Academics

Camperdown Academy offers language-based solutions for students in grades one through eight who learn differently. Based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach, each academic course is designed specifically for the dyslexic student. Every teacher on staff is trained in multisensory, structured language techniques. Teachers create lessons tailored to the needs of each individual student.

Several features distinguish a Camperdown Academy education:

Homework Policies

Students, not parents, have responsibility for completing homework. The parents’ only role is to ensure that students attempt each assignment. An afternoon study hall during 7th period allows time for students to begin each day’s homework or to meet with teachers for additional practice. Teachers assign homework they are confident students can complete independently. If students happen to encounter difficulty, they are taught to advocate for themselves by contacting the teacher directly prior to 9pm for guidance.

School-wide Organization System

Every student has a color-coded notebook for each class, and every paper has a heading that indicates its proper location within the notebook. Homeroom period each morning is devoted to organizing materials for the day. We provide consistent structure across all classes so students experience good results with organization.

Celebration, Belonging, and Success

Camperdown Academy celebrates bright dyslexic students. All students are diagnosed with a language-based learning difference. Many have a hard time learning to read. Others may find math or writing challenging. The difficulties are neurobiological in origin; they learn differently because their brains are wired differently. We celebrate the ways in which their differences give them particular strengths. Many dyslexics are gifted visual artists, excellent athletes, or social leaders. Other schools have unintentionally taught our students what they cannot do; we intentionally celebrate what they can.

At Camperdown, students find a community of others who, like them, have not found school to be seamlessly easy. When students celebrate strengths, they feel safe. They become available for success. They succeed as they are taught in ways compatible with the neurobiological underpinnings of their learning difference.
Students learn it is okay to say, “I don’t know” and to ask for help. Camperdown teachers patiently keep working with them until they understand a concept by presenting it in different ways until it clicks.

A key part of how weaknesses are remediated is by teaching how to use one’s strengths. Eighth graders annually host a Learning Fair that showcases multiple intelligences. Students learn that there are many ways to be smart.

Grades Structure
Camperdown places students into groups rather than grades. Groups allow student placements to be determined more by a student’s academic profile of strengths and weaknesses, than by his/her chronological age.
 
Traditional
Camperdown
first grade A Group
second grade C Group
third grade Am Group
fourth grade Star Group
fifth grade D Group
sixth grade E Group
seventh grade M Group
eighth grade Y Group

 

Primary

Students in grades one and two, respectively called A and C Groups, spend most of the day with a primary teacher. This provides consistent structure, allowing the primary teacher to reinforce fundamental skills throughout the day.

The innovative language-based curriculum promotes receptive, expressive, and language processing skills, as well as vocabulary enhancement. This stimulates the child to think about language.

Multi-sensory lessons based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach, teach cursive handwriting, phonological awareness, reading, written expression, oral language, listening comprehension, math, and social studies.

Cursive handwriting is introduced from the very beginning. It helps students master directionality, reduce letter reversals, and build writing fluency. Gross and fine motor skills and auditory, visual, and kinesthetic reinforcement are at the heart of the program.

Language-based strategies help students develop stronger listening and expressive skills. Phonological awareness exercises have students explore the number, order, and sameness or difference of sounds and then compare, contrast and track speech sounds in a sequence.

Students engage in highly phonetic, structured, sequential, systematic, cumulative, multi-sensory lessons. Syllable division, spelling rules, and generalizations are taught directly. Phonetically balanced readers are used with the lessons to ensure success and to reinforce the principles that have been taught. Meaningful reading comprehension skills are explicitly taught.

Writing skills begin with oral group participation in composition of single words, word lists, and sentences while sharpening the students' abilities to use precise, descriptive language. Students are involved in brainstorming, categorizing, classifying, and sequencing. Syntax and semantics are emphasized to provide a foundation for written expression. Self-monitoring of performance and proofreading skills are utilized by the students to develop independent work skills.

In math lessons students are encouraged to build problems with concrete materials so they can see the underlying place value concepts. The Math-U-See curriculum provides multi-sensory reinforcement as students build it, write it, say it, and teach it back. Concepts are arranged sequentially from simple to complex.

Enrichment activities develop sequencing and gross motor skills through Tang Soo Do and Stretch and Grow fitness classes. Science class fosters curiosity in students through inquiry-based teaching with an emphasis on observation…students spend many classroom periods exploring nature outside. Arrowsmith brain-training exercises strengthen cognitive skills.

