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Talk to me about Year 7 English

(27 Posts)
Dancergirl Tue 16-Apr-13 19:56:20

Dd is in Year 7 at an indie selective girls' school. I have been v happy with the school so far but I am a little disappointed with the English tuition and wondered what the norm is.

She has had 3 different teachers so far; the first one went on long term sick leave, second one was a v academic man but not necessarily a good teacher. I was told he would be taking them for the rest of the year but at the end of last term dd said they had yet another new teacher!

They have only studied 3 books so far - Why the whales came by Michael Morpurgo, Greek myths and they have just finished The Boy in the striped pyjamas. Bearing in mind they break up on 5th July and some of this term is taken up with exams etc, that doesn't leave much time for doing a lot more.

Would you expect more books to have been covered in Year 7?

Also, they haven't been taught any grammar. I am aware of grammar targets for both KS3 and KS4, don't they teach it in schools any more?

choccyp1g Tue 16-Apr-13 20:02:44

At DS' comprehensive they have 4 lessons a week, one is "grammar" with a different teacher, and the others are comprehension, creative writing and literature. For literature they have done 3 contemporary books, two narrative poems, and are now starting on
Treasure Island, (by watching the film first, an approach with which I heartily disagree)

Roseformeplease Tue 16-Apr-13 20:05:55

I teach English at a non selective comp. We do far, far more than this. They study 4 class novels, 3 big poems, 1 Shakespeare, a film as well as a variety of types of writing, textual analysis etc. I used to teach in the independent sector and the amount she has done sounds limited. However, reading as much as she can at home will go a long way.

BooksandaCuppa Tue 16-Apr-13 21:56:44

Ds in yr 7 at a non-selective independent.

He has two double Eng lessons and one single with a different teacher, per week. The single lesson is pure literacy/grammar (sometimes a reading/library lesson).

With his main teacher, they have done three books of a similar sort to yours, plus quite a lot of poetry and some short stories. I think it is drama/Shakespeare this term. They have termly speaking and listening assessments too.

But they done an awful lot of creative writing; much more than I expected and a lot more than the year 7s at my grammar do. I think it's been a lovely start to secondary English for ds as it's really played to his strengths and a nice change from the endless comprehension style questions in primary.

It doesn't sound like the school can have done much to have helped the changes in staffing but I do think a lack of grammar teaching in a selective (and indie) school is unusual. Have they done poetry and drama as well as novels?

JBX2013 Wed 17-Apr-13 08:38:15

Hi Dancergirl! I have taught a bit at state non-selectives and our daughter is at Henrietta Barnett, a grammar school. ... I was sorry to hear about your school's English lessons.

I fully concur with previous posts; I especially echo the comments of Roseformeplease.

One of the problems with the indy schools is that they can do what they want and often get away with it. Only publicity, or the threat of publicity, corrects some of their practices.

At HBS they do vastly more than you have described. Good reading, sound comprehension and good writing are a feature in all subjects , includind Design Tech and History. This brings out English Language learning points, including good grammar in the context of effective, fluent writing in a variety of styles.

The English Lit texts read and studied are many and numerous, with lots of inter-form Drama competition, school productions and frequent theatre visits. Literary/Historical themes can cover lessons in English, Drama and History and form the core of Themed Weeks once a term. Some of the quality comes from the school, much from the girls themselves.... It also helps, I guess, if Mum or Dad are big readers and enthuse about this stuff (in between Eastenders and Friends reruns!) Not all parents are or can spare the time, especially across all their children... I should add that the HBS Head of English is mad keen on reading and theatre for herself and this rubs off.

