English Department: Autumn term activities

A huge amount of activities take place in school within each department.  Mr Warren, the English department’s Literacy co-ordinator gives an account below of the behind the scenes activities in C block:

“Too many; or not too many? Is that really a Question?
‘Words, words, words.’ So replies Hamlet to Polonius’ question, ‘What do you read, my lord? By repeating the word three times, Hamlet possibly suggests that what he is reading is meaningless. There are a lot of words spoken and written in school, many by the staff and quite a few by students, and it would be fair to say that there is an argument that there are too many. However, this is to fundamentally miss the point. The function of words is really a method to express an idea, a view, a question or an emotion. Therefore, it is absolutely right that students should be extending and exploring a vocabulary that will allow them to perfectly articulate with clarity, perception and confidence exactly what they mean to express.

A paradigm of this would be the importance of Public Speaking within the school. Beyond the students’ academic studies one could argue that the skills and confidence developed by this activity are the ones which make our students really stand out from the crowd when they go for interviews for sixth form, college, university places and eventually in the world of work. Thus, the target for this year’s whole school participation is in excess of 90% (a target that we have reached in the last two academic years), and we are on the way to surpassing it. So far this year Years 11, 10 and 9 have completed their Public Speaking with some astonishing speeches on a variety of subjects including the rise of A.I., Environmental Catastrophes, Me Too and even one on the efficacy of the cow bell in the Swiss Alps! Perhaps, the most esoteric of all speeches so far this year.

You don’t have to believe a teacher about the power of the spoken word and the importance of Public Speaking when the students themselves already know and embrace the idea. When Lily Neale and Nahia Beesley returned in triumph from the STEM competition held at Sibford School in late November, both students were adamant that their Public Speaking skills had been the difference between them and their competitors. In addition to this, the very best of the Year 10 speakers will be flying the Shipston High School flag at the Rotary Youth Speaks Competition in February. Their task, a stiff one, is to emulate the class of 2017 who made it to the final 7 schools out of a staggering 630 schools in the whole of the UK. Good luck!

Finally, to complete our theme of the power of words, 2019 has seen the introduction of the on-line vocabulary enhancement programme ‘Bedrock’ for the whole of Key Stage 3 and Year 10. This effective enhancer of vocabulary will further develop the range of lexis available to students to select from when they write and when they speak. So, perhaps Hamlet’s response to Polonius’ enquiry could have parodied the famous Morecambe and Wise sketch:

“I am using all the best possible words, and putting them in all the best possible places”

I suppose there might be a few issues with the meter!