The classrooms are divided into designated curriculum environments. Moving to a different room, when also moving to a different domain of thinking, helps the child to transition from one topic to another. Each teacher specialises in his or her domain and, as such, is able to more easily differentiate activities and resources for the various levels of abilities, which are represented in even small groups of students.
Many of our students have experienced failure in previous academic settings and come to us with diminished self-esteems and fear of school. Learning is not seen as an enjoyable activity. Chelsea Group does not look like school. It is a big home with antiques, mixed styles of wooden furniture and rugs. We have tried to eliminate any institutional atmosphere.
Our first task in dealing with children who have failed academically and socially is to alleviate the anxiety associated with school allowing the child to voice his difficulties and areas of distress. The teacher acknowledges the child’s feelings in a supportive way, often demystifying the struggles he experiences, helping him to develop his own strategies to empower himself with the modifications needed to overcome challenges in learning and in life.
The Staff provide as many experience-based learning opportunities as possible. We feel lessons can be highly motivating if made real by connections to the child’s world outside school.
Dr. Stanley Greenspan states that “teaching children to become independent thinkers enables them to do anything.” The way to do that is to “respect the child’s excitement while challenging her to become more logical and better adept at abstract thinking” (Greenspan/Wieder 1998).
“More rigid approaches focus on changing specific behaviours, or teaching very specific skills. Children may memorize the skills taught but if they cannot ‘think on their feet,’ their ability to use and generalize these skills will be limited. “Children with developmental challenges often favour rote ways of thinking, and rote learning only compounds the problem” (Greenspan/Wieder 1998)