Why do we learn English?
In his impassioned argument for the importance and relevance of William Blake’s work, John Higgs asserts that it is the visionary artist’s ability to “reach across society” that makes him so ‘unusual’1. In English lessons at Ark Blake Academy, we believe that the study of language and literature imbues us all with a similar power: it is through words and stories and voices that we are all able to ‘reach across society’, glimpsing inside the hearts and minds of people who are both vastly similar and vastly different to ourselves.
It is through the study of English Language that pupils will forge the linguistic keys that will unlock the whole curriculum and a life of learning. It is through the study of English Literature that pupils will explore the human condition in all its beautiful and ugly guises. Through English lessons, we will tell pupils the story of language and literature through time: how it has been shaped and moulded by social, historical and cultural contexts, but also how it remains clay in their hands, ready for them to build a linguistic or literary sculpture of their own.
The purpose of English as a subject is multi-faceted. Not only does it intend to equip pupils with a confident mastery of the functional skills required to participate fully in all aspects of society, but it also seeks to enlighten the human condition and spark the flames of curiosity so that they become readers and writers for life. Pupils at Ark Blake Academy study English not because it is compulsory, but because it is important: the subject has a richness that will continue to give back to pupils throughout their lives. When pupils finish studying English at Ark Blake Academy, they leave with a mastery of reading and writing for purpose, the ability to think critically about language and the world around them, and a rich body of knowledge that spans the history of language and literature through time. The study of English has the power to be truly transformative: it is one of the greatest levers in enabling pupils to seize their greatness.
In Year 7, we establish some of the traditional pillars of fiction: character, setting, plot, and form. Pupils begin the year with a classic from the English Literary Heritage, and end the year studying a text of contemporary relevance, book-ending pupils’ first year at Ark Blake Academy with evidence of English literature’s rich breadth. In Mastery Writing lessons, pupils begin by revisiting foundational skills taught at KS2 to ensure they are secured, before progressing to master skills that will enable them to add complexity and nuance to their writing.
|Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens|
What kind of character is Bill Sikes?
Knowledge Content: Life in Victorian London; Victorian crime; the form of a novel; Bill Sikes, Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Oliver; morality
Threshold Concept: Different characters play different roles in stories
Link to Prior Learning: Builds on understanding of narrative (plot and character) from KS2
|Autumn & Spring|
|A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare|
Is the love potion good or bad?
Knowledge Content: Life in Elizabethan England; life in ancient Athens; Shakespeare’s life; the four lovers; the love potion; Elizabethan family relationships; the form of a play
Threshold Concept: Language and structure shapes how readers and audiences respond to texts
Link to Prior Learning: Builds on awareness of Shakespeare’s life and work from KS2
|Spring & Summer|
|Poetry Anthology (1)|
How does the poet describe the tom cat?
Knowledge Content: Structure and use of metaphor; poetic forms; poets studied include William Blake and Alfred Lord Tennyson, Phoebe Hesketh, Langston Hughes, Richard Kell, Carl Sandburg
Threshold Concept: Poems create meaning as much through form and structure as they do through language
Link to Prior Learning: Builds on knowledge of literary forms
|Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy adapted for the stage by Lemn Sissay|
How does the audience feel about Alem’s story?
Knowledge Content: Context of migration, displacement and refugees; Sissay’s life, Zephaniah’s life; audiences; dramatic devices including entrances and exits; the form of a modern play including stage directions
Threshold Concept: Context influences how texts are written and how texts are read
Link to Prior Learning: Builds on knowledge about the form of a play from AMND
Having established the traditional rules and pillars of fiction in Year 7, pupils in Year 8 are encouraged to peer more intently into the engines of storycraft. They will explore the role and significance of genre, and then be supported to dispel any notion of stories having singular meaning. Genre remains of significance throughout the year as students encounter detective fiction, the ineffable nature of Shakespeare’s genres, the political allegory, and the Gothic. In Mastery Writing lessons, pupils will continue to add complexity and sophistication to their toolkit so that by the end of the year they are equipped for creative endeavour.
|The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle|
What kind of character is Sherlock Holmes?
Knowledge Content: Scientific developments in the Victorian era; class and society in Victorian England; the detective genre; duality; periodicals
Threshold Concept: Texts belong to different genres which can influence their creation
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit the Victorian era
|Autumn & Spring|
|The Tempest by William Shakespeare|
How is Caliban presented in the extract and in the rest of the play?
Knowledge Content: The Elizabethan age of exploration; colonialism; nature / nurture; the form of a comedy; subplots; soliloquy and monologue; Italian city-states
Threshold Concept: Readers can interpret texts and characters in different ways
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit the form of a play and Shakespeare’s genres
|Spring & Summer|
|Animal Farm by George Orwell|
How and why does the farm fail in Animal Farm?
