Wednesday, October 19, 2016

TY Extended Essay recommendations 1

It's at this time of the year that we post short recommendations by TY pupils of books they are reading for their Extended Essays, and this is the first such post this autumn:

Caspar Schuelenberg recommends All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque:

"I cannot 'recommend' this book, because it is not a mere book. It is a Portrait. A Portrait of the most terryfing and most complex War ever fought.  It is neither a genuinely nice portrait, nor is it very artistic. It is just painfully true. The everyday life of German soldiers in the trenches, where the constant present of death and anxiety turns them into dull and forlorn entities, is authentically and downright mercilessly depicted by Remarque, who transformed his gruesome memories and experiences of the war into written words, in this haunting and highly recommendable Portrayal.

Ross Magill recommends a very different book, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:
"I'd recommend this novel simply because it is a good mystery/thriller. The author's style of writing and sense of pace are good. The characters are well written and some are relatable.  The location is familiar (to me at least); it's set in a town north of London where the main character takes a train to London each day.  In terms of story the book is good. It leaves you wanting to read more and to know what happens next. It has a surprising twist which is always good in a mystery novel."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Transition Year House Speeches 2016

Pol Casas Abella from Fourth Form reviews the annual TY House Speech competition:

On Sunday 2nd October, all the college had the privilege of hearing 10 magnificent speeches from the Transition Year  forth formers. The judges were Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Watts, and Henry Carroll, who was awarded third place in last year's event. Above all, I want to say that (before commenting on their respective performances) every single participant deserves respect. We all know that what they did was not an easy task. However, this pressure didnt seem to the participants; almost every one of them had great enunciation, adopted an effective variety of tone of voice and looked very confident on stage.

Caspar Schulenberg opened up the night's entertainment with his speech based on satire. He gave his opinion on what he enjoyed about this topic, highlighted some examples to make us understand what he said, and emphasised the things that he would change to make satire even better. I thought that the speech was worthy of being placed  as one of the top three, due to both the confidence that he showed and the content that he offered. A lot of people would like to have his public speaking gifts.

Then it was Isabelle Townshend's moment to shine. Her speech was very interesting due to the fact that 9/11 is a subject that Im passionate about. Moreover, she talked about it in a singular manner, defending a conspiracy theory that most people are sceptical about. I think that she was very bold in choosing to speak about her controversial topic, but at the same time she had a lot of facts supporting it.

After Isabelle came Ross Magill. I must mention the great tone of voice that Ross had. He looked very confident and comfortable while speaking. At the same time, he managed to be very funny (if not hilarious) and made the audience have a great time. I absolutely agreed with the second place that was awarded to this performance.

Catherine Butt was next. This student is in my English set and therefore I already knew my thoughts on her speech before she started talking. Anyway, I loved the way that she described and referred to her mother. It was the perfect mixture between tenderness and realism.

When Catherine finished, Harry Oke-Osanyintolu started speaking. From my point of view, he was the highlight of the night. Why? Because his speech had all the requirements needed for winning success: passion, well-memorised, an engaging subject and even acting while delivering the speech. This performance definitely had all these points. Honestly, I was surprised when I found out that he hadnt won. (This is of course without taking merit from the actual winner).

Joel Taylor kept all the audience involved in the event thanks to his polemical speech based on anti-feminism. As he said, its better to defend what we think and the truth, rather than being politically correct. That is why I admired his performance, although he shouldnt have used any notes, and nor did he need them.

Now its time to talk about the winner: Anna Laurenceau. Some people, like me or even herself, were surprised at the choice. However, later on I had the chance to think about it and I could understand it. Talking about soccer with the passion that she did being a female, is an unusual occurrence. Even though she forgot some tiny parts of what she had to say during the performance, she was able to recover from these mistakes and this culminated in a great speech.

Ted Johnson decided to pick Space and the human achievements made thereas his topic. I know (almost for sure) that if he had memorised his speech properly, now we would be talking about one of the most remarkable speeches of the event. Unluckily, this was not the case and, although  significant and interesting research had been done his problems on stage delivering it from memory faltered too often and this made the speech sound less prepared worse than it actually was.

Then the next participant started his speech off with one word. Cancer. This is how Greg Kryukov kicked off his performance, and how he got all our attention; by saying the name of what he was going to talk about. It sounded simple, but I thought that it was a really smart move from him. In addition, he talked about all the must-mention facts surrounding the disease.

To finish off the event, Josephine Krieger spoke about the other side of JoelTaylors topic. Feminism. She defended her reasons very well, and made us all understand some of the wider issues of sexism nowadays.

