A to Z adheres to the direct instruction model of teaching. This style of teaching focuses on intensive, systematic instruction; frequent assessment; tutor modeling; and constant student repetition and feedback. Research has shown time and time again that direct instruction is an effective instructional method. But while A to Z implements direct instruction, its unique one-on-one or small-group format allows for individualized modification depending upon the needs and learning mode of each student. A to Z tutors always take into consideration the learning style of each student, and incorporate that into lessons as much as possible. While direct instruction includes tutor input and modeling of skills, tutors incorporate additional materials when applicable, such as flashcards, games, word sorts, children's literature, organizational charts or manipulatives to enhance the instruction, guided practice, and/or assessment during a lesson.
Our reading instructional program aligns to the National Reading Panel's five dimensions of reading: phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, phonics instruction, and comprehension. Some examples of reading strategies utilized by our tutors are word segmentation, rhyming, phonological recoding and decoding, word sorts, and story retelling. The most important component of the implementation of these strategies is the constant feedback of both tutor and student throughout, enabled by our one-on-one or small group structure.
Mathematics content and lessons include number sense, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, algebraic thinking, and data analysis and probability. Our math lessons emphasize conceptual understanding and expand the range of mathematical concepts beyond arithmetic drills. As a result, students are able to learn and demonstrate the five mathematical process standards put out by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and make the connections necessary to fully understand math concepts and how they relate.
The lessons and materials utilized by A to Z are all aligned to state and common core standards and include supplementary materials that aim to support and enhance the skills being taught in the classroom, provide explicit instruction via a direct instruction-based model, and gauge understanding through applicable assessment.
A to Z utilizes the digitally-based Complete Curriculum for targeting student needs. The Complete Curriculum series consists of lessons and supplementary materials that align to the Common Core Standards. Instructional lessons include direct instruction, engaging questions, modeling, vocabulary and language instruction, and visual representations to enhance a student's learning experience. Real-world application exercises and 21st century development activities take students beyond the textbook into a world where what they learn becomes more than answers on a page. Complete Curriculum lessons incorporate many visuals and physical manipulatives in math instruction, which have been shown to be especially effective for early elementary learners. Due to the curriculum's digital platform, A to Z tutors can easily differentiate the content, process, or product to accommodate for performance level or learning style. Research shows that differentiated instruction presents an effective means to address learner variance, avoids the pitfalls of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, and incorporates current research into the workings of the human brain. Many of Complete Curriculum's skill lessons also incorporate theme-based instruction where lessons revolve around a concept, topic, or piece of literature, which is particularly effective for English Language Learners.
A to Z also utilizes BASIC/Not Boring curriculum and testing materials published by Incentive Publications. Prior to the development of the BASIC/Not Boring series, a careful met-analysis was done of the current research regarding effective skill practice for elementary students and standards required by all fifty states. Content comparisons and correlations were done using other well-known valid assessments and state standardized tests to ensure content validity of basic skills. The curriculum was also tested in the classroom both for effectiveness and student appeal. A to Z supplies tutors with provider-created direct instruction lessons that incorporate these BASIC/Not Boring materials as well. These lessons also incorporate high interest literature, materials to do reader's theaters with students, word and number games, flashcards, and various manipulatives. These materials, geared heavily towards our younger students, aim to provide a hands on learning experience. All of the reading/language arts curriculum content is research-based and is aligned to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards and the National Reading Panel's five areas of reading instruction. The goal of the curriculum is to build the foundations for reading fluency in our K-1 students, while still developing higher level thinking skills. Students in higher grade levels move away from phonics and phonemic awareness into increased vocabulary, reading fluency, comprehension, and writing composition. In reading instruction and writing responses, the levels of cognitive development are addressed and both literal and inferential (application, analysis, evaluation) comprehension are emphasized, based on the academic level of the student. The goal is to work students through the levels of cognitive development in order to boost critical thinking skills.
All of the mathematics curriculum content is also research-based and is aligned to the Common Core Mathematics Standards and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics' five content standards. The goal of the math curriculum is to build the foundations for math fluency in our K-1 students, while still developing higher level thinking skills. Students in middle grade levels moved into increased exposure to and difficulty in geometry, data analysis, measurement, algebraic concepts, operations, and number sense. Skills addressed in the higher grades expose students to even more complex concepts in the five strands. The math lessons used emphasize conceptual understanding and challenge students to apply mathematical skills in problem solving situations. As a result, students are able to demonstrate the five mathematical process standards put out by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics and make the connections necessary to fully understand math concepts and how they relate across the grade levels.