Unique and research-based, the Windward Study Skills curriculum is the signature program of The Windward School. In accordance with Windward’s mission to prepare students for mainstream schools and future academic success, the Windward Study Skills Program is specifically designed as a sequential curriculum to educate language-based learning disabled students in the skills requisite to preparing a research paper. This curriculum, which begins in the lower school, culminates in the preparation of four research papers in a specific class required for all eighth and ninth graders, entitled “Study Skills.” The Study Skills class represents the integration and culmination of the reading, writing, and research skills taught throughout the grades. This class encompasses the skills and content of the language arts and social studies curricula, emphasizing the analytical and practical application of strategies in order for students to internalize the research and writing process. In addition, students are taught the time management and organizational skills necessary to develop effective research, note taking, and writing techniques. In order to create independent, critical thinkers, students learn to identify, extract, and organize pertinent information related to a specific area of research. By learning formal writing strategies, the students are able to create clear and concise research papers. Study Skills classes are structured so that students move from direct instruction to varying levels of independent work. By gaining independence in navigating the challenging process of preparing a formal research paper, students gain a sense of accomplishment, learn self-advocacy skills, and build self-confidence.
At the outset, the course is teacher-directed with emphasis on developing fundamental skills, such as extracting and organizing relevant information from multiple sources. After learning basic research strategies, such as note taking, outlining, and the use of citations and quotations, students begin to critically evaluate primary and secondary sources and learn to utilize increasingly complex materials. As research skills improve, students are encouraged to work more independently.
All research assignments are designed to develop the students’ cognitive and critical thinking skills. For example, students research significant individuals and important events in order to understand their historical impact and legacy. Students also write other types of research papers including those that present a problem or issue, a particular point of view, or compare and contrast significant people or events. The subjects chosen are carefully aligned with the social studies curriculum so that students are researching an individual or event while learning about the time period in social studies.