If you talk to the English department at Knighton House, gradually the topic of conversation keeps coming back to the same fundamental point – that reading for pleasure underpins all the skills that our pupils need for life. Reading develops respect for others and integrity in their dealings with their community, both their school community and the wider world. The study of Literature encourages pupils to reflect on, question and discuss the behaviour of characters within a moral framework, to explore ideas of right and wrong, to discuss moral dilemmas outside their own experience. Books are chosen to represent a balanced and open view of society and to help children empathise with and accommodate difference, but they are also chosen so pupils can read about and understand the difficulties faced by some in society, addressing issues such as prejudice, injustice and intolerance. Reading models the skills of the writer and all pupils are encouraged to think of themselves as real writers, writing for a ‘real’ audience, and as such, there are many opportunities given them to engage in activities to support their writing. Pupils are encouraged to work collaboratively, sharing ideas, sometimes working as ‘response partners’ to give constructive criticism of written work. Assessment of peers and of the self develops their knowledge of how writing techniques create effects.
Reading is valued and promoted in many ways – an up-to-date library stock, plenty of book talk, national and in-house competitions, author visits and our termly book reviews; these latter take many surprising forms, including traditional written reviews, but flow charts, cup-cakes, clay figures and papier mâché scene-in-a-box, are not uncommon either. Picture books for older readers are valued as much as challenging texts, and there is much interest in the department regarding children’s books in translation.
Amongst the many other areas of English explored by all year groups, we provide occasions for spelling investigations, ‘Talk for’ writing, weekly library visits, guided reading, public speaking and reading with younger pupils. Pupils are given opportunities to participate in dramatic productions and to attend theatrical performances.
Speaking and Listening tasks encourage girls to become confident when expressing their thoughts and opinions and develops their listening skills, helping them manage and respond to the thoughts and opinions of others. Evaluating their spoken performance encourages pupils to improve their skills. Discussion in class looks for a range of opinions and encourages debate and rational argument. Through modelling by the staff in the English department, pupils learn to express ‘innermost’ feelings and develop a high level of emotional literacy. Pupils are actively encouraged to be creative themselves and to value the creative process in others. The study of poetry involves looking for deeper meaning, being empathetic and appreciating the ‘intangible’ in our emotions.