English Language Arts
In Grades K-4, our English Language Arts program is best characterized by a balanced literacy model which includes an emphasis on: Reading, Writing, Word Study, and Handwriting. This model allows for direct and explicit instruction while ensuring that students have ample opportunities to apply the skills they are learning as readers and writers. Skills and strategies are modeled through whole class instruction. Students then have the opportunity for guided practice in small group settings with objectives that match the needs of the students in each group. The ultimate goal of a balanced literacy approach is that students have ongoing opportunities to apply learned skills and strategies to their own independent reading and writing experiences in and beyond the classroom. In addition to grade level classes, students entering grades 2 through 4 can apply and qualify for the Academically Independent (AI) program.
Word Study instruction at the K-1 level is based upon an instructional sequence that was designed at the district level according to the spelling features that our New Jersey State Learning Standards establish should be mastered by the end of Grade 1. In Kindergarten, there is a coordinated effort to teach the name, sound, and formation of the letters in the alphabet at the same time, with the goal being that students should know all of their letter-sounds, including short vowel sounds, by the end of Kindergarten. As students move into Grade 1, they continue to explore a variety of additional simple vowel patterns throughout the year. A large emphasis is placed on using this K-1 phonics knowledge to read and write words.
In Grades 2-4, we use the Spelling Connections program to support our Word Study curriculum. Again, grade level spelling features match the expectations established by state standards, but this program allows students to connect the spelling patterns they are learning to a variety of literacy activities. Within each unit, students are asked to: explore the new spelling pattern, discover the meanings of their unit words, apply the meanings of their spelling words to different reading activities (i.e. solving analogies, categorizing words, fact vs. opinion, etc.), and use what they know to proofread and edit writing passages. Word lists are differentiated within each unit to meet students’ needs, but all students are challenged to learn the expected grade level spelling patterns.
In Grades 5-8, ELA instruction includes the integration of reading, writing, speaking, viewing, and listening. The goal at each level is to produce strategic, fluent, analytic, and effective readers, writers, speakers, viewers and listeners. The curriculum of each course in the 5-8 span is carefully aligned to meet or exceed all New Jersey Student Learning Standards for English Language Arts. Each integrates applicable 21st Century Skills, challenges students to think critically, and fosters a sense of playfulness with language. Students leave each course of study with an enriched appreciation for the written word in all of its forms. They are well-prepared to embark upon future literary pursuits, having learned a great deal more about English Language Arts - as well as themselves. Specific instruction includes a focus on reading skills and strategies, considering themes from literature as they relate to essential questions, grammar usage and convention, development of speaking and listening skills, and increasing understanding of both academic and domain-specific vocabulary
In Grades 9-12, all students must satisfactorily complete four years of English Language & Literature. In addition to the four years of required English Language & Literature, which are aligned to meet or exceed all New Jersey Student Learning Standards for English Language Arts, students may select additional courses from the list of electives. The English Language & Literature courses are characterized by a strong emphasis on the relationship of the language processes to thinking and learning. Through the structured integration of reading, writing, and speaking activities, students are able to master the basic skills and to develop a continuing interest in language and literature. Students learn through a novel-based curriculum which includes the study of core texts at each level in addition to a large selection of supplemental texts. The full list of high school English offerings and course descriptions can be found in the High School Program of Studies.