Curriculum

Upper School study lab

Multisensory Teaching Methods

Multisensory teaching techniques engage all the pathways of learning—visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic—and enhance receptiveness, working memory, and retention. At Rawson Saunders, multisensory instruction in all subjects, including our renowned, fully integrated ALT program for reading remediation, is what we do best. Multisensory strategies are not only essential for dyslexic students’ success in school, studies show that all children learn best from this type of instruction.

Academics

lower school stem students

History/Social Studies

Students develop a global understanding of the history and geography of our world through reading, research, and visual media. Learning about local, national, and world history through a multisensory approach allows for deep comprehension of the ways societies develop. A focus on understanding the many motivations behind historical and political actions allows for open discussion about world cultures and a respect for differences. Research projects, opportunities for debate, and the creation of dynamic and diverse multi-media presentations are highlights. Skills are developed in both written and oral reporting formats. Through school trips and guest lecturers, students gain first-hand knowledge of our past and present, our government and country, and the world at large.

Language Arts

Language Arts instruction at Rawson Saunders engages students in reading, writing, speaking, and listening with a variety of genres and learning opportunities. Through our Language Arts program, our students become skillful inferential thinkers and capable, confident writers and speakers. All Language Arts teachers collaborate with our Academic Language Therapists (ALTs) to ensure that students are appropriately challenged and supported. Lively discussions, projects, and writing assignments in response to a range of genres enhance students’ vocabulary and critical thinking skills while cultivating a personal appreciation for literature.

Reading—Works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays enable students to engage with contemporary and classic literature across a great variety of genres. Both assigned and independent reading are completed with a focus on comprehension and literary analysis.

Vocabulary—Multisensory vocabulary instruction helps students discover meanings of words in an exciting and engaging way. Cross-curricular vocabulary is emphasized.

Writing—Writing is taught as a process. Students learn paragraph development, sequencing, and editing skills and compose expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative essays as well as research reports and creative writing projects. Effective writing is as important to success as reading, and clear, well-reasoned, logically structured, written communication is an essential skill. Our students have expansive minds and a lot to say! Through Language Arts, ALT, and the Writers’ Workshop, we encourage students to tap their creativity to become effective and articulate communicators as well as expressive and skillful writers.

Grammar—Grammar, usage, mechanics, and sentence structure are taught explicitly using a variety of hands-on activities to enhance memory and understanding.

Spelling—The Scientific Spelling program is taught in the students’ daily ALT sessions and supported in the Language Arts  classroom. Students learn to apply reliable patterns and rules of the English language in their writing.

Technology—A variety of technology resources are integrated into the classroom to aid and augment student learning. The LA department works closely with the Technology Department to incorporate the latest in support resources to help students attain their academic goals and become more independent in their learning.

Mathematics

Lower School to Middle School

Our Singapore Math curriculum, used by the highest achieving math students in the world, is a mastery-based, hands-on program that incorporates engaging and practical strategies with systematic instruction to enable students to fully comprehend simple and complex math concepts while gaining an in-depth understanding of the language of numbers. Small class sizes allow students to progress as they master mathematical concepts. The child who excels in math has the opportunity to advance quickly while the child needing additional time or instruction will also receive the support they need to succeed. Through our highly specialized instructional program, our students achieve both competence and confidence in math. 

Middle School to Upper School

The Singapore Math curriculum at Rawson Saunders extends through Pre-Algebra (Level 7). Upon completion, students progress to a high school level Algebra I course. The courses that students study beyond Algebra I are determined based on each student's level of mastery. The goal for Rawson Saunders graduates is to meet Texas requirements by completing 3 or more high school credits in math.

STEM

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics

STEM instruction is a challenging, engaging, hands-on experience for each child in every grade. All students from grades 1-12 receive daily instruction in STEM. By thoroughly exploring and examining how our world works through experiential learning, lab-work, engineering projects, NASA challenges, and field trips, our students develop strong observation and deductive reasoning skills and a thorough understanding of scientific concepts. Basic coding is taught beginning in first grade with coding practice and coding opportunities provided for all grades. Scientific principals in physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, and earth science are studied and explored at every grade level and are applied in areas of project-based learning. Whether in Lower School, Middle School, or Upper School, our comprehensive STEM program teaches students to be knowledgeable, creative, and resourceful problem solvers.


 

Arts

Drama

Drama at Rawson Saunders is an exciting platform for safe expression and focused utilization of the imagination. Through their work in the classroom, students increase creativity, originality, sensitivity, fluency, and confidence while developing important communication and cooperation skills. Students learn different styles of acting including pantomime, improvisation, monologue, and scene work and study the history of the theatre. Activities are used to increase the sense of community in the classroom.

