The Morris Hills Regional District English Department’s philosophy embraces a student-centered approach to instruction with a focus on strengthening the literacy and critical thinking skills necessary to be successful at the postsecondary level as well as in the workforce. We are sensitive to varied learning styles and adhere to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. A dedication to the realities of standardized testing, a concentration on reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary enhancement, and an incremental familiarity with the contemporary methods of research can be seen in all four years of our English Program. All of these elements combine for a comprehensive approach to the study of our written and spoken language.
A philosophy of student-centered learning is one that encourages students to take responsibility for their education. This ownership is accomplished by adjusting the focus of learning from the teacher as a knowledge dispenser to the teacher as a helpful coach. Intrinsic in the student-centered approach are learning activities that allow students to learn from each other and to benefit from study that is directed toward discoveries and insights that students make for themselves.
Recognizing that students learn in different ways, we have organized our instruction and assessment philosophy to be appreciative of different learning styles. We encourage students to be active learners. We know that students learn best in their dominant learning style; however, it is necessary for students to be able to learn through a variety of modalities and for teachers to be able to instruct with a variety of educational strategies. These strategies are highlighted in the district’s comprehensive Staff Development Program and Instructional Coaching Program.
Another element of student-centered learning is training in the process of critical thinking. We encourage students to be reflective and to understand the process through which they come to insights and understanding of concepts. Along this continuum are many other meta-cognitive approaches, which the department believes are also beneficial to learners. Reading for literature and informational text, writing, language, listening, viewing, and speaking skills are at the center of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards as well as English Department’s philosophy, along with an appreciation for culture and diversity in all of its manifestations.
Increasing student vocabulary is primarily accomplished from the literature that students study both independently and in the classroom. Vocabulary enrichment is also accomplished through studying language, multiple meanings of words, and contextual clues in a variety of texts and online learning tools.
We acknowledge the need for organized approaches to standardized testing and therefore prepare students for tests such as the PSAT, SAT, ACT, NJSLA, AP and IB tests. Communicating test wiseness is an essential component of our curriculum.
Solid research skills and a familiarity with contemporary technology are also active components of our philosophy. We utilize a recursive approach to develop these skills throughout the four years of our English Department offerings. Students build on pre-existing knowledge until they are capable researchers and writers of research documents. We encourage students to familiarize themselves with Google Apps for Education and to utilize the advantages of technology in the study of language.
Most importantly, we pride ourselves on creating practices that help us achieve the Curriculum and Instruction Goal set forth by our district’s Goals 2020 Strategic Plan:
Morris Hills Regional District will develop a personalized experience through a comprehensive and diverse curriculum that empowers all students to become meaningful contributors to a global society through innovative instructional practices and authentic measure for assessing understanding.