Knowledge Content: Allegory; Orwell’s life and times; the Russian Revolution; recurring imagery; irony and corruption
Threshold Concept: Stories can function on literal, metaphorical and allegorical levels
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit metaphor and significance of context
|Spring & Summer|
|The Gothic (An Anthology of Short Stories)|
How do writers use and subvert genre conventions?
Knowledge Content: The form of a short story; the gothic tradition including tropes such as transformation and madness; symbolism; subversion; writers studied include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry James and Mary Shelley
Threshold Concept: Short stories hide meaning everywhere
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit genre and allegory
By the end of Year 8, pupils will have embraced their role as interrogative readers. In Year 9, pupils are equipped with the knowledge and skill to zoom in and out when examining texts, exploring how the smallest of details contribute to the greatest of meanings. Again, the academic year is book-ended with texts that offer very different perspectives of female experience, emphasising literature’s power to speak for everyone.
|Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë|
Explore the way Brontë presents Jane’s childhood experiences.
Knowledge Content: Victorian attitudes to children and childhood; rural isolation; Christianity; Victorian sickness; juxtaposition in Jane Eyre
Threshold Concept: Close text analysis illuminates the whole text
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit Victorian society including gender roles
|Autumn & Spring|
|Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare|
How does Shakespeare present Juliet as a tragic hero?
Knowledge Content: The Prologue; foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet; the form of a tragedy; AC Bradley’s lectures on Shakespearean character; the sonnet form
Threshold Concept: Beginnings and endings are of vital importance
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit Shakespeare’s genres and types of characters
|Spring & Summer|
|Poetry Anthology (2)|
How do poets present ideas and themes?
Knowledge Content: Extended metaphors; ‘Paradise Lost’, ‘The Road Not Taken’, ‘Night Mail’, ‘The Canterbury Tales’ poets studied include John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, W.H. Auden, Grace Nichols, Wallace Willis
Threshold Concept: Speakers, personas and voices are not the same as poets and writers
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit metaphors and poetic forms
|Extracts from Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo|
How do writers use language, structure and form to construct narrative voice?
Knowledge Content: Narrative voice; narrative structure; experimental literature; Evaristo’s life; nuance; stereotypes and countertypes
Threshold Concept: Once mastered, linguistic and literary rules are there to be broken
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit classical structures and traditional prose style
Having mastered a broad body of knowledge at KS3, students begin studying the texts for the GCSE English Literature texts in Year 10. All three of the set texts studied in Year 10 depict a central struggle between morality and selfish ambition, and throughout the year students will return to this theme as a prism through which to view each story. Students will also begin to prepare explicitly for the English Language exam: they will distil and practise the individual skills that underpin the qualification through the study of a short stories so that they become confident in recognising and appreciating narrative structure. They will also produce three pieces of writing for a portfolio: a piece of description, a narrative, and a discursive polemic.
An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley
How does Priestley present ideas about responsibility?
Knowledge Content: 1912; 1945; Priestley’s life and politics; class; prejudice; capitalism; socialism; collective responsibility; morality plays; the whodunnit
Curriculum Milestone: Writing about whole texts
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit the form of the play and allegory
Revision focus: KS3 Core Knowledge
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
To what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?
Knowledge Content: Jacobean era; the supernatural and superstition; Divine Right; Great Chain of Being; hubris; hamartia; peripeteia; anagnorisis; ambition; lineage; Holinshed Chronicles
Curriculum Milestone: Using extracts to support writing about how characters and themes develop across a whole text
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit the genre of the tragedy and the tragic hero
Revision foci: KS3 Core Knowledge, An Inspector Calls
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Knowledge Content: Science, religion and rationality; Victorian reputability; Victorian gentleman and role of women; epistolary; Cain and Abel
Curriculum Milestone: Developing and sustaining an argument throughout an essay with an effective introduction and conclusion
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit the detective genre and the Gothic tradition
Revision foci: An Inspector Calls & Macbeth
Reaching Year 11, students will conclude the study of the set texts for English Literature with the Power and Conflict poetry anthology. Once students have encountered all literature texts, they will be set five challenges in preparation for their exams. If students can accomplish all five of these challenges, they will be equipped with all they need to seize their greatness. In preparation for English Language, students will work through a cycle of practice built around exemplars, deliberate independent practice and feedback.
AQA Poetry Anthology: Power and Conflict
How do poets present different depictions of power and conflict?
Knowledge Content: Power and hubris; the Romantic sublime; imperialism in the 18th and 19th century; poetic forms.
Curriculum Milestone: Sustaining an argument while comparing and contrasting texts
Link to Prior Learning: Revise and revisit poetic forms and Romanticism
Revision foci: An Inspector Calls, Macbeth, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Revision and Exam Preparation
Exam Mastery Challenges: All pupils will be working hard to achieve the following challenges in readiness for their terminal examinations.
Revision foci: All texts