Our Curriculum

Principles of Early Learning  |  Best Practice In Autism Intervention  |  Developmental Language Models  |  How DIR® Supports the Learning Environment  |  Student Supports

Our Curriculum

Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. — Benjamin Franklin

Soaring Eagle Academy’s curriculum and its development were guided by several principles:

  1. Curriculum should be meaningful to each student. The student’s interests should guide their direction of learning.
  2. Curriculum should be developmentally appropriate. The level of learning should be matched to their regulatory capacities, social and emotional capacities, motor capacities, comprehension abilities and expressive language capacities.
  3. Curriculum should be experiential. Students should experience any and all concepts related to their learning in order to develop deep and lasting understanding.

Curriculum is constantly evolving and developing through the support of a curriculum development team. The team is made up of administrative staff, speech and language pathologists, teachers and teacher assistants from every classroom. Therapists from all disciplines lend support in adapting for each student.

Curriculum materials are research-based and connected to the Common Core. Technology in our classrooms (SMART Boards, iPads and computers) allows for multiple modalities of learning. Many curriculum materials are Smart Board adapted to allow for integrated learning experiences for students.


Soaring Eagle Academy’s literacy curriculum encompasses the following areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, fluency, vocabulary development, comprehension of written material, spelling, grammar, use and mechanics, expressive/creative writing and a concept group that supports the literacy books chosen each month. Literacy instruction runs from 9:15-10:45. During this block of time, students may experience many areas, as shared above, in 15-minute increments.

The Superkids reading program is a comprehensive reading and language arts curriculum with phonics at its core. It provides meaningful and engaging content while providing systematic phonics based instruction. Soaring Eagle adapts Superkids to meet the needs of each individual student’s profile to maximize their learning. Heggerty Phonemic Awareness and The Land of the Letter People Curriculum serve to support our student’s ability to develop phonemic awareness and emerging phonics skills.

Reading A-Z and Simple Solutions Language Arts are also utilized for students that have built foundations in their reading capacities and are ready for their next developmental step in literacy.

Students engage in a range of novel studies chosen for their developmental level and comprehension capacities. Novels are explored in groups to promote reading and thinking together about the content.

The language concept groups centered around children’s literature is unique to Soaring Eagle Academy’s literature curriculum. Taking the literacy recommendations from the Common Core, books are chosen to support a student’s exposure to a range of books and their language development. Each month, a book is explored with students. The books are adapted to teach at the level of the student. Concepts are experienced over the course of an entire week. For example, if the concept is “melt”, students will experience melt each day in a variety of contexts over the course of an entire week. Early learners will experience the concept in tangible and sensory based ways. Later learners will learn about concepts while problem solving, making inferences, predicting and critically thinking. Literacy projects are designed to integrate all developmental capacities. The monthly concept group is based on developmental language theory that seeks to promote deep comprehension of concepts and words that children are exposed to throughout their day.  We understand that children with challenges are less likely to make good matches and meaning on a day-to-day basis due to their individual differences.  Therefore, we spend time making connections daily around a concept for a full week to allow for “deep” meaning and connections to real life experiences.  The groups are designed to allow for new conceptual learning across different contexts throughout the week to build bigger and more full experiential meaning.  The group dynamic is an important part of this work.  We want children to experience the concepts with their peers, to be able to watch and observe others enacting and experiencing the concept and to interact with multiple partners through this experience.  If a student already understands the concept, they may be a model to others, which is just as important. Students may understand the concept in one context but not in many.  In addition, they may “look” as if they understand the concept because they have great comprehension strategies that appear to us, as adults, that they understand.  To understand through linguistic means, the child needs many experiences, many matches and many opportunities to explore and act on in their world to make a deeper meaning and a truer connection.


Soaring Eagle’s math curriculum utilizes the ORIGO Stepping Stones Mathematics program. ORIGO is a developmentally appropriate math program for K-5th grade and is common core aligned to support all state standards. It was derived from research that points to developmental models of how children learn math in the most effective and efficient ways and designed to engage students in their learning, while helping them to develop a deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics. It allows for hands on experiential learning, which is a key learning principle at SEA, while supporting the understanding of the “language of math” that aligns with our developmental language model thinking. Whole class, small group, differentiation, investigation and problem solving activities are provided to support thinking and conceptualizing for each unique profile of learning. Math is taught for understanding, not memorization, with meaningful learning at the heart of all activities. Math curriculum is also supported by the work of the late John Van DeWalle, “Teaching Student Centered Mathematics”, as well as ALEKS computer math program.

Social Studies

Soaring Eagle Academy’s social studies curriculum is designed to support a student’s ability to activate their prior knowledge to learn about the world around them.

