‘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.
We view the relevant academic skills and assessment objectives as being on more of a continuum with each area fundamentally interlinked with the other. As such, they are never studied in isolation. We believe that it is instead an exploratory approach to studying English that enables higher-order thinking and academic success, but ultimately the enjoyment of our students.
Our bold approach to studying three key texts per year enables students to fully explore the chosen text by studying poems, short stories and newspaper articles with similar themes and ideas; it also encourages them to draw links between previously studied texts and develop their wider understanding of an issue or idea. We envisage that this approach will also enable students to start to see the relevance of literature to them as opposed to something irrelevant and solely studied simply because it is regarded as being a part of the ‘canon’. 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. We are confident that this new approach will pay dividends in Year 10 and 11 where more conceptualised responses are required to achieve the highest grades.
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, 2-3 of these words are 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.