a new program unique to this area,” said James Hutchins, director of PK-8. “Students in the Early Learning Academy will work collaboratively on big ideas and break out into small, ability-based groups for the core areas of reading, writing and arithmetic. This will allow our teachers to build a directed, customized curriculum that takes into account various levels of ability and builds on the students’ strengths.”
This new program will expose all academy students to three highly qualified teachers who are teaching a dynamic, cohesive curriculum as a team. The standards, scope and sequence of the curriculum will be vertically integrated with Darlington’s entire academic program, and students will be exposed to the teaching and learning styles that are best suited for their individual needs.
“The teachers will work as a team so that all students are studying the same topics at the same time, but at different levels,” Hutchins explained. “For instance, students may come together as a group for a lesson on weather and then break out into smaller, ability-based groups for reading and math activities that support the weather lesson. A 4-year-old student may be reading at the 5-year-old level, but may need extra support in math. This new program will make it possible to customize the student’s day based on his or her needs, in addition to promoting independence and self-control.”
However, because developmental and social growth are just as important as academic progression, a portion of the day will also be spent in a structured, traditional classroom environment with one teacher who is the point person for parents.
“Developmentally, there are some things we won’t do in multi-age groups because they just don’t make sense,” Hutchins said. “This traditional classroom time will give children the opportunity to spend time with peers of the same age, which is a critical part of their social development.”
For example, fine motor skills can be very different for a 4-year-old versus a 6-year-old, so students will continue to go to enrichment classes with other students their age. During traditional classroom time, teachers will also focus on topics such as life skills and character education.
“This is the next logical step in differentiation for us,” said Academic Dean David Powell. “Our goal is to build more creative, collaborative learners by meeting the children where they are and pushing them as far as they can go. Each student will make – at the very minimum – a year’s progress from the point he or she came in, but this ability to customize the program will actually allow students to go even further, progressing at a pace that is comfortable to them.”
Space is limited. For more information about the Early Learning Academy or to enroll your child, please contact Lea Duncan in the Admission Office at LDuncan@darlingtonschool.org. Parents
are also encouraged to attend Hutchins’ monthly Parent Forum on Feb. 19. Parents of students in PK-4 will meet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Tiger Hall.
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