Intent

Literacy is the result of engaging with and thinking about ideas, issues and problems with written and spoken English. We want to empower students to think rationally, to critically evaluate influences in their world and to appreciate that all communications are constructs designed to achieve the intentions of their authors.

Whilst we have built our curriculum around the National Curriculum guidance to ‘promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment’, we treat this as a starting point for an ambitious curriculum with critical literacy at its heart. Due to the academic context of our school, the vast majority of our students start with a high level of literacy and therefore our aim is to elevate their skills to a more independently critical mindset.

We teach a rich and varied curriculum that both prepares students for their GCSE examinations and also goes beyond the focus of examined texts. For example, in addition to the three 19th Century novels we offer in KS3, students also study three novels from both other cultures and the modern genre. We aim to engage all of our students with a variety of Shakespeare plays, beginning with an engaging introduction in Year 7 though to Hamlet at KS5. By engaging with a range of texts, we are enabling our students to see the wide ranging interpretations that can be made and the varied arguments presented in the texts. We want learners that are able to recognise that there is no one way of reading a text.

Choice of content:

  • For English Literature, we choose to teach three of the set GCSE exam texts at key stages 3 and 4 to help students to understand each text in its social, historical and cultural context, but also to be able to draw parallels between them. Students at KS3 study Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Year 7 and Jekyll and Hyde in Year 9, both of which are GCSE texts, and are in addition to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that they study at KS4 so no repetition of content occurs, only the repetition of context and key themes and ideas linked to the social setting.
  • The poetry provision features a diverse collection that includes poetry from other cultures, War poetry and Romanticism in order to present a broad thematic approach in the students’ knowledge and critical evaluation.
  • For English Language, the overall focus is on a secure command of Standard English in reading, writing, speaking and listening, being aware of register and being able to apply Standard English in a number of ways. We explore great speeches, travel writing and advertising at KS3 in order to expose students to a variety of genres and styles in preparation for GCSE.
  • In Year 9, students follow a Media course for one lesson a fortnight. The content includes media theory and exploration of a range of modern media genres. The analysis of the use of language in Media overlaps with the analysis of writers’ methods in the GCSE Language examinations.

Beyond the focus on specified curriculum texts, the department provides enrichment opportunities that encourage a love of reading, improved thinking and literacy skills. In Year 7, one lesson per week is in the Library which promotes a love of reading, provides students with access to texts and in which they complete fun activities around reading. In a boys’ school, we feel this is essential as research consistently shows boys’ reading ages lag behind girls and are notoriously less likely to read regularly for pleasure. In Year 8, the department provides the Let’s Think cognitive thinking programme to develop critical thinking skills and problem solving; these lessons develop the critical understanding that there is no right or wrong answer.

The English curriculum has been designed to be accessible to all students. The topics are chosen to reflect both real-life experiences, as well as fictional environments that students can relate to and explore a personal engagement with. If a text offers challenging vocabulary, vocabulary banks are used, or activities that allow students to learn the vocabulary before engaging with the text. Retrieval practice are used across all key stages to ensure students regularly revisit key concepts and terms, for example the tragic genre (and therefore all the concepts and terminology related to it) is first explored through Romeo and Juliet at KS3, followed by Macbeth at KS3 4, and finally Hamlet at KS5. Writing frames and scaffolds are also regularly used to support students with extended responses, and all resources are shared with students via Google Classroom so they are readily available.

By the end of KS3 we expect students to be making an informed response to texts. By the end of KS4, we expect students to have developed a more evaluative and personal response to the texts. By having this foundation of skills, we expect KS5 students to have developed an awareness of themselves as literary critics where their opinions stand alongside other critical interpretations. These expectations clearly show the progression in skills through engaging with literature. Additionally, at the end of KS3 students will be able to form responses that address all of the relevant assessment objectives for GCSE Language and Literature. The end points for KS4 and 5 is most obviously success in the public examinations with an aim of 50% achieving a 7-9 for GCSE and an ALPS 3 for A Level, whilst also producing students who are able to engage with an evaluative and personal response to any text. We want students to go on and study English Literature at a post-graduate level having become excellent critics and writers.

