Teaching & Learning
So, what do lessons in the English classroom look like? We are firm believers of making every single second of our 50-minute lessons count. From the very first minute, pupils engage in review and reflect starter activities which connect to their prior learning – this is an important part of all lessons as the ability to retrieve key information is one of the most vital skills our pupils need in order to be successful when completing their GCSE studies. The main bulk of lessons contains a mixture of collaborative learning tasks, independent extended writing tasks, and plenty of opportunity for peer and self-assessment – using mark schemes and success criteria is a part of our daily practice as we want our pupils to know exactly how to score marks in external examinations. All lessons end with an appropriate plenary task which signals to the class teacher how much progress each pupil is making. These plenary activities take a variety of different forms, but the purpose is always the same: to inform our English teaching staff with the necessary information, which will, in turn, allow them to plan the following lessons appropriately for all pupils at Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More; we want 'all of our bright colours to shine!'
Pupils’ work is regularly assessed throughout the academic year and marked in detail by all members of the English department. We believe that regular verbal and written feedback is a powerful tool, one which will allow pupils to make the necessary progress over their 5-year spell with us at Fisher More. When marking work in the English department, all of our pupils will be guided with supportive comments, which celebrate their work, and bespoke targets for ways to make future pieces even better. Moreover, we believe it is imperative that pupils are given time to read, reflect and re-write extended pieces of work so that both teachers, and pupils alike, can see that progress is being made over time.
One of the more important skills we want our pupils to develop is independence and autonomy. We champion the theory that work does not stop at the end of the school-day but instead pupils should be proactive and look for ways to plug gaps in their knowledge. All pupils are set English homework on a weekly basis and feedback is given instantly via the Doddle Learn platform. In addition to this, key stage 3 pupils are also expected to read their Accelerated Reader books, whilst key stage 4 pupils are instructed to use the English revision cloud space website to revise and recap crucial information (contextual details; key quotations; essay writing skills etc.) in preparation for assessments and external examinations. These innovative approaches to homework help engage, motivate and support our pupils.
As the school year progresses, we are constantly looking to support our pupils who may be falling behind or underachieving; in the spring term we have a weekly period 8 session in addition to the 3 extra English lessons all Year 11 pupils have during form time Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We recognise that there are moments in the year where our pupils may be missing from lessons and make it our mission to ensure that, whether at key stage 3 or key stage 4, our young people are fully prepared when sitting assessments and examinations.
Another aim of ours in the English department is to inspire a love for this extremely important core subject. As well as designing an engaging curriculum for all years, we also take part in the whole school enrichments days – these days are focussed around our pupils partaking in lessons without the additional stress of an upcoming assessment or examination. Last year, in English, we focussed our enrichment days around an ancient Greek murder mystery. Pupils had to use the skills of inference and deduction to piece together different clues, all in the hope of identifying the elusive killer! There was some fantastic work completed and our pupils really enjoyed using their English skills in a slightly different context, as did we as teachers! It really was a fabulous few days for everybody involved.