Scott Foresman Social Studies Curriculum is used to support our student’s journey into social studies. All concepts are taught by activating the prior knowledge a student has about the world in order to learn new information about various topics. All concepts are adapted to each individual student so that learning is meaningful and developmentally appropriate. Concepts learned are integrated into other subjects to create cross-curricular projects and maximize learning.


The FOSS Science Program serves as the foundation of Soaring Eagle Academy’s science curriculum. FOSS is a research-based science curriculum for grades K-8. The program uses a developmental model of how students think and learn as they grow to choose meaningful topics and ways to explore. Experiments are meaningful and lead to powerful experiences of inquiry and discovery. Soaring Eagle Academy adapts the curriculum to meet the needs of each individual student and their learning profile.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

The Social Emotional Learning (SEL) integrates Developmental Language and DIR® based thinking to support students in building friendships throughout their school day in individual and small and large group activities. The social emotional curriculum is adapted for each student incorporating five areas: 1) Understanding of Self 2) Understanding of Others 3) Social Awareness 4) Social Communication and 5) Advanced Social Emotional Thinking. Each student’s developmental level serves as the starting point for facilitating peer interactions. At Soaring Eagle, we believe that peer play follows a sequence of development similar to interacting with parents/caregivers/teachers.

Additionally, two specific SEL 30-minute group times are incorporated daily. During these times, students choose group activities (ex. karate, arts and crafts, free dance, sensory groups, bubbles, science, drama, sports, Sesame Street, board games) based on their interests. As with all children and adults, we believe children with Autism develop friendships around activities of interest to them. During these groups, staff support the students’ individual regulatory needs while facilitating peer connections. This is a complex process for the staff that is introduced as part of our initial and ongoing training process.


The music program is tailored to each student’s interests, incorporating both instrumental and vocal musical experiences. Elements of music are explored and fostered through concepts that include rhythm, melody and harmony. Students learn about different types of music and instruments. Students participate in small groups, in structured and creative learning opportunities, featured to foster interest, appreciation and knowledge. A high school band has been formed to promote musical interest, while building students’ abilities to work as a group toward a common goal.


A wide variety of mediums and recycled materials are utilized within the art program to promote creativity, self-expression, fine motor skills, meaningful art making, exploration and the use of individual imagination. Experiences offer exposure to a variety of artistic tools, principles of elements and design fundamentals and art techniques. Each child is met at their individual levels in order for them to feel successful. Art history and cultural aspects can be incorporated and explored for a higher learning experience. Art is taught in a group session allowing for the students to engage in social interaction, and at times, have the opportunity to learn from and motivate each other. All students contribute a beautiful hue to our rainbow in which they are allowed to explore and experience art without having anxiety of making mistakes. At our school, we don’t make mistakes but we embrace each others’ differences.

Transition / Vocational

The Transition Vocational & Life Skills Program prepares our high school students as they transition out of their school years and into adulthood. Through the collaborative efforts of a specialized team of educators and therapists, we work with each student and his/her parents to develop realistic post-school goals and plan how best to impart the skills and strategies necessary to enable the student to be as independent as possible with optimal quality of life. In accordance with IDEA requirements, the program addresses the five components of transition-planning education/vocational training, employment, independent living, recreation/leisure and community integration.

All activities are presented in a dynamic and meaningful way, driven by student interests, personal strengths and developmental levels/capacities, to facilitate high interest and participation and ensure carry over of newly learned classroom skills to students’ everyday life. Program objectives are to produce young adults who can:

  • Generalize the ability to stay regulated in “real world” environments.
  • Be gainfully employed in a supported work environment.
  • Engage in a healthy lifestyle through integrated recreation/leisure activities.
  • Effectively utilize daily living skills to function as independently as possible.

We believe that all students have the right to access a rich academic curriculum appropriate to their individual learning style and developmental levels while also supporting functional life skills and vocational job skills.


A variety of assessment tools are utilized for ongoing progress monitoring and instructional planning surrounding student strengths, areas of targeted growth and current functioning. These tools include: FEAS, DIR® Functional Emotional Developmental Levels, Data Collection Sheets for Academic Goals, Systematic Observations, SEA Regulation Continuum Scale, Daily Home-Communication Sheet, SEA Concept Data Collection Sheet, SEA IEP Station Teaching Record, SEA Vocational Interest Survey, Clinical observations of Sensory Processing and Motor Planning, Projects, Benchmark Progress, Checklists, Rubrics, Pre-Tests/Post-Tests, Illinois Alternative Assessment(IAA) and the Illinois Standards Achievement Test(ISAT).

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