Thursday, 19 December 2013

The College Press: Christmas Edition

Looking for that last minute digital stocking filler!? Why not share this year's College Press with a colleague online? Packed full of news, reviews and features on the Christmas Season, it has everything you need. Well done, as always, to Mr Doyle and the entire College Press team, especially our editors Eveanna Sutton and Amy Farrell.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 13 December 2013

(Animoto) Comparative Videos

This week I tried out Animoto. I had been aware of it for some time and had seen it being used to great effect. However I simply never got around to using it or found a different app to suit the need I had at that time. I found that you only get to create 30 second videos before you have to pay for extra length to your video, which was an initial disappointment. But you get what you pay for in life and I think Animoto could well be worth the money. The video creation interface is really as simple as a company could make it. It's easy to add pictures, videos and even your own soundtrack to your creations. Animoto has a plethora of design templates for your video and I imagine you would be a long time using it before you felt limited by their available choices. Overall I'd recommend it for teachers as an accessible and quick way to create teacher resources or to help pupils create a video project. Here are a couple of quick resources I made this week for a Leaving Certificate class on The Truman Show.

Update: Thanks to a tip off from @MrAbe101 I found out that teachers can apply for a free educational account here. This extends the video length to three minutes and allows you to create 50 videos with your class in a six month period. I applied and was immediately accepted to the upgraded account. I created the video on Casablanca, below, as an example of how to use the extended time.

The Truman Show - Cul. Context

The Truman Show - Cul. Context (2)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Ms Kelly's Class: Poetry Presentations Series

Ms.Kelly’s second year English class have recently been working on unseen poetry. The students worked together to create engaging presentations for their peers on different poems. Students annotated the poems using the STTIFF method. (Subject matter, Theme, Tone, Imagery, Form and Feeling). Over the coming weeks we will be sharing their fantastic work. The second collection in this short series comes from a group of pupils (Caeleen, Lauren, Ellen, Kate, Aine, Aoife, Kate H) and their take on Merrill Glass' But You Didn't. We hope you enjoy!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Macbeth Revision for LC and A Level English

Every year I send my senior class away over the Christmas holidays and tell them to begin revising their Single Text for the Leaving Certificate exam. Instead of just sending them off into the great unknown, I try to give them a digital resource they can use over the long break as a guide. This year we studied Macbeth so I've created this revision Padlet and I was wondering if other teachers would like to contribute? I've placed a number of videos on the Padlet page already. The learning activities can be based entirely on the videos or just used as a cue to start a revision activity on that topic. I've used SkyDrive to attach the files but Google Docs could also be easily used. I'd like to cast as wide as net as possible so if any teachers in the UK would also like to get involved that would be great. I've created two activities already but multiple activities could easily be left for the same video/image. Thanks in advance!


(Double click anywhere on the Padlet wall to bring up the insert box. If you are using a tablet you can edit using the window below. If you are using a Mac or PC click here to see an enlarged window for easier editing)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Ms Kelly's Class: Poetry Presentations Series

Ms.Kelly’s second year English class have recently been working on unseen poetry. The students worked together to create engaging presentations for their peers on different poems. Students annotated the poems using the STTIFF method. (Subject matter, Theme, Tone, Imagery, Form and Feeling). Over the coming weeks we will be sharing their fantastic work. The first in this short series comes from a group of boys (David, Peter, Tomas  and Lorcan) and their take on Edith Pickthall's Evacuee. We hope you enjoy!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Robert Frost - A Poet of Sadness?

5th Year pupil Rebekah Scully, from Ms Carey's class, certainly had something to say about the poetry of Robert Frost. She shares her thoughts on Robert Frost as 'A 'Poet of Sadness' below.

