Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Senior Poetry Prize 2023

Entries for this year's Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry are due by May 26th, handed in to Mr Canning. Entries should contain a portfolio of between two and five poems based on or inspired by the idea of one of - formative experiences / formative people / formative places. Full details are posted on a special notice around the school.

Monday, February 20, 2023

20 'Macbeth' video/audio annotations


Here's a renewal of the ShowMe analyses of key moments in Macbeth, now moved to a new location. Each is short (2/3 minutes).

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Swiss Army Knife quotations


A simple, low-preparation revision technique in classes.

Pupils should know quotations which have multiple uses, just like the famous knife. A good way to emphasise this in class is to choose one, and spend time ‘exploding’ it, getting as much out of it as possible, and interrogating every word. This is part of the process of thinking deeply about a text. It could be done in just 15 minutes.

Give out A3 sheets of blank paper (or if it’s a last minute decision just use the board, with pupils jotting down bullet points). Put the quotation in the middle (volunteered by a pupil, or chosen by the teacher). Then in pairs (ideally, but works with individuals) ‘interrogate’ the statement in a limited amount of time: say, 10 minutes.

Then come together as a class to share ideas, and get yet more out of the statement: put these ideas on the board/screen.

Above, an example from Lady Macbeth (PDF): the murder scene, Act II scene ii. A very simple and apparently banal statement which can reveal a lot. You can have a very rich discussion about the play based on it.

Questions could be asked in advance/afterwards, such as:

  • If you had to highlight one word only, what, and why?
  • Why does the character say this?
  • Does she believe it?
  • How is she similar or different to other characters?
  • How does this echo anything that has already been said/happened?
  • Can you connect anything later in the play to this?

Monday, January 16, 2023

Articles of the Week

This is an ongoing listing of links to the Articles of the Week used with our Leaving Certificate pupils, from September 2013 onwards.

The idea came from the American teacher and writer Kelly Gallagher, and it fits very well into the Leaving course, getting pupils used to reading interesting articles and thus helping them in both the comprehension and composition sections of their Paper 1, as well as expanding their knowledge base and vocabulary and providing interesting topics for discussion.

