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Newstead Wood School

Newstead Wood School

Learning to Fly

These are the skills and habits which outstanding students of English develop. Do as many of these as possible to become completely independent in the subject and to develop the skills and knowledge needed to attain 8/9 at GCSE and A* at A Level. Remember that just doing what your teacher tells you - in your lessons and beyond - is not enough to develop your full potential in the subject.

In your lessons

  • Asking specific questions and asking for help.
  • Thinking critically about your own work and finding ways to improve it.
  • Listening to other students and the teacher, but often challenging and arguing with them!
  • Thinking about ways in which new knowledge you encounter in the lesson fits in with what you already know.

Between your lessons

  • Looking back over your notes and activities from the last lesson.
  • Reviewing the work of a lesson - making sure you know what you have or haven’t understood.
  • Reading ahead in texts and making notes about plot, character and ideas.
  • Writing down questions from your reading about words and ideas you don’t understand to bring to your next lesson.
  • Making notes of any questions to ask your teachers or look up.
  • Going to see your teacher to ask for clarification and guidance.

Beyond your lessons

  • Trying to read a challenging new book, poetry collection or play every week. It’s okay not to finish it - the important thing is to try.
  • Reading critical books about the texts you are studying and ‘books about books’.
  • Watching high quality film and TV and writing a critical reaction.
  • Keeping a reading diary or blog.
  • Talking to your friends and family about what you have read.
  • Discussing and arguing about what you have read on goodreads.com or similar websites
  • Listening to podcasts like ‘Open Book’, ‘A Good Read’, ‘In Our Time’ and ‘Start the Week’.
  • Developing a sense of the big picture - the history of English Literature and World Literature - and how what you have read relates to this. Where are the gaps in your knowledge?
  • Reading a quality newspaper at least once a week.
  • Going to the theatre and ‘arthouse’ cinema once a term if possible and writing a critical reaction (even just a quick paragraph).
  • Keeping a vocabulary log to keep track of new words you encounter or an app like vocabulary.com to discover new words.

Of course we recognise that our students have busy lives and that this level of engagement is not always possible all the time - but this is what you should aim for if you want to reach the highest level in the subject. You don’t need to do ALL of these things to improve in English - just doing one or two of them will have an impact. Decide on two or three to focus on to improve your skills.