Implementation

Successful learning in English comes from an engaging curriculum that delivers lessons which create learners who are: persistent in finding answers; who think and respond creatively about texts and can apply what they have learned in their own writing. Teachers deliver lessons that focus on the skills required to be successful in English Language and Literature, and students recognise the cross-over of skills for all the texts they face. There is a strong use of dialogic communication between the teacher and students so they are able to show their own though processes in learning and not simply reiterating what the teacher has said.

We believe that effective learning in English is an activity of construction (i.e. making meaning, not receiving) and that in lessons there should be a promotion of action and reflection (i.e. using materials and creating ideas).  We believe success is driven by learners’ agency when the students’ sense of intention and choice is respected.  Our monitoring and assessment procedures follow a process of teacher marking and providing targeted feedback on which the student reflects, responds and improves specific areas of weakness.  Teachers then check these responses, which forms on ongoing dialogue of improvement, personalised to each student.

Assessment at KS3 is carried out using GCSE criteria, and using the GCSE grades 1-9 so that students’ progression through the curriculum is clearly signposted on a personalised ‘flightpath’.  Students are all aware of their personal target grades, based on their GCSE target grade and providing a clear route to success. Each term students complete 3 assessments including a reading analysis and a writing response.  So even if students are studying a literature unit, they are still practicing the skills required to be creative and transactional in their writing. The assessments at GCSE mimic the type of exam question students will answer in the exam and all these assessments are completed in timed conditions in the classroom, using the same exam restrictions students will face in their real GCSE exams.  This is to prepare students for the nature of the new 100% GCSEs in English.

In order to ensure learning enters the long-term memory, the curriculum is mapped against the GCSE specification, whilst also featuring elements of the KS5 literature foci. This allows students to re-visit the context for Shakespeare and the 19th Century novel, re-examine the analysis of poetry and aspects of the language course. Each term the department includes starter activities that test students on their knowledge of previously taught units whilst also incorporating tasks that focus students on retrieving knowledge regarding the shared context of texts, the forms and genres of texts as well as comprehension of content.

Current topics taught are:

Year 7 – Time Travel, Dickens A Christmas Carol, Wonder, Poems from other cultures, Great Speeches, Introduction to Shakespeare;

Year 8 – Modern Novel (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time), Creative writing, War Poetry, Edgar Allen Poe, Travel Writing, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet;

Year 9 – Nineteenth Century Novel (Jekyll and Hyde), Romantic poetry, Language preparation, Of Mice and men;

Year 10 and 11 – Frankenstein, An Inspector Calls, Macbeth, Power and Conflict poetry, Language Paper 1 and 2 skills;

Year 12 and 13 – Supernatural Prose comparison (Beloved and Dorian Gray), Post-2000 Poetry, Poetry of Christina Rossetti, Dystopian literature comparison, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

It is departmental practice to revisit previous topics through starter activities to keep information in students’ memories. This practice also enables them to see the cross-over of skills across all the units they study. Teachers maintain high expectations of written and spoken English in lessons and all assessment. By reinforcing these standards and expectations, students are prepared for and able to use the skills necessary regardless of the text they are reading, be it a taught or an unseen text.

Additionally, there are a number of ways we enrich our students’ academic experience. We have smaller class sets from Year 9 which allows teachers to focus on more targeted intervention and differentiation. Year 9 students also have one lesson per fortnight allocated to Media, thus better preparing them for the GCSE Language skills, whilst in Year 8 students have one lesson per fortnight of Let’s Think, to develop their cognitive reasoning. In KS3 all students are part of the Pop-Up project which provides a free literary text to all students followed by a visit by the author who engages them in creative writing seminars. The department runs regular trips for all year groups, from visits to The Guardian newspaper in KS3 through to A Level conferences on set texts for KS5.

