English is invaluable for your future no matter what you are aiming for. A good command of the spoken and written word will help you every day of your life – and benefit all your other subjects, too. Whatever you end up doing, English is a must have subject for college, university, work and life! Our duty as subject specialists, then, is to make sharpening those skills as much fun and as highly focussed as we can.
The English Department at Bedale High School places central importance on joy and progress. Our energetic and successful team has five members, and our schemes of learning explore many rich aspects of the English curriculum: from Shakespeare to spelling; from paragraphing to poetry. We foster creative original thinking, and our priority is to equip all pupils with the English skills and understanding they will need in our 21st Century knowledge economy. As the forms in which we communicate are constantly changing, English has the power and the scope to empower pupils in new and increasingly dynamic ways.
We believe that Key Stage 3 is about engaging and inspiring pupils in this rich and varied subject. In a similar way, Key Stage 4 is about extending that engagement, deepening independence and independent thought; and, at the same time, ensuring the best outcomes for all.
As a core subject we play a vital role in the school, particularly in our contributions to whole school literacy. Our Key Stage 3 pupils are making great strides forward with their reading skills through Accelerated Reader. We regularly use the school’s well-stocked LRC. We always seek to support Special Educational Needs and have strong expertise in this area. Furthermore, our MAGT pupils enjoy extra challenge both within and without the classroom.
We operate very much as a team: we share ideas and resources, and everyone contributes to the development of new resources and approaches. Finally, for now, we always seek to celebrate success: one of the joys for teaching staff is in rewarding pupils who do their best and aim high!
Students have three hours of English each week. At Key Stage 3, we aim to engage all learners through vibrant approaches to English skills and a desire to make compelling learning experiences a feature of every child’s progress. Our materials and approaches have been developed by the whole department and reflect the skills and expertise of its individual members. As at KS4, our KS3 results are well above the national average.
English at KS4
English at GCSE-level is a compulsory subject.
English is invaluable for your future no matter what you are aiming for. A good command of the spoken and written word will help you every day of your life – and benefit all your other GCSEs, too. Whatever you end up doing, English is a must have subject for college, university, work and life!
Put simply, English is about communication. That means giving your audience a clear message in either speech or writing, or picking up messages through reading. In English you do not really learn facts, you learn how to use skills (like, for instance, making your sentences different or varied to make your writing interesting) and then you practise those skills and strengthen them to improve levels. So, to get better at English, work on the different communication skills. Here is a helpful list to guide Key Stage 3 learners:
Speaking and Listening skills:
Whilst some pupils can be strong in terms of presenting and find reading hard, the reverse is also true. Experience has taught us if a leaner thinks carefully about all the skills listed above, and always aims to do their best, then they are on the path to progress.
How will I know how I am doing?
At KS3, each pupil uses a Progress Pack in which to produce a final assessed piece following each Scheme of Learning. We believe strongly in strengthening all skills through rigorous drafting of ideas and expression. Powerful intervention occurs during and on the completion of the draft. Personalised and motivating feedback is targeted so the progress is deep and lasting, and evidenced in the final draft. The Progress Packs track all work and homework throughout the year. They provide a clear focus for all stakeholders.
All year 7 and year 8 pupils are given differentiated weekly spelling lists to learn for a class test. Furthermore, the same year groups are expected to read their (Accelerated Reader) books for at least 15 minutes every day. Both are closely monitored in school. Both have a significant impact on literacy skills not only in English but also across the curriculum. Parental support in helping this process is hugely appreciated.
For year 9 pupils, we embark on a series of engaging homework projects. In October 2011, Ofsted produced a paper entitled ‘‘Making English real’ – creating independent learners in English: The Peele Community College’. This stimulating document provided an outline for rethinking homework tasks. The Peele Community College gave a particular priority to developing students’ independent learning. One key area where this learning vision could be enacted was through homework projects.
Peele C.C.’s policy was to provide longer, research-based homework projects rather than the one-off tasks commonly set for homework. One example provided was for Year 7 students to plan a round-the-world-trip and then create a presentation about it to deliver to the rest of the class. The range of skills to be developed by students was clearly identified, including: making notes, organising and interpreting information, making choices about material, and drafting and improving their written work.
As with much other English work at Key Stage 3, there is an emphasis on speaking and listening, which is particularly focused on students presenting their ideas to the rest of the group. Speaking and listening success criteria are highlighted so that students are clear about such things as: shaping their talk, adapting vocabulary, correct use of grammar, appropriate gestures, structuring the presentation, and ensuring that it is managed in such a way that the listeners understand the ideas. A similar approach is used to promote students’ wider, independent reading outside lessons where the emphasis is on students choosing their own books, either individually or as a small group, and sharing their ideas through a formal presentation to the rest of the class.
We have been delighted with the results since we adapted this approach towards homework in the English Department at Bedale High School. We do not stipulate that it has to be done on a Tuesday evening, for instance. Yes, it has to be done – and done well – but now we can all target negotiated deadlines.
Feedback from both Pupil Voice and Parent Voice has been overwhelmingly supportive. Where there have been areas to tweak, we have done so. Consequently, we feel strongly that the half-termly tasks all provide a fresh and effective way of augmenting in-class teaching and learning for all our Year 9 pupils.