ThingLink Series - A Doll's House

Over the coming months I will be posting a series of 'ThingLink' resources on texts that are on the Leaving and Junior Certificate English courses. ThingLink is a fantastic web based, also on iPad, program that allows the creator to attach online documents, pictures, sounds, links or videos to an image or collection of images. In the first in the series I have put together some images on Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. I used Wikimedia Commons to find the images, then Pic Collage to piece them together before finally adding the content with ThingLink. If you create a ThingLink account I will create the resources in such a way, that anybody can add to or edit them. I hope to, for example, upload my own notes/activities to SkyDrive and then attach them to the ThingLink resource. Try and guess why the images are relevant to the text in class/at home before clicking on the content!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Dulce et Decorum Est - PicCollage

Ms. R Kelly's second year English class have been looking at the graphic imagery created by Wilfred Owen, in his poem Dulce et Decorum Est. Pic Collage is a very useful app. It is free to download and can be used for a variety of subjects. Take a look at some of these creations:

The Great Gatsby- Chapter 4 Pre-Reading Descriptive Writing Task

Posted below is a descriptive writing response written by a 5th year pupil from Newbridge College. The pupils were asked to write a piece in the descriptive style of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The piece was completed before we read any of chapter 4. We have been closely following Fitzgerald's nuanced descriptions so far in novel. Pupils were given some prompts before they began but the rest was up to them.

''Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.” Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: “He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.”

  • Gatsby will soon enter a bar
  • He will meet a colleague
  • The new character is trying to impress Nick
  • There's a short time while Gatsby  is away
  • Gatsby returns to the table

Pupil's Answer:

We sidled up next to the curb to come to a gradual stop. I was momentarily exposed to the lazy mid-day heat that smothered the city as Gatsby escorted me the short distance from his car to the unremarkable, heavy set restaurant which blended seamlessly with the much higher building of which it served as a cornerstone. I escaped the background din of the incessant city as I plunged into a much cooler interior. Gatsby took a moment to call to the bartender and half the bar before leading on down two low steps towards the semi-private back. There, the murky outline of a man brooded, his dark suit blending quite well with the dark ambiance of the place. As we neared courtesy demanded that he rise, and so he reassuringly did, standing as if it were a chore to be hauling such excellence and importance up this early in day. His ambitious waistcoat strained and struggled with the paunch it tried to conceal. His shady persona was reinforced when he made to pull my hand off as he shook it, and he languidly explained that he was Mr. Britchens , an old friend and inspirational figure to, "our man", Gatsby. Gatsby himself let the comment be, and made some airy, vague excuse about seeing to getting us some drinks as he drifted away. I awkwardly took a seat as I attempted to fathom Mr. Britchens apparent ignorance in simple manners. He was staring right at me. "So what do you do?" He demanded, after an uncomfortable amount of time. "I'm in bonds". He gave a knowing, condescending smile, reminding me how many other young men were flogging the same  dead horse. At that moment his eyes flickered over my shoulder, and I turned to see Gatsby coming to my salvation, three sparkling concoctions in his hands.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Great Gatsby -Youtube Revision Videos

Last year I created a Popplet presentation on The Great Gatsby that allowed my Leaving Cert pupils to submit work to me at anytime, through Edmodo.  This year I decided to try the same task using new videos, a new web app and a new collection system. In the Stormboard below you'll find six videos accompanied by six questions. The questions differ in length and difficulty and culminate with an essay on The Great Gatsby. You may even just find the videos a good starting point for a class conversation or to help generate opinions on the novel. Maybe even create your own questions. I hope teachers and pupils might find it a helpful revision tool once they complete the novel.

Be sure to plan question 6 really well before you begin!

(I'm using OneNote with my senior English class this year to collect essay and class work. I hope to write a review later in the year on how well this worked!)

OneNote Folder System - Intuitive to use for both teachers and pupils.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

TY Orson Welles Projects

First performed Halloween 1938

Ms. R. Kelly's Transition Year classes have been working on radio broadcasts inspired by H.G.Well's. novel The War of the Worlds.  In 1938 the original performance, by Orson Welles, caused panic for a public audience. Here are some of their projects based on the Welles' performance

Saturday, 19 October 2013

ICT in English 2014 and Beyond

This is a Prezi of a talk I gave at the INOTE conference in Hotel Kilkenny on October 19th 2013. It attempted to look at the new Junior Certificate English Draft Specification and show how ICT could be used to meet the new Learning Outcomes. At the time of making the Prezi, and this blog post, there were 59 Learning Outcomes but the Prezi below should now have the final 39. Some minor adjustments were also made from the version presented on the day and what people can now see below. I hope it may be of benefit to teachers going forward.

