Great importance is placed on the teaching of English within day-to-day learning at Pembridge Hall.
The development of English skills is seen as a key part of the curriculum, as these skills permeate every subject. The skills focused on can be largely grouped into distinct but interrelated areas: phonics (in the Lower School); reading for meaning and pleasure; writing for different purposes and audiences; handwriting and spelling; speaking and listening. Girls progress in each of these skills as they move through the school.
We aim to foster a life-long passion for reading and an appreciation of literature in every girl who walks through the doors of our school. From author visits during Book Week, to focused studies of an author’s works, to performances of Shakespeare’s plays by our Year 6 girls, our school is enlivened by the magical world opened up through a love of the written and spoken word.
In our Lower School, we begin with the basics, teaching a well-structured and dynamic synthetic phonics programme. This equips our girls with the essential building blocks that they require in order to progress in reading and writing.
Targeted writing sessions consolidate emerging awareness of spelling, syntax and punctuation. These are spent working both independently and in small guided groups, and are based around inspiring texts by well-respected children’s authors.
Reading is taught both through shared reading of texts in class and guided reading in small groups, and girls are given plenty of opportunity to put their newly learned skills into practice during one-to-one individual reading sessions with their class teacher or teaching assistant.
Speaking and listening is developed through many different opportunities to interact with peers and adults, including giving presentations, working in ‘talk partners’ and taking part in assemblies and plays.
We teach a cursive handwriting style from the very beginning, with our eventual aim being a fluid cursive script for every child. This ensures that as our girls work towards using more complex sentence structures and making more adventurous vocabulary choices, their creativity is enabled free rein by their ability to record their thoughts quickly and fluently.
The Middle School is seen as the step from the key skills underpinning excellent reading and writing, to a more developed application of these skills.
Girls explore a wealth of literature in more detail and from different angles, beginning to develop the inference and deduction skills needed to read at a higher level of understanding. These skills are further developed in weekly comprehension lessons. Fluency and precision are still checked through one-to-one individual reading sessions.
Writing is linked closely to reading, using examples of a wide range of text types to learn authorial intent and techniques.
Speaking and listening has a heightened focus, with girls giving presentations on topics to their class, studying performance poetry and having the chance to audition for the annual poetry recital.
In our Upper School, girls take on greater autonomy in writing creatively and expressing themselves through the written word. Dynamic creative writing sessions ensure that the girls are inspired by the wealth of literary devices available to them, and are encouraged to experiment with their own literary ‘voice’ in poetry and prose, across a wide range of genres.
Author studies and comprehension lessons remain a key part of the curriculum, with the girls also expected to read texts from a breadth of genres independently. Reading comprehension lessons take a further step in understanding texts and ensure that the girls are well prepared for their senior school examinations in Year 6.
Year 6 girls are introduced to a wider appreciation of literature and criticism through performing and reading Shakespeare, preparing them effectively for more detailed study in their years at senior school.