English at Thirsk School is a journey. The route is the learning that students experience in the classroom; if they invest in their learning journey, they will have a choice of destinations when they complete KS4 equipped with skills as readers, writers, speakers and listeners. Key Stage 3 curriculum plans mimic the design of the London Underground demonstrating the direction of travel for Y7, 8 and 9 students who each experience a similar sequence of learning: a novel, poetry, non-fiction, Shakespeare. Skills and knowledge in these units are stepped so that each unit builds progress on the learning of the previous year. In each lesson teachers help each student to identify the particular Assessment Focuses in reading, writing and speaking that they need to work on to make individual progress. Years are themed so that in Y7 students are encouraged to look inward (‘Who Am I?’), in Y8 they look outward (‘Beyond Our World’) and in Y9 they look back (‘Then And Now’). Students are encouraged to develop their speaking and listening skills in all lessons, but explicitly in Y8 in fortnightly lessons devoted entirely to oracy.
Reading and responding to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts is at the heart of our English curriculum. Students gain knowledge of their cultural heritage through studying writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Mary Shelley and J.K. Rowling, and also experience wonderful writing from beyond our shores such as travel writing by Bill Bryson and poetry from different cultures. A love of reading is a life enhancing thing to carry into adulthood, and we want a culture of reading to be created not only in English lessons but also via library lessons, the Accelerated Reader scheme and weekly tutor time, resulting we hope in a continuous conversation between students and their teachers and parents about what they read. Whilst we celebrate the unique identity that students gain from living in Thirsk and its surrounding area, it is also important that the reading journey of our young people looks outwards beyond their own community.
‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.’
George R.R. Martin, ‘Dance of Dragons’