Click here for Gallagher's current articles, and read more about the theory behind the scheme in his excellent book Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Pupils have to mark up the articles with annotations before class discussion.
  1. January 2023: 'Why winter walks at the seaside are good for you' by Nick Davies and Sean J. Gammon, The Conversation, January 13th 2023 [mental health].
  2. October 2022: 'There’s too much of everything. And it’s making us unhappy.’ by Seán Moncrieff, Irish Times, October 15th October 2022 [parenting, adolescence, consumerism].
  3. September 2022: 'A comeback for nuclear power' by The Week staff writers,  September 4th 2022 [nuclear power, economics, environment].
  4. September 2022: 'Why is our Government so happy to ignore the financial nightmare young people face?' by Gemma Haverty, Irish Times, August 30th 2022 [economics, society].
  5. April 2022: 'A year of hunger: how the Russia-Ukraine war is worsening climate-linked food shortages' by Nenad Naumovski, The Conversation (Australia), April 26th 2022 [war, economics, climate change].
  6. November 2021: 'The climate won’t wait. We need a carbon tax now
    The time for handwringing is definitively over
    ' by Tim Harford, Financial Times, October 29th 2021 [environment, climate change].
  7. September 2021: 'Leaks just exposed how toxic Facebook and Instagram are to teen girls and, well, everyone' by Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Guardian, September 18th 2021 [social media].
  8. September 2021: 'Narcissists: there's more than one type' by Nikhila Mahadevan, The Conversation, August 5th 2021 [psychology].
  9. May 2021: 'We must stop Covid shutting girls out of school forever' by Malala Yousafzai, Financial Times, April 29th 2021 [pandemic, education]
  10. May 2021: 'Sang culture: how a reluctant Russian singer became the hero of young pessimists across China' by Xiaoning Lu, The Conversation, April 30th 2021 [culture, internet, China].
  11. November 2020: 'Remembrance Day is an exercise in collective amnesia' by Samuel Earle, The Guardian, November 8th 2020 [history, politics, remembrance].
  12. October 2020: 'Is Donald Trump a bully or bold protector? That depends on whom you ask' by Arlie Hochschild, The Guardian, October 10th 2020 [politics, bullying].
  13. October 2020: 'To combat conspiracy theories teach critical thinking – and community' by Thomas Roulet, The Conversation, October 2nd 2020 [conspiracy, social media, education].
  14. September 2020: 'What can we learn about people from their social media?' by Gwendolyn Sideman, Psychology Today, September 21st 2020 [social media, psychology, behaviour].
  15. September 2020: 'Oxford scientists: these are the final steps we're taking to get our coronavirus vaccine approved' by Rebecca Ashfield and Pedro Folegatti, The Conversation, September 8th 2020 [science, vaccines]
  16. February 2020: 'Are First-Borns Really Natural Leaders?' by Clara Sabolova, The Conversation, February 7th [parenting, upbringing, nurture].
  17. January 2020: 'What moral authority does the US have to kill Suleimani?' by Breda O'Brien, The Irish Times, January 11th 2020 [morality, politics, conflict}.
  18. October 2019: 'A psychotherapist explains why some adults are reacting badly to young climate strikers' by Caroline Hickman, The Conversation, October 11th 2019 [climate change, teenagers].
  19. September 2019: 'Curiosity: we're studying the brain to help you harness it' by by Ashvanti Valji and Matthias Gruber, The Conversation, September 13th 2019 [neuroscience, learning].
  20. September 2019: 'A California high school found students' cellphones too distracting, so they're locking the devices up' by Safia Samee Ali, NBC News, August 21st 2019 [education, learning, teenagers, technology].
  21. May 2019: 'How Exercise Affects Our Memory' by Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, May 1st 2019 [exercise, physiology, neuroscience].
  22. January 2019: 'Aviation is the red meat in the greenhouse gas sandwich' by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, January 29th 2019 [environment, aviation].
  23. January 2019: 'Filling the Silence with Digital Noise' by the Nielsen Norman Group, November 18th 2018 [technology, learning].
  24. November 2018: "Window for saving Earth from ecological annihilation closing" by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, October 16th 2018 [ecology, environment].
  25. October 2018: "'Fortnite' teaches the wrong lessons" by Nicholas Tampio, The Conversation, October 12th 2018 [gaming, adolescence, technology]/
  26. October 2018: "Why true horror movies are about more than things going bump in the night" by Aislinn Clarke, The Conversation [film, horror, comedy], October 3rd 2018.
  27. October 2018:  'Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on the extra challenges women face in moments of anger' by Kieran File, The Conversation, September 11th 2018 [women, gender, sport].
  28. September 2018: 'Why you should read this article slowly' by Joe Moran, The Guardian, September 14th 2018 [reading, internet].
  29. September 2018: 'The ideal school would put children's development before league tables' by Sue Roffey, The Conversation, September 17th 2018.
  30. September 2018: 'Another Angle: For the love of God, put down the phones' by Adrian Weckler, Irish Independent, August 20th 2018 [technology, phone].
  31. May 2018: 'Neuroscience is unlocking mysteries of the teenage brain' by Lucy Foulkes, The Conversation, April 23rd 2018 [adolescence, neuroscience].
  32. March 2018: 'The Tyranny of Convenience' by Tim Yu, New York Times, February 16th 2018 [modern life, technology].
  33. February 2018: "The death of reading is threatening the soul" by Philip Yancey, Washington Post, July 21st 2017 [reading, books, internet].
  34. January 2018: 'Why more men are wearing makeup than ever before' by Glen Jankowski, The Conversation, January 15th 2018 [make-up, masculinity].
  35. January 2018: 'Why 2017 was the best year in human history' by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 6, 2018 [history, progress, health].
  36. November 2017: 'Boys must behave if women are to be safe' by Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, October 31, 2017.
  37. October 2017: 'A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans' by Michael McCarthy, The Guardian, October 21, 2017.
  38. October 2017: 'We can't stop mass murder' by Shikha Dalmia, The Week, October 6, 2017.
  39. October 2017: 'What every teacher should know about ... memory' by Bradley Busch, The Guardian, October 6, 2017 [learning, memory, teaching].
  40. October 2017: 'Think the world is in a mess: here are 4 things you can do about it' by Alexandre Christoyannapoulos. The Conversation, November 16, 2016 [activism, citizenship, economics].
  41. September 2017: 'The power of silence in the smartphone age' by Erling Kagge, The Guardian, September 23rd 2017 [technology].
  42. September 2017: '5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters' by A.J. Willingham,, September 8th 2017 [journalism, psychology, social media].
  43. September 2017: 'Can you identify the psychopaths in your life?' by Rob Hastings, iNews, August 29th 2017 [psychology].
  44. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  45. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  46. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  47. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  48. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  49. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  50. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  51. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  52. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  53. February 2016: 'Then and now: how things have changed for teenage girls since the 1950s' by Clare Furniss, The Guardian, January 29th 2016 [teenagers, gender, sexism].
  54. January 2016: 'Teenagers risk being defined for life by their social media posts' by Karlin Lilllington, Irish Times, January 14th 2016 [social media, teenagers, identity].
  55. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  56. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  57. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  58. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  59. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  60. September 2015: 'Fifth of secondary school pupils wake almost every night to use social media' by Sally Weale, The Guardian, September 15th 2015 [social media, learning, teenagers].