Student play productions have been performed at the following professional public venues: State Theatre, Off Center Theatre, Salvage Vanguard Theatre, AISD Performing Arts Center.

Play Productions

Hush Little Celia, Don't Say a Word April 2018
Grease December 2016
The Laramie Project June 2016
I Never Saw Another Butterfly April 2016
Oliver! April 2015
Aviate March 2014
Peter Pan May 2013
The Wizard of Oz 2012

Red bird in cage image for Hush Little Celia, Don't Say a Word play
Hush Little Celia, Don't Say a Word program cover
The Laramie Project play poster
Oliver play poster
Grease poster
Radio DJ WAXX
Aviate play poster

Music

Lower School Music at Rawson Saunders is a lively and immersive experience. The curriculum is based on the Kodaly method, which allows students opportunities to sing, move, play instruments, and thoughtfully listen, all leading to music literacy. Singing games and movement create a high level of engagement and fun. Recorders are introduced in the 4th grade for music reading, composing, and improvising. Structured play and camaraderie is formed as students feel the joy of making music together.

Middle School Music at Rawson Saunders is interactive. The curriculum focuses on playing a variety of instruments and listening to a range of music styles. Students are introduced to music from many different time periods and cultures. Ukuleles, hand drums, and xylophones help students create, express, and gain musical faculty. Middle School music electives include Rock Band, Glee Club, What's That Song About, and The History of Rock & Roll.

Music Lessons
After school lessons provide an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. All grades and skill levels are welcome. Students practice music fundamentals, with the goal of playing along with their favorite songs. Instrument choices include guitar, piano, voice, ukulele, drums, and bass guitar.

Fourth graders playing recorders
Middle School music class percussion
Rock Band group

Visual Arts

At Rawson Saunders, we believe participation in the arts is essential to all students’ education. Through the arts, students enrich their analytical skills as they approach problems and tackle projects from an individualized perspective. Students with dyslexia often have significant strengths in the arts. We recognize and support these gifts by offering a dynamic array of artistic opportunities in drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, and digital art. Art at Rawson Saunders creates a space for young artists to develop authentic reflection, creative problem-solving and communication skills. Master teachers support our students in developing the tools to communicate confidently with visual language.

In Lower School, students grow in their knowledge of the fundamentals of art and learn to apply these elements and principles of design to their own art making. By 4th and 5th grade, students apply those fundamentals to cross-curricular projects that express their understanding of themes from core academic classes. 

In Middle School, students continue to develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills through project-based learning through specialized art electives. They also develop more independent work skills as they learn to make project proposals to pursue ideas and techniques that interest them.

In Upper School, students begin to engage more and more in career-ready artistic practices as the frequency of their classes increases from twice-a-week to everyday.

Woodworking

Woodworking is introduced to 4th and 5th grade students and is an elective for Middle Schoolers. The wood shop is an excellent learning environment in which students exercise their three-dimensional reasoning skills and learn how to handle real tools safely, effectively, and responsibly. They learn fundamental woodworking and shop skills including shop safety, proper tool use, project planning, measuring, creative design, and repair and maintenance techniques. Projects vary each year and may be integrated with other classes, such as art, history, or drama. In addition to planned projects, there is structured creative time for approved student projects.

Students sanding chairs in shop class

ALT

Academic Language Therapy

Academic Language Therapy (ALT) is a systematic, multisensory, phonics-based approach to teaching reading, writing, and spelling. Taught by certified reading therapists, ALT is fully integrated into the Rawson Saunders curriculum as a core course and all students attend ALT on a daily basis. Our certified ALTs work with children on a 2:1 student teacher ratio in specially equipped ALT rooms. The curriculum is customized for each child and instruction is individually paced. Students are regularly assessed to monitor progress and guide instruction.

Basic Language Skills, an Orton-Gillingham based curriculum, serves as the foundation for our program with focused instruction in phonemic awareness, letter recognition, decoding, spelling, fluency, comprehension, handwriting, vocabulary, and oral and written expression. Our intensive, therapeutic program exceeds the Texas Dyslexia Legislation guidelines and has been proven extremely effective with dyslexic students.


 

Athletics

Football team running at pep rally

Physical Education

The Rawson Saunders physical education program is fun, welcoming, and designed for success. Students perform at their own comfort level at the same time as they are supported and encouraged to take the risks required to improve their athletic skills. A strong emphasis is placed on character development. The year-long outdoor program is designed to exercise minds as well as bodies. PE is not graded on how well students perform, but rather on students’ willingness to participate and their effort.