Friday, 18 October 2013

5th Year Robert Frost Work

Over the past few weeks, 5D have been studying the poetry of Robert Frost. At the end of our study, small groups analyzed and presented their ideas on the poems that caught their attention – concentrating on themes, imagery and other features of style. Attached is a copy of one of the presentations. This ‘Prezi’ by Paddy, Sarah and Nealon looks at Frost’s famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’.
(Ms C. Kelly)


My class also started the year with the poetry of Robert Frost. As we finished we decided to collect key quotes and poetic techniques and put them into a Quizlet revision set. Each pupil had to use a poetic term they learned during the section and link it to a moment from one of Frost's poems. Enjoy!

(Mr Evesson)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Elizabeth Bishop: Sixth Year Vine Videos

Over the past few weeks a group of sixth year pupils from  Newbridge College have been studying the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. A selection of her poetry is on the Leaving Certificate English Prescribed Poetry section for 2014. As we are nearly finished studying her work, we decided to make a collection of Vine videos to represent the poems we looked at. We decided to collect a series of images, pictures, objects and at times people(!) to capture different quotes and moments in her poetry.

The Filling Station

The Fish

Questions of Travel

 In the Waiting Room

First Death in Nova Scotia

The Armadillo

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

NCCA Consultation Conference for J.C. Reform

Last week I attended a conference in Dublin Castle for J.C. English reform. The conference centred around the Draft Specification for the new Junior Certificate English syllabus. I've broken this blog post into two sections to try and make sense of all that happened!

1 ) The Day

Before entering the conference hall the day started for me by bumping into a colleague that I met at a conference last summer. This foreshadowed what was one of the major positives of the day, meeting and talking with colleagues. We swapped e-mails and ideas, see video below, and this collegial sharing of ideas happened throughout the event. Time should certainly be made for teachers to do this more.


After we entered the conference hall and were welcomed, Seamus Heaney's 'Clearances' was read aloud. It was a great selection that captured the sudden sense of lost felt by those both coeval and of the era of the great poet. The keynote address given by Finian O' Shea was a tour de force of inspiration and insight. Mr O' Shea talked about different literacy types, learning styles , rights of the reader and much more. The only sour point of his speech was that that he didn't have time to speak longer.

Picture credit: @AinedeFaoite
Delegates then broke into one of five workshops. I attended Fiona Kirwan's 'Planning for First Year English'. Fiona did a fantastic job of outlining what the Draft Specification is looking for in terms of planning. She talked in very honest terms about her journey in getting to grips with making a curriculum content plan for a first year English class that would match the needs of the Draft Specification. In short, across the three strands of Reading, Writing and Oral Language 59 learning outcomes will have to be met across the three years of junior cycle (More on that later). We were asked to discuss how the new system of specific learning outcomes might both help and hinder planning. The general positives were that the learning outcomes were varied and specific. The general negatives were that the system may be too rigid in design and that the sense of English as an Arts subject may be lost. I wondered how the new 59 learning outcomes system would fit within the overall Junior Cert. Syllabus' focus on both Statements of Learning and Literacy and Numeracy (More on that later).

On the way to lunch, having quickly stopped and introduced myself to Fred Boss, I started to ruminate on the morning's events. Fiona's presentation had clarified many questions I had with the Draft Specification but perhaps not the problems. Over lunch with colleagues the consensus seemed to be that the Draft Specification was a 'done deal'. That the purpose of the day was not for consultation of the Draft Specification but about what nature and shape the upcoming workshops should take.

In the afternoon I went to Kevin Cahill's workshop on 'Junior cycle English in the Digital Age'. On the way in I met Evelyn O Connor and in the workshop Fintan O'Mahony. An added bonus to any day. We were asked in our groups to broadly discuss what are the current possibilities for the digital world in the English classroom and what might be possible in the future? I was reticent to speak, unusually for me, to both the table and the group. I'm a technophile. No question. I tend to think of ICT use from the ground up in that I find a piece of software and think of ways it can help pupil learning. I was more interested to hear views from the table/room. There was a mix of responses from how people used an iPad in the classroom to 'what is a blog?'. To be clear, I'm not being snooty here. With the range of views and ability levels with ICT displayed at the table, in the room, this is going to be a major issue for the implementation of the new Junior Certificate syllabus (More on this later!) . This sense of uncertainty and insecurity at a major moment of technological change was perfectly captured by a video Kevin showed the room.