Monday, June 20, 2022

Vacancy for 2022-23

Our English Department is looking for:

  • a full-time teacher of English for next year (initially, with extension possible), starting Monday 29th August, covering the Junior and Senior Cycles (including Leaving Certificate).
  • a part-time teacher of English next year, as a maternity cover. The contract starts on Monday 29th August 2022 and concludes on Friday 10th February 2023, covering both Senior and Junior Cycle. The successful teacher will have 14 hours' classroom teaching a week.

The Department is a close-knit supportive one, with three experienced teachers available constantly to support the person appointed. Classes are small (for example, there are about 16 pupils in the Fifth Form set). 

The College operates a six-day timetable, with no classes on Wednesday or Saturday afternoons (or, for the successful candidate, Friday afternoons).

Applicants must be fully qualified teachers and will ideally have some experience.  They must also be native English speakers and have appropriate Garda vetting.
Applications, including a Curriculum Vitae and the names and addresses of two referees,
should be forwarded as soon as possible/or by June 25th (maternity cover) or by June 30th (full-time post) at the latest to:
The Warden, St. Columba’s College, Whitechurch, Dublin D16 CH93 or by email :

Any query in advance of application can be sent without prejudice to

 Vacancies on College website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Leaving Certificate English papers 2022

 For analyses of the Higher Level papers this year, go to the links - Paper 1 and Paper 2.

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Submarine, June 2022

Well done to Editors Elizabeth Hart and Isabella Treacy on the final edition of 'The Submarine' magazine this school year. It can be read here in flippable form.
The cover is by Alexia Fantacci, and other artwork is by Tabitha Larke, Safia Walker, Iona Chavasse, Daniel Moran, Isabel Warnock, Alison Wang and Antonia Ladanyi. On the writing front, there is an entertaining interview with Mr Duffy, Edna Johnston's 'What is Mars was made out of a Mars Bar?', Zining Wang's artist profile of Sixth Former Iona Chavasse, an interview with the author Richie Conroy, an account of the talk on race by Clinton Wokocha, and an untitled poem by Anna Rose MacManus.

Vacancy, 2022-23

The English Department is looking for a part-time teacher of English next year, as a maternity cover. The contract starts on Monday 29th August 2022 and concludes on Friday 10th February 2023, covering both Senior and Junior Cycle. The successful teacher will have 14 hours' classroom teaching a week.

The Department is a close-knit supportive one, with three experienced teachers available constantly to support the person appointed. Classes are small (for example, there are about 16 pupils in the Sixth Form set). 

The College operates a six-day timetable, with no classes on Wednesday or Saturday afternoons (or, for the successful candidate, Friday afternoons).

Applicants must be fully qualified teachers and will ideally have some experience.  They must also be native English speakers and have appropriate Garda vetting.

Applications, including a Curriculum Vitae and the names and addresses of two referees,
should be forwarded as soon as possible/or by June 25th th at the latest to:

The Warden, St. Columba’s College, Whitechurch, Dublin D16 CH93 or by email :

Any query in advance of application can be sent without prejudice to

 Vacancy on College website.

Senior Poetry Prize 2

More excellent poems from the recent Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry, this time from Yilong She.


Moss-encrusted rocks littered along the bank
Low-lying leaves of a willow weeping
just above the stream,
in shining rings rippling a still sky.
The vast dawn spread over the waters,
Where reflections like sparks, bright and vivid
Catch the expanding ripples and the misty air,
Some troubledness in the wails of the birds.
The trees afar are taller than the horizon
Shadowing the breeze to the river depth,
Where salmon dip and plump-trout
Glide under the cattail and bladderwort -

A white creature
Mingling a descending ball of light,
Erect on one golden cane.
Calling out, and louder yet,
The mist and parading shadows flee,
Between the rows of glowing, golden foliage
Between the flowing, flowering ripples
her wings beat on.
And call back, in deeper mimicking, -
Let me be stirred
By the murmuring trees or the humming birds;
Will she again sing the next spring?



