The ability to communicate effectively and diversely in speech and writing, within a secure, stimulating environment, is the principal aim of the Mowden Hall English department. All children, according to their particular needs and ability, are encouraged and supported in class to speak confidently and to listen attentively to the views of others. During their career at Mowden, they are guided and supported in a closely monitored reading scheme, engaging meaningfully with a wide range of increasingly challenging and rewarding prose and poetry texts and comprehensions, which will help to promote increasing levels of understanding and appreciation of different genres and writing styles. Critical and imaginative writing skills, intimately connected to reading, are taught enthusiastically by the department, using a range of visual and aural stimuli with the aim of inspiring the children to write with clarity and vision.
In further detail, the department uses a variety of texts from Shakespeare to Philip Pullman, from Jane Austen to Roald Dahl, and works closely with the well-stocked Library of more than 2,000 books for readers of varying abilities from age 7 – 13. Every child in the school is involved in the annual Prepared Reading competition, beginning with a preliminary round in the classroom and from which four finalists for each year group are selected. The finals take place in front of an audience composed of staff and the rest of the school.
Poetry from Donne to Spike Milligan is read aloud in class, studied and appreciated, and the children write their own verse: interestingly, this genre has been closely connected to the analysis and writing of pop song lyrics. Creative workshops, in tandem with Music, and with an audience of parents allow the opportunity for children to showcase their work, either as individuals or in groups. IT forms an important part of the subject and cross-curricular links with other subjects, like IT, Music and History have been fostered to make English more meaningful for the children.
In addition, the department expects to focus on formal aspects of English and there is weekly work on spelling, handwriting and grammar. Pupils who find spelling difficult are given support in the form of Booster Groups which take place in small groups outside of lesson times. These groups are designed to be fluid with pupils dipping in and out depending on their specific needs.
A strong link exists with the Drama department and, when relevant, there is scope within English lessons when examining a text to engage with improvised acting in order, for example, to clarify aspects of plot line or character development. This link with Drama is further developed with whole Year involvement in the annual dramatic presentation, allowing every child to experience the rehearsal process, before performing in front of an audience.