Curriculum

Reading, Written Language, and Mathematics

Willow offers a flexible learning environment to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Enclosed classrooms provide a safe and comfortable learning setting with small group instructional tables and individual student desks to permit each learner to have access to a variety of instructional seating throughout the class period. Sound field systems are in all classrooms to increase the opportunity for students to learn without the distraction of competing noise. Students use a computer and/or an Alphasmart Neo, on an as needed basis, to assist in writing tasks. Small group instruction and large group instruction can be accommodated in the classroom, and students benefit from planned movement activities to increase focus and attention.

Students are evaluated prior to acceptance at Willow. The combination of the most current testing and historic information provided by the parent/guardian assist the school in determining the students initial academic placement.

The school day at Willow is extended to permit all students to complete more work, thus reducing the amount of nightly homework. Parents are delighted to have their family time back during the evenings, decreasing the homework battles, and allowing time for their child to participate in social learning activities such as scouting, dance, art, music, and group sports during the week.

Reading
Students who have challenges in learning to read may have experienced frustration in the following areas:

Phonemic Awareness
Sight Words
Phonetic Word Attack
Vocabulary
Comprehension
Fluency
 
A combination of curriculum is incorporated to provide each student the support needed for the development and mastery of reading skills. Students spend 2 instructional hours each day working on decoding and encoding skills, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension tasks. These encoding and decoding skills help students transition to literature selections with both controlled vocabulary and authentic literature. Direct instruction by the classroom teacher and use of computer based instructional tools are provided at Willow to create a prescriptive learning program for each student. 

Written Language
In written language, students with reading deficits are, on average, one to two years behind their functional reading level. Students who struggle with reading need additional instruction and encouragement to take the risk in writing. Grammar, syntax, creative writing, and penmanship are all key points for students who have not yet mastered written language basics.

Mathematics
Students who are accepted to Willow may possess good foundation skills in basic math, but historically have difficulties with application of facts and formulas to word problems, graphs, tables, and related math tasks. Willow has selected a core curriculum that provides the needed repetition for basic facts with a daily opportunity for application in every lesson. This ensures mastery of mathematics at the student’s level of proficiency. All students are closely monitored for the opportunity of advancement. All programs have a scope and sequence that is available for review.

Science, Social Studies, and Other Subjects

Willow students are provided instruction in select content subjects that will enhance their overall learning experience during the academic school year. Students who have difficulty reading are less likely to be comfortable reading standard texts in other content areas. Willow uses curriculum that meets or exceeds the national and state standards for providing instruction to students with learning disabilities in Science, Social Studies, and other subjects.

Science and Social Studies
Many of our students are ready for concepts in Science and Social Studies that are grade appropriate, however their reading skills are not strong enough to use the “over the counter” textbooks designed for typical Science or Social Studies instruction. Science and Social Studies teachers create lesson plans that are suitable for the age group, and instead of only using paper -pencil -textbook tasks, the students learn through the use of video presentations, hands on projects, mini lessons presented by the teacher, technology based research, and other multi-sensory instructional methods. Students use teacher selected material for the related subjects and a reference text in class. The teacher selected publications are designed to be at a comfortable readability level for students with reading challenges, and yet provide age appropriate content and high interest topics that align with state and national standards.

Science Topics
Biology
Environmental Science
Earth/Space Science
Physical Science
Life Science

Social Studies Topics
American Government and Economics
American History
World History
Geography
Florida History

Learning Strategies
All students participate in a year long Learning Strategies class. This class focuses on strengthening each student's learning abilities. The idea that intelligence is fixed, immutable, and impervious to change is no longer tenable. Intelligence can be trained. Specific abilities can be developed and/or increased and that training can, in turn, affect achievement performance as well as general intellectual functioning.

Technology
Technology will be an important part of every student’s life as they continue their progress through school, enter the workforce, and pursue the recreational aspects of technology. Students participate in technology based curriculum on a daily basis. Students learn the major components of the computer, such as monitor, keyboard, and mouse. In addition to learning the components of the computer, students also learn basic keyboarding and learn how to do a basic search for information needed for class projects. High School students also spend time learning Microsoft Office products, the history of technology, and the benefits and potential pitfalls from relying on technology too heavily. Students at this level, also outline the sources of the technological process and how technology has become assimilated into every day life.

Physical Activity
Students spend a portion of their time participating in specialized activity based programs that support the relationship between the vestibular system (balance), the cerebellum, and several other key functional areas in the brain which help in all areas of learning performance. Equipment used during these activities may include; balls, bean bags, balance boards, etc. Activities are done in our academic setting, supervised by a staff member, and precise directions are given by a staff member and/or a DVD that shows exactly how to perform each and every task. Many of the activities focus on sportsmanship and teamwork.

American Sign Language
Did you know that American Sign Language (ASL) is the most commonly spoken language after English and Spanish? ASL1 and ASL2 are required courses for students in grades 11 and 12 who attend Willow. This foreign language instruction is ideal for students with learning disabilities and meets the foreign language requirement for a college Bachelor's Degree. This visual language requires precision in gestures and motions and increases the learner’s attention and focus. Students gain an insight into the world of individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf and use this form of communication in their daily life.

Course of Study for High School Diploma

Standard Diploma
In order to be eligible for a standard diploma, a student must complete 28 credit hours including courses in Algebra 1 and Geometry as part of their required math credits and maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Certificate of Completion
A certificate of completion is given when a student has completed 28 credit hours with an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher, but has not met the math requirements of Algebra 1 and Geometry needed to earn a standard diploma.