2) Questions, Concerns and Ideas
A) Training/ICT
In-service workshops for the new course are due to begin in October, so we'll have to wait and see what those encompass. I did think however that a consultation day would have been a good time to ask teachers what they feel is needed at these workshops. I would imagine that if the entire in-service program was constituted solely on work around how to assess the work of pupils it would not be time wasted. Equally, the same could be said for ICT, poetry, course design etc. The feeling I get is that this in-service program has already been designed. If I had to guess, which I will, I would imagine they are going to try and fit as much as possible in on the days we are there. I worry that on Day One of the new syllabus that not every teacher in the country, through no fault of their own, will feel comfortable and clear with the new course.

B) 59 Learning Outcomes
That's quite the list! One figure that really stuck with me for the day was the 59 new learning outcomes that are in the new course. I agree with the group moderators that many of these are just making explicit what is already being implicitly done in the classroom. One immediate concern I had was that this will require much closer synchronization of curriculum content plans across the first three years. I know in my school a teacher will have a class for first year but then a different teacher will have them in second and third year. I think in practice departments will have to co-ordinate which learning outcomes are to be taught and when. This is not necessarily a bad thing but just presents yet another challenge to teachers to figure out under the new system.

A point I raised on the day was how do individual courses fit within the broader Junior Certificate Syllabus. The new English course, for example, has 59 learning outcomes. How many will Geography/Science/Math etc. have? The new Junior Certificate course has 24 statements of learning. I asked, ''are these to be added on top of the 59 learning outcomes for English?'' The good news is no! I was informed that the statements of learning are embedded within the 59 Learning outcomes. ''What about Literacy & Numeracy?'' I barked like a 1920s New York journalist looking for the big scoop. I received the same reply, it's embedded in the 59 learning outcomes. I'm happy for the statements of learning to be embedded but to simply 'embed' Literacy & Numeracy would be an opportunity lost I think. In my school for the past year and half we have been trying cross departmental Literacy & Numeracy strategies. It has led us down a great path with all departments, for example, making the teaching of key words and cloze tests part of their teaching this year. Of course Literacy & Numeracy should be embedded in learning outcomes for all subjects but I think it risks getting 'left behind' again as an issue if it is not given a place of special significance in the new Junior cycle syllabus.

C) Assessment
How many will there be? How should they be corrected? Through what medium can they be delivered? There were answers but these felt like questions that were still genuinely up for consideration. Which is good. (A small point in passing here: Could the Personal Writing that is worth 6o marks be moved to the end of third year instead of Feb/March of Second Year? I quite like the idea of a pupil leaving third year with a physical/digital book that they have created. What ever the genre inside may be. It is also worth 60 marks, not the 50 of the other two) I wasn't at the workshop that was discussing the issue of assessment but it seemed a contentious issue on the day. My main concern around the area of assessment has always been how it may effect the teacher-pupil relationship. Leaving aside any conflicts of interest that may occur due to teaching a family member, child of friend, child of a colleague etc. there is, I believe, a conflict in trust between the teacher and the pupil. We're asked to act In Loco Parentis. I think, and I hope most teachers would agree, that the essential quality at the heart of a successful learning relationship is trust. Becoming both the trainer and race organiser will be tough.

D) Leaving Certificate
Maybe it's just me, but am I missing something? We seem to be saying that the following aspects should be fundamentally important to pupil learning at Junior Cycle:
  1. Continuous pupil effort to be formally rewarded by the teacher.
  2. Use of digital technology to be at the heart of teacher methodology and pupil assessment.
  3. There should not be one final 'winner takes all test'.  (Not fair, pressure, rote learning etc.)
Now welcome to Leaving Cert.! I certainly accept that there is a diversity of options available to teachers in the current Leaving Certificate syllabus that are not currently present at Junior Cycle. I'm also not naïve enough to think that change at both JC and LC level can take place simultaneously. But the gap between first year pupils starting the new English course in 2014 and their leaving cert course is 2017 does allow time for this conversation to at least begin in my opinion.

