The reading program is Orton Gillingham-based and addresses phonemic awareness, decoding, handwriting, spelling, accurate word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Using a program validated by scientific research, Preventing Academic Failure by Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman, students are taught foundational skills in deliberately organized and integrated lessons that build reading skills incrementally and sequentially. All instruction is direct, explicit, multisensory, and individualized by virtue of a student’s grouping and the teacher’s diagnostic instruction.
As students emerge from Preventing Academic Failure, they enter a defined reading comprehension curriculum. They read high-interest fiction and non-fiction texts, providing world knowledge relevant to their work in the subject areas. Within this framework, students continue to address their decoding difficulties, develop their vocabulary, and learn organizational strategies that support comprehension.
In a daily Writing class that follows Reading, students learn to write clearly and to use writing to learn. As their writing proficiency increases, their reading comprehension improves. Following the program Teaching Basic Writing Skills by Judith C. Hochman, Ph.D., students
- write about what they read
- learn the skills and strategies employed by authors to create text
- receive daily practice writing clear sentences and paragraphs that are logical, organized, and increasingly complex
Through writing, students gradually master language. Using specific strategies and activities, they learn how to write organized, expressive, and ever-more complex sentences, paragraphs, and short compositions. As their ability to employ language to communicate through writing progresses, students’ oral language improves as well as their reading comprehension. Writing is central to instruction and learning in all the subject areas, with special emphasis on integration with students’ Language and Social Studies classes.
Through Gateway’s Math program, students evolve into strategic and competent problem solvers. Using a multisensory approach, students acquire foundational understandings and develop the reasoning skills that enable them to tackle a wide variety of Math problems. Following the defined sequence of skill-building in Stern Mathematics and Singapore Mathematics, and as augmented by teacher-designed experiences and activities, students explore the basic concepts of quantity, the relationships between quantities, and counting. In proficiency-based groups, students solidify their understanding of numbers, counting, operations, data, measurement, money, and geometry. Automaticity, computational skill, reasoning, and flexible, strategic thinking are emphasized.
The language of Math is addressed throughout. Whether engaged by games, puzzles, problem-solving, or other exploratory activities, students discuss and write about their reasoning employing the vocabulary of Math.
The uniting theme of the Social Studies and Humanities across the grades is the exploration of community. In Lower School, students examine the many connections between themselves and others, and among similar and dissimilar groups of people around the world, present and past. They begin with a study of themselves in the context of the family. From there they progress steadily out into the world, learning about their neighborhoods, New York City, New York State, the United States, and selected foreign countries with their unique cultures, including India, China, Russia, and South Africa. As students become familiar with the modern-day world, they also consider who came before through their study of immigration, Native Americans, and Ancient Egypt. Through their study of the traditions, landmarks, and histories of various communities, students develop respect for the differences across cultures and among people.
The Social Studies curriculum is skill-intensive. It is carefully integrated with Reading, Writing, Language, and Research to continuously support the development of students’ language for speaking, reading, and writing. Through the lens of the historian, students develop critical-thinking skills as they gather sources, analyze information, answer guiding questions, and examine biases. Study skills for planning, organization, and time management are introduced.
The Science curriculum works in tandem with the Social Studies curriculum to move students gradually into an exploration of the natural world of their community and the world at large. Their scope of study includes the human body; animals and plants; water and weather; the Earth’s features, ecosystems, and habitats; the solar system; and physical forces together with basic machines. Through hands-on experiences and projects, students learn the fundamentals of the scientific method: hypothesizing, observing, measuring and recording, analyzing results, and coming to conclusions.
A dedicated Science Teacher lays a foundation for scientific inquiry, investigation, and reasoning. Additionally, the use of tools for scientific measurement and observation is taught explicitly at every level and in consultation with the Occupational Therapist. The Science curriculum is carefully integrated with Reading, Writing, and Language.
Language is the tool we use to understand, think, and communicate. It is essential for learning in every area of life, and it is especially important for learning in school. Organized according to the milestones in children’s oral language and literacy development, the Language curriculum is designed to help students develop academically, socially, and emotionally. Its focus is language comprehension and processing, verbal reasoning and problem solving, oral and written language, literacy skills, and pragmatic language. The goal is to develop students into efficient communicators, to have students internalize valuable learning strategies and skills, and to build self-esteem and confidence.
As a child progresses through the Lower School program, language skills are introduced systematically and become more complex. In small-group language sessions, topics are directly and explicitly taught for understanding, then practiced. A whole-class language session allows for reinforcement and generalization of skills. Carry-over and generalization of skills occurs through consistent integration by teachers, specialists, and other therapists into various settings throughout the day.
