Mr. and Mrs. Mallory have a long history with PDS, as parents of two alums, Neely III (Class of 1970) and Bob (Class of 1976), and five PDS grandsons. Having been associated with PDS for a long time, Mr. and Mrs. Mallory are excited about PDS today and its vision for the future. Mrs. Mallory explains, “We believe it is essential for the school to adapt to the demands of the 21st century and that it is an equally important time to develop the solid values and good moral foundation that make a man. You see this happening at PDS in their use of technology and teaching Mandarin, but faith and values are essential at PDS as well. Headmaster Burns is a visionary leader, and we are excited to be a part of all that is going on at PDS.”
The Reading and Learning Center will be the hub of learning for the lower elementary grades at PDS. The vision is to create a learning space and a culture that celebrates boys, books, and reading. It is true that first you learn to read, then you read to learn. By focusing on developing a strong reading foundation for each boy, we are supporting learning for a lifetime. The Reading and Learning Center will bring the reading and learning specialists who work with boys in grades 1–4 into one large area with group instruction space as well as individual work rooms. Boys will move in and out of the center for small group instruction.
PDS currently has four reading specialists. The 2010-11 school year marks the 10th year for reading specialists and small group reading instruction at PDS as reading specialists were added to the faculty for the 2001-02 school year. In adding reading specialists, the goal was to create a balanced, comprehensive reading program for PDS with a special emphasis on developing critical and creative thinking skills through small group instruction.
Susan Droke, Assistant Headmaster for Teaching and Learning, explains how reading is essential to learning. “The small group curriculum has been created by the reading specialists and is designed to enrich and extend the regular reading program. All boys are part of small group reading instruction because the small group is more effective. So, to dispel a myth, the role of the reading specialist is to work with all boys, not just boys who might need extra support,” she says.
It is true that first you learn to read, then you read to learn. By focusing on developing a strong reading foundation for each boy, we are supporting learning for a lifetime.
The emphasis of the PDS reading curriculum is to focus on laying the foundation for lifelong learning by developing a love of reading. The reading specialists strive to equip each boy with the strategies to become confident and competent readers by modeling reading, writing, and thinking as the boys engage in authentic literacy activities. Reading and comprehension skills are not taught in isolation, but in the context of outstanding children’s literature. “Reading is complicated,” explains Mrs. Droke. “Some of the skills that we teach explicitly and in the context of reading are inference, drawing conclusions, main idea, using context clues, narrative elements, compare/contrast skills, sequencing, cause and effect, and fact and opinion.”
After attending Project Zero, an intensive summer program investigating student learning and cognitive development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the reading specialists have adapted their curriculum to include thinking routines. Mrs. Droke explains that making sure each foundational skill is well developed for each boy will allow him to then move to the higher level skills of synthesis and application where boys make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections as they read. All of these skills are related to the foundational skill of writing and are learned and practiced concurrently.
PDS currently has two learning specialists. The first learning specialist was added to the faculty for the school year 2006-07, with a second learning specialist added in school year 2009-10. The role of the learning specialist is to work as a resource for boys and teachers, helping them to understand two important aspects of the learning process: the unique profile of the learner and the best teaching methods and approaches that will maximize his successful learning experience and outcome. Everyone learns in a different way, yet schools have not traditionally been set up to teach to a variety of learning styles. Technology is greatly enhancing the school’s ability to do this in helping us to learn about how an individual boy learns best and in offering an ever-increasing arsenal of learning tools. Learning specialists help teachers reach the learning outcomes they desire while focusing on the way each boy learns best. In addition, learning specialists work with boys to help them become self-aware, independent, and strategic learners, teaching them strategies and approaches that are most effective for them because of their individual learning style. Learning profiles are administered to every PDS boy in grades 4–6. The Reading and Learning Center will allow the reading and learning specialists to have a common space in which to teach boys and plan together to maximize learning for each boy.
“Education is the key to success,” says Mrs. Mallory. “PDS works to provide boys with that firm, secure foundation at the beginning of their educational careers. PDS gives boys values for life. We are thrilled to think about the difference the Reading and Learning Center can make by giving extra instruction, attention, and support to all boys as they are learning to read.” Mrs. Mallory speaks eloquently of their gift as a legacy for the future. “Dedicating the Reading and Learning Center is the best gift that we could give our boys and future students of PDS,” she says. “I can see the Reading and Learning Center providing that extra bit of support to get boys off and running toward success for many generations to come.”