Saturday, February 28, 2015


An article worth reading by V formers, who are currently studying Antigone as part of their comparative course. In the Guardian, Natalie Haynes writes:

"If the theme of Oedipus is seeing and blindness (the great irony of the play is that only when he is blinded can Oedipus truly see who he is and what he has done), the theme of Antigone is knowledge and certainty. Everyone knows that what they do is the right thing, and yet it ends in disaster."

Read the full article, "Antigone - freedom fighter or terrorist", here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 9 (last chapter)

Watch ShowMe analysis of

The ending of the novel:

  • ‘I found myself on Gatsby’ side, and alone.’ p.141. How is this so for Nick following Gatsby’s death?
  • What do we learn about Gatsby’s background from seeing his father (pp 144-150).
  • What are Nick’s feelings as he finally leaves Jordan Baker? (pp. 152-153)
  • What are Nick’s feelings at and after his last meeting with Tom Buchanan? (pp153-4).
  • Choose three phrases/quotations from the last 25 lines of the book, and accompany each with a short explanation of its importance/significance.

Friday, February 20, 2015

'The Departure' with Gillian Anderson

The Guardian has a short film called The Departure on its website (see it below), featuring Gillian Anderson, who played Blanche Dubois in the Young Vic's 2014 production of A Streetcar Named Desire. It is set just before Blanche travels to stay with Stella in New Orleans. Here are Anderson's comments. 

We study Streetcar in Transition Year in the summer term: good material for discussion here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Submarine, February 2015

The latest edition of our Library magazine, The Submarine, has just been published, and can be read above via Issuu (click once for a closer look, click again for still closer, and use the arrows for navigation).

This time: interesting comments by the editor and Librarian, Mr McConville, about digital technology; a report by Seyilogo Braithwaite on the visit by novelist Paul Murray; news of the forthcoming Arts Week; Gabriel Chisholm on 'Snakes', book reviews by Nyla Jamieson, Dr Bannister and Mr Swift; Valentina Ascencio Munoz on the benefits of literature; Blanaid Sheeran on the Book Club set up by Mr Jameson, and more.

Junior Poetry Prize 2015

The theme for this year's Junior Poetry Prize is 'The Senses' (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste). 

Any interpretation of this theme is welcome. Poems should be twelve lines or more, and each entrant may enter as many poems as he/she wishes. Email your entries to Ms Smith, or hand them to your English teacher, by Thursday 26th March (the day before the end of term).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 8

Watch ShowMe analyses of-

a)    Gatsby falls in love with Daisy (p.128) -
b)    Nick and Gatsby’s last meeting (p.133) -
  • Explain how Gatsby ‘found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail’ (p.129) in pursuing Daisy.
  • What is the significance of the weather in this chapter? Give details.
  • What are Nick’s feelings on leaving Gatsby (refer also to his call from Jordan Baker)?
  • (p.139) What are the most significant things about the description of Gatsby’s death?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three other useful quotations from the chapter not used already.