For middle school students in grades 6 through 8, the following options are available:

  • Yoga. Students explore a range of poses—asanas—that will increase balance, flexibility, and strength. Students learn how the fundamentals of yoga can be applied to everyday life to calm, energize, and strengthen both body and mind. In addition, classes will study nutrition, healthy habits, hygiene, and beginning meditation and relaxation techniques.
  • Athletics. This elective focuses on a wide range of sport specific skills (Quidditch anyone?) along with strength and conditioning exercises.
Third Grade Quidditch team
Yoga students

Team Sports

Students in grades 5-8 have the opportunity to participate in our after-school sports programs. Our athletic department offers flag football, volleyball, cross country, basketball, track, and soccer, with more opportunities to come! Rawson Saunders is a member of the Austin Private School Association, the interscholastic athletic league in which our teams compete.

Upper School students have the opportunity to join Cross Country and Track to compete against other local private high schools. The Upper School athletics program is in development with more options available soon!


 

Extracurricular

In addition to extracurricular team sports and theatre productions, students are offered:
  • On campus after school camp opportunities in Art, Film, and Robotics
  • On campus after school Music Lessons—guitar, piano, bass, drums, and voice—for all skill levels

Extracurricular activities are driven by student interest and taught by instructors who are experts in their fields.


 

Technology

First grade students using iPads and headphones

All Rawson Saunders students participate in the world-wide Hour of Code event each year.

Rawson Saunders students are taught to be skillful, highly responsible, and confident technology users. Through our tech integration initiatives, we show our students how to make the most of the tools available to them.

Why is technology important for dyslexic students?

Digital Literacy

We use technology to empower our students to learn and express themselves at their intellectual level while supporting their growth in written language skills. Instruction in the use of technology tools is integrated into the curriculum so that students learn in context and have ample opportunities for practice. Our school's Director of Academic Technology works with teachers to develop and continually update a carefully curated digital toolkit of apps and other tech tools specifically aimed to support students’ needs, proving both classroom and individual student support in utilizing those tools.

Students’ digital toolkits are always at their fingertips, as every student has an iPad or laptop, along with headphones with built-in microphone, that they bring with them to and from school each day. Students learn the basics of managing their devices, settings, and apps as well as how to be savvy digital citizens. Many valuable technology tools and resources require that students have online accounts and a growing digital footprint. Utilizing these tools at school under the guidance of teachers provides opportunities for students to learn how to navigate responsibly in this context and to effectively evaluate information, tools, and their sources.

Essential Technology

Ear reading: Students use tools with audio support to listen to text materials. Engaging with written language in this way helps foster enjoyment of reading without the burden of decoding. Using audio alone is often best for materials well above a student's decoding level, and using audio in conjunction with visual text can help build reading skills by reinforcing the relationships between printed and spoken words. Some tools read the entire text aloud, and some read aloud only the words that students have difficulty reading independently.

Voice typing: Students learn to use their oral language skills to express themselves without having to think about spelling or the legibility of their writing. Dictation is a valuable tool in their toolbox, in addition to handwriting and typing, and often results in more prolific and in-depth first drafts to work with in the revising and editing stages of the writing process.

Keyboarding: The ability to keyboard proficiently is an essential writing skill, and digital writing makes available a host of other digital writing tools including predictive text, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar support. Like all other tech skills, keyboarding is a skill that must be taught. Students spend an academic quarter learning proper keyboarding technique using an explicit multisensory keyboarding instruction program under the guidance of classroom teachers, after which teachers encourage students to continue to apply that technique using physical keyboards to gain proficiency and speed

Creativity and Computation

Multimedia creation: While written language skills are certainly important in school and beyond, there are many other important and impactful ways to express one’s self and communicate with an audience. We teach our students to employ various multimedia tools to design, create, and present rich content through art, images, music, videos, and other interactive modalities.

Computational thinking: Our students have opportunities to acquire important computational thinking skills in a variety of contexts across the curriculum. In addition, middle school elective offerings include coding classes for a range of experience levels, and robotics is available to students of all ages either during school or in after-school programs.  Each year, all Rawson Saunders students participate in the annual international Hour of Code event.

Organization and Communication

Many students who struggle with organization benefit from digital tools to track and complete assignments and communicate with their teachers about their work. Learning to communicate via email and other digital formats helps students learn this essential skill and use it to advocate for themselves. Digital note-taking allows students to take more dynamic notes with an array of multimedia options and make notes more readable and searchable for the purposes of studying. Students learn various study skills methods, both low- and high-tech, and learn how to choose the best method for their needs and specific tasks or contexts.