All the best plans and ideas for English we had stored up for the end of the term: there was a literary walk along the Thames after a visit to The Globe Theatre, an author visit by Paul Dowswell for Years 4-8 and, of course, World Book Day. However, as Robert Burns would say (with a knowing nod from John Steinbeck), “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”. And they did. Some people might blame the pesky corvids, but it was, I think, more a virus that ripped its path through all our plans. All, except World Book Day, of course.
To celebrate their love of books the pupils decorated the doors of their English classrooms with their favourite scenes from books they have read. It is fantastic to see these and to now have the feeling that entering an English classroom is like walking into another world full of potential and possibilities.
In the course of the term the pupils have wrestled with dragons, if not tamed them, listened to Anglo-Saxon poetry being recited at them, thought themselves into the mind of a god, learnt about dastardly schemes like the great mouse plot (but hopefully devised no comparable ones of their own), built castles in the air, or more literally out of cardboard (loo rolls, anyone?), so they could let their hair down, followed in the footsteps of Little Red Riding Hood (a dangerous enterprise, but they all came back alive), gone into space to a galaxy far far away, warded off grinning alien invasions, followed the Fighting Temeraire to her last berth (on the £20 note) or danced with daffodils.
English as a subject has the advantage that it is not tied to any specific topic, so the ground we cover is truly endless. And that is the beauty of the subject: you start with a few words, and you can never be sure where exactly they will take you. Every lesson is an adventure in the head. And while some control is necessary (after all, you wouldn’t want to fly an aeroplane, a spaceship, a Pegasus or a dragon without some clue how to steer it or make it do what you want), as soon as you have mastered these little buttons and levers (that is full stops and commas), then there are no limits to your imagination. If you want to take others along with you, though, you will need to sell the journey to them – and that is where techniques (a careful choice of verbs, similes, metaphors, the odd transferred epithet) come in.
In fact the best way to find out how to fly the out-of-this-world vehicle that is English, is to read as many instruction manuals as possible! Of course, I’m talking about books.