So, what do you do? ... Ask around. What do other parents feel? Would at least one otehr write to the Head? Would at least one other write to the Head of English? .... Maternity means teacher changes can be frustratingly frequent at any school, but whatever the reason your school's position is not great. I would be tempted to to send a detailed letter of concern, signed by both Mum and Dad, and monitor developments. This letter should go to the Head, cc the Head of English. And then, if they try to get you in and pacify you, I would politely decline. They should write a detailed response, not fob you off; they should acknowledge responsibility and tell you their plan for change, in writing. You are the parents, you pay fees, you are the client. .... Hope it works out.

seeker Wed 17-Apr-13 08:43:53

My ds is at a secondary modern. So far they have studied Skellig, Myths from different cultures,A Midsummer Night's Dream and William Blake. They have also done topics on different types of writing, a lot of creative writing, and various exercises in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 10:13:15

Should they not know grammar by the time they reach secondary school? My dd is at a semi-selective and I would expect her to be mind-blowingly bored if they tried to teach her grammar.

I would expect almost any secondary to cover a Shakespeare play per year, though - or at least some play/s - and poetry.

seeker Wed 17-Apr-13 10:21:27

Really? All the English grammar there is to know by the age of 11? I am over 50 with a degree in English, and I still have to think sometimes!

Dancergirl Wed 17-Apr-13 10:54:43

Of course not breadandbutterfly There are grammar targets for KS3 and KS4 some of which I have never even heard of!

Re the boredom thing, this REALLY annoys me. I'm going to sound like a real fuddy daddy but I really think that standards have slipped since we introduced this notion that education should be exciting and fun for the kids. And yes it should be, but there are some more boring bits that have to be learnt as well.

JBX thank you or your post. I am v familiar with HBS, we are looking at the school for our middle dd, currently Year 5.

I was going to ring the school and speak to the Head of English, do you think a letter is better? I don't know any other parents, as you know you are much less connected to the school at secondary level.

seeker Wed 17-Apr-13 11:07:30

Are you sure they haven't been taught the grammar "by stealth" so to speak? I know my ds has had homework like that - pieces of writing using can and may, should could and would. And other things where they had to point out and correct all the mistakes, for example.

Dancergirl Wed 17-Apr-13 11:12:59

I'll check again with dd tonight and also ask her if she's done any poetry. I would also have expected a Shakepeare in year 7 at a high achieving school!

Startail Wed 17-Apr-13 11:18:59

It always amazes me parents know in this much detail. I know they did some poetry because she moaned about it and a Mid Summers nights dream because it was on at the local theatre and we went to see it.
DD2 is very good at English and very protective of her HW so I know no more than that.

I do know far more about Mice and Men than I wanted to. Since it's sad and boring DD1 thought she'd share the misery.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:23:59

Totally disagree - and I teach grammar for a living!

Certainly, by the age of 11 I knew all the grammar I needed to know in English and could use it as accurately then as I can now. I couldn't have named everything - that I learned from learning foreign languages and later learning to teach my own as a foreign language - but I could use it perfectly.

I do NOT agree with Michael Gove that English should be taught to native speakers as though they were non-native. There is no advantage for a native speaker to be able to correctly identify a subjunctive or future perfect tense in their own language if they can use them correctly anyway. Clearly, when learning a foreign language, these grammatical terms are useful and they should be learnt within that context only (excepting the basic structures eg noun, verb, adjective etc which are covered at any half-decent primary).

Forcing children to deconstruct their own language is (a) dull, (b) unnecessary and (c) takes up valuable time in the classroom that should be spent on encouraging children to read and understand great works of English literature, write creatively, etc.

By the way, I went to HBS and can assure that you WE LEARNT NO GRAMMAR there. Unless standards there have gone down massively, I would hope that is still the case. That said, given that 65% of pupils there now speak English as a second language, according to Ofsted, they may have a valid reason to have increased the teaching of English grammar.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:24:41

@ dancergirl and seeker.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:27:37

Startail - grin

I know about the Shakespeare because of the school trips, same as you. No idea what novels she's done though I know she's mentioned some in passing... I too was marvelling at the level of detail some parents have of this... I know more about the creative writing she did in year 7 as we discussed it, it being 'my thing'...

seeker Wed 17-Apr-13 11:28:25

Wow.

Breadandbutterfly- you notice my reference to "grammar by stealth"?

seeker Wed 17-Apr-13 11:31:00

What I can't understand is why parents don't monitor homework and sign planners in year 7. I think it's actually nothing to be proud of, not knowing what books your 11 year old is studying.