Impact

The impact of the curriculum can be seen through pupils gaining exemplary literacy skills and knowledge of critical literature analysis, which enable them to access the next steps in their education and future. This is evidenced through the excellent results in public examinations gained by students at the Math school, and the particularly successful changeover from the previous GCSE exam curriculum towards the new (current) 100% exam GCSEs our students now enter.  These results are clear evidence of the rigorous programme of learning our teachers deliver.

Our students enjoy the subject, as evidenced by their exemplary behaviour and engagement in lessons, the work in their books and assessment folders and their responses to student surveys each year.  They develop a sound foundation, not just in skills specific to English but also cross-curricular skills, in critical literacy which they can apply across a range of disciplines.  Our students demonstrate these skills by performing well in other subjects, specifically humanities subjects or any subject where students are required to be critical and evaluative thinkers.  Our SEN pupils achieve at least in line with their peers and often outperform the cohort as a whole.

The nature of the texts we study offers a broad understanding of historical, social and cultural backgrounds and engenders positive outcomes in terms of students’ perspectives on the diversity of the human experience, in line with British values.  When possible, we take our students to see performances of the texts we study to enrich their understanding of literature as an art form. We regularly attend lecture series with our students that are run by University professors, experts in their fields, to further enhance their critical understanding and to model to them what this level of thinking looks like. Many of our students choose to study English Literature at A Level and increasing numbers are choosing the subject at undergraduate level at England’s top universities.  Their enjoyment of the subject allows them to develop into highly literate and critical individuals who take an active role in evaluating the sources and purposes of any text they encounter in their future lives.

Year 7 SoW

Terms

Legends in Literature

This unit aims to give students a broad range of knowledge about some of the oldest stories we have on record – legends and mythology. Students will learn to appreciate the conventions of legends and myths alongside the typical characters that inhabit them: heroes, monsters, gods and demi-gods, kings and queens. Through learning this knowledge, students are challenged to think conceptually about larger questions such as what makes a hero heroic? What makes a monster monstrous? Can one person exhibit both qualities, and what would this look like? What does it mean to be human? We ask our students to critique the commonly accepted ‘heroes’ to uncover flaws in their characters and to see the societal and moral messages that lie behind presenting characters in a particular light. They will travel from ancient Greece and Rome, to Mayan America, to ancient China in their literary explorations of myths and legends in a bid to build not only their appreciation of literature, but of the varied people of the world that have inspired and created them. Students will be able to engage their creative writing skills when crafting their own legends based on their understanding of this literary form.

The Art of Rhetoric

This unit explores the power of rhetoric. Students will study both nonfiction and fiction great speeches, from the past and the present. They will be engaged through understanding how people get what they want through the power of rhetoric. They will learn how it has evolved and been shaped over the years.  Students will study a range of speeches (both fictional and non-fictional) from a variety of purposes, cultures, time periods and speakers as a means of building an understanding ways we communicate, persuade and express ourselves whilst enriching their cultural capital.  The literature ranges from Shakespeare to Martin Luther King and modern politicians.  In addition to exploring how the speeches are crafted, students also create and deliver their own speeches based on what they have learned from the examples we have studied.  This unit also provides ample opportunity for debating and developing oracy skills.

The Story of the Novel

This unit develops students’ understanding of language and storytelling, and how it eventually progresses into a novel. By positioning this unit at the end of the year, students should appreciate the move from oral story-telling, to spoken word onstage, to a written narrative through the sequence of units they have covered so far. This is the last piece of the puzzle: the novel. The breadth of literature, and the sequencing of knowledge, allows them to identify and recognise how literature develops and pinpoint the links and patterns in language. This is something that will be developed further in this unit. Alongside these literature and language skills, they will learn to celebrate how literature captures social, political and cultural realities through studying classic texts such as extracts from Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. In addition, creative writing has been built in to ensure students have engaged fully with the texts and the formation of a longer literary piece. These texts have been chosen to foster a love of the adventure novel and to develop students’ understanding of previous hero journeys they have studied in ‘legends in literature’. Reading this wide range of literature will build an early appreciation of writer’s craft across various authorial styles as well as encouraging the love of reading in our students.

