We aim to develop enthusiastic readers, writers and communicators. Our teaching aims to promote creativity, confidence and a love for our language.
The English curriculum is designed to empower each student with the knowledge of how to use their voice with confidence. Students will understand that words are powerful: they influence people and can instigate change. Our students learn how to use words well and with an authority that enables them to hold their own in a competitive world and express conviction in their own beliefs.
The Key Stage 3 curriculum has a firm foundation in the reading and study of Literature texts, with students across the three years becoming increasingly aware of how humanity has expressed ideas over time and how these have shaped the present. Students will study two complete novels, three plays (20th century and Shakespeare), classical Greek and Anglo-Saxon epic narratives, 19th century short stories and a selection of poetry. Through this reading students will develop a knowledge of the way language works, being exposed to a wide range of vocabulary and rich depth of expression that will provide a secure grounding for their own writing skills. Fiction and non-fiction writing is linked closely to each Literature text and, progressively, students will develop their use of grammatical structures and rhetoric.
Students will be assessed formally each term on skills covered in their text study, and also formatively mid-way through the unit. Skills are all focused on GCSE assessment objectives and each of these, for reading and writing, is revisited within each year to monitor students’ progression. In addition, students have regular vocabulary tests, homework booklets and creative writing tasks that are marked in class.
Aspects of narrative, drama and poetry are the focus of termly topics in each Year group, introducing students to genres or styles of writing that they will study at GCSE and therefore, as well as providing a broad knowledge foundation, gives them confidence in approaching further study, progressively developing familiarity and analytical skills with a range of literary forms. For example, students in Year 7 study a novel that although written in 21st century is set in 19th. This establishes understanding of the relevant context without contending with the more difficult language faced in Year 8’s 19th century short story unit in which a focus on narrative structure underpins a Year 9 unit on 20th century narrative. Throughout Key Stage 3 students study non-fiction texts that are thematically linked to each Literature topic, deepening their wider, cultural knowledge as well as their analytical vocabulary.
English Language and Literature study for GCSE is firmly rooted in exam board assessment objectives that require students to interpret, analyse, compare and evaluate texts and then use these skills to communicate clearly with purpose and accuracy in their own writing. Each one of these assessment objectives underpins our Key Stage 3 curriculum with each being taught and assessed at an appropriate level both formatively and summatively in years 7, 8 and 9. There is much cross over of skills, and those embedded, but not taught discreetly as Language or Literature, in Years 7 -9 become key to success in both GCSEs:
Whilst we are determined that Key Stage 3 offers its own breadth and depth that encourages a love of reading and language, we ensure that it lays down secure knowledge foundations at the start of a progressive journey through our five year curriculum. English lessons are not about passing on information but are about fostering critical thinking skills and responding knowledgeably to the world around us. They are about having the opportunity to develop clarity of expression and the confidence to present personal beliefs with authority. These same skills are transferable to many areas both within the wider school curriculum and beyond, producing highly employable adults.
It is vital, in particular for many students whose own life experience may be limited, that the English curriculum opens up an understanding of the whole gamut of human experience, exploring what it means to be human within many diverse contexts and thereby developing an understanding of and tolerance for others. We study texts in Language and Literature to
challenge students’ experience and encourage an enriched engagement with a world of possibilities.
Our curriculum certainly supports this intention through recognising that only by reading and exploring a diverse range of high quality literature can students develop language skills that will give them a voice to be listened to and an enquiring mind
The whole school focus is apparent throughout all of our teaching within English. Naturally enough, Literacy is at the core of teaching, with clarity and accuracy of expression our driving focus. To this end we use the ‘Olympic rings’ to require that students identify and correct their basic grammatical errors independently, and provide half termly vocabulary lists that are to be learnt, extending richness of language, as well as identifying key words relevant to each topic. Key to our teaching is a focus on writers’ word selection and subsequent analysis of language selection. This key skill is developed from Years 7 to 11.
Oracy has never been more essential a skill to develop than it is now, when so many students have had months with little or no opportunity to develop this. Deep and progressive questioning is a focus for our department’s teaching, and opportunities to embed oracy practice into schemes of work before committing ideas to writing are being developed.
All our schemes of work and teaching practice incorporate aspects of the effective learning strategies, using a common language with other subject areas in order that students see the inter-connectedness of the whole curriculum
Retrieval practice: thoroughly embedded within all schemes of work. Our Key stage 3 curriculum builds upon a prior learning of skills that progressively equip students for GCSE and further study. We are currently developing retrieval practice starters for every lesson, using ‘5 a day’ to accustom students to the need for consistent building of long term memory. KS4 assessments require that students return repeatedly to what has been studied in previous terms.
Interleaving: our progressive curriculum demands that skills are revisited and built upon. Our KS4 programme means that skills are not solely taught in a discreet block, but developed throughout the course. For example, Language skills are taught through each Literature text, and key concepts returned to frequently, such as skills of language analysis.
Elaboration: central to our teaching and for success, this is built into our schemes throughout Years 7 – 11. In depth analysis of language both orally and in written response is a key Assessment Objective and models for teaching this are an essential departmental practice.
Concrete examples: these are built into our schemes of work and a developing bank of these is being developed and stored for all staff to access on the T drive. These are integral to our teaching and a required practice from all staff.
Dual coding: perhaps the least prevalent of Rosenshine’s principles within our current practice, this is building in our focus and has been particularly evident in our developing use of concept mapping.
Independent learning is essential to success within English. Students are expected to read widely and often and reading lists are available to provide extra ideas and challenge.
Year 8 have an Independent Learning booklet to work from – they are expected to choose tasks linked to their own learning preferences. Peers and family provide an essential role in giving feedback to our Year 8 students.
In addition, English staff set homework on a regular basis. A variety of homework tasks will be set ranging from research tasks through to extended pieces of writing.