Educational Principles

The Siena School maintains high academic standards and learning expectations for all our students. Using the Common Core Standards and National Standards as the framework for our academic program, we place an emphasis on individualized instruction. Study skills and organization techniques are embedded throughout the curriculum areas.

Multi-sensory teaching
Through individualized, multisensory instruction, develops student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Students work to acquire the tools and strategies needed to become successful and independent learners.  

Study skills and organizational techniques are embedded throughout the curriculum. Students engage daily in physical education classes, and in addition to academic explore their strength areas in art, band, chorus, drama, music and technology.

Siena is known for teaching structured literacy by providing individualized reading/language instruction.
  • Daily reading classes in elementary and middle school offer explicit, systematic instruction in the five essential skills identified by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Instruction is structured, sequential and cumulative utilizing research based programs
  • Manipulatives, learning software, and hands-on activities, direct and inspire exploration of language skills.
Lessons are presented in multisensory formats, simultaneously engaging the student's auditory, visual and kinesthetic capabilities for optimal learning. Students learn spelling and vocabulary through reading lessons. All students are taught cursive and required to use it to strengthen and reinforce handwriting mechanics. In addition, computer-based assessment and individualized instruction assists students with reading and spelling.

English Language Arts
Language arts provides students with the opportunity to develop their language skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Students read a variety of age-appropriate literature, exploring and examining a range of genres. Students are encouraged to read aloud within a safe and uncritical environment, increasing their confidence. Daily literature discussions develop oral expression skills and provide a foundation for higher level analysis and comprehension. Themes and other literary elements are also introduced. Students receive instruction in grammar through a multisensory program that uses visual cues and prompts to strengthen proper grammatical usage.

Writing instruction is integrated throughout Siena's curriculum and is emphasized in all subject areas. Siena uses a unique, multisensory writing process in which all staff members are trained. Students learn the writing process in the English language arts class, but are required to apply it in all subjects. Whether writing a math journal entry, a social studies short answer response, a science lab report, or a literature analysis, the students draw upon the writing process framework with support from all faculty members. Students develop their writing skills by composing in a variety of modes, beginning with basic sentences and paragraphs and extending to the composition of longer essays.

Siena's math program takes a truly multisensory approach to learning. Manipulatives are used to promote hands-on learning and real life scenarios are utilized to enable the students to relate to what they learn. Students learn sequentially, building their knowledge on previously learned skills with continual review reinforcing and enhancing their understanding of mathematical concepts. The program distributes the instruction, practice and assessment of each concept throughout the entire course. This method ensures that students continue to review previously taught math concepts at the same time they are learning new content areas. Additional resources compliment the program, including the use of assistive technology and online learning.

Siena uses an inquiry-based science curriculum developed by the National Science Resources Center with support from the Smithsonian Institute and The National Academies. The science program is founded on a four-stage learning cycle: focus, explore, reflect and apply. This inquiry process ensures students are consistently and actively engaged in their learning.

Throughout the curriculum students learn about the scientific method, including how to access and process information from a variety of resources. Students develop their lab skills and techniques by formulating and developing hypotheses, designing and evaluating investigations and analyzing data. The ability to coherently communicate this information orally and in writing is emphasized. Critical thinking skills are continuously applied with students encouraged to ask questions and draw conclusions, and students become aware of science in everyday life. Technology is integrated throughout the curriculum enhancing the learning experience.

Social Studies
The social studies curriculum includes world history, U.S. history, and national, state and local government. Students frequently conduct research or inquiry-based assignments using primary and secondary sources such as the library and the Internet. Students then draw upon their research to read, write and discuss the concepts during a supported learning experience at Siena. The social studies classroom is a warm, nurturing learning environment where the room decor reflects the material being studied. Appropriate accommodations are utilized on an individual basis. These might include one-on-one work with the instructor; advance and graphic organizers; highlighting; color-coding and pre-reading. Assistive technology is also used where appropriate, including online or digital media, audio recordings and software programs.

Siena seeks to create a highly individualized and personalized learning experience for each student. We accomplish this by maintaining a small overall school size and small class sizes, and by providing students with a range of individual supports such as a faculty advisor and an individualized learning plan. The school faculty meets regularly to discuss and actively manage individual student progress.

Advisor Groups
Personalized attention to each student is further enhanced by faculty advisors who provide individualized guidance and support. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who acts as a counselor for the student and monitors the student's academic progress. The advisor also serves as the primary point of contact for all communication with the parents, helping to streamline and coordinate communication between parents and the school. Students meet with their advisor twice a day, once during morning homeroom and again in the afternoon before dismissal. The morning homeroom provides opportunities for D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything and Read) and to check that the students are organized and prepared for the day. Finally, afternoon homeroom provides a smooth transition home, including the gathering of all materials required for homework.

Parent Communication
Effective home-school communication is a critical element of student success at Siena. Our staff works in close cooperation with parents to ensure regular communication of important information and individual student progress. Parents receive a tri-weekly e-mail or phone call from the advisor updating them on their student's progress. Advisors call home to discuss mid-quarter grades (four times a year) and regular parent-teacher conferences are also scheduled.
Communication between home and Siena is supplemented by the use of student assignment planners and communication folders. Assignment planners are used to record homework and other assignments in each class period, and students maintain a communication folder in which all important letters, memos and other documents for the parents are placed. We encourage parents to check these each night. In addition, a weekly parent newsletter is e-mailed home on Fridays.

search login