How is Woodland Hall Academy Unique?

Why Do We Succeed When Others Have Not?

If you look at Woodland Hall Academy’s curriculum, you will see we teach all the skill sets of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. We serve students from 1st grade to 12th grade. We have a complete high school program with students receiving credits that allow them to graduate and go on to post-secondary programs. So how is Woodland Hall Academy different from other programs?

It’s not WHAT we teach but HOW we teach that makes the difference between a child struggling to learn or SUCCEEDING AT LEARNING. Children with Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders and related learning differences LEARN DIFFERENTLY.

WHA starts with the skills your child has and helps him learn the skills he should have.

Through our diagnostic testing we identify what educational skills your child has and what gaps are creating the learning problems. We start by filling in these gaps in a systematic fashion. All too often students have just been passed on through school, whether or not they have mastered the foundation skills. Without mastery of the foundation skills, such as learning multiplication or division facts and processes, a student is on the road to failure in higher level classes.

“John did not have a good grasp of fractions when he entered WHA at 13, but in his other school he had been placed in Algebra because that was what everyone in his grade level was learning. At Woodland Hall Academy, he was retaught fractions, percents, and decimals, and this time he actually learned the information. He’s now in Algebra and making great grades.”

WHA nourishes your child’s bright intellect while his reading, writing, and spelling skills are being remediated.

Many times, in other schools, children who are poor readers are placed in remedial classes where the content of the information is simplified and lower than their actual intellectual ability. The children become educationally deficit because they are not learning the same information as other students. Conversely, they may be in grade level classes where they are expected to read materials that they cannot even though they can understand the content. They often struggle and give up because they cannot make it through the
reading.

Content classes such as Science or History at WHA are designed so that the students’ weaknesses in reading or writing may be compensated by the information being presented in a variety of fashions. Teachers present information through use of graphic organizers which have extracted the important information from the text and placed it in a mode the students can understand and learn. Students participate in hands-on activities which bring the content alive. Use of Internet resources and other resources are used as
teaching tools.

“Chandler loves to watch the History or Discovery Channels. He can tell you anything you want to know about World War II or about animals. But his reading was so weak that at his other school they pulled him out of all the content classes and were tutoring him in reading. He was missing out on all the information in his content classes and bored silly in his reading class. He wasn’t learning to read either. We’ve seen such a change in him since being at Woodland Hall. He has a chance to excel in History and Science because of the different activities and way they teach. He’s making great strides in his reading classes.”

WHA takes the time that’s needed for students to master their skills.

WHA proceeds at the students’ pace of learning. If it takes two years for students to learn fractions, percents and decimals, then that’s the amount of time we will take to teach it. Time and the proper teaching techniques are needed to allow the students to truly master the material.

“I had a class of five teenagers who were struggling in math. We spent two years learning the processes and concepts in fractions, percents and decimals. Without these mastered, they could not truly succeed in Algebra or move on to higher math. By taking the time, not only did these students succeed in the high school math courses, but all earned college degrees. One became an engineer and another majored in Business Administration. Time is not a luxury at Woodland Hall Academy; it is a necessity for learning.” Ms. Rennick

WHA teachers use a team approach to teaching.

Administrators and teachers meet on a weekly basis to discuss individual students and to set specific goals, behaviorally as well as academically, for those students. The emphasis is to target the behaviors we want to increase. We emphasize increasing “good” behavior which then extinguishes the inappropriate behavior.  Teachers discuss techniques that are working with the students. If something is not working, then we change what is being done and try other techniques.

Teachers all follow the same organizational patterns in their classes. Homework is assigned the same way. Class rules and organization in every class are the same. The students learn the organizational patterns which assist them not only in class but in developing a system of organization for their lives.

Some students require even more individualized attention. They may receive a conduct sheet with a particular behavior that we want to track. We are attempting to help them “increase” this behavior, for example the conduct sheet may target “Student will follow directions in a timely manner.” Or “Student will respond in a respectful tone of voice.” Each period the teachers will note how many times the student has done this behavior. Daily, the student will review his conduct sheet with an administrator and emphasis will
be placed on how many times he has followed through on the correct behavior. Ways to improve will also be discussed.

