In the English department at St Francis Xavier College, we see our subject as having three distinct purposes and streams. These streams are: Language—knowing about the English language, Literacy—being able to use the English language for various purposes, and finally Literature—reading, understanding and responding to literature.
When students learn about Language, they learn about how the English language is constructed. They learn about the ways English has changed over time and the different types of language used in different contexts. Students in Year 10 might look at the language of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and examine how some English words have changed in meaning over time, while students in Year 9 might make a speech where they need to show an understanding of formal language to convince an adult audience.
When students learn Literacy they are learning how to use the English language to achieve various purposes. Students in Year 9 might learn the correct way to punctuate dialogue to order to make an effective and engaging short story, while students in Year 11 might learn how to formally quote from a literary text to make an argument in an academic context.
When students work with Literature they go beyond mere functional language and look at how works of art use the English language to shed light on the human condition and show insight into points of view that might be completely alien to our experience. Students in the second semester of Year 11 might look at the way gender roles in society are reinforced, or sometimes challenged, by Hollywood screenwriters. Students in Year 10 might look at how the novel To Kill a Mockingbird holds a message that goes beyond a consideration of race — to thinking about how we should consider every person’s point of view, even points of view we find difficult or confronting.
All three of these strands work together to form a subject that is not only vital to success in a world that runs on effective communication, but also provides a foundation for a life lived with a full consciousness of how literary texts shape and are shaped by the society for which they are written.
In the English department, we are passionate about ensuring that our students become lifelong readers and we work closely with our Resource Centre colleagues to promote reading across the whole school.
The English curriculum is integrated with the related subjects of Religion, History, Geography and Commerce in our Years 7 and 8 Middle School setting.