Monday, February 09, 2015

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. February 2015: 'Secrets of the teenage brain' by Katie Forster, The Guardian, January 25th 2015 [teenagers, neurology, parenting].
  2. January 2015: 'Does competitive sport in school do more harm than good?' by Matthew Jenkin, The Guardian, January 29th 2015 [sport, school, health].
  3. January 2015: 'Where are the "Je suis Nigeria" banners?' by Patrick Cockburn, Independent, January 18th 2015 [terrorism, Nigeria, censorship].
  4. January 2015: 'Dorchester Grill: restaurant review' by Jay Rayner, Guardian, December 28th 2014 [food, luxury, taste].
  5. January 2015: 'Sugar Season. It's Everywhere, and Addictive' by James J. DiNicolantonio and Sean C. Lucan,  New York Times, December 22nd 2014 [diet, nutrition, health].
  6. November 2014: 'Caring for my mother' by Alex Andreou, The Guardian, November 28th [dementia, old age, parents]. 
  7.  October 2014: 'The kids aren't all right' by David McWilliams,, October 23th 2014 [Ireland, recession, emigration]. 
  8. October 2014: 'Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning' by Daisy Yuhas, Scientific American, October 2nd 2014 [brain, learning, neuroscience]. 
  9. September 2014: 'Students protest 'slut shaming' high school dress codes with mass walkouts' by Rory Carroll, The Guardian, September 24th September 2014 [school, uniforms, sexism, personal choice].  
  10.  September 2014: 'Can Reading Make You Smarter?' by Dan Hurley, The Guardian, January 23rd 2014 [reading, intelligence, education].
  11.  September 2014: 'Why ISIL is worse than al-Qaeda'  by Bobby Ghosh, Quartz, August 10th 2014 [current affairs, politics, terrorism].
  12.  May 2014: 'Do Our Kids Get Off Too Easily?' by Alfie Kohn, New York Times, May 3rd 2015 [education, psychology, childhood]. 
  13. May 2014: 'Missing Nigerian schoolgirls: Boko Harem claims responsibility for kidnapping' by Monica Mark, The Guardian, May 6th 2014 [Nigeria, Islam].
  14.  March 2014: 'Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert?' by Ben Carter, BBC News Magazine, March 1st 2014 [education, skill, learning, talent].
  15.  February 2014: The Disunited Kingdom by Kathleen Jamie, New York Times, February 23rd 2014 [Scotland, democracy, politics].
  16.  February 2014: A giraffe has been killed - why the fuss? by Mary Warnock, The Guardian, February 10th 2014 [ethics, animals].
  17.  January 2014: The Roma - review of I Met Lucky People by Yaron Matras, by Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian, January 29th 2014 [Roma, prejudice, society]. 
  18. January 2014: 'We're a nation of mass dog murderers' by Aaron McKenna, The, January 18th 2014 [animals, society].
  19. January 2014: 'How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World' by Alan Yu, NPR, January 2nd 2014 [language, bilingualism, brain].
  20. December 2013: 'Why European women are still smoking like chimneys' by Carmel Lobello, The Week, December 6th 2013 [health, marketing].
  21. December 2013: 'How Music Makes Us Feel Better' by Maria Konnikova, New Yorker, September 26th 2013 [music, brain].
  22. November 2013: 'How Do Spies Bug Phones?' in The Economist, October 31st 2013 [spying, internet, privacy]. 
  23. October 2013: 'A Tiny Pronoun Says a Lot About You' by Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, October 7th 2013 [language, psychology, status].
  24. October 2013: 'Best. Column. Ever.' by Shane Hegarty, Irish Times, October 4th 2013 [sport, language, journalism].
  25. October 2013: 'Westgate mall attacks: urban areas are the battleground of the 21st century' by David Kilcullen, The Guardian, September 27th 2013 [terrorism, conflict, cities].
  26. September 2013: 'Synesthesia Sells' by Laura Spinney, Slate, from the New Scientist, September 22nd 2013 [science, marketing, commerce].
  27. September 2013 : '12 things we know about how the brain works' by Shane Parrish, The Week, August 26th 2013 [science, learning, studying].
  28. September : 'Never be lost for words' by Richard Fitzpatrick, The Irish Times, September 13th 2013 [sport, language, rhetoric, motivation].

Gatsby revision Chapter 7

Watch ShowMe analysis of:-
a)    Tom’s triumph over Gatsby: 

b)    Myrtle Wilson’s death: 

c)    Tom and Daisy after Myrtle’s death:
  • What is Tom’s attitude towards Gatsby?
  • How is it (and when is it) that Daisy gives way to Tom and goes back to him?
  • What is the purpose and effect of Michaelis’s perspective (pp 117-9)?
  • Comment on Myrtle Wilson’s death in the light of our previous discussion about cars and driving.
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three other useful quotations from the chapter not used already.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 6

Watch ShowMe analyses of
a)    Tom and Daisy at Gatsby’s party: (pp 90-91).
b)    Gatsby’s despair about Daisy: (pp 95-6).

  • What portrait is given in this chapter of the young James Gatz?
  • What is the influence of Dan Cody on Gatz/Gatsby?
  • Three short quotations about Gatz’s/Gatsby’s youth.
  • Why is Gatsby ‘unutterably depressed’ near the end of the chapter (p. 85)?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three other useful quotations from the chapter not used already.

Friday, February 06, 2015

A Poem for Ireland

The Poem for Ireland microsite from RTE is nicely done, with the texts of the shortlisted poems, comments on them, background, recitals from Poetry Aloud finalists, and the ability to upload material, including performances of the poems.  And, of course, the facility to vote for your favourite poem.