WHA uses The Hardman Technique, a curriculum uniquely designed to match the learning patterns of the students.

Students enter Woodland Hall Academy because they process information differently than the neuro-typical student. Our students have had earlier failures in school because they were being taught information in a way they could not learn. The Hardman Technique was created with the philosophy “If a child isn’t learning the way we teach, then we must teach the way they learn.” (See The Hardman Technique for more information.)

WHA helps rebuild the confidence and self-esteem that has been lost through past failures.

Confidence and self-esteem can only be built through success. One of the major concerns many parents relate to administrators as they are exploring whether to enroll their child in WHA is the child’s poor confidence and self-esteem. “My child doesn’t feel that he can do anything right. I’m afraid he is giving up” is often a comment that is made.

Because students are placed in classes appropriate to their skills levels, and they begin to learn material they previously had not learned, they begin to be successful. Teachers create a safe environment for learning.  When a child makes a mistake, the teacher immediately gives the child the correct answer and the child repeats it back. Gone is the response, “We have been studying this for a week. You should know it.  Johnny, tell Jill what the answer is!” Teachers support the student’s learning by continual practice and
rehearsal of information until it is an independent skill.

Respect, courtesy and encouragement are modeled by teachers and administrators and practiced by students. “Good job” is not just heard from the teachers, but from the students to each other. One of our sixth graders exclaimed one day, “I love school. You know, nobody laughs at me because I make mistakes when I read!” (She’s now a graduate student in Occupational Therapy.)

Teachers try to “catch” students doing things correctly. Parents are often called to be told what their child is doing correctly so that a positive relationship is developed between school, parent, and child.

“Woodland Hall Academy is different from other schools in so many ways. The teachers and administrators understand the importance of success with academics, even the little successes. The structure the school provides is so helpful and I love that my boys are graded on their encouragement of others in addition to many other areas. When teachers and administrators create a positive environment, it’s amazing how much a student can learn.  Woodland Hall is about academics and creating learners that care about the community and our world. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful resource in Tallahassee!” Jensen and Marshall’s Mom

WHA is an ADHD Medication-Free environment.

“When you change the environment to fit the unique needs of the child with ADHD, then medication to control behavior is not needed.” Robyn Rennick, Program Coordinator

Small classes, direct instruction, positive discipline, corrective practice, organization, consistency, nutritional changes and a true teamwork approach between teachers, administrators and parents take away the “need” for medication to control a child’s ADHD characteristics. When a child with ADHD is enrolled in WHA, the parents agree to work with the doctor to remove their child from any medications that are strictly for ADHD behaviors.

Where are your ADHD children?” one observer asked. He couldn’t believe that almost all the students had ADHD. “But they are so focused and on task.” Multisensorial techniques, directed, high energy teaching, and understanding that the child does not want to misbehave allow the child to develop his ability to control and focus without the use of medication.

WHA teaches through discipline not punishment.

Encarta Dictionary says that discipline is “1) the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior; 2) order and control; 3) calm controlled behavior; 4) conscious control over lifestyle; 5) activity or subject.”

When a school views discipline as the teaching of focused, organized, controlled behavior that allows one to accomplish a task or goal at a productive level, then the emphasis shifts from “reacting to bad behavior” to “responding, recognizing, and reinforcing good or positive behaviors and choices.” This is a tremendous shift, especially for children with ADHD who have been constantly told to “Stop that!” but don’t know what to replace the bad behavior with.

How does WHA teach this type of discipline?

1) Through organization and routine: Classes all begin the same way. Materials are handled in an organized, controlled fashion. Homework folders are handed out and the assignment books are used and checked each class period. This consistency and routine allows children with attention and organizational problems a structure that allows them to develop a mindset that helps them to be ready for class.

