The first thing we aim to do is develop children’s enthusiasm for reading. We encourage children to read as much and as widely as possible, with book lists, library activities, frequent new books in the library and in classrooms, and as much reading as we can possibly manage! We all enjoy our daily reading time, which provides a wonderful period of silence in which to lose ourselves in our imagination. Our set texts challenge children to look into different worlds and to see life through other people’s eyes. Whether it’s Julius Caesar, I,Coriander, Private Peaceful or Animal Farm, our children spend time engaging with great writing. We read plenty of poetry too and through this children come to see poetry as art in words – a sculpture in writing.
It is of course essential to build children’s basic skills, so our spelling, punctuation and grammar teaching is all aimed to match and surpass the requirements of the revised 2014 state curriculum. We try to teach as much through creative writing as possible so children learn by doing. Through the detailed feedback we give children, and their responses to our feedback, each child makes progress in areas appropriate to them. In writing, as in life, that is how most of us succeed. Each year group is given weekly spellings and there might even be the occasional surprise spelling test…There are regular challenges to find errors and to adapt or improve writing too.
Writing is a key measure of someone’s self-expression and by writing in different contexts, we aim for our children to be able to hold their own in debate; make a persuasive presentation; explain how something works; describe something in depth; create a recount – and of course, write powerful and thought-provoking stories. Stories with morals, twists, changes of narrator or time, stories that hinge on a misunderstanding or mistake – we encourage children to make us think.
English in Year six to eight is taught mainly by the Head of Department, supported by some excellent teachers. From Reception to Year 5, English is taught by the child’s form teacher for the most part – this provides the stability and the reassurance that the child needs to take risks with their work and to keep trying new things.
We prepare children for Common Entrance and Scholarship and have played our part in the many Academic Scholarships won by the Year Eights in recent years. We prepare children thoroughly as they approach Year Eight but we do not lose sight of the importance of creativity and independent thinking. Common Entrance English rewards deep understanding of texts, well-thought through insights (even if sometimes wrong) and an excellent grasp of the mechanics of writing – which our children certainly possess. It rewards quick thinking, flexibility, good planning and the ability to draw on your experience. This is, of course, what we pride ourselves on teaching. We place a premium on children learning for themselves how to plan, how to structure sentences, how to draw on a wide vocabulary and how to engage the reader. To be wrong, as a student of English at Moor Park, is not a problem – learning how to think is far more important.