A long dream, cold.
Damp cracklings of fire
In vicious tenderness
Sing, ring, and fling
Itself down. Drowning
The soft fragrance of
Hot oil in the street-
Vendors’ buns. Lights
In green, yellow and
Red blinking rigidly,
Mechanical liveliness
That sparks a humid
Splash of fresh earthly
Smell. Always wishing;
With myriad hands
It carries on looking,
Listening to the plops,
Pitters and splatters -
Searching, always.
Children passing by, a
Long row of iridescent
Flowers, hanging low.
Singing in overt unison,
A sweet, unadulterated


White flowers that bloom
folding on itself
white petals sprouting from the blue
whirling along the selkies’ song.

The shimmering and swelling of the shifting current
surging and plunging
and again surge
blowing its soul into the withering desert
I watch it rise above my ankles and retreat back
again and again
with a fresh tenderness
and I will continue to watch it, rolling on.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Transition Year English Evening 2022


The 28th Transition Year English Evening took place last night in the Big Schoolroom, compèred by Mr Jameson, after its two-year hiatus. The guest of honour was the author Richie Conroy, whose comments on the individual pieces are in italics below

Nine members of the Fourth Form read out pieces of writing: Phoebe Landseer opened up with a piece on her first home, in which we were transported by the power of words, followed by Zara Chohan (‘The Watcher’, a piece of fiction, which was gripping with lots of tension), Isabella Treacy on the joys of books (read by Raicheal Murray, a superb piece that made us feel we were in a second-hand bookshop), Daniel Murray (on censorship, an effective piece), Lara Hunter with a fictional piece which was superb, Georgia Goodbody (on her grandmother and her home, now sold, an amazing picture), Belen Olea (on the oldest person she knows, a fine piece which showed how important it is to pay attention to the older generation), Lily Boyle on learning poetry in primary school (a lovely window into the past) and finally Alannah McKee on her last day at primary school (a real journey in her piece, and a really powerful ending).

Mr Jameson presented the annual trophy to the editors of The Submarine magazine, this year Elizabeth Hart and Isabella Treacy. He then handed over to Richie Conroy, who used his experience of running the Dublin City Marathon for the first time to give the pupils important advice about writing. We all have a voice in our heads (for Richie, ‘Kermit’), which discourages us, but we need to say yes to new experiences. No experience is wasted. Reading is so important. Richie handed out writers’ notebooks to the presenters and advised them to jot down ideas, characters, good lines, dialogues. He spoke funnily, accessibly and with great encouragement to all the young writers in the audience.

Finally, the following were congratulated as winners of Premier Awards this year: Hannah Bergmann, Lily Boyle, Alison Coogan, Elizabeth Hart, Alannah McKee, Cameron McKinley, Belen Olea, Rachel Shaw, Calvin She, Isabella Treacy, Cayden Wong.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Senior Poetry Prize 2022

 Mr Canning writes:

The Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry 2022 was awarded to Transition Year pupil Isabella Treacy. It was the overall consistency and quality of her submitted body of five poems based on or inspired by the idea of either or all of  MEMORIES or JOY or ECHOES which edged out some other very strong entries. It was fantastic that so many Transition Year students entered.

Knots by Isabella Treacy

Once we were a pair,
Content to stay
Transfixed in each other's steady gaze,
You look at me now with hollow eye sockets
And smile,
Yesterday I was a word,
A word that I could never find
Left with no voice to speak it,
Now I am a happy song
Placed on your lips,
By this sound I was resurrected,
Life was not aware of me
And I wasn’t aware of life,
Now, its flames warm my heart
Please, don't ever stop singing,
You showed me that life
Wasn’t about extending your time,
But I had already crowned that same old passing
In such an idyllic swiftness,
For everything dies
And may the days
All pass me by,
As the stillness covers my ears
Until all sound disappears,
And I am left again with a word,
And no one left to speak it.   

Monday, May 30, 2022

Voices of Poetry 2022

Sunday evening saw the special event that is Voices of Poetry return to the Big Schoolroom in its long-lasting and infallible format: a pupil or teacher reading a short poem after a brief explanation in a darkened room, picked out by a single spotlight. Some of these were in languages other than English: it is amazing how powerful such readings can be, even if you don’t understand the lines. The evening was organised by Mr Swift, and the presenter was Mr Girdham.

Marianne Lee from First Form opened proceedings, with her own evocative poem ‘The Witching Hour’, followed by Mr Jameson from the English Department with a translation of a poem by the Swedish Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer, 'The Tree and the Sky'.

The other languages kicked in: poems in Italian (Alexia Fantacci), German (Toni Ladanyi), Cecilia Corti (Arabic), Irish (Dairbhre Murray) and Chinese (Harry Wang). The aural contrasts were fascinating.