2) Through practicing: As a new routine is introduced, the teacher models the routine and the students practice it three times. This practice component is done each time the routine is needed until the students can do it independently.

“I’m having my class learn a strategy of how to remember the page number the teacher calls out. I have modeled that they need to write the page number in their margin and then look for it. So this past week, before we go to the book, I tell them to show me what they need to do if I call out a page number such as page 52. They write the number in the margin. We do this three times and then I say the page number for real. The students are starting to do this without my prompting. What a great strategy and I
only have to say the page number one time!”

3) Through positively recognizing the proper behavior: Teachers redirect students’ behaviors by telling or demonstrating what has been done correctly – not what has been done incorrectly.

Statements that recognize proper behavior:
“I like the way Mr. Brown is standing properly, everybody stand that way.”
“Show everyone how to organize your place. Great! Everybody do it that way.”
“Do we answer in a complete sentence?”
“Try that answer in a friendly tone of voice.”

Teachers are recognizing small achievements and shaping the students’ behaviors towards the appropriate behavior.

4) Through logical consequences: When there is a breakdown in appropriate behaviors, then the consequence to address this breakdown is logical and focuses on having the child practice the correct behavior or choice.

When a child finishes his homework and turns it in on time, then the logical consequence is to have free time during snack and lunch with his classmates. Conversely, should a child not complete his homework, then the consequence is to eat snack and lunch away from the others and to use the free time to complete the homework.

When a child participates in class appropriately, then the logical consequence is that she has earned her free time to play. When a child chooses not to participate in class appropriately, then the logical consequence is to be separated from the class and to make up what has been missed with the teacher during free time.

When teachers see a student who has not followed through on the appropriate behavior, whether it be missed homework or inappropriate behavior in class, the teacher works with the student on not just making up the work, but on the appropriate behaviors the student needs to use to be successful. The positive, correct behavior is modeled and practiced so the student knows what is expected of him next time.

How does WHA tame the Homework Monster?

Too often parents report that in their child’s previous school, they spent hours doing homework each night but that the homework did not seem to improve the child’s academics. They also report the frustration of seeing the child do the homework, put it in their backpack, and then being called because their child did not turn their homework in to the teacher!

How do we tame the monster? Three basic rules for WHA homework: 1) Homework is what the child has demonstrated they can do independently. 2) Homework assignments are written in the assignment book and checked by the teacher. 3) Missed or incomplete homework is completed on the day it is due with the teacher so that any confusion is addressed and the Homework Step that was missed is practiced.

Homework is a 12 Step Process: We find out which of the steps the child is independent with and which they are missing. All new students are in an afternoon Homework Support group until they can demonstrate independence with these steps. Homework Support may last from two weeks to two months, whatever it takes to assist the child to become independent.

Step 1: Teacher assigns the homework.
Step 2: Student writes the assignment in assignment book.
Step 3: Student reads his assignments at the end of the day.
Step 4: Student gathers the materials he needs before he leaves school.
Step 5: Student has a time and place for doing homework.
Step 6: Student reads his assignments in his assignment book.
Step 7: Student works through each assignment.
Step 8: Student checks off the assignment book at the completion of his assignment.
Step 9: Student places the assignment in the proper place in his homework folder.
Step 10: Student places his homework folder in his backpack.
Step 11: Student takes his homework folder to school.
Step 12: Student turns in his homework to the teacher.

Bet you never knew homework had so many steps or considered that it is a 24- hour process! The Homework Support teacher models and has the student imitate and then practice each process. The student and teacher discuss what steps the student already does independently and then practice the weaker steps.

“We used to spend 2-3 hours doing homework before my daughter came to WHA. Now she rarely struggles with homework and does it independently.” Hannah’s (8 years old) Mom

“WHA consistently gives less homework than we experienced in public schools. This is critical to Natalie and I would guess, to others who have difficulty completing assignments for a variety of reasons. This allows the students to achieve some success AND allows the students and parents to maintain their sanity!  [Homework in public middle school was excessive and unnecessary, i.e., several pages of math problems on some nights, along with work in many other classes.] Also, the teachers go over the homework the next day to make sure the student “gets” it.” (Natalie’s Mom)  (Natalie, 17 years old, added that the homework is also well-explained.)

