Focus On: English
“Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises …” The Tempest, William Shakespeare
From the stormy seas surrounding a magical island, across the icy mountain tops of the Peruvian Andes, to the dark laboratory of a misunderstood scientist in Geneva, Gryphon students explore new places, cultures and ideas every time they step into our classrooms. Understanding the world outside of the Gryphon Quads is integral to our vision of 21st century education, therefore we have carefully crafted our curriculum to offer so much more than qualifications and grades over the course of 5 years. So what adventures have we all been on this week?
Let’s start with our youngest explorers. Having started the year reading stories of fictional and real life survival, they have moved on to studying a modern novel, a collection of poems, older Gothic fiction and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as well as regular reading for pleasure lessons in our fantastically well-stocked library. A typical lesson involves exploring the text, discussing key themes and characters and then responding to the ideas through a range of different tasks that develop students’ core reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Our main aim is to maintain the excellent literacy habits formed in our feeder schools, whilst dipping our toes into longer, more challenging texts. Most importantly, we want students to enjoy literature and literacy, in all of its forms.
Further up the school, Year 9 are bravely diving into GCSE style poetry. As well as understanding the form, style and background of each poem, students need to be able to form and express personal opinions. To do this, teachers encourage lots of discussion about the issues raised and a forensic look at the language that the poet has used. Starting lessons with engaging tasks like ‘poetic techniques dominoes’ helps to boost the vocabulary that students need to write effective answers. Our new GCSEs are much more rigorous, but with this basic training, students feel better equipped to swim the choppy waters over the next few years.
Nearly halfway through their GCSE journey, Year 10 are currently planning and writing formal presentations for their Spoken Language assessment. They can choose to talk about absolutely anything, from huge environmental issues like plastic pollution to their own Duke of Edinburgh experiences. Speaking formally is a vital skill that all young people need to be confident with by the time they leave school. This week, many students have been researching different topics that they could talk about, and as you can imagine, many lively debates have taken place!
Meanwhile, almost at the end of their epic voyage of discovery, Year 11 are hard at work revising for upcoming external exams in GCSE English Language and English Literature. We finish teaching the content of both of these courses early in the year so that we can then focus on practising exam technique and developing the exact skills that they need to succeed, now and in later life. Becoming highly critical readers of any type of text, fiction or non-fiction, is a core skill, so most lessons involve detailed examination of a range of different extracts. As well as this, we have held half term and
Easter revision sessions, lunchtime revision on a Wednesday and we have also invested in a free app, PiXLit, which helps students learn key quotations for all of the Literature set texts. We wish them all well in their final few weeks!
Opting to stay on the good ship English for two more years, our Year 12 A Level English Language students are just starting to plan and write pieces of creative writing for their coursework. They can choose from three different writing styles: story-telling, information or persuasion. The first step in the process is collecting high quality ‘style models’ that they will use to inspire their own writing which means using our brilliant Learning Resource Centre regularly.
Those seeking more adventure can go to Creative Writing club on a Thursday lunchtime, where Mrs Linkenhoker encourages students to write in a more sophisticated way and helps them to enter creative writing competitions. This week, Ruby White in Year 7 was awarded runner up in the Rotary Young Writer competition with a poem about Serena Williams, beating hundreds of other Sherborne students. Well done Ruby!
Older students can also sign up to be part of our highly successful public speaking teams. Next week, two of our A Level English Literature students will take the stage at the prestigious TedX Sherborne event, presenting speeches about politics and performing original poetry – good luck Josh and Tom!
So just a normal week in English, as we help our students leave behind the quiet shelter of Sherborne to go out and enjoy the vast ocean of their future lives.