Here's Patrick Kavanagh's 'A Christmas Childhood'.

A reminder to TY pupils that a poem can be part of this year's Work Portfolio (possibly a response to one of those on the shortlist).

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

'Drama at Inish'

Poster by Daisy McKeever

The 2015 Junior Play is on this weekend, on Friday and Saturday at 7pm in the Big Schoolroom. It's Lennox Robinson's old favourite, Drama at Inish (last produced here in 2001 as the Senior Play). All parents and their guests are welcome. 

Here is the programme:

"Everyone needs some entertainment while on holidays but when the de la Mare Reparatory Company comes to Inish for the summer season no one expects the response they will engender in the locals…

Lennox Robinson is a much-loved Irish playwright who was director of the Abbey theatre for many years. Drama at Inish was first performed in 1933. It has been produced in America several times under the title Is Life Worth Living?

There are three Acts in the play, with two scenes in Act II.  The action takes place in a private sitting room of the Seaview Hotel, Inish.

ACT I: A July morning.

ACT II: Scene i & scene ii – Early evening, ten days later.

ACT III: A week later, morning.

The Players
John Twohig, proprietor of the Seaview Hotel:  Nevin McCone
Annie Twohig, his wife:  Nicole Dickerson
Lizzie, his sister:  Alexandra Murray-Donaldson
Eddie Twohig, his son:  James O’Connor
Peter Hurley, the local T.D.:  Douglas Boyd Crotty
Christine Lambert: Lena Pirlet
Hector de la Mare, an actor:  Ross Magill
Constance Constantia, his wife:  Emmanuella Ejase-Tobrise
Helena:  Grace Goulding
Michael:  Max Hillery
Jean Hegarty, a report:  Aniko Szkendy
Deirdre Mooney, a Guard: Isabelle Townshend
Slattery:  Catherine Butt

Production Credits
Make-up: Helena Gromotka, Ciana Taylor, Marie-Sophie Stumm
Poster:  Daisy McKeever
Willing Helpers:  MJ McCullough, Robbie McDonald
Costumes:  Karen Hennessey, Evan Jameson & Ronan Swift

Lights, Sound, Set, Props and Direction: Evan Jameson & Ronan Swift

Gatsby revision Chapter 5

Watch ShowMe analysis of
‘Daisy and Gatsby meet again’ -

  • What is the nature of the meeting between Gatsby and Daisy in Nick’s house (before Nick leaves)? (Heinemann pp74-76).
  • What is the nature of the meeting between Gatsby and Daisy when they move to Gatsby’s house?
  • What is the significance of the green light at the end of the dock? (refer to the rest of the novel, too).
  • In what ways are dreams important in the novel?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three other useful quotations from the chapter not used already.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 4

(no ShowMe analyses from this Chapter: the next one will be from Chapter 5, ‘Daisy and Gatsby meet again’ -  )
  • What are Nick’s reactions to the stories Gatsby tells him about his past? [pp 57-59, Heinemann]
  • Three useful quotations from those pages (above).
  • Significant details about Meyer Wolfsheim.
  • What is the significance of the references to the World Series fixing of 1919?
  • What do we (and Nick) learn from Jordan Baker about the origins of Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 3

Watch ShowMe analyses of

a)    Gatsby’s parties –
b)    Nick’s first meeting with Gatsby –   

  • List examples of Gatsby’s extravagance.
  • Nick’s impressions of Jordan Baker, and then his feelings about her.
  • Three short quotations on the nature of the people who go to Gatsby’s parties.
  • The significance of cars and driving in the novel? Where in this chapter, and where else?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three more important short quotations from the chapter (not used earlier).

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gatsby revision Chapter 2

Watch ShowMe analyses of -
a)    Valley of Ashes –
b)    Myrtle Wilson’s apartment –

  • pp23-24: key words on the Valley of Ashes? Quote snippets/single words.
  • What is the significance of the Dr T.J. Eckleburg billboard (refer to rest of novel too?)
  • Three short quotations about Myrtle Wilson:
  • Nick’s feelings when he is at the drinking session in Myrtle’s apartment?
  • If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?
  • Three more important short quotations from the chapter (not used earlier).

