The “secret sauce” of the Gestalt academic plan is a combination of “ingredients.” These critical elements guide all Gestalt schools:
- High expectations for academic achievement
- Integrated technology
- Service learning
High Expectations for Achievement
All adults maintain high expectations for Gestalt scholars; years of research prove a direct link between expectations and academic achievement.
Students have an increased reading, dedicated daily writing, and extended mathematics program. The root of the academic design is to utilize the full day to present challenging content in core subjects, while providing enrichment such as fine art, physical education, and business.
Gestalt schools focus on the basics of reading and math, but not to the detriment of other key real-life learning such as financial literacy, persuasive reasoning, or scientific exploration. Students drill, but also think critically and express themselves through such methods as project-based learning assignments and individual student presentations.
Understanding each child’s areas of deficits and mastery is essential to creating an environment of high expectations for achievement. As a result, scholars take assessments every week, and the teacher uses the results to structure the following week’s small group instruction. During small groups, scholars work in teams of 3-5 members for direct instruction with the teacher. While one group of scholars work in these small teams, the rest of the class is broken down into two other groups: one learns through collaborative projects with peers, and the other learns individually using digital curriculum. After 30 minutes they rotate. These groups make up the Gestalt blended learning rotational model.
Integrated technology tools empower student and teacher productivity. Every child has access to a laptop and digital curriculum during class, and every teacher uses technology to gain real-time data about scholar understanding. Technology roots Gestalt classrooms in the constructivist approach, which offers students the opportunity to design their own learning experiences.
Gestalt scholars use computers for individualized, digital learning groups. These groups provide assignments based on the individual learner’s skill deficits, thus creating a customized, differentiated assignment for every child in reading and mathematics. In addition to face-to-face instruction, scholars use online assignments customized to their individual areas of strength and weakness. Teachers add integrated technology simulations, presentation tools, and audio, such as iMovies, to enhance instruction.
Our teachers use the power of technology to assess and receive real-time data to drive instruction. To gauge how students are performing, teachers employ a set of assessments, including daily checks for understanding, weekly informal assessments, and formal assessments geared to state standards. This data helps a teacher determine whether she or he can move on to the next lesson because all scholars understood, or she needs to work one-on-one with a few scholars who struggled with the lesson, or she needs needs to re-teach the lesson to the entire class.
Parents, scholars, and staff can all access student data anytime with easy-to-use software such as Gradebook, PowerSchool, and Schoology.
Gestalt scholars, parents, and staff are all charged with the mission to leave our community better than we found it. Gestalt service learning is anchored in the National Youth Leadership Council evidence-based standards. Our service learning includes:
- Meaningful Service: Engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.
- Link to Curriculum: Used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals.
- Reflection: Incorporates reflection activities that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.
- Diversity: Promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.
- Youth Voice: Provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences.
- Partnerships: Partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.
- Progress Monitoring: Engages participants in an ongoing process to assess quality and progress toward meeting goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.
- Duration and Intensity: Includes sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.
For example, a first grade class may plant seeds in a community garden while learning about weather. A group of third graders may clean up a park or collect recyclables while learning about the environment, then reflect on the experience.