Chestnut Grove Academy
45 Chestnut Grove
Balham, London SW12 8JZ

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Literacy at Chestnut Grove

“To be literate is to gain a voice and to participate meaningfully and assertively in decisions that affect one’s life... To be literate is to gain self-confidence. To be literate is to become self-assertive. Literacy enables people to read their own world and to write their own history. Literacy provides access to written knowledge and knowledge is power. In a nutshell, literacy empowers.”
(Y. Kassam, 1994)

At Chestnut Grove, we believe that literacy is one of the most important life skills we can offer our students: both in terms of academic success and in developing students’ confidence and individual voices in the wider world. We profoundly believe that all teachers are teachers of literacy across the school and, therefore, literacy is embedded within all aspects of the curriculum at Chestnut Grove – from maths to science – as well as a range of extra-curricular activities designed to inspire and support students across the school.

Every student in Years 7 to 8 are given a weekly guided reading session in the library in order to promote their love of literacy and their decoding skills across a range of texts, supported by volunteer 6th Form Literacy Mentors. This also gives students an opportunity to track and log their own independent reading, supported by our librarian’s guidance, to stretch and challenge them independently.

Year 7 and 8 students are also taking part in a tutor time Spelling Bee to decide the spelling champions in each tutor group who will go forward to take part in the year group championship at the end of this term. Each Wednesday, every tutor group will take a spelling test made up of the most commonly misspelled words (see powerpoint below) and tutors will award prizes for both excellence in spelling and students who have made the most progress. The Year 7 spelling bee will be held on Monday 8th December and the Year 8 spelling bee will be held on Monday 18th December.

To inspire a love of literature, throughout the year we have numerous events to celebrate literacy across the school. Whether it’s a poetry hunt for National Poetry Day or Year 7 Fancy Dress as a Literary character on World Book Day, both staff and students engage with a love of literature and encourage students to read as widely as possible both fiction and non-fiction. Year 7s are given two free fiction books per year to develop their reading and we have had success in entering competitions such as the ‘mini-saga’ creative writing competition where fifteen students had their work published in a book this year.

Through the library, we have regular author visits and workshops taking place. Last year, we had author visits from Seth Burkett, Alex Wheatle and Irena Brignill to the school and attended STREAM with authors including Malorie Blackman and Judith Kerr. We hosted a multi-school literary event with three authors alongside Graveney and Burntwood and students take part in the FAB and Carnegie  in the past our Year 8 art specialists have designed a book bench on Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ and completed a Beowulf multi-media project with the IoE where their ‘illuminated manuscripts’ were put on display at the British Library.

To stretch the brightest, the G&T co-ordinator has devised a non-fiction reading list for all subjects to stretch the students and our KS3, 4 and 5 reading lists are regularly handed out to students and parents. This is supported by our club programme where we run a creative writing KS3 club, with regular trips and a published magazine, and our Year 9-11 Stretch and Challenge reading club where students read and discuss such classics as Jekyll and Hyde, A Christmas Carol or Of Mice and Men.

Yet, we also support students who find literacy more of a challenge at times. All teachers have been trained in delivering dyslexia-friendly lessons across the school, have been alerted to reading ages and differentiate for students with literacy needs. Every department has a member of staff nominated to be a ‘Literacy Champion’ to identify and help support literacy needs across their subject area. We also work closely with the SEN department in order to ensure that students with lower reading ages are supported through interventions throughout Key Stage Three including a Phonics group, a Reading Renaissance group, 121 intervention and spelling and handwriting groups. In Year 7, there is a Catch Up team which works alongside the SEN provision to ensure all students are secondary-ready.

In developing the students’ speaking and oracy, the KS3 debate club runs weekly and numerous opportunities for debates and presentations are made throughout classroom teaching and the Health curriculum. The Jack Petchey Speak Out competition is run with Year 10 classes; last year Antonia Antrobus-Higgins came second nationally in the competition with a speech on the ‘Afro’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKKyQuRy41Q).

All teachers mark literacy errors when they do detailed marking MRI tasks and students’ respond with their red pens to spellings and punctuation errors. We encourage all parents to help students self-check and edit all their pieces of homework and classwork before handing it in for marking in order to gain resilience and independence in their own education.

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