H.O.T.S. Are Hot

Students with language-based learning differences have strengths that enable them to soar. One notable strength is their love of meaning-based learning. They are good at manipulating ideas and thinking deep thoughts. At Sophia Academy, we teach to this strength by engaging higher order thinking skills (H.O.T.S.).  Students are taught to think and discuss effectively using the Touchstones program out of St. Johns College. On other days, they practice logic skills through puzzles, all the while using their skills to read and discuss Shakespeare.

And that’s just one small unit in one class at Sophia Academy.



Kinesthetic Lessons Aid Learning

What does it mean to be right-brained? How about creative? Sees in pictures? Expert in visual-spatial relations?

Here are other ways students who are right-brained learn:

  • They use feeling
  • They are ‘Big picture’ oriented
  • They understand symbols and images
  • They love Philosophy and religion
  • They easily grasp object function
  • They dream up possibilities
  • They will take risks

At Sophia Academy, we do our best to teach the way our students learn.  Want to know and understand the relative scale of the earth-moon size and distance?  We let others read about it in a book. We will “guess” which ball best represents the earth and the moon.   

Once we guess and discuss, we need to see if we are right. We use the math we learn in the morning to help us figure out the diameter of each ball from the circumference that we measured. Which two balls have the ratio closest to that of earth and moon? It turns out it was the basketball and the baseball.

Then we have to figure out how far apart they are. If the earth is a basketball and the moon is the baseball, what distance best represents their true distance? After class discussion, we decided 3-4 feet.  Were we right? Ask a Sophia Academy student for the answer.

Dyslexic Students Learn Better With Field Trips

Do students with dyslexia or other language-based learning differences really learn better with field trips? At Sophia Academy, we say Yes!  We have smart students who can take apart a bike and put it back together again blindfolded but who struggle to make meaning from text. They are right-brained, good at manipulating visual-spatial data, instead of left-brained. Unfortunately, most schooling demands left-brained tasks like handling temporal data.

Because we believe that students should get practice in integrating information through both hemispheres of the brain, students at Sophia Academy take frequent field trips to solidify their learning.

When studying medieval history, 9th graders traveled to a local labyrinth to practice walking the maze as if they were medieval monks. Our study of romanesque and gothic architecture took us to some of the finest examples of this style of building in the Philadelphia area. Since it is not enough to learn plate tectonics or the rock cycle from a book, our latest field trip took us to the Wissahickon Valley for a hike through geologic time. Students climbed on some of the oldest rock on earth (Baltimore Gneiss), inspected garnets trapped in rock, felt the difference between talc and surrounding magnetite, identified rock folds and outcrops, and were thrilled to find out that dynamite is used to quarry huge blocks of granite. Using their bodies and their hands to make sense of geology, students will better remember lessons on plate tectonics, rocks, and weathering.

Tapping Into Areas of Strength

Students with Language-based learning differences (LBLD) have spent years feeling and believing that they will not measure up to their peers. Because school is usually set up for regular-learning, left brain students, our smart students may not realize that they have amazing gifts.

  • Did you know that an astounding percentage of entrepreneurs have dyslexia?
  • Did you know  that students with LBLD have superior cognitive skills? Problem solving, critical thinking, and thinking outside the box are particular strengths of kids with dyslexia.
  • Do you have a child who thinks in 3-D? It’s amazing to see what these children with superior visual-spatial skills can create “out of their heads.”  They can design and build something without blueprints.

Encourage your child with dyslexia to dream big dreams, for a future engineer, a future architect, or even a future pilot is sitting right now at your dinner table.

Learning to Think Faster

At Sophia Academy, we understand that the brain is plastic. We can train our brains to think better, think faster, and make new connections. Research shows that certain activities actually lead to physical changes in the brain such as the growth of new brain cells and their connections in the very parts of the brain that are crucial to memory and typical learning activities.

Something as simple as positive self talk will cause the brain to grow. Students need to be trained to say: “I can do better.”  Rather than giving up in frustration when work is hard, we encourage students to embrace potential failure as an adventure.

What else works?

  • Trusting instincts–we encourage students to courageously speak out their first thoughts.
  • Focusing on comprehension over speed–our Strategic Reading class gives students a wide choice of interesting material to work with while shoring up reading strategies and skills.
  • Physical activity several hours after learning something new–walking fast, shooting hoops, races in PE class, skateboarding after school will all work to solidify the memory.
  • Active kinesthetic learning:  Whether they sing the math facts, act out the funeral scene from Julius Caesar or dance a poem, students at Sophia Academy are growing brain cells.

At Sophia Academy, we continue to search for new ways to fund research-driven strategies for brain growth. Whether using online websites based on Carol Dweck’s growth mindset or adaptive technology, we are pursuing brain growth for all our students.


Learning Ally Comes to ICHS and Sophia Academy

We are excited to announce that all our qualified students will be able to access Learning Ally to help with both academic and pleasure reading.  With over 80,000 books in audio format, our students will be able to have textbooks and novels read to them while they follow along.

Students with dyslexia often understand what they hear even when they cannot understand what they read. Now, they will have lots of help, whether reading Julius Caesar in English class or a chapter on the rock cycle in science class.