‘The Human Condition’
Me - Them - Us
Power - Conflict - Love - Relationships - Identity
At Pembroke, we view the purpose of English to be to enable our students to explore and understand themselves and how they can make sense of the world around them. Therefore, our curriculum explores, and is indeed entitled, ‘The Human Condition.’ There is a clear and logical progression in each year group: the Year 7 curriculum is entitled ‘Me’; the Year 8 curriculum is entitled ‘Them’ and the Year 9 curriculum then culminates in a study of ‘Us’. Throughout this, we have identified five key themes which underpin both the set texts but also what we believe are cornerstones of understanding the human condition: power, conflict, love, relationships and identity. Therefore, as students progress through the curriculum, so does their understanding of these core themes and their ability to explore and discuss them sensitively and with increasing articulacy. It is also intended too that students will have an improving awareness of who they are and a clearer concept of their place in the world. Our curriculum is rooted in student enjoyment as we encourage students to see the relevance of literature to them and as a vehicle to enable them to make sense of the world around them. We therefore provide students with opportunities to draw on their own experiences to develop their unique and personal responses to what they have read which are both valued and embraced.
It is our belief that reading and writing are intrinsically linked and as such, each of our three texts studied per year is accompanied by either a creative writing unit, a transactional writing unit or a poetry unit. These two units complement each other so that students are able to deepen their understanding of the studied text whilst also honing their creative or transactional writing skills.
We have ensured that a broad range of genres, writers and time periods are represented in our Key Stage 3 curriculum which will effectively equip students with the skills and knowledge they need for the GCSE curriculum. Each unit of work in Key Stage 3 has been prescribed with a key question or inquiry which is fundamentally linked to ‘The Human Condition’. It is only be effectively answering this question that students can then progress to the next unit of work. This design also encourages students to draw links between previously studied texts and develop their wider understanding of an issue or idea. This curriculum has been designed with a focus on providing opportunities for learners to develop their cultural capital and to encourage an exploratory approach when studying a piece of literature. It is our hope that this exploratory approach will foster our students’ enjoyment of studying English.
We place great value, focus and emphasis on tier 2 vocabulary and as such, every unit of work has ten key words which are explicitly taught. Every lesson, one of these words is re-visited to develop students’ competency when using challenging vocabulary in their work. This strategy also enables students to become more articulate in their academic and creative writing.
Equally, we place a significant emphasis on grammar. We have a clear progression map of the grammar knowledge we expect each year group ascertain. These concepts are explicitly taught in lessons as starters in Years 7, 8 and 9 and studied until students have mastered this specific area. We envisage that this approach will lead to positive outcomes in the three major assessment points in Years 7, 8 and 9 and subsequently improved exam responses in Year 10 and 11. For assessments, students apply their new knowledge by engaging with an unseen text. The data this provides enables the English team to regularly review the effectiveness of our curriculum and adapt it accordingly to suit the needs of our learners.
In September 2018, we appointed a Reading Leader and launched a Reading Room in school. Students in Year 7 engage with a reading lesson once per week to emphasise the value and importance we place on this lifelong habit. Year 8 have a reading lesson on a three-week rotation. A select number of able Year 9 learners also work in a small group to engage in particularly challenging texts, themes and ideas. Additionally, our Reading Leader delivers additional support sessions for less able learners to help improve these students’ reading ability. Through discussion and exploration of a text, learners are encouraged to develop an emotional response to what they have read; this skillset is then transferred into their English lessons. Students also benefit from many other opportunities such as author talks, theatre visits, a bi-annual trip to the World War One battlefields in Belgium and bespoke masterclasses provided by members of the local community. This is vital to our work as it allows students to see the relevance of English in other contexts.
To further foster the notion in our students that reading should be a lifelong habit, Year 7, 8 and 9 will undertake a year-long homework as they work towards awards in a Rooted in Reading programme which will be linked to the theme of their study. This will further ensure that students are exposing themselves to a wide range of texts that interest them and further develop their understanding of themselves and what may appeal to them.
The English team is passionate that by designing and implementing a curriculum and experience rooted in exploration and enjoyment that students will leave Pembroke as confident and competent readers, writers, speakers and listeners and true citizens of the world.