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Supporting Our Students in The Learning Center at McGillis


by Mary Kimball, Director of The Learning Center


In The Learning Center, we are blazing new trails as we navigate how students with learning differences find success.


It has been remarkable watching The Learning Center take shape this school year. Magic happened from the first day we welcomed our students into our classrooms. They opened up quickly to each other, knowing their new peers shared similar challenging learning and school experiences. They finally had a safe place to strengthen their weaknesses and explore their strengths without comparing themselves to neurotypical peers. With that came newfound confidence and the opportunity to take risks like they hadn’t before experienced.


In the few short months since we have started this new journey we have found and want to share some of the ways we support our students:


Routines and Flexible Scheduling 

Order and structure within a daily routine is extremely beneficial and with only 2-6 students in any of our learning environments, we have the flexibility to provide students with the time needed to complete tasks and assignments. Taking away some of the pressure allows students to work at their own pace with the support needed, making learning exciting not stressful. Flexibility with our routines allows for movement breaks, mindfulness activities, and an extra recess when needed. 


Explicit Instruction

Our goal is to eliminate the barriers some students experience with short term and working memory issues. Instructions are short, clear, and explicit and students are able to access them visually, verbally, and if needed, repeated individually.



Success for a student with a learning difference requires a comprehensive understanding of their abilities and then requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. We thoroughly assess each student to gather data on student academic and competency skills. This data allows us to tailor instruction and personalize goals for each student.



Technology is a great tool for learners with learning differences. We use programs to reinforce mastery of skills, strengthen listening and focusing abilities, and build fluency skills. Technology can be used for listening to text for students working on comprehension. We also use voice-to-text which enables a student who has difficulty writing to be able to express their thoughts and ideas fully. 


Multi-Sensory and Visualizing Learning Approaches

We support reading and writing through multi-sensory approaches (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) using The Wilson Reading Program and LindaMood Bell learning practices. These programs provide learners a variety of pathways to find success with developing successful literacy skills. 


Meta-Cognitive Strategy

Meta-cognitive strategy is developing processes for students that are designed to make them think about their “thinking”. Checklists, graphic organizers, mnemonic devices, and thinking out loud while reading are examples of strategies students can access to improve learning. Helping students understand the way they learn supports their ability and desire to learn.



With these and other supports in place, our students are not afraid to make mistakes. In fact, we celebrate mistakes. We celebrate when we get something wrong and we show perseverance by working through it. Our students truly support and cheer for each other when they finish a book or master a trick word list. The Learning Center is a place where students are celebrated for their hard work and determination, not simply their academic abilities. With this encouragement, we have seen immense student growth in a short period of time.


While our journey has just begun, we look to the future of this program with great enthusiasm. We are redesigning the learning path for the students we serve. It doesn’t get better than that. 


Trailblazing at its best! 


Are you interested in learning more about The Learning Center at McGillisRequest a tour.