Mrs. Sara GrajaK-12 English Language ArtsEnglish Language LearnersElementary ACE ProgramMedia SpecialistsExt: 2156
The Ewing Public Schools welcomes Ms. Sara Graja as the new K-12 Literacy/Language Arts Supervisor for the 2018-19 school year.
Ms. Graja replaces Kelly Kawalek, who has begun work as the new principal of Lore Elementary School.
Ms. Graja earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. After working in the private sector, Ms. Graja picked up a Graduate Teacher Certificate in English, and ultimately a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, from Rider University. She brings nineteen years of educational experience as a teacher and administrator to her new role with the Ewing Public Schools.
Ms. Graja began her career in education as a Science, Math and Reading teacher in Hamilton then taught middle school English in Hopewell Valley School District for over twelve years. For the past five years, Ms. Graja has supervised K-12 English and Language Arts for the Hopewell schools. During this time she facilitated implementation of Reading and Writing Workshop for grades K-8, expanded AP enrollment at the high school, opened a writing lab and provided professional development focused on delivering instruction through a blended learning, technology-focused model. Furthermore, as a proponent of individualized instruction, she developed interdisciplinary learning opportunities.
In her role as District Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for English Language Arts and English as a Second Language, Mrs. Graja works with teachers from across the district to meet the needs of Ewing students. She helps teachers to understand and implement the New Jersey Student Learning Standards as well as the Ewing Public Schools' English Language Arts curriculum. She meets with professionals in other districts, post-secondary institutions, and outside organizations to stay informed about best practices in literacy instruction, and she researches current programs that will help teachers to support students. Mrs. Graja plans professional development for teachers and building administrators, sometimes hiring outside presenters and often presenting research and best practice workshops herself. She also works with teachers to obtain the materials and resources needed to provide a strong literacy program for students, helps teachers understand the requirements and issues related to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, PARCC assessments, AP exams, and SAT tests. Mrs. Graja facilitates the district's summer reading program.
New Jersey Student Learning Standards
In June 2010, the New Jersey Department of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org), as did forty-three states, the District of Columbia, and the United States Virgin Islands. The mission statement for the Common Core initiative reads, "The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standard is designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers."
In May 2016, the New Jersey State Board of Education revised the math and language arts standards and published the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) for language arts and math; the NJSLS for Language Arts Literacy can be read online at www.state.nj.us/eduaction/aps/cccs/lal. In August 2016, the Ewing Township Board of Education approved a revised ELA curriculum, which aligned with the newly released learning standards.
English Language Arts Curriculum
We have worked very diligently within the Ewing Schools to stay abreast of changes at the national and state levels, and we will continue to prepare Ewing students for what they will encounter in the “real world”. The district English Language Arts curriculum was updated in August 2016 to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the shifts specified in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS); it is available in its entirety on the district website.
K - 8 Literacy Program
The students enrolled in the Ewing Township Public Schools participate in a balanced literacy program that is "grounded in scientifically based reading research which supports the essential elements and practices that enable all students to achieve literacy" (National Reading Panel, 2000). There are three goals of our literacy program:
- To help students read and comprehend grade level texts independently,
- To assist students with text-based thinking and writing, and
- To empower students with a love of reading.
Balanced literacy can be seen in a classroom with teachers reading aloud and with students participating in shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, modeled and shared writing, and independent writing. Ongoing formative assessment within a balanced literacy classroom provides data that allow teachers to make sound educational decisions about each individual student in a classroom.
High School Literacy Program
Students enrolled in grades 9 - 12 are required to take four years of English Language Arts. The English curriculum requires that students work toward college and career readiness with the support and guidance of a highly qualified teaching staff, and English classes are tiered so the skills necessary for students to be successful beyond high school progress from English I to English IV in a structured way. Students work to make sense of literature or information by continually reading, thinking and discussing big ideas. Students read and write daily, sometimes with teacher support, often independently.
In September 2016, students enrolled in English I and English II engaged with a new textbook, Collections (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). At the beginning of the semester, every student was provided an e-textbook login, where he or she was able to access the textbook using a computer, Chromebook, or Smart device. Every EHS student is provided a Google Drive login, so he or she is able to access assignments via Google Classroom and submit work via Drive. The online Collections resources and Google Drive are compatible, so students are able to complete work in one and transfer it to the other.
In all English classes, works are read and considered not only for their literary merit, but also to garner an understanding of the broader historical and/or social context. Students are required to read and think both independently and collaboratively, and learning is assessed through assignments that require application of skills rather than recall. Major assessments and final exams no longer require that students memorize lists of character names, vocabulary terms, or rules of grammar. Rather, students are required to know the names of characters and respond to text-based questions providing correct information about characters of study. Students are expected to use new vocabulary in their writing and understand new term to support their own reading comprehension. They are also expected to apply, not memorize, the rules of grammar when responding to text-based prompts. While the major skills of focus have not changed, the expectation that students apply their knowledge, rather than recite it, is a shift expected by Common Core, New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and the Ewing English curriculum.
Helpful Links and Hot Topics in Literacy and Second Language Development
Colorin Colorado - http://www.colorincolorado.org/
- A bilingual site for educators and families of English language learners
Reader's Workshop - http://www.readersworkshop.org/
- The workshop model is a research-based practice that provides a general framework for any strong balanced literacy program. This site provides resources to help parents understand what reading workshop is, why it works, and what it looks like.
Reading Resources from the U.S. Department of Education - https://www2.ed.gov/parents/read/resources/edpicks.jhtml
- Help your child become a better reader with these fun activities parents can use to build children's language skills.
Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Book Awards and Booklists - http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklistsbook
- Looking for great teen books? Look no further than YALSA's Book Awards and Selected Booklists. "While these books have been selected for teens from 12 to 18 years of age, the award-winning titles and the titles on YALSA's selected lists span a broad range of reading and maturity levels. [YALSA] encourage[s] adults to take an active role in helping individual teens choose those books that are the best fit for them and their families."