English Language Arts consists of instruction in Reading and Writing. Guided by a comprehensive Language curriculum, English Language Arts is designed to remediate students’ difficulties with decoding, reading comprehension, written expression, and language.
The reading program is Orton Gillingham-based. Students may continue to work on decoding using Preventing Academic Failure, by Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman, or enter a defined reading comprehension curriculum. They read high-interest books from a variety of genres and different types of expository texts, which provide 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 of both fiction and non-fiction.
In Writing, students learn to write clearly and to use writing to learn. 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 higher-level text, practice writing sentences, paragraphs, compositions, and research papers, and acquire study skills necessary for independent study.
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 flexible, 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. In Middle School, the groupings allow for appropriate instruction of students who are continuing to work on their mastery of foundational understandings and skills, as well as those who have completed Pre-Algebra and are ready to study Algebra I.
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 Middle School, students examine how people meet their many needs through a study of civilizations: how they are created, how people organize and govern themselves, how they respond to tension and conflict, and the ways in which conflict can be resolved. Their course of study from 5th through 8th grade begins with Mesopotamia and includes Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, American history, and the defining events of the 20th century, with an emphasis on human and civil rights.
The Humanities curriculum is closely integrated with Reading, Writing, and Language and emphasizes the development of critical-thinking skills.
Science in Middle School excites and sparks the interest of students in natural world phenomena, both seen and unseen. Through laboratory and building projects, they are introduced to a variety of scientific concepts in the life, Earth and planetary, and physical sciences. They learn the scientific method for investigation and practice observing, recording, tabulating, interpreting, and drawing conclusions. As they progress through the curriculum, students use the processes and analytical skills of a scientist to investigate and explain natural phenomena and learn to report their conclusions in lab reports. In the lab, they also learn to collaborate on problem-solving and share responsibility with a lab partner. Carefully integrated with Reading, Writing, and Language, the curriculum guides students to develop their scientific reasoning skills through discussion, debate, reading, and writing.
Study skills are woven into every subject and are key strategic tools for our students as they “learn how to learn.” Directly taught, study skills equip students to realize academic success in mainstream classrooms. Students learn how to organize and track assignments. When taking notes, they learn how to discern the most important information, to organize it, to identify the relevant detail, and to paraphrase and summarize information. When outlining, they learn to synthesize information from increasingly complex sources including lectures, textbooks, newspapers, documentaries, interviews, and a variety of informational media. They also learn how to prepare study guides and take tests of various sorts.
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.
The Middle School Language program addresses foundational skills and targets higher linguistic processes. Skills build upon one another and are directly and explicitly taught in small-group instruction. Carry-over and generalization of skills occurs through consistent integration by teachers, specialists, and other therapists into various settings throughout the day.
Technology and Research courses prepare our students for success in mainstream high school in the 21st century. These semester-long courses integrate with the rest of the curriculum and are taken in sequence over four years. Technology courses lead students through a progression of skills (including software basics, coding, and multimedia presentations) to develop broad competency in the use of technology for academic work and more. The Research course teaches students to research and write papers on topics related to their course work in Humanities or Science. As students move to higher grades, they learn to synthesize greater amounts of information—using print, online, and other sources—and demonstrate independent thinking. Research expands on the Writing program and is fully integrated with the Middle School curriculum.
The Arts program offers a comprehensive education in Visual Arts and Expressive Arts. For students with learning differences, the Arts provide a multisensory approach to integrating academic content 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 develop stamina.
In Middle School, students are exposed to the Arts curriculum in a sequential, foundational progression. In Visual Arts, students explore drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, multimedia, and three-dimensional media. Expressive Arts include dance (hip hop, contemporary, martial arts, yoga, poi) and music (American and world music, Foley arts and soundtrack composition, percussion). After-school offerings include drama, fencing, and other seasonal programs. The Arts curriculum at Gateway makes salient connections to the students’ academic classes and builds their problem-solving skills and creativity.
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. It is common for them to experience repeated breakdowns in their social interactions, which manifest as difficulty breaking into play on a playground, learning the rules of a game, making friends, or fitting comfortably into a group.
In Social Development, students reflect on and solve social problems by analyzing 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 skills are the foundation for developing self-advocacy skills, which are essential for success in school and in life.
Self & Society focuses on character education, as taught through the Gateway lens of language, skills, and strategies. Students examine identity in its many forms, including diversity (race, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, family make-up), personality, conflict resolution, and a unit called “Myself as a Learner,” which covers self-awareness of one’s learning profile, self-advocacy, and more.
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, soccer, floor hockey, flag football, tag, and kickball. As they develop specific sports skills, their balance and spatial awareness improve as well as their hand-eye coordination and self-regulation.
Middle School students use a regulation-size gym facility located just two short blocks away (at 59th Street and Amsterdam), which provides ample space to engage in sports skills instruction and activities. In addition, students use a CrossFit Spot facility located just one block away (at 62nd Street and Amsterdam) for classes focusing on fitness and healthy exercise habits. Those in grades 6-8 who are interested in pursuing a sport further may do so through Gateway’s after-school athletics teams of soccer, basketball, and softball.
For Middle School students, New York City is a tremendous resource rich with museums, places of interest, and cultural events. Most field trips reinforce learning in the classroom, and they can take the form of touring a museum, attending a play, visiting a local park, and much more. In addition, students begin the school year by participating in an outdoor teamwork adventure to develop their sense of personal and group responsibility and their ability to collaborate. Below are a few places that Middle School students have visited recently.
- American Museum of Natural History
- Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY
- Club Getaway in Kent, CT
- Frost Valley Camp in Claryville, NY
- Hudson River Pier
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Morgan Library and Museum
- Museum of the City of New York
- New-York Historical Society
- Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY
- Studio Museum Harlem
- Whitney Museum
In addition, special guests may visit Gateway to enrich the school experience. Past visitors have included an army veteran, a Holocaust survivor, and inspirational female entrepreneurs and professionals (a former assistant district attorney, news anchor, fashion designer, and more).