English Literature Curriculum Intent
At Grace Academy Darlaston we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. We aim to inspire an appreciation of our rich and varied literary heritage and habit of reading widely, often and for pleasure. We believe that children need to develop a secure knowledge base, which follows a clear pathway of progression as they advance through the secondary curriculum. We want our learners to be successful and confident, ready to make progress and achieve their potential.
We recognise the importance of nurturing a culture where children take pride in their writing, can write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style for a range of contexts. We want them to be writers who can make their emotions leap off the page and manipulate their readers’ feelings with their words; writers who can express complicated ideas and professional, clear standard English, ready for the world of work.
We have a coherently planned curriculum that inspires our children to be responsible, respectful and active citizens, who are confident in the art of speaking and listening. We want our pupils to be able to debate, persuade and deliver effective speeches to develop their oracy for a range of audiences, empowering them to become actively involved in public life as young adults, who can have an impact on their wider community. The resilience of pupils is developed by challenging pupils through regular assessment and retrieval opportunities to identify their strengths and areas for improvement and therapy tasks. With our curriculum being split into English Literature and Language lessons, students are exam-ready and well-equipped with the tools they need to both analyse texts as a reader and play the role of a writer.
The National Curriculum is firmly embedded throughout our engaging 7-year programme of study. This comprises separate Language and Literature lessons to expose pupils to a wealth of texts from the literary Canon and texts that deepen and develop pupils’ understanding of the 5 fundamental British Values. Reading is at the heart of what we do. We strengthen pupils’ cultural capital to enable them to gain a sense of pride in their local community and regularly plan opportunities outside of the classroom to enable pupils to demonstrate this. Our team are dedicated to offering enriching opportunities such as theatre trips, poetry competitions and author visits to bring the pages of their set texts to life.
From point of entry, our pupils are fed a diet of Reading for Pleasure and Library lessons, which are interspersed within our curriculum in Years 7 and 8, providing pupils with a sequenced readiness to progress to the next stage. The fiction read in Reading for Pleasure lessons are threaded into our Language lessons to expose pupils to the diverse world around them. Our novels, plays and poems are selected with the intention of modelling reading habits in order to improve pupils’ literacy skills whilst developing pupils emotionally, culturally and socially.
It is a shared commitment within the English teaching team to ensure every student reaches their potential and that a love of the written and spoken word is renewed.
Joining us in Y7, students are exposed to a range of literature in order to equip students with the fundamental skills of English literature study. Introducing pupils to literature in the form of the Victorian classic Oliver Twist, pupils’ access this through a scheme that draws on a wide variety of sources including original extracts, non-fiction texts and art work placing the text in its wider context. This wide variety of sources enables students to engage critically with the text in an engaging way understanding the form, structure and language of the text through to exploring relationships of theme, character and plot. Developing this further Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief enables students to focus on a contemporary text, deepening understanding of structural techniques and complementing the topics taught in English Language. Thinking beyond the novel, students explore poetry from a range periods developing students’ awareness of the link between literature and the period in which it was written. Finally, our pupils’ annual exploration of a Shakespearean play begins with the comedy A Midsummers Night Dream. This ensures that students have a light but thorough foundation on which they can build their knowledge of Shakespeare during the remainder of their time at Grace Academy.
Our pupils in Year 8 continue their journey through the curriculum by studying a range of fiction texts including Sherlock Holmes, The Tempest and Animal Farm.
Mirroring the Year 7 scheme, we start with a series of texts from the Victorian era; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. This module allows pupils to extend their knowledge gained in Year 7 by developing their awareness of life in the Victorian Era, whilst enabling pupils to build towards their study of their GCSE set texts at KS4. The Tempest module deepens pupils’ knowledge of the works of Shakespeare, allowing them to analyse, interpret and evaluate the play as a whole, through the study of key extracts. We end the year by challenging pupils’ analytical and inferential skills through their exploration of a 20th century classic: Animal Farm by George Orwell. Pupils are invited to think philosophically by questioning what it means to be a good citizen. We use this text as a platform for debate where pupils form opinions, discuss, and justify their own views, whilst respecting the viewpoints of others.
As pupils near the end of their KS3 journey, the Year 9 curriculum seeks to deepen and extend knowledge, preparing pupils for their studies in KS4. We deliver essential knowledge of the core components needed to progress into KS4 and nurture the foundations for their futures. Embedding contextual knowledge across a range of eras, pupils are able to express their understanding in the classroom and beyond. Our continuing study of Shakespeare seeks to embed the key themes and concepts needed for next phase of their studies; Julius Caesar is a tragedy sharing many common themes and ideas that link to their core GCSE text of Macbeth. Additionally, through exposing students to a variety of 19th to 21st century prose, plays and poetry, we enhance prior knowledge and extend pupils’ cultural capital, strengthening their confidence in these areas for the future.