Mr Girdham then read out ‘Resistance’, recently written by the British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage in solidarity with all those under fire and bombardment in Ukraine, which led on naturally to Pavlo Shvalov reading a piece in Ukrainian celebrating his country’s independence.

Another step change was to Leonid Mylvaganam, who read out his own flowing work, close to performance poetry. Three European languages came next: Dutch (Josefien Hutchinson), French (Eole Mignot) and Spanish (Mateo Aliaga). Again, it was remarkable to hear the differences even though you can drive from one country to the next.

This year’s Junior Poetry Prize was won by Delia Brady, and her poem 'The Moon' was read by Anna Rose McManus.  She was followed by the Warden, who said that from a young age at prep school he had to learn poems off by heart, and he recited G.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Donkey’.

Then, Slavic languages were represented by Polish (Dr Pyz) and Czech (Phoebe Landseer).  

The next two poems brought us close to the end, with two people who are soon to leave the College: Ms Heidi Kavanagh (Yeats’s ‘When You are Old and Grey’) and the Senior Prefect, Evie Pringle, with Stevie Smith’s 'In My Dreams'.

And finally, Mr Canning announced the winner of this year’s Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry (pictured), Isabella Treacy, and read out a poem from her winning portfolio, 'The Knots'.

To conclude, Mr Girdham recommended Pádraig Ó Tuama’s podcast Poetry Unbound: a short podcast twice a week on a single poem, with
Ó Tuama’s reflections. It does what poetry should do for readers: provide a space for attention away from the busy noise of the world. And that is just what Voices of Poetry does too.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Junior Poetry Prize 2022

Congratulations to Delia Brady, who has been awarded this year's Junior Poetry Prize for her work 'The Moon':

My Moon

I have a moon of my own.

She haunts me from a distance, dimly aglow.

She seems to reach out, but even if I stretch my fingers

I know I’ll never reach her.

So strange to know a moon by name, to see her sit next to me.

She seems the saddest for one who shines so bright.

She seems to only call me when it’s night, perhaps 

The loneliest time.

My cherished moon, I look for her always.

Her indecisive presentation keeps her alive, but

Puts me in a guessing daze.

And on the nights she does not show herself,

I wait impatiently for her return.

I never hear what she tries to say, her volume smaller than a whisper,

The distance dissolves her message throughout the pin-prick of stars.

My beloved moon, I admire her from afar.

She is certainly the most beautiful thing in my galaxy.

A million planetary rings could never outstand her creases, curves, and spots.

And when she takes centre stage to 

Eclipse what we always see

A million people gather just for her, and yet

We still can not see her.

My precious moon, I’ll never know her touch.

As incredulous and tempting as she is, I know that

If I inched any closer, I would only be grasping at air.

So, I will watch her from here.

I will reach up and stretch my fingers. I will cup my hands 

And I will imagine I am holding her; for when one is

Deeply in love with the moon, I believe that is all I  can do.

My rare and mysterious, my ever changing, my center of dreams,

I love her

Because she is My moon

And I will never stop loving her.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Senior Poetry Prize 2022


The Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Seniors is this year being launched on Poetry Day Ireland.
All entries are to be typed and emailed to Mr Canning by the evening of Friday 27th May.
Entries should contain a portfolio of  between two and five poems based on or inspired by the idea of either:-
Poems should be at least ten lines long, and typed.  The winning entry will be based on the overall standard of the entrant’s body of poems. There will also be a prize for the best poem if it is not in the winner’s selection. Other strong entries will be posted here.

The English Department will also give smaller book-tokens to strong entries that do not win the Prize.  
You can treat the ideas of  ‘Memories’ or ‘Joy’ or ‘Echoes’  in a free way: any connection is fine, as long as the poems are connected by image, inspiration, theme, form, situation, context …

The Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry was presented by the Dix family in memory of Peter, who died in the Lockerbie tragedy in 1988.  The Memorial (pictured), by sculptor Joe Sloan, is kept in the Library and inscribed with the names of past winners.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Thinking about 'Othello'

Here are 10 exercises on quotations in Othello. They are designed for pair-work 15-minute sessions in class, but work perfectly well for individuals. You need to know the play well, so these are for revision at a late stage of study. The purpose is to make your mind work hard: retrieving factual details, certainly, about the sequence of the play, individual quotations and so on, but more importantly know making you think and create connections, and have a debate with a partner.
You don’t need to write on the original sheet itself: just take a piece of paper and jot down your responses. When finished find the quotation in context from the text itself, and then fill in any gaps.