Year 8 SoW

terms

The Gothic and Edgar Allen Poe

This unit requires students to explore not only the literature of Poe, but to use Poe as a focal point from which to view a range of other Gothic short stories. Students will also gain a historical knowledge of the Gothic era and of Poe’s life.  Students will learn, over time, the conventions of the Gothic which will be useful for understanding the genre and how it has developed over time.  Alongside this, students will explore and analyse how writers create tension and suspense in their stories by closely analyzing extracts, Gothic openings and Gothic settings.  Higher level thinking skills are required for the writing assessment when students use their knowledge of the Gothic, and the methods writers use to create suspense, in order to create their own short Gothic story.  In order to be able to utilize this information creatively, students are first taught to have an excellent knowledge of Gothic conventions and are required to see the story as being consciously crafted by the writer in order to achieve specific effects.  Upon understanding this, their knowledge is consolidated and stretched through creative assessment.

Jekyll and Hyde

Students are also required to think morally and philosophically about the text as a whole, using evaluative skills after their reading and analysis to explore questions such as ‘do we all have the capacity for evil?’ and ‘what makes a truly good person?’  This unit encourages discussion of deep questions such as these to get students to see how literature helps us to think about life, society and our own identities.

The study of this text not only stretches the reading abilities of the student due to the challenging nature of the literature, but also has close links to their GCSE; they study a 19th Century text (Frankenstein) as part of their Literature GCSE for AQA.  This novel will require students to not only analyse 19th Century literature, but to appreciate and use the context of the Gothic and Victorian era to support and further their insights.  This builds on the skills and knowledge acquired in the previous unit, The Gothic.

Poetry

In this unit, students explore a range of poems in order to understand what motivates poets to write poetry. The motivations they will study range from pro and anti war messages  to social commentary.  Students will explore not only how to analyse poetry but also to infer and interpret why a poet has included the ideas he or she has; their emotional literacy will be developed through writing their own poems as well as empathising with people in different situations involving feelings, special educational needs and poverty.

Romeo and Juliet

For this unit of study, students will explore Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Students will explore the themes of love, hate, family, relationships and learn about life during the Elizabethan era.  This will develop students’ appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare through requiring students to read, analyse, and sometimes even act out parts of this play.

Travel and Creative Writing

In this unit, travel writing is explored from a range of angles to allow students to stretch their reading, writing and speaking and listening skills.  Students encounter writing from a range of countries and authors which stretches their knowledge of writer’s styles.  Students are required to re-create using high level thinking skills (creation).  Students not only suit their style to fit travel writing, but they must consider how they would emulate the style of a writer they have already read to continue their description too.  

Students encounter a range of styles and genres within travel writing, and the aim is to expose them to this breadth of non-fiction writing.  They explore travel writing which is highly descriptive and immersive as well as humorous styles and persuasive writing.  Students are required to analyse the language used by writers and it should be clear that drastically different effects are achieved dependent on the style, purpose and language used by the given writer.

After stretching their analytical reading skills and creative writing skills, students are required to utilise their ability to work creatively in teams and independently at length to create their own travel company.  This independent project completed in class over the course of a week ends in a Speaking and Listening assessment in which students should demonstrate their ability to communicate clearly, persuasively and effectively to the rest of the class.

For creative writing, the aim is for students to explore, understand and be able to effectively use a range of different writing styles, structures and techniques.  This unit aims to enhance the creative thinking skills of students by providing frameworks and stimuli to inspire writing, but then stretching the students by requiring them to take ideas further and develop them into imaginative and engaging pieces of writing. 