The curriculum in Literature is underpinned by the AQA assessment objectives for pupils’ final exams at GCSE, building upon those skills and love of learning nurtured at KS3. Students are introduced to their set texts ranging from the 19th to 21st century such as: Macbeth by William Shakespeare, An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. To extend their exploration of poetry at KS3, pupils review the methods poets use to convey their ideas in light of the poetry component of the exam. Our enquiry-based approach to Literature lessons provides the opportunity for pupils to debate big ideas and concepts, deepening their ability to articulate and share their interpretations. Pupils regularly exercise their academic writing, empowering them with the confidence to be exam-ready.
At this stage in our pupils’ academic career, their grasp of their set texts is strengthened through intensive revisiting of key extracts and themes. Staff thread revision strategies into the curriculum to direct pupils on how best to remember key concepts whilst regularly feeding back to pupils on progress through fortnightly ‘Test Fridays’. Pupils are also given opportunities to see their set texts in actions, bringing life to the pages they have read, through theatre performances and film screenings to explore the methods of which writers use to contemporise their narratives. Through this, students interpret the universality of the human condition and develop a sound emphatic understanding of human nature. Weekly enrichment sessions strengthen pupils’ familiarity with their core texts, whilst embracing a more hands-on, dynamic approach to learning after school.
Students who pursue English Literature at A Level benefit from the strong foundations built at KS3 and KS4. A Level lessons are rigorous and academically challenging, with high expectations set in the classroom and an understanding that students will read widely and study independently. The continuity offered by the deliberate progression from AQA English Literature to AQA English Literature Specification A creates a clear sequenced path of knowledge and skills to create confident learners equipped for further academic learning and the world of work. The Key Stage 3 and 4 curriculums has been sequenced with an emphasis on the study of texts within their historical and social context. For example, pupils entering A Level Literature have previously studied four full Shakespeare plays beginning with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, transitioning to The Tempest, before Julius Caesar and Macbeth. This historicist approach is deepened at A Level as they enjoy the challenge of widening their reading experience and sharpening their analysis of texts across time. This exposes pupils to diverse texts, ideas and opinions which widens pupils understanding of shared human experiences and encourages critical debate in order to create confident future citizens. The course also introduces students to critical literary analysis thus preparing them for further academic study. The two-year course offers in-depth study of two prose texts, historic and contemporary poetry, a Shakespeare play and a modern play.
In addition, students undertake an independent critical study of texts across time; they study at least two thematically linked texts of their choice and then students select their own texts, design their own question, read widely around their texts and contexts and select their own critical material to engage with. This component brings together the knowledge and skills they have acquired across the whole course and gives them the experience of planning and managing an extended piece of academic writing of 2500 words, including an academic bibliography.
The English Literature curriculum aims to shape students into confident and active readers of texts from established and modern authors. It equips them with the tools to question texts, understand how writers shape meanings and write within a social and cultural context. It also gives them the opportunities to form their own personal responses to texts.
Literature pupils begin with an Introduction to Prose alongside the set text poetry anthology of Love through the Ages. Year 12 focuses on the set texts and supportive texts for Paper 1. An introduction to a 20th Century novel is addressed through the study of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Building on the themes already met in previous Shakespeare plays, pupils study Othello where students have the opportunity to use their previously gained knowledge of unrequited love, jealousy and villains to support their understanding of the new text. An interleaving of unseen poetry and prose, support the set texts alongside the preparation for the NEA requirement.
There are two options available for paper 2: Texts in shared Contexts; Option 2A: WW1 and its aftermath or Option 2B: Modern times: literature from 1945 to the present day. The aim of this topic area is to encourage pupils to explore aspects of literature connected through a period of time. Currently, Year 12 will opt for Option A and explore literature arising out of WW1, but extends this period to allow reflection on the full impact of the war that reverberates up to the present day. It considers the impact on combatants, non-combatants and subsequent generations as well as its social, political, personal and literary legacies. Pupils will study a novel, play and poetry anthology in order to fulfil the requirements. Throughout the year, interleaving of the previously taught texts from Year 12 will be implemented to ensure thorough revision opportunities before the end of the two-year course’s examination. Pupils will also finalise their coursework component in Year 13.