I suspect that's how sometimes they get nasty surprises at parents evenings.......grin

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:36:20

@ seeker

I did, and she didn't.

As I said, we discussed the writing quite a bit - her school had a fabulous system in year 7 where she got a list of about 50 suggested questions for the whole year and could pick as many of these as she liked - the more she chose to do, the higher level she qualified for (not NC levels, but awards called Gold, Silver etc) so students could learn to motivate themseles. There were a mixture of pure lit crit questions (which could relate to any book the student had read, at home as well as the school texts), and some more creative ones eg write the next chapter or a diary from the point of view of a main character; even some more 'drawing ones for kids who preferred that to writing eg draw a picture of the main character and annotate how this shows their personality type of thing...

But no grammar...

Like me, my dd is a grammar 'natural' - I have never read a sentence of hers where the grammar is incorrectly used. I think most children fall into this category.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:38:49

@ seeker - I did (occasionally) sign her homework book in year 7 and don't think I am expected to in year 8 - as they are expected to have got to grips with homework themselves by then, free of mum's (or dad's) intereference.

No nasty surprises though.

Dancergirl Wed 17-Apr-13 11:40:14

Well I have just spoken to the Head of English.

He was v apologetic about the changes of teacher and sounded frustrated by the situation. That's the school's problem though. He said they normally cover in Year 7:

Greek myths (done)
2 novels (done)
poetry (not sure but he's going to check)
Shakespeare (will do this term)

In terms of grammar, he said it is taught but referred me to the schools Moodle as there's work on there.

I'm not sure if I feel reassured or not! It still doesn't seem like an awful lot.

breadandbutterfly Wed 17-Apr-13 11:47:51

Does your dd use English grammar incorrectly? Do her nouns fail to agree with her verbs? If not, then assuming that you speak with standard English grammar at home (are you both native speakers?) and she's learned the basic parts of speech, you can stop worrying.

Does she read (preferably widely) at home? If not, then that is what you should be worrying about. I wouldn't worry too much about not reading widely at school - from my experience, most people dislike the books they read at school because nothing makes a good book appear more tedious than reading it painfully over a number of weeks in class and picking it to pieces. The school may even be doing her a favour!

Take her to the library and get her some classics out if you are worried.

Startail Wed 17-Apr-13 11:55:33

Actually I don't give a monkeys what books my DDs are studying in English full stop. I don't get why you 'study books' .

I read books and either I enjoy them or I don't , I don't get this urge to pull them apart and study them. I don't get Shakespeare at all.

I can do it, I have a nice shinny grade A O'level, but I still don't get it.

Dancergirl Wed 17-Apr-13 11:59:41

No, her grammar and punctuation are both ok I would say, but there is so much more to learn. How many children know how to use a colon correctly, what an adverb is, how to use such things as sibilance, juxtaposition, rule of three etc in their writing?

With her reading, she has always been a keen reader but at the moment has reached a bit of a standstill. She's tried the Cornelia Funke Ink trilogy but says they're quite heavy going. At the moment it seems to be Harry Potter for the millionth time! Any suggestions?

Dancergirl Wed 17-Apr-13 12:01:41

My middle dd would completely agree with you startail! She reads for England but hates all this analytical business, she says she would rather read another book!

But if you do English and A or degree level, that's what you do isn't it?

booksteensandmagazines Wed 17-Apr-13 12:17:36

there's been a study recently about how reading for children is becoming all about education and not about fun - and it should be fun so that they choose to pick up a book.
This is different and separate to the reading and analysing they do with books at school which is fun for some and not for others - as with all subjects I suppose.
As for book ideas for Year 7's (and its not unusual for reading to tail off in secondary school but I think its so sad if it becomes a permanent state of affairs) - I have a website which reviews books for teenagers and has reading lists. Its free - I do it because I love books and its my passion. The link is: www.booksteensandmagazines.com and I hope she'll find some books there that appeal.

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