Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul

Joyce Carol Oates

Having learnt to read at the usual age, my small world was suddenly new people, adventures and words. I lost myself in the mischievous adventures of Enid Blyton’s ‘Naughty Amelia Jane’ and revelled in the girls’ antics in ‘Mallory Towers’. As the years passed, I cried with ‘Black Beauty’, was intrigued by ‘Ichabod Crane and the legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and then became captivated and enthralled by Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. Dark, Gothic horror is still a favourite genre of mine so Year 7 children are introduced to ‘Macbeth’ and Year 8 explore ‘The Woman in Black’.

Reading allowed me to slip into another’s world. Of course, I was also able to follow a recipe, follow instructions to tie my ballet ribbons and look up the meaning of a word too.

Teachers at Barrow Hills inspire children to write and perform for many audiences. Children write poems for ‘National Poetry Day’ which is celebrated in the junior, middle and senior years with a House Competition. In spring, the whole school form Kindy to Year 8, enters a Writing Competition and at the end of the year ‘Off By Heart’ celebrates poetry recitation and performance. Visiting judges share their experiences of poetry, reading and writing and pupils receive positive feedback on their writing and performance.

We teach our younger children in Pre-Prep to learn to read and write through Ruth Miskin’s ‘Read Write Inc’ Scheme. Spelling patterns are taught, learnt, revised and tested all the way to Year 8 with ‘red’ words visited regularly. Year 1 are taught to join their letters and develop a clear, cursive, legible style of hand which is developed through the key stages.

Reading for pleasure is encouraged at every stage of our children’s learning journey.

All our children are taught to mind map and plan for different types of writing; they develop confidence to exercise their creative imagination through stories, plays and poetry. Debating is an integral part of the English syllabus and skills learnt are utilised across the curriculum. Specialist English teaching begins in Year 5. Teachers share their passion and knowledge of the subject and extend their skills to directing and performance. Teachers set targets, assess, examine and write reports. A dialogue takes place between parents, teachers and children to identify areas on which to develop. Our children undergo the rigours of exams and are fully prepared for public exams and scholarships at varying stages of their school lives, for the next years at senior school and beyond.

Our children are equipped to be effective communicators, empathetic listeners and critical readers so that any moment they might slip into “another’s skin”.

Mrs Mason
Head of English

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