Aim: To reflect on how to best plan for changes to the KS4 curriculum and ensure that schemes of learning generate excitement about English for teachers and pupils alike. To improve students’ outlook on reading and to redefine what ‘rigour’ looks like in lesson planning.
Background: A library study had shown that students were reading less than expected.
Year 1: Year 10 units of work were co-planned with a close eye on ambitious unseen extracts that were interwoven into classwork and weekly mini assessments. The model was shared with other English departments and their reactions were noted. Feedback was gathered from staff and students at the end of each term and the model was moved into KS3.
Year 2 : ‘Knowledge organisers’ were mapped and planned to help learners grasp and justify what they see as pivotal moments, key quotes and characteristics. The NQT and trainee in the department both found that knowing which information to prioritise freed them to have class discussions that moved beyond the basics of the knowledge organiser. All teachers were challenged to share the subject of their degree dissertation as part of a display to inspire A-Level learners before they chose their own specialities for A2.
Year 3: A literary festival was held in collaboration with other departments (largely creative subjects) which raised the profile of reading through a series of events for every key stage. Every teacher demonstrated their subject knowledge to staff and students by leading a seminar on a specialism and a YouTube channel (MissHannaLovesGrammar) that focused on sharing interpertations on poetry and improving technical accuracy was launched. Podcasts on set texts for Years 7-11 were also made and shared.
Evidence: Minutes from department meetings, student and staff feedback.
Impact: The number of students studying A-Level English has increased, staff and outside observers have noticed learners increasingly engaging with higher-order thinking around challenging texts. Staff and student feedback has shown that they have both found the knowledge organisers useful and pupils remain confident in teachers’ subject knowledge. Reports from the library have noted students taking out more pre-20th-century texts, and teachers’ borrowing indicates engagement with developing their pedagogy and subject knowledge.
The literary festival was well received and there is huge appetite for it to run again in the future. Teachers loved the process of giving seminars and want this integrated into the termly cycle to allow them to explore more of their subject knowledge with others. In particular, poetry has been given a huge amount of attention by students, and two student-led poetry slams are being held across the summer term alongside an offshoot poetry society led by KS5 learners.
Reflections: This project has opened my eyes. Seeing both staff and students flourish, especially with the Literary festival has been an absolute delight.
Perhaps the most challenging element of the process has been galvanising the whole school to support our Literary festival during the week of World Book Day. I want to enhance the profile of these events in future years.
Contact: Amy Hanna, Director of English, firstname.lastname@example.org