What opportunities do students have to develop their creativity and leadership skills at WHA?

Too often students with dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers and related learning issues have to spend all their time struggling in school just to keep up. The inordinate amount of time spent on homework precludes extracurricular activities. Their poor grades keep them from being involved in many school activities. Their social skills are weak and many become isolated from other students or they gravitate to groups that do not have positive role models.

WHA views developing social, leadership and community service skills as a crucial part of a young person’s development into a productive, successful citizen. Therefore students are involved in club activities, team building activities, and community service work that allow them to develop these interpersonal skills.

Just as students have to be taught academics in a very directed fashion, they have to be taught how to become a successful club member, leader, or team member. Each student participates in these activities and is guided in appropriate behaviors.

Activities at WHA:

CLUBS: Clubs meet the last period on Friday. Clubs are formed based on student interests and may include: Cooking Club, Science Club, Student Council, Art Club, Games Club, Golf Club, and Yearbook Club.

COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECTS: Students learn empathy and that they are a part of the community by helping others.

Christmas Project: At Christmas, instead of students exchanging presents, they pick a project to support. One year it might be bringing in food and materials for the animals at the Humane Society. The next year it might be filling stockings for the children at the Homeless Shelter. Students learn about the needs of their community and work to fill in the gaps.

Earth Day Project: On Earth Day we have school-wide activities that support the environment. Students may work around the grounds at WHA planting flowers and doing some landscape improvements (check out our great stepping stones to the flag). Students have also had a penny drive to help save manatees, elephants and wild mustangs.

OPEN HOUSE: In the fall and spring, students present to parents, family and friends the projects they have been working on through the semester. Our Open House is usually held at the Fellowship Presbyterian Church so students can experience how to present to an audience from a stage. It is amazing to see a student move from almost too shy to be on stage holding a poster, to the same student being poised and confident in presenting to over 100 people after several open houses.

OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES: Because the Homework Monster is tamed, students have time to engage in outside activities. Many of our students have excelled and enjoyed activities such as taekwondo, speed skating, softball, art classes, Boy Scouts, etc. Their talents are spotlighted at WHA when they bring in their achievements.

Florida High School/High Tech is a program sponsored by The Able Trust for high school students with disabilities. WHA students meet with students from around the community and have career building activities and social skill activities. Students have the opportunity to be a part of the Florida HS/HT leadership team. They go on career shadowing field trips and many work in summer internship positions which provide them great work experiences and some pocket money.

Youth Leadership Forum is another program sponsored by The Able Trust. High school sophomores and juniors are invited to participate in a four-day leadership conference with other students with disabilities. Students spend the long weekend in a dorm at Florida State University with students from across Florida. They have tours of the Capitol, hear legislative speakers, learn about leadership, engage in great social interactions and have a wonderful time overall.

Youth Leadership Conference – Told through the student’s eyes

The Florida Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is an annual career and leadership training program for high school students with disabilities. Sponsored annually by The Able Trust, the YLF brings together rising high school juniors and seniors each summer to spend a long weekend in Tallahassee learning about community and academic resources, disability history, career options and personal leadership. They also take part in social activities which enable them to network, learn from each other and build friendships that will last a lifetime.

This year Natalie Crowell, a WHA junior, attended YLF. It was a weekend of firsts: first time being away from family this long; first time being at a dance; first time staying in a college dorm; first time sitting in a Senator’s chair at the Capitol. “I liked the session on self advocacy. They talked about how we need to ask questions and find out about resources.” A highlight of the weekend was meeting FSU basketball, football and baseball stars and getting autographs.

“I’ve been invited back as a junior staffer for next year,” Natalie reported, “And I’m getting my paperwork in right now.”