Speak English Week 2017

20th February 17

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Speak English Week at Abbey College Cambridge is an annual event designed to encourage and remind our students to speak English as much as possible. We do this through a series of fun and engaging events and activities. This year Speak English Week was held on our new college campus for the first time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

The first activity of the week kicked off on Monday afternoon in our Main Hall with a magic and Illusions show led by award winning magician, Jack Blackbourn. Jack showcased some mind-blowing tricks, with members of staff and students often on stage as unwitting magicians assistants! After the show, students had the opportunity to participate in a workshop and learn some of the tricks they’d witnessed being performed on stage.

On Tuesday morning, professional voice coach Ian Sanders ran a presentation skills workshop. The workshop focussed on presenting skills and pronunciation, and also gave students some useful warm up drills to use when speaking to an audience.

In the afternoon, the Head of English, Patrick Williams, hosted our annual ‘Speak English Week Spelling Bee’. Students were organised into competing house teams and completed a series of increasingly difficult spelling challenges until Minerva House were declared the winners.

The week was now in full swing and on Wednesday morning we held the eagerly anticipated Speak English Week assembly. This year’s special guest was hip-hop artist K-I-N-E-T-I-K, who explained how he uses the English language and structures his raps. He performed during both assemblies and wowed the crowds with improvisational raps based on everyday items such as calculators, water bottles and rulers. During the assemblies, our college Principal Dr Julian Davies hosted the “teachers versus students” competition; our version of the famous British TV quiz show ‘University Challenge’. It was no surprise when the students came out on top and secured the trophy for another year!

After the assemblies, K-I-N-E-T-I-K ran a rap workshop for students, sharing top-tips and giving our students an insight into working in the music industry. The workshop gave students a chance to learn how a hip hop song is constructed and also create a small rap of their own to perform at the end and receive feedback from K-I-N-E-T-I-K himself. The students thoroughly enjoyed it and helped them to approach English in a completely different context.

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On Wednesday afternoon we welcomed another special guest. Alison Bruce is a Cambridge based crime author who spoke to our students about how she became an author and discussed the inspiration behind her novels, which are all based in and around Cambridge. After the talk, students had the opportunity to showcase their poetry writing skills to a judging panel consisting of teachers and Alison herself. This year’s poems were all based around the theme of ‘inspiration’. We are lucky to have some truly outstanding student poets here at Abbey Cambridge and these activities provide an important role in encouraging students to explore their creative side and improve their English speaking and presentation skills.

On Thursday we welcomed History storyteller Dave Tong, AKA ‘The Yarnsmith of Norwich’, who specialises in telling vivid and humorous old English folk tales.

In the afternoon the entertainment continued with college music co-ordinator John Morgan leading our students and staff in our Speak English Week Singalong event. A number of staff and student bands and soloists performed at the event. Each song had an inspirational theme and provided a great chance for everyone to get together and have fun.

On Friday we welcomed back one of our most popular Speak English Week events, ‘Grill a Teacher’. Students pose a whole range of challenging, and occasionally strange questions to test the wits of a specially selected panel of teachers and staff. This year’s champion, as voted by our students, was Head of Business Studies, Andrew Humphris.

Saturday afternoon and evening saw our boarding team hosting a fun karaoke and board games night. On Sunday afternoon our school matron Dawn Kent, served ‘High Tea’ in Purbeck House common room. Students were taught about traditional British manners, etiquette and pronunciation whilst sampling a cream tea and a host of sweet and savoury treats. The final event of the week saw students heading into the city for a ‘Cambridge College and Ghost Tour’ where they learned about Cambridge’s supernatural past and present from Victorian murderess Miss Mary Reeder.

Once again the week proved to be a huge success with both our students and staff. Head of Lower Sixth Liam Woods, who helped organise the activities, praised their efforts saying ‘Speak English Week highlights what a diverse community we have here at Abbey Cambridge. It was amazing to see our students enjoying and participating in a whole range of activities from learning magic to having a traditional high tea, all while using their common knowledge of the English language to enable them to collaborate effectively. A great week was had by all!’