Philosophy and Approach

BHA 25

The environment and curriculum at Birch Hills Academy is based on the fundamental philosophy that students move fluidly along a learning continuum. This movement is most effective when students actively and meaningfully engage in their learning - children learn by doing.  

Differentiated Instruction: tailoring instruction to meet individual needs

Differentiated instruction utilizes instructionally intelligent strategies based on best practices that enable teachers to create different pathways to learning that respond to the needs of diverse learners. Differentiated instruction respects students' learning profiles, readiness, and interests as they develop and move along the learning continuum.

Behind the scenes: In a differentiated instruction classroom, teachers engage their students in activities to determine their learning styles, identify multiple intelligence, interests, and prior learning. Simultaneously they are teaching the students the routines and rituals of the classroom and school, while the students are developing the rules under which the classroom will function.

Anchor activities are taught and practiced for competency which when used in the classroom will allow the teacher to work with individual or small groups of students. Assessment tools are used prior to the teaching of new content to determine prior learning; ongoing assessment is used to identify the learning that is taking place to inform the teacher regarding areas that need to be revisited or to continue with the content; and at the end of content areas, we assess students' acquisition of material.

To the observer, students are actively engaged in learning activities in large and small groups. The teacher is working with the whole group, small groups, or individual students. Both students and teacher understand and carry out their roles in the classroom.

Students may be working independently, in small groups (that change over activity), at learning centers, with activities that are problem-based, and/or with activities that are project-based.

Small class sizes allow us to effectively use a differentiated teaching approach, which in turn, ensures an effective learning environment for our students.