The primary program offers an emotionally sound, environmental structure that creates desire, joy, encouragement, and opportunity for knowledge complementing each child's unique style of learning. The program is designed to meet the individual needs of the students. It incorporates a diagnostic and prescriptive approach that utilizes multi-sensory techniques to enhance the learning styles of each child. The social, emotional, physical, and educational needs are an integral part of each profile.


Lower and Middle School

Lower School students in grades three through five, respectively called Am, Star, and D Groups, change classes throughout the day. This allows for discipline-specific curriculum to be emphasized while maintaining focus on multisensory strategies.
 
Middle School students in grades six through eight, respectively called E, M, and Y Groups, rotate among classes where advanced writing, organization, assistive technology, and critical thinking are emphasized. Students are expected to produce lengthier and more complex work with greater independence. Efforts are focused on solid preparation for success in high school. Eighth graders participate in a multiple intelligences class that seeks to refine students’ self-awareness concerning their unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses and promote effective self-advocacy skills.
 
Schedule
Students attend seven classes per day. Classes are 45 minutes long, Monday through Thursday. Classes on Friday are 30 minutes long, and students are dismissed at 12:30. Friday afternoons are devoted to discussing of the needs of individual students, groups of students, and professional development for the staff.

Tutorial
Tutorial classes are held daily, where students work 1:1 or 2:1 with an Orton-Gillingham tutor focusing on decoding, spelling, handwriting, phonological awareness, reading comprehension, reading fluency, vocabulary, and written expression. Students work in-depth with tutors to remediate their greatest areas of need. Each student’s tutorial curriculum is unique and individualized.
 
In middle school, students use technologies such as cloud-based word processing to produce increasingly more sophisticated forms of writing.
For some students, text-to-speech technology bolsters their ability to self-edit their own work as it allows the computer to read their writing back to them. Additionally, speech-to-text may be introduced to circumvent obstacles with working memory or fine-motor control. Learning Ally or other audio books may be used to challenge a student to develop more reading comprehension.
 
Math
Many students struggle with traditional math instruction because they were moved ahead even though they had not mastered foundational math concepts. Camperdown uses the Math-U-See curriculum because it strives to build understanding by using a multi-sensory, mastery-based approach. It systematically gives students the opportunities to master the concepts they missed. The goal is to help learners truly understand math, not just memorize facts.

In math classes, students are encouraged to build problems with blocks so they can “see” how math works. Multi-sensory reinforcement occurs as students build it, write it, say it, and teach it back. Concepts are arranged sequentially from simple to complex. Lessons contain reinforcement of a new concept and review of previously taught skills so that students maintain the gains they make. The Math-U-See curriculum is self-paced and individualized. Students who grasp concepts quickly have the opportunity to push forward.

Math lab, a daily class for Lower School students, builds fluency with basic math facts. Students practice facts in a variety of ways including iPad apps. Lessons reinforce Math-U-See strategies. This ensures a solid foundation and prevents gaps in knowledge.

As needed, some middle school math classes may use traditional math curricula to ensure students are adequately prepared for high school math courses.

Content
Science class fosters curiosity in students through inquiry-based teaching with an emphasis on observation. Lower school students spend many classroom periods exploring nature outside, while middle school students utilize tools such as a 3D printer and pulley systems for interactive learning.
 
The drama and art programs work to cultivate an appreciation of creativity while building on the concepts of sensory and emotional awareness.
 

Social Studies covers traditional content while teaching textbook and study skills. Students locate salient information in textbooks so that they develop the ability to read for details and prepare for tests. Study guides, outlining skills, and essay writing also receive attention. The curriculum’s pace is designed to help students acquire skills useful for later educational experiences. Classes focus deeply on fewer topics rather than covering many units at a merely superficial level.

Literature class introduces students to literature genres and develops in-depth comprehension skills. Course texts are selected because they are classic titles that dyslexic students would typically not choose on their own. Classes feature frequent discussion with an emphasis on vocabulary development. Students gain exposure to literary devices. Teachers read the entire novel aloud, guiding students to understand story line and author’s intent. Through talking, listening, reading, and writing, students remark, “Oh, I get it!” and begin to enjoy the stories that books offer.

English Language Arts combines language instruction with keyboarding, learning computer programs, and research writing skills. Lower school students focus on the structure of grammar and writing high-quality sentences. Middle school students use sentence knowledge as they develop paragraphs and research papers. Attention at the middle school level is given to MLA format for research papers. English Language Arts prepares students for success with writing.