Introduction to the Department
English classrooms at The Dixie Grammar School are busy, lively places, where pupils are encouraged to share their ideas, to listen respectfully, to build their self-confidence and to express themselves clearly and creatively.
The aims of the English Department at The Dixie Grammar School are threefold:
1. To ensure that all pupils are able to communicate their ideas accurately in spoken and written form
2. To develop imagination and creativity
3. To foster a love of books and reading
In an increasingly competitive world, the ability to communicate efficiently and accurately is a valuable commodity. It's not just about apostrophes being in the wrong place, or whether you're using the right word -important though these are - it is also about the power of different words to create a mood, a tone, an emphasis.
English would, however, be pretty dull if it was all about the rules of grammar and presentation. It isn't. It is also about creativity, imagination and ideas and we aim to ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop these through their study of the subject. We also employ drama-based activities whenever possible, because these can build self-confidence and show pupils new ways of expressing themselves.
Like most English teachers, all of us in the Department are passionate readers and we want to convey some of that enthusiasm to the pupils that we teach. In the early years, students have a 'reading period' each week and we work closely with the School Librarian, Mrs Robinson, to ensure that all students' reading is monitored and that they are encouraged to try out new genres. Students also read in class: from classics to contemporary fiction, from short stories to drama - we aim to introduce pupils to as wide a range of texts as possible.
To support our activities in the Department, we welcome visiting speakers to the school (such as children's writer Chris d'Lacey), go on visits to the theatre (including Curve at Leicester and the RSC theatres in Stratford) and enter numerous writing and poetry competitions throughout the year - in which many of our students excel.
In line with school policy, students are examined at the end of each academic year, but there is also regular assessment by the class teacher so that we have a clear idea of how each child is progressing and of their strengths and weaknesses. The aim is that each student should be aware of his or her target area so that we can see real improvement in the quality of their work.
In these important foundation years, we ensure that all students are equipped with the toolkit of grammar, punctuation and spelling to enable them to express themselves accurately.
In any given year, a student's learning experiences will include:
- Drama - students are introduced to Shakespeare in Year 7 and will study a full Shakespeare play in Years 8 and 9, as well as more contemporary plays.
- Prose - the Department is well-equipped with a range of contemporary and classic texts. It is not unusual for students in Year 8 to study a Dickens novel, but there will also be a focus on more contemporary novels for young people and also on short stories from particular genres.
- Poetry - pupils will usually have studied ballads, sonnets and war poetry by the end of Year 9 as well as having been introduced to poetic devices and terminology. The focus is on enjoying poetry and helping pupils to build the confidence to interpret it for themselves.
- Non-Fiction writing - this may take the form of autobiographies, biographies, travel writing, speeches and newspaper articles.
- Creative writing - story writing, empathic responses and other creative writing activities will often spring from studying one of the above areas.
- Formal writing - writing for different purposes: to advise, to persuade, to inform and writing for different audiences, emphasising the importance of tone and register.
- Speaking and Listening - this may be a class debate, an individual speech or a group presentation, but the focus is on clear speech and responding to the points of others.
We see Year 9 as an important preparation year for IGCSE study. They will still study many of the topic areas from Years 6-8, but there is an increased focus on formal essay-writing and on the specific skills necessary for success at IGCSE. Pupils can expect to produce one or two formal essays each term during Year 9 based on Literature texts.
Years 10 and 11: IGCSE
All pupils study for the English Language IGCSE and the vast majority also take the separate English Literature IGCSE.
There are a range of pathways available for students to achieve their IGCSE English Language qualification, including two different (but equivalent) syllabuses and coursework and non-coursework routes.
The Department takes full advantage of these different routes to tailor our provision for the needs of different pupils. Different pupils in different sets may take a different course of study in order to achieve the same qualification. The most able pupils are able to take their exam at the end of Year 10 and 70% of the pupils who did so in 2011 gained an A or A* grade.
The English Literature IGCSE course is comprised of the study of one prose and one drama text and a single piece of coursework, on poetry, which is worth 40% of the final mark. Some students will study more than the minimum number of set texts in order to increase their question choice in the exam.
Recent set texts have included Pride and Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, a View from the Bridge and An Inspector Calls.
Study of these texts is by discussion, formal essay writing and, where possible, film or theatre productions to enhance understanding of different interpretations.
The Department offers separate A Levels in English Language and English Literature. Both courses are largely discussion based during lessons, with reading, research and writing tasks completed as homework activities. Students are encouraged to develop their own interests - for example to select their own coursework texts in English Literature. Emphasis is placed on students becoming independent learners to help facilitate transition to university. To this end, the Department works closely with the school librarian to ensure that appropriate resources are available for the material students are studying.
Further information is available in the AS/A2 prospectus.
For further information please contact Mr J Dixon, Head of Department.