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gatsby Revision Chapter 1

Watch ShowMe analyses of: 

a) Gatsby’s mansion: 

b) The Buchanans’ mansion 

  1. Notes on Nick Carraway’s background.  
  2. Three short quotations encapsulating important things about Nick.  
  3. Three short quotations on aspects of Daisy’s character.  
  4. Nick’s feelings about the Buchanans after this first meeting?  
  5. If you had to choose one short passage (c.20 lines) as the key one in this chapter, what would it be? Why? Key quotations?  
  6. Three more important short quotations from the chapter (not used earlier).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TY Extended Essay on Racism

The first Transition Year Extended Essay we are posting from this year's work is by Seyilogo Braithwaite (for which she received a Distinction) and is on the subject of racism in three novels - Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Seyilogo writes:
The topic for my extended essay is racism. What led me to this topic is the trivial amount of racism I have encountered while abroad. I remember reading these books and thinking to myself how far society has progressed since the times these books were set. As a young black woman in a white country, I have only experienced racism twice which upset me at the time but reading these books has made me realise that my experiences are nothing compared to those of coloured people in the past. The theme I have chosen shows how three different authors portray the common theme of racism which I found very fascinating. 

Read her full essay here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Books of the Year 2014

Here we go again: our annual round-up of Books of the Year features in the press and on some blogs.  This list will be regularly updated  in the coming weeks. Some of the lists are specifically for children or young adults, but plenty aren't. 

[updated 5.1.15].

Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

  1. The Irish Times has lots of authors' choices, on separate pages. Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, goes for one of our own choices last year, Damien Barr's Maggie and Me. Joseph O'Connor pinpoints the exciting talent of Davy Byrnes Short Story Award winner, Sara Baume. There is also a list of best children's and young adults' books, compiled by the ever-excellent Robert Dunbar.
  2. The Irish Times's Eileen Battersby is a rather erratic critic, but there is still plenty of interest in her selection of the year. She calls Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North 'one of the strongest-ever Booker winners' (though some readers will find the love and sex scenes cringe-making). 
  3. The Irish Independent has Sarah Webb's selection of best children's books, from 2-5 to Young Adult. Roddy Doyle's Brilliant makes the list.  John Spain compiles the best non-fiction list, concentrating on history, including Roy Foster's widely-acclaimed Vivid Faces. John Boland does the fiction list, mentioning how bulky many novels are nowadays, and giving pride of place to Colin Barrett's award-winning short stories Young Skins.
  4. In the Telegraph, Tim Martin briskly rushes past the usual suspects to an interesting selection of the best fiction of the year, such as Jenny Offill's Dept of Speculation and Paul Kingsnorth's challenging The Wake. He also recommends 80 Days, "a collaboration for iPad between Profile Books and the game company Inkle, which revives Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days as a steampunk choose-your-own adventure in which you play Passepartout. Is it a game? Is it a story? Both, really. And a delight." The Telegraph also has Best Photography and Art, Best Cookbooks, Best Poetry (starting with Kevin Powers's Iraq War poems), Best Biographies (including James Booth's much-reviewed book on Philip Larkin which 'restores some balance and warmth'.)
  5. School Library Journal: best Young Adult books, and also non-fictionmiddle grade and picture books (such as Byron Barton's My Bus) - an informed selection all round. 
  6. The Guardian's annual feature comes in two parts here and here: writers such as Mary Beard (Colin Jones's The Smile Revolution), Josh Cohen (Marion Coutts's harrowing The Iceberg) and Mark Lawson (the late great Seamus Heaney's New Selected Poems 1988-2013) make their choices. There are separate lists for best art books, best fiction and best photography books. The full collection is here. Nicholas Lezard often spots gems: here's his best paperback list. Publishers' hits and misses is an annual good read, as is the reader-selection.
  7. Here are Guardian Australia's picks, with a predictable picture.
  8. The annual 100 Notable Books from The New York Times offers Lorrie Moore's latest short stories, Bark, Jenny Offill (on many lists) and Marilynn Robinson's widely-noted Lila, the final book in a loose trilogy. There's also Notable Children's Books and What's the Best Book, New or Old, You've Read this Year? 
  9. Another from the NYT is an interactive of the best covers of the year - some superb design here. 
  10. The New Yorker has Nine Great Poetry Books of 2014,  and more generally their contributors' Best Books of 2014, such as Elena Ferrante's Naples novels, recommended by Sarah Larson.
  11. Maria Popova on the extraordinary Brain Pickings site has the best children's books of the year and best science books, among others.
  12. Printers' Row from the Chicago Tribune has a fine selection of Best Books of 2014, including the superb doctor/writer Atul Gawande with Being Mortal (many of his previous books have interesting ideas for education, too) and Irish writer Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (also not an easy read, this time for stylistic reasons).
  13. The Herald in Scotland has selections from reviewers and staff writers,  starting with a book set in a school, Megan Abbott's The Fever ('dripping with tension'). Iain MacWhirter chooses The Circle, by Dave Eggers (out last year but now in paperback), a thought-provoking treatment of the implications of a Facebook or Google becoming yet more powerful.
  14. The London Independent has a whole battery of lists in all genres; to pluck out one, the crime list mentions reissues of the great Patricia Highsmith, such as Those Who Walk Away.
  15. Melanie McDonough in the Spectator presents her best children's books of the year. Erich K√§stner's The Flying Classroom and The Parent Trap are here in new editions from Pushkin, translated by the great Anthea Bell. 
  16. The Financial Times has a review of the literary year by Lorien Kite, followed by choices by writers such as Martin Amis and Karl Ove Knausgaard (both of whom feature in many lists).
  17. There's a selection from the TLS feature here. Andrew Motion goes for the intruiging work of the 'forgotten' poet Rosemary Tonks.
  18. The StarTribune's critics select their favourite books, including Dept of Speculation (as per our illustration). Richard McGuire's Here sounds intriguing - great American cover, too.
  19. Bookpage has the 10 best mysteries and thrillers of 2014, such as Tom Rob Smith's The Farm.
  20. Time magazine's best photography books of the year includes lots of vivid images.
  21. Huffington Post's Best Books of 2014 has more substantial entries than most, garnered from reviews. Rebecca Mead's book about one of the greatest of all novels, Eliot's Middlemarch, is 'lovely' and 'illuminating'. The Unspeakable by Meghan Dunn (good cover) looks interesting. There is also a Young Adult list.
  22. The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2014 mentions Sarah Waters's widely-mentioned novel Paying Guests, sibilantly telling us that we will 'surrender to the smooth assuredness of Sarah Waters's silken prose.'
  23. Slate's Best Books of 2014 (including a feature on overlooked books) includes Lorrie Moore's latest short stories in Bark (at times maddening but often heart-piercing).
  24. The Daily Mail's selection is predictable enough - no harm in starting with Colm Toibin's excellent Nora Webster, though. 
  25. The Sydney Morning Herald gathers Australian writers' choices, including Michelle de Krestner going for the always excellent Dalmon Galgut's Arctic Summer, about E.M.Forster in India.
  26. History Today has an informed selection
  27. NPR in America features Maureen Corrigan's selection of 12 from 2014, including Ben Lerner's 10:04, which also pops up in some other lists.
  28. The Wall Street Journal's selection is neatly presented in graphic form, a master list of those mentioned elsewhere (Sarah Waters comes out top in fiction).
  29. Bustle has a good selection of 25 books, including the always interesting Lydia Davis's latest collection, Can't and Won't
  30. The Atlantic magazine has The Best Book I Read This Year (whenever it was published). Editor Sophie Gilbert goes for the late Kent Haruf's Plainsong
  31. There's a good list in Deutsche Welle of the 10 Must-Read German Books of 2014,  including two by Andreas Maier, who is making big waves outside Germany now.
  32. The Mother Jones staff selection has some of the usual suspects. Saga Deluxe Edition, Volume 1, by Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a bit different. 
  33. The Seattle Times goes for a top 35. The excellent Richard Ford is here, with the terribly-named Let Me Be Frank With You
  34. In the L.A. Times, David L. Ulin reviews the year in books, starting with the 'poster child' of 'incidental things', Karl Ove Knausgaard. 
  35. In The Australian, plenty of authors and critics select their best books of the year, including Bruce Beresford calling Knausgaard's A Death in the Family 'a masterpiece'.
  36. O Magazine from the Oprah Winfrey stable has an editors' selection.  The 'must-read for our generation' is Roxane Gay's essay collection Bad Feminist.
  37. From a Canadian perspective, the Globe and Mail's feature has a series of snappy recommendations. 
  38. Blogger John Self's selection from 2014 concludes with Dept of Speculation (pictured at the top) as his favourite new book.