Friday, 31 January 2014

TY Research Paper on W.B. Yeats

'Seventy-five years after the death of William Butler Yeats, his brooding form still towers among the giants of world literature. The first of only four Irish Nobel literature laureates, he was more than just a great poet, he was a man of letters, a spiritual seeker, political activist, philosopher, senator … and more and more.' (Darragh McManus - Source)

To help mark the anniversary of his passing, Ms R. Kelly's TY English class were asked to complete a research paper on the great Irish poet. Please find below just one entry from M. Ryan.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

JCSA Change: Why the Miyagi Method is Difficult

In the new JCSA English course, one very welcome addition is the fact that pupils will be given the chance to study film. One film that did not make the final cut into the course, but certainly should have, is the 1984 classic The Karate Kid. In the movie our young protagonist, Daniel Larusso, is being physically bullied. He wants to be able to defend himself and he wants to know how to do it now. He then meets a sage old local, Mr Miyagi, who tells him he can show him how. However instead of showing him how to defend himself by teaching karate, he starts to get Daniel to complete seemingly random manual chores around his house. Daniel is frustrated. He knows he has an immediate concern, defending himself, and he feels he is not getting what he was promised. Then one night this happens...and all becomes clear.

Miyagi did have a plan. He felt if he gave Daniel the skills he would need, then he would be able to pass any test.

I think teachers at the minute feel like Daniel. The anxiety caused by increased class sizes, extra working hours and wage cuts have left us looking for certainty in a rapidly changing work place. The new JCSA English course is not being rolled out into some cultural vacuum. It's being rolled out into a very particular context with existing structures and real people with real concerns. Teachers would like to know what is needed to teach this new course and they want to know now.

It's my belief that teachers at the minute feel the current in-service being provided is, like Daniel, asking us to do manual chores. Without any current guidance on final assessments or how moderation/quality assurance will be guaranteed, they don't particularly feel like another session of 'wax on/wax off'.

I attended my first in-service day on Tuesday and it compelled me to write this piece. I enjoyed it. I got ideas I could immediately bring back into the classroom and I thought it was well planned and delivered. But then I have been following developments for a while and knew the day was never going to be discussing assessment or moderation. There has certainly been positive feedback on the day but I have heard, and experienced, colleagues being at best angry at the day and at worst disengaged from the day. The main reason? They feel there is no plan. Many teachers have genuine concerns about assessment and moderation but at the minute that has been replaced by 'this is starting in September and nobody knows what is going on'. But Miyagi knows.

Junior Cycle Specification on Assessment
'Junior Cycle English will have two assessment components in the assessment for certification: a school component and a final assessment. The school work component will carry 40% of marks available and the final assessment will carry 60%.

The school work component will comprise two assessment tasks. The tasks will be spread over the second and third years of junior cycle and will relate to the student's reading, writing, and oral work during that time' (Continuous Assessment Tasks -Oral communication task & A collection of the student's text)

This looks like a plan to me. Does this look like a plan ? Does this look like a plan? Does this look like a plan? There has been some criticism that having 39 Learning Outcomes has made the new course too prescriptive, too rigid, too planned. What is it that we are looking for? I feel that in recent weeks and months the debate around Junior Cycle reform has shifted from legitimate concerns about the 'How' of change to an unnecessary muddying of the waters on the 'Plan' for change.

The reason the in-service doesn't deal with assessment, the reason the government have not published on assessment yet is because, I would suggest, they feel we don't need it. Without knowing, I would assume that it is almost certainly still being developed but even if it was ready, would starting with the exam be the best place to start? I think all parties involved wish to change the current junior cycle experience into something more engaging and relevant to modern societal needs e.g. use of digital technology. First year is an important part of the Junior Cycle course as it teaches key skills and learning outcomes, not preparation for the final 'test'. If we focus on what we clearly know and the methods suggested at in-service, many of which we already use, I don't see why First Years in September should be entering 'chaos'. Teaching is sill teaching. For teachers to continually go to the in-service day and become frustrated at the lack of information on assessment or moderation is an unnecessary exercise in mental self-flagellation.

Would we like to know karate right now? Yes. Are we going to know karate right now? No. Until all aspects of the course have been revealed I think it is redundant to argue over external or self-moderation, course content, final assessments etc. These are fundamental concepts and teacher consent to their final structure is not just preferable but mandatory for success. But we have to stop beating the 'there is no plan' drum. We may not agree with the content of the plan, the time scale of the plan or the ideological sources from which the plan grew but there is a plan. A very clear plan. I just hope that when the dust settles and the actual learning begins, we will see Miyagi did have method amongst all the madness.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Digital Comic Strip Creator- Pixton

