Students learn best when their differences are understood and accepted, when appropriate accommodations are made available and, most importantly, when their strengths as learners are defined, affirmed, and cultivated.
At Utkal International School, this is our way of life – built on the foundation that school is a “safe place” for students to engage in the process of learning. And, within this encouraging environment, Utkal International School provides a comprehensive K-12 program that features specialized and personalized attention, organizational strategies and aids, mutual accountability and encouraged self-advocacy, and an engaged faculty of learners.
Our approach – respecting differences and building on strengths – is vital for students who learn differently and may well serve as a successful model for educating all students, in all schools. A number of specific, consistent strategies are used across all grade levels in all classrooms to help ensure success and productivity, including:
Students receive the personal attention they need to be confident learners. Teachers provide bell-to-bell instruction, are active observers, and relate to each student in a way that best suits their unique learning styles. Complex concepts are broken into manageable steps, and students have many opportunities to practice each skill before they apply it to new situations. Learning strengths and challenges are continually reviewed throughout the year, and teaching approaches are modified and adapted to match each student’s changing needs.
A multi-sensory approach to learning is critical for students with language and attention-based learning differences. Hands-on activities are the rule rather than the exception, and students take advantage of the approach that best suits their individual style. Material is presented using visual, tactile, auditory and kinesthetic formats, making it easier to process and retain information. Teachers also change activities frequently to help students stay focused on the topic at hand.
TEACHING TO MASTERY
In the classroom, academic material is taught to mastery. Students must achieve 80 percent comprehension to move on to new concepts. Teaching techniques include the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction, the Wilson Reading System, Framing Your Thoughts, and the Key Three Routine of comprehension and study strategies. Guided questioning, visualization and verbalization help students reach the 80 percent comprehension goal.
STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
At Utkal International School, small class sizes (1:9 teacher/student ratio in the Lower School and 1:13 in the Upper School) allow teachers to present appropriately challenging curriculum within functional and flexible groupings. Every classroom lesson incorporates organizational strategies to help students manage and retain information. Consistent routines, including frequent feedback and check-ins with students, facilitate success. Highlighting the development of these skills helps students manage their work and develop good structural and organizational habits for the future.
Emphasizing structure and organization helps remove roadblocks that prevent successful learning, such as slower processing speeds, inconsistent spelling and grammar, difficulty maintaining focus and concentration, and feelings of failure and anxiety resulting from past academic and social struggles. Students overcome these challenges given a strategically-designed classroom environment, structured and systematic approaches to learning, and campus-wide organizational expectations that are easily understood and articulated.
THE UTKAL INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
A carefully crafted, uniform plan for behavioral expectations provides a calm, predictable learning climate that strives to be free of bullying or harassment. Students are encouraged to embrace and celebrate differences and take risks without the fear of being ridiculed if they fail. Positive, consistent classroom management techniques allow students to meet goals and achieve success, which reduces anxiety and allows for growth.
Students learn at their own pace throughout the day in various small student groupings, avoiding the stigma that may occur when individuals are “pulled out” of class for resource room support.