One idea that I would propose, at even this early stage, is that any financial savings made by introducing the new JC syllabus be ring-fenced for the development of any future new LC syllabus.  For example, if LC pupils also had three continuous assessments during their two years could the correction of those assessment be outsourced/state corrected? Especially if continuous assessments were to be submitted on a digital format. Travel and conference expenses could be greatly reduced/eliminated. Let's think big.

E) Kids/Pupils
What will all this change mean for them. To put my cards on the table, I'm for this change. I think pupils will be more engaged in their learning, are more likely to develop critical thinking skills and will be better suited to meet the demands of 21st century society. My two major concerns for pupils however are:
  1. Initial Change- Will we be able to say to a pupil that started school in 2014 that they received the same quality of course delivery that a pupil of 2018 received? That should be our bar for the roll out of this new course.
  2. Pupil-Teacher Relationship - We all know to be a teacher is a very privileged position. They'll have bosses in later life, that's not our job. Making a teacher responsible for the grading of 40% of a pupil's final grade fundamentally changes this dynamic in my opinion. I think at best it will introduce an element of wariness on the part of the pupil or at worst fear/confrontation.
Final Thoughts
I believe this process involves so many people that are really trying to do their best for the future of our children. As always when dealing in large numbers of people, a consensus of opinion can be difficult to achieve. Having Finian O'Shea as the keynote speaker was just fantastic. I think it really resonated with the audience because we all felt relieved that someone with such insight and experience was being placed at the heart of the process. I also liked the speech given by Brigid McManus, NCCA Chairperson, at the end of the conference. She spoke with passion and sincerity about how teaching is not just a job, it's part of us. Changing our job as a result is essentially changing part of us. To say that large bodies like the Department of Education or NCCA don't have all the answers is right. To say that they don't care is wrong. This was evidenced by the insistence of each speaker at the end of the conference that there was still opportunity to leave feedback.

As like many teachers I am also a parent. My daughter is due to start secondary school in September 2015. I like the shape of the new Junior Cycle course. I'm not sure what job awaits her in 2023/24 but I'm almost certain being able to regurgitate an essay on Hamlet won't form part of it. She'll need to be creative and think critically. She'll need to have strong Literacy and Numeracy skills. She'll have grown up in a digital world and she'll need to be ready for the brave new technologies of the future. I think the new Junior Cycle course has a better chance of doing these things than the old. There will be difficulties in implementing this new course but that doesn't mean we shouldn't. My one final wish is that, whatever shape the new course takes in the future, she'll have the room in English class to enjoy Hamlet because it's Hamlet. That it'll help her understand more about herself , not just prepare her for the work place.

Third Year Stop Motion

In my third year class this week we've been looking at some aspects of fictional writing. The key concepts that we have been particularly looking at were:
  1. Conflict
  2. Denouement
  3. Freeze Frame

To finish the section we decided to make a short stop motion video. We used Lego Movie Maker for iPad to make the video. The controls were really simple to use and it has a feature to directly upload to YouTube. I think we'll definitely be using it again for other projects during the year.  Here it is!

Q. Explain any two terms that are clearly seen in the video.
  1. Conflict
  2. Denouement
  3. Freeze Frame
Molly answered:
Conflict is seen in the stop motion when the two drivers step out of their cars after the crash happens. The two cars collide and both drivers emerge from their cars to confront each other. The driver who was the 'victim' in this case becomes infuriated and reacts to the whole situation by punching the driver who caused the accident. This was probably the worst thing the driver could have done because instead of having the police solve the issue, and have the driver at fault given the correct punishment, the innocent driver is now punished because of how she reacted to the whole situation. She ends up in jail even though this whole incident wasn't her fault.

Denouement is seen in the stop motion when the two drivers receive their punishments. The outcomes of this event are not what I would have originally thought.The driver who caused the accident seems to have been left off easily compared to the innocent driver, who ends up in jail because she punched the other woman. We don't exactly see what happens to the driver at fault but I'm assuming it's not half as bad as what the initially impeccant driver received.

Home creations!