Year 9 SoW

TERMS

Romanticism

This unit uses a wide range of poetry from the Victorian and American Romantic eras and explores these poems in their context.  The Romantic movement is explored in terms of its common themes, beliefs and aims and it linked to its contextual period.  Students should learn to appreciate the vivid imagery used by the poets and should be able to link and compare poems according to their common Romantic elements.  As always, literature, language and creative writing skills are built into this KS3 unit to ensure students are consistently practicing and building their core English skills and using them to create, engage with and critique poems within this genre.  In addition, the Romantic movement is explored in terms of its common themes, beliefs and aims and how it is linked to its contextual period.  Students should learn to appreciate the vivid imagery used by the poets and should be able to link and compare poems according to their common Romantic elements.  Romanticism study provides students with some cultural capital around the subject of revolution and freedom fighting from around the world.  We hope it will inspire students to appreciate the human rights they have and the rights issues others have faced in the past and how this affects the world today.  We aim to build an understanding and an appreciation of equality as well as developing students’ ability to express their viewpoints.  

Jekyll and Hyde

The study of this text not only stretches the reading abilities of the student due to the challenging nature of the literature, but also has close links to their GCSE; they study a 19th Century text (Frankenstein) as part of their Literature GCSE for AQA.  This novel will require students to not only analyse 19th Century literature, but to appreciate and use the context of the Gothic and Victorian era to support and further their insights.  This, again, is practice for the skills required at GCSE and provides background knowledge of the same era that Frankenstein is set in.

Students are also required to think morally and philosophically about the text as a whole, using evaluative skills after their reading and analysis to explore questions such as ‘do we all have the capacity for evil?’ and ‘what makes a truly good person?’  This unit encourages discussion of deep questions such as these to get students to see how literature helps us to think about life, society and our own identities.  It also provides the opportunity to debate these issues and practice persuasive language whilst improving oracy skills.

Dystopia

This unit explores the development of dystopia from the 18th century to 21th century, as an exploration of speculative fiction, reflecting the anxieties of contemporary society. It is an important genre that permeates through all Key Stages and all areas of literature. At its heart, the unit focuses on a dystopian novel The Giver, giving students an opportunity to read a full text.  However, in order to fully appreciate the genre as a whole, students will begin by studying a range of dystopian extracts from classic texts, such as 1984 and the short story The Machine Stops, which provides students with the understanding of the genre; it also gives students some cultural capital in their experience with some works within this classic, and often cited, literary cannon.  The extracts will be studied as a way to develop a range of skills.  Some are used to explore the deeper societal questions that the author is posing, and students are asked to formulate their own opinions on matters such as could technology go too far and what does it mean to be human?  Other lessons will focus on deep literary, analytical study and others will ask students to utilize their knowledge of the genre to formulate their own dystopian ideas.  The unit then moves onto The Giver as a focus text: a modern, relevant text that should enable students to engage with the subject matter, as it applies to and reflects the teenage world.  From their study of this text, and the extracts, students will then produce their own dystopian story to mirror the issues they feel affect society today, and to offer their view of the near future if nothing happens to improve them.

Marginalised Voices

Next term, our Year 9s move into Year 10 and start their GCSE studies.  In this final term of KS3, students are challenged to study a range of extracts, and a novel, that deals with narratives and voices that are lesser heard in society: the voices of those marginalised people who face prejudice, discrimination or who are Othered by society for any reason.  The unit will begin with extracts, poems, and non-fiction pieces from around the world to capture a wide range of voices.  Students will be asked to engage with and analyse these voices to extract what they feel the purpose behind the text is, and to consider what voice they hear and why it holds importance.  What questions is the writer asking us to consider?  How is this relevant to the world we live in today?  The unit will then move on to study the novel Terror Kid where students will consider what makes a terrorist and the impact prejudice can have on an individual.  This novel will be used to inspire debates, creative (fiction and non-fiction) writing pieces and an appreciation of how writing can be used to send powerful messages to society.  Our aim is for students to finish their KS3 study with an appreciation of a wide range of literature, viewpoints and genres.  The breadth of this study should not only help them to access the challenging tasks and texts to face them in KS4, but also have developed their knowledge of the world around them.