Reading Award Scheme
We make effective use of Accelerated Reader in order to inspire interest and deliver progress. Regardless of previous ability and/or levels of engagement with reading, we aim to provide time, focus and support for continuing to build this vital skill – a skill not only vital to English, but all across the curriculum! From September 2014, the majority of Key Stage 3 have one hour per fortnight of English lessons in the LRC. This time is dedicated to reading for pleasure. Moreover, our young readers have the additional support of a thirty-minute cross-curricular reading session on a weekly basis in school.
This initiative runs thus: the STAR Reading component uses software that quickly and accurately establishes the actual reading level of individual pupils so that growth can be easily measured and tracked over time. The data is used to create a personalised reading plan for every pupil. Online assessment provides a National Curriculum level and sub-level. As a central strand of Whole School Literacy, we also use this ‘live’ data to inform teaching and learning across the school.
Accelerated Reader engages pupils via fun, motivational quizzes based on the books deemed most suitable for pupils according to their personalised reading plan. Our LRC already has 2000+ books from across the ability range that link to the AR software. A Book Level (an appropriate reading range) is issued for each pupil containing books that are deemed neither too easy nor too challenging, so that they can enjoy the text and gain the necessary reading practice to improve.
The software provides useful data that allows us to track progress, target support and celebrate success. Furthermore, parents can access this information. Pupils earn points each time they successfully complete a quiz, which count towards their individual, class and house targets. This competitive element of the program really engages and motivates pupils of all ages to pick up another book as soon as they have successfully ‘quizzed’ their last one.
Each half term we have a year group assembly to celebrate the achievements of our readers. A wide range of prizes are given out for various achievements. Most importantly of all, our young readers positively respond to this regular, vibrant celebration of their hard work and success. The element of inter-house competition has proved popular and highly motivational for our readers.
Here are some pictures of our winners:
Our first Double Millionaire – and what they wrote about it in The Darlington and Stockton Times:
At Bedale High School last week a Year 7 pupil become a Double Millionaire. Becky Simpson has read over 2 million words on the school’s Accelerated Reader programme. She received a £20 Amazon Gift certificate along with a notebook and some matching pens.
All Year 7 and Year 8 students take part in the reading scheme which has created an enhanced focus on reading for pleasure throughout the school. Students undertake online quizzes upon completion of their books to acquire points. There is an excellent sense of challenge and celebration as all pupils are encouraged to perform to the best of their abilities.
Just how many books make 2 million words? Well, the first novel in the Harry Potter series, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, is 76,944 words long. Becky has done the equivalent of reading that 26 times in approximately 5 months.
To enhance the curriculum, theatre visits, poetry recitals, writing competitions and talks by local authors are exciting features of the school calendar. A good example of the English Department enriching pupil experience would be our specialised Reading Groups.
Year 11 attended the GCSE Poetry Live conference in Newcastle in February where they met some of the top poets writing in the country today. A definite highlight was being able to listen to the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, read her work and have the chance to question her. There was also an extremely useful session with the Chief Examiner who demonstrated how to achieve top answers.
In July pupils in Years 7 and 8 took an exciting overnight trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, home of our National Bard William Shakespeare. They saw a live performance by The Royal Shakespeare Company as well as visiting the writer’s birthplace and enjoying other interesting activities.
8 books… 8 weeks… 1 award…
The Easter holiday is not just a time for digesting chocolate; it is the starter flag for school children across the country to begin preparing themselves for a reading challenge: to devour 8 shortlisted books in just 8 weeks in order to vote for the best children’s fiction book of the year.
We know that reading is an essential life skill and here at Bedale High School we wish to foster a passion for reading. This is why for the past two years we have offered our year 9 students the exciting opportunity to shadow the Carnegie Award for Children’s Fiction.
Once the official judges’ shortlist is announced, our shadowing group volunteers meet once a week for the duration of the 8 week run up to the final judging day. When we meet, we discuss the books we have read so far, write reviews for our shadowing page on the official website – The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards – and, in the penultimate week, we have a fantastic quiz. It is great hearing what everyone has to say about the shortlisted books; we often have very different opinions about what makes a ‘good’ book!
Kate Greenaway Award
2013 was also an exciting year for us because we began following the Kate Greenaway Award for the best children’s picture book. A group of year 7 students, each with their own ‘reading buddy’ from year 10, read all 8 of the shortlisted books. Together, we discussed the plots and illustrations to decide our favourite. The year 7 students could also complete Accelerated Reader quizzes on each of the books in the shortlist.
When it came to voting day, our Carnegie and Greenaway shadowing teams got together to select our ultimate winners, discover who the official judges selected and, of course, eat lots of cakes and biscuits!
Our year 7 and year 10 team enjoyed the experience so much that they now meet regularly during Friday morning registration to read their current Accelerated Reader books. We think that not only is reading a fantastic way to discover new places, characters and worlds, it’s also a great way to make new friends!
On 13th February, Bedale High School welcomed the popular author, Sue Hampton, to the school. Across the course of the day, Sue met and worked closely with many pupils from the school.
Speaking to the whole of year nine, Sue outlined her journey from a young scribbler to a published author. Sue took time and care in explaining how her own experiences had shaped her.
One pupil said meeting her favourite author was ‘really inspirational… she stands out from the crowd. She is not afraid to tackle difficult emotions and storylines’.
A number of stimulating writing workshops were held in the LRC. Pupils from across Key Stage 3 had a chance to borrow ideas and techniques, and explore new directions.
Sue commented: ‘The friendliness of the welcome from everyone at Bedale is exceptionally warm. The pupils in my workshops were receptive, immaculately well-behaved and thoughtful, and some of the writing they produced was genuinely impressive.’