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subject overview

As teachers of English at Harrow High, we want our learners to be critical thinkers and readers who are equipped with the knowledge and skills with which to make their own choices and decisions throughout their lives and who are compassionate, conscientious and creative. We want out learners to be effective communicators and we believe that mastery of the written and spoken word is fundamental to ensuring our learners have every opportunity to succeed in life.

unit overview - romeo and juliet

Edexcel English Literature GCSE – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


AO1 - Learners will be able to identify the theme and distinguish between themes; support a point of view by referring to evidence in the text; recognise the possibility of and evaluate different responses to a text, make an informed personal response that derives from analysis and evaluation of a whole text.

AO2 – Learners will be able to analyse and evaluate how language (including figurative language), structure, form and presentation contribute to quality and impact; use linguistic and literary terminology for such evaluation

AO3 - Learners will be able to use their understanding of writer’s social, historical and cultural contexts to inform evaluation of the text. This includes the author's own life and situation, including the place and time of writing, only where these relate to the text, the historical setting, time and location of the text, social and cultural contexts, the literary context, the way in which texts are received and engaged with by different audiences, at different times


Learners will need to know:

· Concept of a play and terminology associated with this (audience, prologue, monologue, stage directions, dialogue, aside, soliloquy etc.)

· Plot of full-length play and its key characters (and their development)

· Conventions of a Shakespearean tragedy (e.g. a tragic hero with a fatal flaw)

· Human concepts and experiences (unrequited love, internal conflict, honour, revenge, betrayal etc.)

Section A

· Concept of an extract

· Concept of a character

· Concept of language, structure and form and the differences between them

· Concept of an embedded quotation from a play

· Range of appropriate vocabulary to explore each character

· A range of subject terminology to identify language and structure (noun, verb, adverb, adjective, imagery, metaphor, simile, personification, oxymoron, juxtaposition, rhyme, meter etc.)

· Concept of language of interpretation and why it is used

· Concept of tentative language and why it is used

· Concept of a detailed analysis

· Effect on the audience

Section B

· Plot of full-length play

· Concept of a theme

· Key themes explored in the play (romantic love, family and relationships, conflict, fate)

· Concept of an embedded quotation and why it is used

· Concept of language of interpretation and why it is used

· Concept of tentative language and why it is used

· Concept of a line of argument

· Writers’ purpose

· Effect on audience

· Context of Shakespeare’s life and influences, differences between Elizabethan society and Veronese society (e.g. religion), societal attitudes towards gender, conflict, family, relationships and belief in fate at the time, audience perceptions of the play both now and then


In Spring Term of Year 10, learners will draw and build on knowledge of studying Shakespeare in both Year 7 and 9 to study one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. This component of the GCSE course is arguably the most challenging but the learners arrive well prepared for an exploration of a whole play having studied the WW1 play ‘Journey’s End’ in the previous term.

In this unit, learners will embark on a thorough exploration of some of English Literature’s most well-known characters and complex themes such as conflict and love. The learners are encouraged to use this knowledge, alongside relevant contextual knowledge, to produce an evaluative and assured personal response to the play. The process of curating a developed critical response will prove a necessary and important skill for further academic study of subjects such as history, English and politics. This unit also provides the opportunity for close analysis of an extract from the play. Learners will examine Shakespeare’s clever use of language and structure and are encouraged to explore the multiple effects and interpretations of this. This process not only supports the study of GCSE Language but also cultivates independent and creative thought, highlighting to the learners the various and seemingly endless ways language can be used to convey different meanings.

‘Romeo and Juliet’, aside from remaining one of the most influential texts in the English literary Canon, provides an opportunity to explore a range of complex human experiences and emotions that remain relatable and relevant in our society today. Conflicts between family and friends, boundaries set by gender and religion and the turmoil caused by unrequited love remain compelling and important in our modern society, particularly for young people. The play itself has also been adapted numerous times, offering the learners multiple platforms to engage with the plot, characters and themes. Furthermore, the Globe Theatre regularly puts of performances of this play for school groups, providing an opportunity for the learners to experience the text in its true form. There is also a wealth of resources to support the study of this play, thus encouraging learners to engage and expand their knowledge independently.

unit overview - journey's end

Subject: English Literature GCSE (Edexcel) Post 1914 Text:  ‘Journey’s End’ by R.C. Sherriff


Learners will be able to:

AO1: Read, understand and respond to texts. Learners should be able to: maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response and use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations

AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written

AO4: Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation


Learners will know:

  • The historical, social and cultural contexts of World War One including trench warfare, propaganda, perceptions of the British army and class in Britain in the early 20th century
  • The literary context and audience receptions of a post 1914 World War One text
  • Features of the play as a literary form: e.g. stage directions, staging, dialogue, act, scene, line
  • The plot of a full-length play and its key characters, setting, events and themes
  • Literary concepts of foreshadowing, dramatic irony, tension, comic relief, characterisation and symbolism
  • Human concepts of morality, courage, resilience, loyalty, camaraderie, honour, sacrifice, cowardice, fear
  • Concept of literary criticism


Year 10 learners study the play ‘Journey’s End’ as part of Edexcel Literature’s Component 1: Post-914 Literature.  Learners will be able to draw on their knowledge of World War One from their study of War Horse in Year 8 and the interim unit on World War One Poetry in Year 9. ‘Journey’s End’ is the first GCSE text learners will study and studying it in the Autumn Term allows time for key skills such as developing and sustaining an interpretation of a text/character/theme to be practising and mastered.

Although ‘Journey’s End’ is a lesser studied text at GCSE, the themes of camaraderie, heroism and fear are universal and ones which learners engage with and enjoy reading and writing about. There is little action in the play itself, but the characters are complex, flawed and yet each are heroic in their own ways. The text lends itself to discussions around how human beings cope in extraordinarily challenging circumstances and learners build on their KS3 knowledge of characterisation to explore Sherriff’s methods of creating such complex, multi-faceted characters.

Being able to integrate contextual knowledge to develop and sustain an interpretation is a key skill (AO3) at GCSE and in further academic study. Through this play, learners are able to consolidate and build on their previous contextual knowledge of World War One, encountering new contextual factors such as the British class system and perceptions of the British army. Learners are also taught to understand the way in which literary purpose and audience receptions change over time and are introduced to literary criticism for the first time.

The play explores questions around the morality of war allowing teachers and learners to draw comparisons with conflicts going in the world today.  Journey’s End is taught alongside the war poems of the GCSE Poetry Conflict Anthology, allowing for further links to be made

The play has recently been adapted as a feature film and there are frequent large and small scale productions, offering the learners further opportunities to engage with multiple interpretations of the original text.

knowledge Organiser

A knowledge organiser is an important document that lists the important facts that learners should know by the end of a unit of work. It is important that learners can recall these facts easily, so that when they are answering challenging questions in their assessments and GCSE and A-Level exams, they are not wasting precious time in exams focusing on remembering simple facts, but making complex arguments, and calculations.

We encourage all pupils to use them by doing the following:

  • Quiz themselves at home, using the read, write, cover, check method.
  • Practise spelling key vocabulary
  • Further researching people, events and processes most relevant to the unit.