Why are we teaching a knowledge-rich curriculum; how is it different?
In an English knowledge-rich curriculum we want pupils to be able to read, write and speak creatively and critically but we think that the route to get here is through learning and remembering specific components of knowledge which sit behind these skills. Our pupils can't just learn the knowledge by rote, they have to use examples, stories and questions to help learn this knowledge as well as memorising facts and practising applying knowledge in written and spoken work.
Why are we teaching this content?
We have mapped out the specific knowledge and skills we wanted to build over the five years of Year 7 to Year 11 and where these could be found in our units of study.
We have chosen texts which create a clear chronology of English literature. We begin at the start of English storytelling to give pupils access to the origins of literature.
Pupils need to know a number of themes, character types and literary contexts so the texts chosen are linked explicitly e.g. in Year 7 Shakespeare's reference to Theseus and Hippolyta in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is connected to the content of 'The Knight's Tale' and implicitly e.g. all the texts in Year 7 touch on the concept of romantic love in its different forms, particularly courtly love and idealised love. This helps pupils to build schemata about themes/characters/contexts.
Why are we teaching it in this order?
We have chosen to sequence the curriculum chronologically within each year, with the exception of a regular return to Shakespeare. We considered the potential for developing this chronologically over the three years in Key Stage 3 but felt that this would mean pupils would miss out on a range of texts including an array of Shakespearean plays. Therefore we decided that it was important that pupils had encountered key literary movements in the three years before starting the GCSE course.
We know that knowledge of grammar and writing is hierarchical in structure, meaning that it relies on prior knowledge e.g. you cannot write an excellent paragraph without mastering the sentence. We focus on developing the foundational knowledge of sentence and paragraph construction, all embedded within their study of literature.
What do pupils need to remember and be able to do in this subject?
Pupils need to be able to remember specific examples of concepts, so that they can apply this knowledge in written and spoken analysis, evaluation and creation of texts. For example, pupils need to know that Palamon and Arcite fit the character archetype of the courtly lover, to later build on this to know that Romeo is a courtly lover or that Elizabeth Barrett-Browning rejects ideas such as courtly love. Pupils need to remember that a sonnet is a poem which has a problem at its core, and will be given several examples from the sonnets they study to ensure they remember this idea and can argue this in an essay. Pupils also need a large body of vocabulary to ensure they can understand unseen texts or manipulate language themselves to convey meaning.
What methods do we use to help pupils secure this knowledge in long-term memory?
Teachers within our school use a variety of methods to help pupils secure and apply knowledge. We know that direct instruction is an effective way to teach pupils. However, we also know that teaching has to be adapted to the subject and the type of knowledge which we are handling. Therefore we might use choral response and quizzing to teach and test items such as vocabulary but we would also want to use methods such as class discussion and whole-class reading to ensure pupils have a good knowledge of the texts they are studying and how writers create meaning.