Our aim in the RGS English Department is to allow boys to access English on every level. For some, who find the lessons challenging, we are here to support and improve their level of English through reading and other interventions. Moreover, for those who already have a love of reading and a passion for the subject, we hope to instil a deeper appreciation of the subject through more challenging material such as Shakespeare, poetry and non-fiction. Furthermore, wherever possible but more so in the older years, the boys are encouraged to attend talks and the theatre to gain a wider appreciation of the subject.
A boy’s first year at RGS is all about exploration and therefore, in English, many units are covered in order for students to a) acquire the necessary skills to succeed in English and b) to begin to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Therefore, in Year 7, a boy can expect to study at least one novel, a modern drama text, a Shakespeare text, poetry and nonfiction. Likewise, he can expect to exercise his creative and analytical skills as well as his Speaking and Listening skills. Reading is supported throughout the year by the English teacher and/or reading teacher through Library lessons and Discovery Reader lessons. The latter involves 4 weekly slots where form groups are given a novel to read at home. Over the course of the 4 weeks, their teacher will probe them on the novel; Discovery Reader lessons allow boys to discuss Literature without the inevitability of a written piece at the end. Likewise, the texts read during DR lessons are generally not the books the boys would naturally pick up and therefore, they broaden their reading horizons! Moreover, STAR Reader tests are completed by every Year 7 student; these tests test a student’s comprehension skills and vocabulary and based on these generate a reading age. If a boy’s result is lower than we expect (6 months above your own age is the lowest accepted reading age to receive as a result) then more focus is given to their reading and choice of text during Library lessons.
Much like Year 7, Year 8 is about exploring English through reading. With the solid foundation laid out in Year 7, Library lessons and Discovery Reader lessons continue. Research has proven that if a student can maintain a strong reading level at Year 7 and 8 they are more than likely to remain strong readers throughout the rest of their academic years; likewise, there is the strong correlation between strong readers and high exam results. Such as in Year 7, pupils take a STAR Reader test at the beginning of Year 8 which will monitor the progress or decline of their reading age. This enables their English and/or reading teacher to monitor their progress throughout the year and intervene if and when necessary. Again, much like Year 7, a plethora of units is studied in Year 8 with all of the necessary reading, writing, speaking and listening skills being exercised. The written skills practised in this year however, do tend to lean more towards the persuasive and argumentative rather than the creative. Likewise, teachers will begin to embed key skills in Year 8 necessary for the later GCSE years which is why assessments throughout the year will involve both Literature and Language skills and why the end of year exam is a closed-text exam, requiring students to memorise quotations.
Inevitably, in Year 9, the course content does move more towards the demands of a GCSE course. However, that is not to say that pupils enjoy any fewer units or have less variety. Indeed, Year 9 students can still expect to study at least one novel, contemporary poetry, Shakespeare, modern drama and nonfiction texts throughout the year. However, the Year 9 assessments throughout the year will mirror more so those at GCSE: analytical essays and persuasive writing. Likewise, to emulate GCSE, pupils are placed in smaller class sizes so that they may benefit from the closer attention of their teacher. Discovery Reader and Library lessons are no longer available in Year 9 however, some teachers do still maintain the latter as they see fit. Moreover, in Year 9, boys are challenged to ‘dig that bit deeper’ into their understanding of the subject with more in-depth analysis of novels and poetry during lessons as well as their appreciation of Drama, be that contemporary or Shakespearean. The final challenge for the pupils in Year 9 is their end of Year 9 exam which, as all others have and will be, is a Shakespearian closed-text exam. Our aim here is to allow the boys to experience this style of text under exam conditions so that, come Year 10 and 11, they are unfazed by the complexity of it.