In conclusion Iona won the overall prize. Anna Laurenceau won as an individual with Ross Magill and Harry Oke-Osanyintolu in joint second place. I and everyone agreed that all the speakers made an incredible effort that resulted in, as Mr. McCarthy said, one of the best House Speeches in a long time.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  2. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  3. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  4. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  5. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  6. 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].
  7. 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].
  8. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  9. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  10. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  11. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  12. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  13. 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, October 03, 2016

Patrick Kavanagh Award

Yesterday Tania Stokes from Third Form was presented with her third prize in the Junior section of the annual national Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Her poem, Metaphorest, is below. Pictured, Tania and the other winners with the poet and adjudicator Noel Monaghan.

Many congratulations!

'Metaphorest' by Tania Stokes

The springtime garden was in bloom,
Pansies and cosmos, tulips and roses,
Ivy clambering up the trellis.
Purples, pinks and whites and yellows
Surrounded me, as I sat on the deck.
The sunlight filtered through the eucalyptus
And I used to go to far-off places;
I could sometimes hear the sea.

One day, you floated here on the breeze,
Planting yourself into my life.
The garden was never quite the same
Once you began to spread,
Your brambles tangling, choking the competition.
Shadows fell over the house,
As you rose up to dominate it all,
Holding me in your thorny grasp.

You had taken over completely.

The wind changed, come Autumn
When you blossomed into something richer.
You finally brought forth your sweetness,
As ripe blackberries sprung up everywhere.
Each one was a memory full of flavour,
And as we shared them, I knew
That you had taken root in my heart.

'Irish Times' article

Greetings to visitors who have arrived here prompted by Peter McGuire's Irish Times guide on online study aids. As the article says, for ten years this site has gathered resources for studying English at different levels, including our own revision podcasts, video analyses, pupil essays, book recommendations and more, such as articles of interest. We've also published our own books.

TY House Speeches 2016

Last night the annual TY House Speeches took place in the BSR. We'll have a pupil report here in the coming days.

Congratulations to the winner, Anna Laurenceau, who spoke about corruption in football, followed by (equal second) contrasting speeches by Ross Magill (his travels in Japan) and Harry Oke-Osanyintolu (depression).

Pictured, the speakers after the event.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

'O that this too too solid flesh'

Pupils should check out the soliloquy pages on Firefly, where you can check out many versions of the four main speeches. Here is one of four on the first soliloquy from Hamlet (by Jonathan Slinger of the RSC):

Thursday, September 15, 2016

SCC Book Club Choice

The choice this term (all pupils are welcome) is Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It will be discussed on Tuesday 25th October in the Library at 1.20pm. See Mrs Donnelly for further details, and to discuss getting a copy.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award

Many congratulations to Tania Stokes, now in Third Form, who has been awarded third place in the Junior category of the Patrick Kavanagh Centre Student Poetry competition, 2016. Tania is the current (repeat) holder of our own Junior Poetry Prize.

The awards will be presented on Sunday 2nd October, during the annual Patrick Kavanagh Weekend at Inniskeen in County Monaghan, with the ceremony presided over by adjudicator Noel Monaghan.

Friday, September 02, 2016

10 Years Old

This site started ten years ago, with a post during the summer holidays. But really it got going properly at the start of the autumn term in 2006. At the time it was one of the very few blogs in Irish education.

In ten years there have been almost 2000 posts, and the site has generated a huge number of connections and opportunities, hosted lots of resources, gained a few awards and plenty of recognition, and been the showcase for the excellence of pupil work at our school.

This term we become the first school in the Republic of Ireland to use the Firefly Learning system, and our connections with pupils from now on will be through that (a 'walled garden' open only to the College community). Many of the resources developed here will be embedded into our Firefly pages, too. But this site will still be the outward face of our Department, and indeed resources and writing developed within Firefly will still make their way here.

And we're always on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

English 2018

For the third year in a row we are publishing our own Leaving Certificate textbook incorporating one of the comparative texts. This is the latest in a series of books published by the Department using the terrific self-publishing service from A hat-tip again to the very generous Ian Johnston for his pellucid translation of Antigone. Ian is Research Associate at Vancouver Island University in Canada.

English 2018, which will be given to Fifth Form pupils at the start of term, includes plenty of other material, including advice about the Leaving Certificate exam (of course) and wider reading. For the first time this year we will be distributing it easily in electronic form using the new Firefly Learning system.

Thanks to Iryna Byshenko, winner of last year's Photography Prize, for the images on both front and back cover (above).

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Simon Lewis is known to some of us through educational and technology circles. But another side is his work as a poet (he won the emerging poetry Hennessy Literary Award last year). Now Doire Press has published his collection Jewtown, and it's well-worth buying. His fine first book of poems takes an interesting angle on a mostly-forgotten episode in Irish history - not Irish immigrants in the USA or England, but the arrival in Cork in the late 19th century of Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia.

In 'Shalom Park' near the end of the collection we see the cyclical nature of immigration. In 'Zedekiah' an immigrant with English loses his purpose as the fruitseller Mazel starts not to need his words any more. In 'Cobbler' the narrator is proud of his expertise in creating a better boot than any 'lousy American'.

