The content of our curriculum matches or exceeds that of any other Georgia school, and has been awarded the highest accreditation (Accredited with Quality) from the Georgia Accrediting Commission.
The real difference is in our teaching methods. One of the most effective tools we utilize is the 360 Perspective combined with the Orton-Gillingham* multi-sensory approach to language arts and mathematics. The goal of this specialized teaching approach is to create a framework for children with dyslexia and other learning challenges “to understand their difficulties and adapt tools and strategies to learn how to learn.” For advanced learners our flexible class groups and personalized curriculum acknowledges and supports their individual growth, allowing them to move forward when ready instead of at a predetermined schedule. The 360 Perspective looks at each child as a whole individual learner.
Gerard’s 360 approach in language starts at the beginning with the sound of each phoneme (individual letter sound), continues to blending, and flows into reading, spelling, handwriting, oral language, organization of thought, and written expression. While phonics is an important component, the 360 Perspective places equal emphasis on vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and written expression. Phonetic decoding will increase and enable word recognition, and fluent reading will blossom as a child understands the meaning of words within the content, and uses new vocabulary for writing and self expression. Our goal is to develop a love for language in all forms!
Most students take approximately two to three years to master all language strategies; but once they do, they use them to unlock the mysteries of language throughout their lives.
The basic principles of the 360 Perspective are:
- Simultaneous multi-sensory presentation and reinforcement
Everyone has four main learning channels—auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic. Most traditional schools teach to the student’s visual and auditory channels primarily. The 360 Perspective takes advantage of all four, making learning a Multi-sensory experience rather than just information for their brain. For instance, spelling at Gerard includes saying the word orally, writing it in the air with their finger, writing it on paper, and going a step further, modeling it in clay or acting it out with our bodies. Additionally Gerard integrates the LETTERS ALIVE reading program into the classroom setting, enabling students to see and hear the letters in augmented reality (3D). The Gerard classroom and trained instructors incorporate puppets, music, songs, and movement into the educational climate, creating an expanded buffet of learning where all students can engage and grow.
- Beginning with the simple and moving to the complex
A student must be able to associate a sound with a symbol before being able to blend sounds into words, or words into sentences and paragraphs. However we also use a whole language approach for visual learners, bringing language into their class environment, connecting words to real items, areas, and interests.
- Teaching through their intellect and creativity : What they hear or see they may forget, but what they do they will remember…
They need to develop a thorough understanding of concepts and apply them after thinking them through logically.
- Structuring the learning experience to ensure success
Our teachers individualize the instruction to meet each child’s needs and then help them build bridges to guide them to a mastery of new skills.
- Helping students internalize new information and apply it
Because of their disorganized language patterns, children with dyslexia and other processing challenges need extra help in learning how to associate and generalize information.
Students engage on a daily basis in interactive SmartBoard lessons (pictured here) and online learning tools. The students who master personal tools and strategies have the foundations they need for a lifetime of learning.
Our educational program includes art, music, and physical education because we believe it is vital to engage the mind in as many ways as possible, seeking out the strengths upon which a student can build a foundation that will help them develop confidence despite their educational challenges.
The most common experience for students when they first become part of the Gerard community is one of great relief. Finally, someone understands them. Instead of being told they are lazy or dumb, or that they have to wait before they can move on, they are encouraged, reassured, and shown tools that enable them to progress as never before. To be sure, there will be hard work ahead, but for those of us at Gerard, those first 30 days when a student opens up, sheds their frustrations, and learns to love learning, are among the most gratifying.
Everything we do is based on the knowledge that at some point our students will return to a world where there won’t be specialized teaching (or when they’re grown, an adaptive professional environment) so in the earliest grades we work to give students the skills they need to flourish in any environment. We fully embrace this dual role; pulling them under our wings, while helping them develop their own.
The only way to truly understand if Gerard is right for your child is to visit us, meet our faculty, and see the school. As parents of our students tell us all the time, their visit was a day that changed the lives of their children and the future of their family. If you’ve read this far, we strongly urge you to call our admissions department today at 770-277-4722
Enrichment: Education is Much More Than Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
At Gerard we long ago learned the importance of a complete education, particularly for students with learning differences. Just as we utilize every possible method of teaching in our core subjects to maximize learning, we also ensure that our students are exposed to music, art, advanced science and computer training. Although other schools have limited these programs, we see them as essential to fully developing creative intellect, and critical to maximizing the potential of every student.
Finally, we are also proponents of teaching resiliency, responsibility, and organizational “habits”. At Gerard we don’t prioritize academic skills at the expense of social and emotional learning, which includes essential life skills such as self-awareness and management, grit and determination, empathy and conflict resolution, discipline and industriousness, and the application of knowledge and skills to real-world situations. We believe that a solid academic program coupled with a robust social and emotional learning focus is the key to empowering students.