At Hills Grammar, the English department strives to give each student an extraordinary educational experience but, often the most extraordinary outcomes start from humble beginnings.  Routine. Students love routine in fact, they crave it. Routines influence your child’s emotional and cognitive development.

In Years 7-10, each teacher begins their lesson with 10 minutes of silent reading. Students can choose to either: bring in a book of their choice, choose a book from the book box or read a text they’re currently studying.  Allowing students to choose the book they read fosters a sense of autonomy, which stays with them for the rest of the lesson. Furthermore, I use this reading time as method of extending the students vocabulary. My Year 9 class studied Divergent last term and each block of reading was followed by short chapter analysis questions. The students were able to test their knowledge and practise searching for evidence to support their claims in the text.

In my Year 8 English class, I adjusted this practice when we started our film study unit. Instead of starting each lesson with ten minutes of silent reading, I started each lesson with a five minute short film, followed by five minutes of comprehension questions about that film. Once again, students were cognitively and emotionally engaged and knew what was expected of them each time they had an English lesson. This routine also allowed them to build their knowledge of filmic techniques and different ways of storytelling. The question time further engaged students with their peers’ thinking, using vocabulary particular to the unit.

However, this is routine on a minor scale. Hills Grammar provides your child with a whole school approach as well. MTV routines target different types of thinking and become the ways in which students go about the processes of learning. In my Year 10 English class, I used the Making Thinking Visible routine: Connect, Extend, Challenge. This routine allows students to explore how the ideas of a topic are presented in the text and connected to prior knowledge. Students then think about the new ideas they have about the topic that extend their knowledge or push their thinking in a new direction and finally challenge their thinking by asking them what questions they have they would like to explore further. Year 10 studied Macbeth last term and in groups they were each given a scene to explore. They had to summarise that scene in their own words, write out the key ideas they could see forming in their scene and then as a class we linked them to key themes in the text. This process was repeated for each theme studied. The students took comfort in the familiar learning pattern as this gave them the confidence to express their ideas and draw complex connections between their ideas and the universal themes in Macbeth.

Felicity Scott | English Teacher