Here Simon writes in the Irish Times about his book: "In the five years I have spent creating Jewtown, I’d like to think I have thrown a little bit of light back to a city... I also hope that I’ve managed to convey how any immigrant might feel when they arrive in a new country."

Our Souls at Night

One of the sadnesses of last year was the death at the age of 71 of the American novelist Kent Haruf, author of the Benediction trilogy. As he was dying he wrote Our Souls at Night, a final short novel which is a beautifully-created story of the surprising relationship between two older people, Addie Moore and Louis Waters. Within the relatively few pages Haruf packs the sense of the amplitude of entire lives. It is told in his characteristically understated manner, and its ending is sad, beautifully modulated and deeply moving. Highly recommended.

Here is an interview with his widow Cathy (you can also read the first perfect chapter).

(Apparently Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are playing the parts in a forthcoming Netflix film version: that should take the understatement out of the story).

Leaving Certificate results 2016

Congratulations to our candidates on their results in the Leaving Certificate, which set a new College record of 473 points per person. More details can be read on the College site here.

In English, 88% of our candidates sat the English exam at Higher Level. National %s to follow.

  • 4% of all our candidates achieved an A at Higher Level
  • 9% achieved a B
  • 27% achieved a C (nationally, 27.2% of all candidates).
See previous results by clicking on the years for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Writing on Brexit

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Submarine, June 2016

This year's final edition of the Library magazine, 'The Submarine', is now out and you can read it online above (click on the arrows for a closer look, and again to navigate).

As usual, there is a terrific mix of writing and artwork. These are seen to good effect in the pages with poems written for the Junior Poetry Prize by Imogen Casey, Megan Bulbulia and Tania Stokes (the winner), as well as (in Russian) Elena Sirazetdinova. The main feature is another piece by architect John Somerville-Large, this time most significantly focussing on the creation of the Library itself, which opened in 1994. Review follow by Blanaid Sheeran (The L-Shaped Room), Nyla Jamieson (The Eye of Minds), Catherine Butt (Room, recently discussed at the SCC Book Club) and Nicole Dickerson (All the Light We Cannot See, which she also mentioned in her TY English Evening reading).

Friday, June 17, 2016

Digitisation of the College magazines

An exciting and unique project in the College's history is reaching its final stage, and on Thursday 16th June this was marked by an event  attended by members of the College community (including staff, Fellows, Old Columbans and parents) as well as first-time visitors.

Over the last three years, Patrick Hugh Lynch of the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, assisted by the Sub-Warden, Julian Girdham, has been digitising both the school magazines and the Old Columban Society publications. An extraordinary resource is being created for future generations and historians, and the end of the school year was a good time to take stock.

Following a reception in Whitehall, the Sub-Warden gave a presentation on the origins and progress of the project. About 7000 pages and 4.5 million words have been saved for posterity. In some cases there was a single perishable copy of magazines, and now there is a treasure-trove of material saved permanently. He picked out some editions of particular historical interest, including the very first edition in September 1879 (produced on a Prestograph), the innocent last edition before the Great War, and the first edition following the Easter 1916 Rising (called 'this deplorable insurrection' in the editorial).

He said that the project was still not complete; some checking needs to be done, but when this is complete the archive will be available electronically on disc form and in due course online, and will be a fitting way to mark the 175th anniversary of the College in 2018. A sample CD of about 40 editions was given to those who attended.

The former editor of The Columban, and current editor of the OCS Bulletin, Ninian Falkiner (former Head of History) then spoke about his own experience of working on both magazines, and ended by saying that the true 'hero' of the evening was Patrick Lynch, in the work he has done for the College community.

In his own words, Patrick Lynch spoke powerfully about the 'fun' he has had on the project. The Warden as he retires has left 'its vast cultural history in a position where it can be interrogated by future scholars'. Read Patrick's full address here.

Finally, the Warden paid tribute to the extraordinary work Patrick Lynch has done in this 'utterly captivating' fashion. He looked forward to being able to peruse the archive at leisure in his retirement, and ended by presenting a gift to mark the occasion.

See a set of photographs of the reception and talks here. Many thanks to the Chaplain for taking this.

A report from the Diocesan website can be read here.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

'The Columban', April 2014

This Thursday sees the launch of our project of digitising historical copies of the school magazine, 'The Columban'. Here is another one, this time from before the Great War, in April 1914.

Reading this, one cannot help but think of Philip Larkin's great poem 'MCMXIV': 'Never such innocence again'. As the world is about to hurtle into the horrors of Flanders, notes in the school magazine include: 'Why should not Inter-Dormitory Tennis teams be formed?' and 'Two excellent sets of picture postcards, showing views of St Columba's College, have been produced, and may be obtained from the Matron, price sixpence a set.'