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Challenge in English

Stretch and Challenge in English

In the English Department, we aim to support your son or daughter into making the best progress of which they are capable. We use many strategies, covering the twin aspects of the subject – Reading and Writing – and the two GCSEs, Language and Literature. You can expect your son or daughter to be experiencing many, if not all, of the following ways of providing ‘stretch and challenge’ from Year 7 to Year 11.

Stretch and Challenge is delivered via:

  • Using GCSE criteria for assessments from Year 7 onwards. There is one tier of entry for the GCSEs in Language and Literature: therefore all students need the skill set to access the exams, and our more able students need to be able to confidently aspire to the highest grades of 7, 8 and 9 (equivalent to an old style A and A*).
  • Encouraging all students to read Victorian texts (whole and parts), for pleasure and of necessity as Victorian Literature (for example Dickens and Stevenson) feature on the GCSE Literature syllabus. Reviews written and/or presented to class of said texts.
  • Success criteria for lessons refer to SOLO taxonomy, asking students to not only identify and explain ideas but to also evaluate and to develop skills of critical judgement and hypothesis.
  • Questioning of students in class uses Bloom’s taxonomy – focussing on asking students HOW and WHY.
  • Developing students’ empathic and imaginative skills through creative writing, and learning to shape that writing to create maximum engagement in the reader.
  • ‘Takeaway menu style’ homework for KS3, linked to topics studied, guides students towards ‘hotter’ tasks (those with greater levels of difficulty).
  • Developing debating skills: playing devil’s advocate; looking for alternative interpretations.
  • Extending simple PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain) into PEDICE (Point, Evidence, Device/s used, Intention/s of the writer, Connotations of vocabulary, Effect on the reader)
  • Developing skills of evaluation. The reformed Language GCSE now asked students to evaluate a writer’s techniques and form critical judgements. Students will learn to ‘flex their ‘PECS’ – using adverbs such as powerfully, effectively, cleverly, successfully when commenting on a piece of writing.
  • Asking students to set their own success criteria based on prior learning.
  • Connecting texts with the social and historical context in which they were written, and received.
  • Becoming the writer: penning their own missing scenes or extra chapters of books and plays read in class.
  • Developing empathic skills by writing from different perspectives.
  • Staying within a word limit: often a challenge for those who are confident in their writing and like to write a lot!
  • Although most lessons make the learning intentions clear to students, where appropriate we also like to make those intentions discoverable by students during a lesson and shared at the end.
  • Our SIR marking policy ensures that students are challenged when writing their responses to our improvements. For example, students may be asked to highlight what they think is the most successful aspect of their writing and explain what they did that made it so; they may be asked to rewrite a certain section and ensuring key improvements are made; they may be asked questions which encourage them to think deeply.
  • Peer assessment will often include SIR marking too: students become critics of their own and each other’s work.
  • Challenging texts at KS3 which encourage not only deep study of writers’ techniques but also social/historical/cultural issues, for example Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
  • Use of De Bono’s ‘Thinking Hats’ in order to consider an issue or a topic from different perspectives.
  • Rewriting the markscheme in their own words
  • Writing possible exam questions after reading the extract, and therefore showing their understanding of not only the kinds of questions they will need to answer but also the information that will be needed to answer the question successfully.
  • Memorising quotations. It is a long time since GCSE English Literature required memory skills, but now students are asked to write about a modern play, a Shakespeare play, a Victorian novel and a poetry anthology – at length and in detail – without the aid of the texts in the exam.
  • Using images to stimulate imaginative writing.
  • What if … ? We will often ask students to hypothesise! What if Juliet had woken up before Romeo died ? What if Mollie in Animal Farm had more of a backbone ? What if George didn’t shoot Lennie ?