Literary Dragons
One of the best
ways to teach
punctuation is to
remove it
We are living through
a fantastic age of
children’s literature.
Authors such as
Michael Morpurgo and
Malorie Blackman can
convert almost any
child to reading
Sherlock Holmes to
Shakespeare:
Reading at the Heart of the
Curriculum
At the Dragon a deeply-rooted culture of reading is the
bedrock for understanding how language works and the key
to liberating imagination, creativity and empathy.
As children move from Pre-Prep to Prep school they start to consider more complex
texts, engage with sophisticated concepts and learn to write for different audiences.
As they progress they build up a complexity of vocabulary, sentence structure and
punctuation through whatever they are reading. As Head of English, Rachael Austen,
explains: “The concepts of characterisation, setting, atmosphere and dialogue can be
taught progressively from
Goodnight Mr Tom
in Year 6 to
Frankenstein
in Year 8.”
Having taught previously in senior schools, Rachael has been struck by how similar
the experience is at the Dragon. “The emphasis on discussion and the willingness of
the children to voice their opinions are typical of senior education,” she says. Teaching
language through literature is at the heart of the Dragon approach and lessons do not
divorce the texts from their building blocks. From the start, English teaching is all
about acquiring, practising and honing skills, and it is the complexity, rather than the
nature, of these skills which changes as children move through the school.
The English Department inspires children to become confident language users and
creative writers. Whether analysing Sherlock Holmes or
Shakespeare, newspaper articles or poetry, children
of all ages increase in confidence and competence
as they read. Through understanding how
words are shaped and moulded by an author,
children start to cultivate creativity and clarity
in their own writing.
Performance is an important element of
the English curriculum. ‘Poetry in Motion’, a
group dramatization by Year 5, and the Dragon
‘Declamations’, in which pupils compete to read poetry
in an intelligent and engaging manner, are just part of a
long tradition of poetry recital at the Dragon.
Rachael Austen argues that deconstructing language in
comprehension and constructing it in creative writing stimulates
and challenges pupils of all ages. For some children
the vital skill of comprehension can
be the hardest area to improve
and a source of frustration.
However, as Rachael says, it
is hugely rewarding when
they do ‘get it’.
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