On Monday 7th and Wednesday 9th November, year 12 and 13 – accompanied by Miss O’Hara and Mrs Willmott – took part in a workshop exploring the evolution of the English language from Old English to the modern period. Pupils were given exclusive access to a range of first and second editions of texts such as The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s first folio, The King James I Bible and Johnson’s Dictionary. Pupils were fascinated to discover the changes in spelling, punctuation and written styles that had taken place over the years and were given a history of the importance of the printing press in the standardisation of English as we know it today. Pupils were also treated to a tour of the library’s beautiful Victorian gothic architecture and interior and all agreed it was just like being at Hogwarts! Roma and Mrs Willmott particularly enjoyed getting in to the role of Victorian gentlemen in the library reading room.
Linguistics and English Language enthusiast Dan Clayton, took time out of his busy schedule to come to AGGS on Wednesday 7th October 2015 to deliver a two hour programme to our year 12 and 13 students of English Language. It consisted of a thought provoking lecture on English language change followed by a workshop, focussing on analysis and examination skills.
Dan is an AQA A level senior examiner, contributor to emag (a magazine aimed at A level English students, produced by the English and Media Centre), co-author of the Nelson Thornes’ AQA A English Language AS textbook. His A level English Language blogs are viewed by thousands and he recently delivered one of the key note speeches at the British Library English Grammar Conference in London, July 2015. He is also a highly successful and experienced teacher at St. Francis Xavier Sixth Form College in south London.
In his lecture, he examined British attitudes to language change, examining whether ‘poor’ language skills (spoken and written) reflected or determined attitudes in young people today. After examining sources throughout history it became apparent that the so called ‘decline’ in English language skills has been a concern of older generations almost since records began. Caxton was casting aspersions on young people’s use of English in the 15thc, Dryden and Jonathan Swift in the 17thc. David Starkey’s fear that the summer of riots in 2011 were caused by the use of ‘Jafaican’, are clearly unfounded. Evidence points to literacy improving not declining among young people today.
In the workshop, the girls were given extracts to analyse in preparation for their AS and A2 examinations. Comments at the end of the session from Lauren, Becky, Robyn, Ellia Chloe, Harina, included: ‘Dan used lots of relevant examples and spoke to us on our level’; ‘he gave us lots of really relevant examples to help us, which we can use in our examination’; ‘the terminology he used and the informal way he presented has really inspired us and made his lecture and workshop highly accessible’; ‘the breakdown of the different models has been really helpful and the use of up to date research will really help us in our examinations’; ‘I have really enjoyed seeing the links between the lecture and what we are doing in class.’
Many thanks to Ms O’Hara and Mrs Cleary for organising this event.