English at Ballard School is a combination of enthusiasm, hard work and enjoyment. We aim for pupils to progress through the School with a love of language, books and a knowledge of their Literary Heritage.
Our key words in the English department are creativity, competency, critical and cultural understanding.
Communication skills are vital in today’s rapidly changing world and Ballard’s aim is to produce confident and competent communicators.
English is part of everyday life at Ballard Nursery with regular storytelling, a book corner and lots of chatting!
Writing is a little trickier at this age so we help children develop their fine motor skills, which are essential to writing, through a number of fun activities, including threading. For the youngest pupils we use shaving foam on a table top to help them make shapes, which eventually become letters.
Older pupils are more confident and many can write their name with chunky chalk when they are in Kindergarten. We continue to offer them an array of opportunities for letter formation to keep them engaged.
In Ballard Pre-Prep we continue to embrace English as a key part of everything we do. We continue to encourage our children to write using an array of equipment and techniques.
We introduce composition by asking them to write down what they did at the weekend and to illustrate it – mimicking the picture books they love to read. We introduce spelling and grammar alongside correct letter formation and, as they develop, more complicated English concepts such as poetry and onomatopoeia.
Pre-Prep have also had a huge focus on reading with much success! At Ballard we believe that reading and sharing stories at home, and developing a love of literature is of real importance.
To help create positive daily reading habits, pupils collected sponsorship for reading every day for a month with some children reading for over 600 hours! Pupils were then asked to design their own reading corner in their classrooms which they created with their teacher before being judged by our School governors!
Ballard Pre-Prep also ran a competition to see who could do the most ‘extreme’ reading in an unusual place. Photos flooded from pupils reading on horseback, to their dog, up a tree, on a trampoline, and even whilst doing gymnastics.
At Ballard we encourage our pupils to input their ideas and this year our pupils chose how they wanted to celebrate World Book Day. This included a book swap, dressing up, book reviews, role play in their character and a fashion catwalk!
Part of our recent refurbishment was spent on using the pupil’s ideas for our Pre-Prep library. They wanted a bright space with new furniture, cushions, animals and new books. Children have the opportunity to borrow books from the library and often ask to sit and read there.
Our visiting author BB Taylor with her yeti, pets and stories made reading come even more ‘alive’ for our pupils. Parent workshops on spelling and reading have also supported with ideas at home to continue a love for reading.
English at Ballard is built around the key disciplines of reading and writing but it is taught in many different ways.
Pupils’ experience of literature is enriched by visits from touring theatre companies and storytellers. This year we saw a performance of Wind in the Willows and some of our pupils got up on stage to perform with the professionals.
World Book Day is celebrated as pupils dress up as their favourite book character. Texts are enjoyed together and pupils are supported in becoming more independent readers through a partnership between home and school.
The Oxford Reading Tree scheme is supplemented by library books (from their dedicated Junior Library), set texts and reading material suggested by teachers, parents and the pupils themselves.
When writing, pupils build on their understanding of grammar and learn spellings weekly. They are nurtured in becoming competent writers in a range of genres. An emphasis on drama, discussion and public speaking results in confident young communicators.
In these crucial years, Ballard’s English department focus on continuity and progress, creativity and enjoyment, whilst introducing the skills needed for IGCSE. Drama activities and trips are integrated into the curriculum.
Reading for pleasure is encouraged through allocated reading time and participation in Read for My School and World Book Day.
Pupils participate in ESB (English Speaking Board) exams to gain confidence in public speaking, gaining incredible results. Topics are wide-ranging and classrooms could be laden with scuba diving kit, models and much loved pets. An unprecedented number of Distinctions were awarded and Ballard was again complimented on the excellent preparation of the pupils and the imaginative presentations delivered.
Year 6 completed a delicious cross-curricular project combining DT, Food Tech and English as they created their own chocolate, designed the packaging and advertised the finished product. Chocolate definitely has a way of bringing departments together!
Our Year 7 have had a very creative year as they discovered more about their literary heritage. The year started with an introduction to Gothic Horror and offered huge potential for language development and they had a fantastic visit to Harry Potter World to complement the genre perfectly.
A recent project on Shakespeare produced an incredibly high standard of work and creative ideas; pupils baked for Shakespeare, dressed in period costume, made board games and models of The Globe Theatre as well as researching biographical and contextual detail.
Pupils loved the Canterbury Tales and embraced the art of storytelling with real enthusiasm, culminating in stories told round the camp fire in Ballard’s woods.
It is usual for Year 8 to enter the BBC 500 Words competition honing their precision of language skills and meeting the strict word limit. They also take part in our very own ‘Dragons’ Den’ and their professional approach to product development and creative marketing is outstanding.
In the Senior School at Ballard all pupils study English Language and Literature and every opportunity is taken to enhance pupils’ learning with visiting speakers and theatre visits. Excellent exam results are a result of hard work expected of pupils in conjunction with the support of well-qualified, experienced, specialist staff.
Pupils are encouraged to be independent learners through a variety of activities including our Year 9 Ballard Challenge Week, where they have to research and present their project to external judges. They also have the opportunity to visit the Battlefields on a cross-curricular trip that offers real insight in to the conflict poetry they will be studying at GCSE.
We have run our own Carnegie reading challenge and decided which of the national finalists we thought should win; interestingly our results didn’t match but it created great debate and discussion and for some it renewed an enthusiasm for reading and introduced new genres and authors.
Year 10 made a trip to the Imperial War Museum to complement their study of conflict poetry and produced some very strong creative writing course work as a result. They have worked hard on the new syllabus and we are delighted that the whole year group have either met or exceeded their rigorous target grades.