Read Aloud classes augment Reading instruction for the younger students in Lower School. These classes strengthen listening skills and reading comprehension and are designed for children with language-based learning difficulties. Students are taught by the Literacy Specialist first, with a subsequent lesson taught by each classroom teacher using the Text Talk program developed by Beck and McKeown. Each lesson begins with a teacher-led read aloud using trade books to maximize vocabulary and story comprehension. Students are asked open-ended questions that require them to reflect on main ideas, examine elements in story grammar, and make connections with key events or characters.
Older students in the Lower School take an introductory Research course that focuses on study skills and writing using Social Studies-related content. When students move into the Middle School, the Research course continues and they learn to synthesize greater amounts of information—using print, online, and other sources—and demonstrate independent thinking.
The Arts program offers a comprehensive education in Visual Arts, Music, Dance, and Movement. For students with learning differences, the Arts provide a multisensory approach to integrating academic content (especially Language, Reading, Social Studies, and Science) and expressing their understanding of it. The Arts contribute to language development because they require students to predict, plan, organize, and translate their actions into the clear, thoughtful languages of various art forms. The Arts are a powerful pathway to increased self-expression and self-esteem for students who struggle with language and learning. Moreover, the Arts foster curiosity and creativity and develop stamina.
In the Lower School, the Visual Arts curriculum introduces students to line, light, color, and perspective. Students study drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, and photography. In Music, they learn vocal expansion, pitch, and rhythm recollection, and are introduced to Orff instruments and to various styles of music. Drama games and short plays are incorporated. In Dance, students explore rhythm, spatial relationships, weight and balance, and concentration. The Movement curriculum leads students to explore the mind-body connection through creative movement, yoga, and perceptual motor activities. The curriculum includes activities that promote physical well-being and self-expression, as well as techniques that increase mental focus and self-awareness.
Each year, the Arts are integrated into a large performance or dramatic production in which all Lower School students participate. Additional Arts offerings are available in after-school programs.
Long a hallmark of the school, The Gateway Social Development Program ameliorates many of the difficulties students encounter in their social interactions in the classroom, throughout the school day, and in other aspects of their lives. It was specifically designed for students with learning differences. From its inception, Gateway has recognized that students with a language-based learning disability, attention deficit disorder, or other learning difficulties may not pick up on social cues, may miss or misunderstand a lot of what is going on around them, or have difficulty expressing themselves. As a result, they experience repeated breakdowns in their social interactions that manifest as finding it hard to break into play on a playground, to learn the rules of a game, to make a friend, or to fit into a group comfortably.
The purpose of Social Development is to teach students how to reflect on and solve social problems by looking at their own behavior and that of others. In age-appropriate ways, students learn specific skills in the following areas: pragmatic language for communication in different social contexts, how to read non-verbal cues, participation and cooperation in a group, impulse control, moderating behavior in response to conflict, and more. Organized around a series of topics and relying on discussion and experiential learning, each student develops an understanding of himself or herself, experiences greater social competency, and learns to appreciate the needs of others. The student’s growing self-awareness and social skill are the foundation for the development of self-advocacy skills that are essential for success in school and in life.
Occupational Therapy focuses on five main treatment areas: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, motor planning, self-regulation, and sensory processing. In addition, students are taught a concept known as the Zones of Regulation®, which facilitates self-regulation and emotional control and allows them to categorize and communicate their feelings in a safe, non-judgmental way. Lower School students receive Occupational Therapy in small groups of two to four students for 30 minutes once a week.
Adaptive Physical Education emphasizes the value of physical fitness, good sportsmanship, and hard work. Students learn the basic skills and rules of a wide variety of sports and games, including baseball, basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, flag football, tag, kickball, Steal the Bacon, Capture the Flag, Red Light/Green Light, and more. As they develop specific sports skills, balance and spatial awareness improve as well as their hand-eye coordination and self-regulation. Older Lower School students interested in pursuing a sport further may do so through the After-School Clubhouse.
Field trips connect to the content curriculum and inspire students’ curiosity by bringing units of study alive. In these moments, learning is fun and memorable. Moreover, students discover the richness of New York City as they explore everything from a local park to major cultural institutions. Below is a listing of a few of the places students visited recently.
- American Museum of Natural History
- Battery Park Farm
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Brooklyn Museum
- Bronx Zoo
- Central Park
- National Museum of the American Indian
- New York Public Library
- New York City Fire Museum
- Transit Museum
- Wyckoff House Museum
In addition, special guests may visit Gateway to enrich the school experience. Past visitors have included the Art Farm, TevaLand Farm, and The Cassatt String Quartet.