Head: Mr Phillip Stapleton
The question of what makes good English teaching for primary-aged children has long been explored and discussed. The many components of the subject and its creative nature make it a hard question to answer.
English is a living language, which grows and evolves with each generation, so there is much to inspire teachers and students about learning English. Teaching English is opening the doors for every child to access their heritage, culture, history, language, art and so on. We believe that it is a child’s right to be properly educated in their mother tongue. Therefore, it must be taught with passion and not a dry reluctance to cover ‘the curriculum’, so that you give them a life skill and hopefully a passion for reading, writing, speaking and listening.
So, what do we do to inspire our Prep School children to embrace the subject and all of its diversity?
As an independent school, West Buckland is not restricted to the National Curriculum. Instead, we have the freedom to teach creatively and in a way that inspires the children in front of us. Our English work is linked closely to our humanities topics, which helps to give the children a sense of tangibility and deepens their learning through strong cross-curricular links. It also allows us to use a diverse range of text types and visual media to enhance children’s sense of imagery and imagination.
Thankfully, because of its central role in the curriculum and in all aspects of learning, there is a wealth of research undertaken into the different building blocks of this subject. New ideas and approaches in English teaching mean that our knowledge and understanding of what helps children to progress is always evolving, making it an exciting and dynamic part of any curriculum.
Immersing the children in a topic through drama, role play and creative activities supports their imaginations and helps to provide the all-important prompts to get their creative juices flowing.
Phonics and spelling are taught holistically using a range of games, activities and multisensory approaches which allow all children to flourish and progress. Grammar teaching is embedded in the writing journey of the children and not seen as a stand-alone concept to be visited once a week.
Reading for pleasure is also a key part to any successful English curriculum: children are encouraged to foster a love for stories, reading and storytelling through library sessions, group reading, reading clubs and simple quiet reading time, supervised by our full-time librarian and housed in our brand new library. Buddy-reading across year groups and visits from some of our senior school students also give children the chance to enjoy listening to stories from a range of people. Our annual literacy week is a chance to promote and celebrate books and reading in all forms. Staff work hard to create a buzz about books through a range of activities and lessons, while visiting authors and writing workshops also help to bring alive new and familiar tales.
Teaching English language and literature, to whatever age group, is a privilege and we are so lucky to have such a wealth of literature to draw upon to inspire the children we teach. Finding the way to inspire them is our job but once the job is done, the benefits are infinite.
For parents keen to support their children in learning English language and literature, there are plenty of gentle ways to keep children interested outside school. Never force your child to read; read avidly yourself in front of your child; read to them; read together and keep looking for that book/ comic/ magazine that they will dip into. Have fun with rhyme, poems and words. Have a word of the day, have family fun with nonsense pseudo words, look at adverts and how language is used in the world around to effect. Discuss the power of words, the use of visuals on posters and book covers. Talk about the John Lewis Christmas advert and what are the hidden messages…the list is endless but the emphasis is the same. Enjoy!