The key aim in English at The Hall, is to support boys in developing a love for the English language through creative and innovative approaches to literacy. Above all, English is a matter of self-expression, spoken and written; the development of sound literacy skills is not only paramount to the overall development of each boy but also the key to accessing wider knowledge. Teachers of all subjects across the school are committed to supporting the boys in developing the tools they need to become confident and effective communicators, able to construct and defend an argument whilst fostering an appreciation of the opinions and beliefs of others. At all times boys are encouraged to question so that they may play an active role in their learning, rather than simply absorbing information in a passive manner. It is in English lessons in particular that the core literacy skills are acquired and honed; a variety of teaching methods is used to ensure pupils stay motivated and engaged as they develop their ability to read, write, speak and listen with accuracy and pleasure. Equally, boys learn to express themselves through performance at all stages of their development, to listen and to discuss and to enjoy literature appropriate to their levels of maturity. All boys participate in drama, public speaking and recitation, developing through informal approaches towards formal productions and competitions.
In the Junior School, literacy skills comprising grammar, creative writing, phonics, drama, speaking and listening, reading and comprehension activities, are an important part of every day. Speaking and listening are taught both explicitly and implicitly across the year groups, through a variety of channels such as assemblies, debates and productions. Boys have weekly drama lessons with their class teachers, which not only serve to develop their spoken and aural skills, but simultaneously build upon their self-confidence and ability to work within in a group. ‘Show and Tell’ sessions support the boys in being able to address an audience while developing good listening skills and showing respect. The boys enjoy and recite poetry and every boy takes part in his year group play at a particular time of the year, as well as regular class assemblies. From the age of 4, the boys begin learning how to read and write and are introduced to a phonetically consistent approach to letter and sound correspondences. They learn how to blend sounds in order to decode words and read texts at appropriate levels of difficulty. The boys are taught how blending and segmenting sounds are reversible processes as they apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent sounds in order to develop their spelling skills. Children are encouraged to write independently as early as possible.
In the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), children progress from making meaningful marks to emergent writing and by Year 1, the boys are writing for a purpose. By Year 2, all children are able to write independently with a good command of descriptive language while they continue to develop their grammatical skills and understanding. By Year 3, boys are writing a range of persuasive, creative and factual composition including letters, diaries, reviews, newspaper articles, poems, play-scripts, dialogues and stories and are expected to write in a cursive script, earning them their ‘pen licence’. When completing a written comprehension activity of a given piece of text, the boys are encouraged to answer in whole sentences using their own words. Increasingly, emphasis is laid on the production of neat, accurate, creative, written work. ICT plays an increasing role, as the boys move through the school.
Every boy in the Junior School has a reading book suitable for his reading ability which he brings home every day. The library is a further great resource and boys visit at least once a week, to select books in line with their specific interests, becoming engaged in texts and beginning to analyse how words are used. As boys mature and progress through the year groups they are supported in becoming aware of the implicit meaning of the texts as well as the explicit, inferring the less obvious answers and reading ‘between the lines.’
Throughout the year, the boys’ learning experiences in English and literacy are enriched through trips to museums, the theatre or cinema and visits to the school from a variety of professionals are plentiful, including authors, illustrators and actors providing a range of exciting workshops and masterclasses. Across the school boys enjoy poetry days, recitation and poetry writing competitions, book fairs, reading and creative writing competitions. As well as through lessons, proficiency in Drama and public performance is encouraged through Current Affairs Discussion Classes (Years 6-8), Debating Club (Years 6-8), Drama Club (Years 5-8), the school’s major drama production (Years 5-8) and the annual Public Speaking Competition (Years 5-8). Class assemblies provide a regular opportunity for public speaking and the Year 4 Variety Show and the Informal Drama Festival for Years 5-8 always provide entertainment. Theatre trips are encouraged for all age groups across the school year.