Pixton - Accessible and engaging.
I'm experimenting with digital comic strip makers this week. In a recent #edchatie discussion comic strips were discussed as a way of improving student literacy. I've used comic strips as a way of teaching narrative techniques in short story writing and JC Media Studies in the past. It would typically involve giving the pupils a physical comic strip template, giving them a technique to aim for (e.g. suspense) and sending them on their way. Some pupils are naturally gifted in the art of drawing. Many however, like myself, are artisans of the stick man variety. Having aesthetically pleasing pictures is not the point of using Comic strips to teach suspense but it can certainly cause some pupils to disengage with the activity when they are underwhelmed by their final product. With the new JCSA course, possibly!, just around the corner I've been looking for a digital medium that First Year pupils would find accessible and engaging. One of the best sites I have found so far is Pixton. You can create a Pixton account 'For Fun', 'For School' or 'For Business'. I signed up for both a 'Fun' and 'School' account. The School account will allow you to add 50 pupils for 30 days, more than enough time to complete your project. The fun account allows you to create an unlimited amount of comic strips. The site does operate on a coins or credit basis. Every time you use a premium skin or template it costs you some credits. There seems, to date, to be enough free templates for this not to be an issue. Of course, you can always purchase more credits if your or your pupils are particularly enjoying the task. Embedding and sharing strips once they are created is easy. I'm really enjoying it to date and will update any further feedback as I am using the site over the coming months. I might even update this post with future instalments of the (practice) tale you find below!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Julius Caesar: J.C. Wordle Collection

This week I asked my Third Year pupils to create a Wordle on Julius Caesar based on what they thought were the key terms in the play. They could pick any theme, character, moment or word that they learnt during their study of the play. I asked the pupils to first write the terms they thought were important into their copies. Once that was done, they had to review the terms and assign each one a numerical value. The term they thought was most important was to have the highest value. By entering that term the most into the Wordle box, that would result in it being visually clear which term they thought was most important. Pupils continued entering terms backwards from this value resulting in the examples below.

Wordle: Julius Caesar
' I choose power as the main word in the play so far because the majority of the drama was based on power. Power caused a civil war between the people of Rome, families were turning on each other and friends were turning on friends.' —atreacy98 

Wordle: Julius Caesar Key words

'Manipulation is the key element in this play as manipulation is always the start of any event in the play. Caesar's death, civil war and Anthony's speech' —ap99

Wordle: Julius Caesar

'I thought that Rome was the most important theme in Julius Caesar as all the events in the play happen because of Rome.The conspirators act because they feel the Rome that they so dearly love is threatened.'smur14 

Wordle: Julius Caesar 3f

'I chose Rome as my main word because all key words and moments happened because of it.Ceasar was killed for the future of Rome, Brutus before he makes any decision thinks of the effects it may have on the people and the future stability of Rome'.—e.s 3f

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Great Gatsby: eduCanon Revision Activity

Last January I decided to change the colour template of the Blog. This year I decided to do the same and picked Gold/Yellow in honour of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The colour plays a significant symbolic role in the novel (see Nathan Wagman Prezi below).

I've also been experimenting with a web tool called eduCanon this week. The site allows you to take a video from YouTube, Vimeo or TeacherTube and create activities based on that video. It is free to set up a basic account and start making activities straight away. I've created a list of revision activities for LC English pupils based on John Green's Youtube Video 'Like Pale Gold'. I've created the task in such a way that pupils must actively listen to the video to answer an immediate question but also left a longer revision task to be completed in their copy. I hope teachers may find the site helpful and pupils may find the activity helpful.

(Click here to open in full screen- Recommended!)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

TY Key Skills: Preface Task

TY English teachers are developing Key skills with their classes. One such skill is critically thinking. Ms.R Kelly’s English class critically examined Wordsworth’s Preface to The Lyrical Ballads and Oscar Wilde’s Preface in his novel The Picture of Dorian Grey. This spurred students to think about what is Art? Here are two examples by Laura Hannon and Blaithnid  Corless.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Resource Sharing Site for Second Level English in Ireland

The idea for creating a resource sharing site for English teachers is not new. I've had many conversations with teachers about creating one. Many Irish teachers already contribute and use TES, a fantastic site for sharing resources and lesson plans. However many teachers, myself included, feel an Irish based service would be really beneficial to teachers in this country. With changes on the way for JC English and a Leaving Certificate course that is already highly specialized, in comparison with other countries, the advantages of an Irish based site are clear.

I've created this quick online survey below for a few reasons. The most obvious reason would be to gauge teacher sentiment on such an idea. Secondly, I'd like to get funding from the DES to create this platform. Finally, I'd like to get some teacher feedback on what the site should look like and features it may have. The initial response to the survey has been great and I've upgraded to Survey Monkey account to accept 1000 responses. I'm hoping to leave the survey up for the month of January or until 1000 responses have been reached, whichever comes first, before compiling the results. It would be great if you could pass the link on to as many Second Level English teachers as you can for completion. The survey can be:

- Completed below

- Found at this link (copy and paste to share!)

- Downloaded here for a colleague to complete on paper before you send in the result on the online survey.

Thanks in advance,


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