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Breaking Down The Immersion Model ©

The Immersion Model © In Action

There are so many things that help make the Wolf School – the Wolf School. Our small class size, our incredible sense of community, our Sensory Arena, our Move to Learn classes – the list goes on. But nothing is more “Wolf” than our Immersion Model ©. When the idea of creating the Wolf School first began in 1999, the driving force behind it was to create a school that taught Complex Learners in a way that worked for them. Our founders understood that students who learn differently need to be taught differently, so they created the Immersion Model ©. Now in our 24th year, we continue to see each day how our innovative teaching model helps students uncover not only their love of learning, but their understanding of how they learn.

But what exactly is the Immersion Model ©, and what does it look like in action?

Traditional Methods vs. Immersion Model ©

The Immersion Model © is in direct contrast to more traditional methods you might see at other schools. Typically, students who need additional support are pulled out of the classroom to receive those services, like speech or occupational therapy. Not only does this put unnecessary burden on the students to be able to apply what they’ve learned when they return to the classroom in an environment not conducive to their needs, but it also has negative impacts on self-esteem, peer connection, and their sense of belonging – as they are repeatedly singled out and removed from their classroom environment. 

But with Wolf’s Immersion Model ©, those therapeutic supports are woven into the classroom. With the understanding that each student is different, this model enables language, social skills, and sensory goals to be integrated into each lesson. By invisibly integrating therapy goals into the daily academic curriculum, students are “immersed” in a successful and secure learning environment that allows each student to develop into an independent learner. 

How is this possible?

To have these therapeutic supports occur directly in the classroom, during every class, you need a team of expert, talented professionals to implement the model. This is made possible with our dedicated classroom team of educators and therapists. This team is composed of a special education teacher, an occupational therapist, a speech & language pathologist, and a teaching assistant. It’s this team of educators and therapists that truly puts the Immersion Model © into action by providing individualized instruction in small groups, utilizing targeted movement activities to increase focus and ready students for learning, and implementing strategies for social/emotional regulation, sensory supports, and hands-on experiential learning. 

Each Immersion Model © lesson is first created during team planning. During team planning, our Classroom Team works on developing lessons through a therapeutic lens. This means that while academic goals and curriculum provides the foundation for what will be taught, the special education teacher works with the OT and SLP to come up with how the lesson is taught using different approaches and strategies, while weaving in academic and therapeutic goals. 

What does it look like?

To help break down exactly what the Immersion Model © looks like at Wolf, we’re going to break down an example lesson and highlight different therapeutic supports throughout it.

The video above shows a math lesson on elapsed time (the academic focus). Let’s break down each section.

To start, a team member explains the group plan to a small group of students. By having a small group size, the team members are able to focus on each individual student’s goals and minimize distractions in the learning environment. Each of the 3 students has a different role – a writer, a mover, and a drawer. 

The “writer” reads the math problem aloud to the group, which provides the needed information to target auditory learners in addition to students who learn better with info presented visually. This is also working on the “writer’s” reading fluency and comprehension.

The “drawer” then determines, using the key provided (1 mountain = 1 hour; 1 hill = 10 minutes; 1 rock = 1 minute), how they can visually draw the passage of time between start and end points. The drawer is working on their visual motor integration as they work to draw to scale. In addition, this is helping the entire group since elapsed time is an abstract concept, and by drawing it students are able to see the concept in a visual way that’s easier to understand. 

Based upon the number of mountains drawn on the board, the “mover” then performs the correct number of movements associated with “mountains” (bunny hops). By using bigger movements for longer periods of time, this is a form of kinesthetic learning. And by involving more body parts, the student is strengthening their gross motor skills. 

As the group continues to break down the problem, the “drawer” uses a visual aid (a clock) to draw the correct number of “hills” (minutes) based upon the math problem. This brings in some real life functional aspect by making the problem more realistic. This is also working on the students’ time telling ability and reinforces basic math concepts. 

To figure out the correct answer to the problem, the group comes together to work collaboratively and shares the information they learned through their different methods.  

To end the process, the whole group performs the entire movement associated with the time. By everyone performing the movements, they are all calming their bodies through proprioception as they prepare to switch groups. 

Finally, the “writer” completes the worksheet using a slant board. This is helping them to work on wrist extension, pencil grasp, and by bringing the worksheet closer to their eyes, it increases the students’ ability to focus on the task at hand. 

While the academic focus is on math, therapeutic support appears throughout the lesson. But in true Wolf fashion, this can become even more individualized based on the students participating in the lesson. Team members use their expertise to adapt or tailor the lesson to fit the needs of each student within their group. 

Through the Immersion Model © Complex Learners are able to attend to tasks at hand and participate in lessons through methods and strategies that work for them.  

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