Thursday, 10 April 2014

Author Visit - Natasha Mac a' Bháird

Missing Ellen

The other day, our class had a visit from Natasha Mac a'Bháird, the author of her wonderful new book, "Missing Ellen" in the school library as it was world book day.

Her book is about a strong friendship between two girls, Ellen and Maggie who have been bestfriends for as long as they can remember – sharing clothes, passions and secrets. When Ellen goes missing, Maggie feels completely alone. Maggie needs her bestfriend now more than ever, but where is Ellen? Looking back over the upheaval that led to Ellen’s disappearance, Maggie tries to make sense of her friend’s actions.

Natasha read a few extracts from her book to us during her visit. Although she only read a few  pages of the book, I immediately connected with the characters and found them very interesting. The plot of the story is very mysterious and makes you want to keep reading on. It is definitely a book that I would like to read and will enjoy.
During her visit, Natasha also explained to us how she started off writing this book and I was surprised to find out that "Missing Ellen" started off in a number of small hand written notebooks that she also showed us. She then explained to us how the editors changed a number of things in her book including her title which originally was called "Dear Ellen". I really enjoyed looking at all the possible covers for Missing Ellen as each one was completely different to another and it was interesting to see how a cover can attract different readers and make you want to read it or not. The class thought that some of the covers made the book seem like a horror story and I agree and I think that Natasha chose the best cover for her book.
Natasha was very inspirational and it was great to be introduced to a book that I would like reading and I really enjoyed her visit!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Fifth Year Debate: 'The Best Poem by Sylvia Plath we studied...'

Coming to the end of a studied poet always brings the inevitable review of themes, techniques and essay points. In the last year or two I've really tried to help pupils appreciate how imaginative and creative a process writing poetry really is. Completing a poet and simply trying to disseminate their work into a bunch of bullet points, whilst maybe partly necessary for exams, just seems a little vacuous, when juxtaposed with the creative brilliance they have just studied.  With that in mind, I set my fifth year class a slightly more engaging way to revise the work of Sylvia Plath:

Step1 ) My pupils sit at group tables so I created an internal debate at each table. Each pupil had to pick a poem by Plath that they felt was 'The best poem I studied by Sylvia Plath'.
Step 2) Each pupil at the table was given half a class to research their poem and create points to support their argument.
Step 3) Each pupil was given part of the second half of class to speak and argue for their poem at their table.
Step 4) The table would then have to decide which poem they were going to put forward into the full class debate.
Step 5) Each table was then given a second class to create a group collection of points in support of their poem.
Step 6) A third and final class was spent recording each speech.

The recording class had so much engagement. There was a real sense of competition and some 'heated discussions' took place 'off camera'. It was great to see pupils show both a knowledge and understanding of their own poem but also by actively listening, and arguing, to other groups they demonstrated a critical appreciation of all the poems we studied by Plath. A collection of the recordings can be found below, which investigate everything from what Caesar and Plath had in common to the quality of Cathal's (a classmate) beard!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

EUfolio and Teacher Collaboration

Yesterday I attended a conference at Microsoft HQ in Dublin that was focusing on piloting the use of ePortfolios in schools across Ireland and parts of Europe. The EUfolio Project is also being piloted in Spain, Austria, Slovenia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Bulgaria. The central Objectives and Outcomes of the project are outlined on the EUfolio site as:

Project objectives:
  • To deliver a systemic analysis of the current policy approaches and developments on the use of ePortfolios in education, including assessment and evaluation of students, learning planning, and professional development of teachers.
  • To design potentially scalable ePortfolio models for teaching, learning and assessment use.
  • To carry out transnational implementation pilots in different contexts and approaches.
  • To draw valuable real-world lessons for deepening the use of ICT (specifically the portfolio approach) in teaching, learning and assessment going forward.
  • To highlight the evidence for the efficacy of ePortfolio teaching and learning approaches, as well as to promote strategies of effective practice, sustainable implementation and consistent management.
Main project outcomes:
  1. EUfolio Review of existing ePortfolio Policies and Practices (Report)
  2. EUfolio Process Specification
  3. Open Source ePortfolio Platform
  4. Microsoft based ePortfolio Platform
  5. Teacher CPD Resources
  6. School Case Studies
  7. Examplar ePortfolios
  8. Trans-national peer-to-peer online network of pilot schools and teachers
  9. EUfolio Policymaker’s Manual
Yesterday's event had teachers travel from all over all Ireland. Teachers were given a choice at the outset of the pilot of using either Microsoft Sharepoint or Mahara to use as their ePortfolio operating system. We spent the morning ironing out technical issues within the project so far. It was great to hear ideas from other schools about how they are using their ePortfolios already. In the afternoon a member of the Junior Cycle for Teachers team was on hand to go through a sample lesson that could be completed and/or stored on a pupil's ePortfolio once complete. We were then asked to design a similar lesson or a lesson that would follow on from the one we just completed.

 This was the real highlight of the day. There was so much creativity and so many ideas working at a table with fellow experienced teachers.With so much free software now available online I hope we are just at the start of an explosion of teacher created resources and activities. Can we please have some Croke Park hours to use for content creation? If an English Department was given 3 hours to create digital resources how many Animoto videos could they make? Could they create an entire series of Padlets on Romeo and Juliet? Make an eBook on skills for Leaving Cert Paper 1? The technology is now there to do so much. The talented teachers are certainly there! I just think we may need some help at both school and Department level in giving us the time to really ignite this new resource revolution.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Mr Doyle's Class: 1V World Book Day Class Magazine

Introducing 1V’s contribution to this year’s World Book Day activities.  V.I.P. magazine is an exciting new publications written and designed (and named) by 1V.  The magazine, like the class, is bursting with colour, information, imagination, humour and above all Confidence.  Have a read through and experience the world of a V.I.P. !

Ms Carey's Class: The Great Gatsby Flipagram

Please find below a Flipagram created by Ms Carey's Senior English class. The class had just finished studying the novel and decided to piece together key characters, themes and moments using PicCollage. The Flipagram below contains all their work.