Monday, February 08, 2016

Junior Poetry Prize 2016

The theme of this year's Junior Poetry Prize (appropriately, coming up to Valentine's Day) is Love.

Any interpretation of this theme is welcome (love for people, place, things...).

Poems should be fourteen lines or more, and entrants may send as many poems as they wish. You should either hand your poems to your English teacher or type and e-mail them to
Mrs Donnelly on or before the last day of term, Thursday 16th March.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Shakespeare Solos

The Guardian has just launched a useful resource: Shakespeare Solos, in which top actors perform key speeches from the plays. Below, Adrian Lester with the most famous speech of all. Here is Michael Billington on the first six clips.

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 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].
  2. 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].
  3. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  4. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, psychologytoday.com [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  5. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  6. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, Lifehack.org [reading, entertainment, education].
  7. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  8. 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].
  9. September 2015: 'How Mum's dementia changed our relationship' by Jenny Downham, The Guardian, September 5th 2015 [dementia, family, parenting].
  10. September 2015: Why your memory sucks: the science of remembering in the internet age', by Lindsay Kolowich, blog.hubspot.com, August 19th 2015 [memory, neurology, internet].
  11. September 2015: 'Syrian boy deserves better than moment of voyeurism' by Breda O'Brien, The Irish Times, September 5th 2015 [regugees, media, slavery].
  12. May 2015: 'Our Mockingbirds' by Fintan O'Mahony, levdavidovic.wordpress.com, May 16th 2015 [marriage, equality, teaching].
  13. February 2015: 'Secrets of the teenage brain' by Katie Forster, The Guardian, January 25th 2015 [teenagers, neurology, parenting].
  14. January 2015: 'Does competitive sport in school do more harm than good?' by Matthew Jenkin, The Guardian, January 29th 2015 [sport, school, health].
  15. January 2015: 'Where are the "Je suis Nigeria" banners?' by Patrick Cockburn, Independent, January 18th 2015 [terrorism, Nigeria, censorship].
  16. January 2015: 'Dorchester Grill: restaurant review' by Jay Rayner, Guardian, December 28th 2014 [food, luxury, taste].
  17. 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].
  18. November 2014: 'Caring for my mother' by Alex Andreou, The Guardian, November 28th [dementia, old age, parents]. 
  19.  October 2014: 'The kids aren't all right' by David McWilliams, www.davidmcwilliams.ie, October 23th 2014 [Ireland, recession, emigration]. 
  20. October 2014: 'Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning' by Daisy Yuhas, Scientific American, October 2nd 2014 [brain, learning, neuroscience]. 
  21. 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].  
  22.  September 2014: 'Can Reading Make You Smarter?' by Dan Hurley, The Guardian, January 23rd 2014 [reading, intelligence, education].
  23.  September 2014: 'Why ISIL is worse than al-Qaeda'  by Bobby Ghosh, Quartz, August 10th 2014 [current affairs, politics, terrorism].
  24.  May 2014: 'Do Our Kids Get Off Too Easily?' by Alfie Kohn, New York Times, May 3rd 2015 [education, psychology, childhood]. 
  25. May 2014: 'Missing Nigerian schoolgirls: Boko Harem claims responsibility for kidnapping' by Monica Mark, The Guardian, May 6th 2014 [Nigeria, Islam].
  26.  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].
  27.  February 2014: The Disunited Kingdom by Kathleen Jamie, New York Times, February 23rd 2014 [Scotland, democracy, politics].
  28.  February 2014: A giraffe has been killed - why the fuss? by Mary Warnock, The Guardian, February 10th 2014 [ethics, animals].
  29.  January 2014: The Roma - review of I Met Lucky People by Yaron Matras, by Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian, January 29th 2014 [Roma, prejudice, society]. 
  30. January 2014: 'We're a nation of mass dog murderers' by Aaron McKenna, The Journal.ie, January 18th 2014 [animals, society].
  31. January 2014: 'How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World' by Alan Yu, NPR, January 2nd 2014 [language, bilingualism, brain].
  32. December 2013: 'Why European women are still smoking like chimneys' by Carmel Lobello, The Week, December 6th 2013 [health, marketing].
  33. December 2013: 'How Music Makes Us Feel Better' by Maria Konnikova, New Yorker, September 26th 2013 [music, brain].
  34. November 2013: 'How Do Spies Bug Phones?' in The Economist, October 31st 2013 [spying, internet, privacy]. 
  35. October 2013: 'A Tiny Pronoun Says a Lot About You' by Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, October 7th 2013 [language, psychology, status].
  36. October 2013: 'Best. Column. Ever.' by Shane Hegarty, Irish Times, October 4th 2013 [sport, language, journalism].
  37. 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].
  38. September 2013: 'Synesthesia Sells' by Laura Spinney, Slate, from the New Scientist, September 22nd 2013 [science, marketing, commerce].
  39. September 2013 : '12 things we know about how the brain works' by Shane Parrish, The Week, August 26th 2013 [science, learning, studying].
  40. September : 'Never be lost for words' by Richard Fitzpatrick, The Irish Times, September 13th 2013 [sport, language, rhetoric, motivation].

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Senior English Prize 2015-16

Congratulations to Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe on winning this year's Senior English Prize with an outstanding essay. The prize itself will be presented at the St Columba's Day prize-giving in June.

Also, congratulations to the following, who receive a Distinction and a book token each for their fine entries: Melissa Halpenny, Callum Pery-Knox-Gore, Courtney McKee.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Essay Success

Many congratulations to Nyla Jamieson of Transition Year on being one of the winners of the UCC School of Law essay competition for 2015-16, with her essay on water charges. On Thursday, Nyla will attend the prize presentation and lecture evening at UCC. Well done to Nyla for her initiative in taking part; her essay will be an impressive part of her school Work Portfolio, too. More on this in due course.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Books of the Year lists 2015

And now, our annual round-up of Books of the Year features in the press and on some blogs, for your reading delectation.

This list will be regularly updated in the lead-up to Christmas, and build up steadily.


Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

  1.  The Irish Times has The Year in Books - what have the writers been reading in 2015?  Colm Tóibín’s excellent On Elizabeth Bishop (a poet we often study for the Leaving Certificate) is mentioned by Eavan Boland and Neil Hegarty. Joseph O'Connor includes in his selection Louise O'Neill's Asking for It (see below, passim) and Donal Ryan's new books of short stories, A Slanting of the Sun (we will be studying The Spinning Heart with Fifth Form in January).
  2. Eileen Battersby in the IT has 30 Highlights in Fiction for the year, with a lot of translated novels, including June by the excellent Gerbrand Bakker and one of our own books of the year, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler. In her non-fiction selection there is A Stranger in my Country by the interesting Hans Fallada.
  3. Also in the Irish Times, that long-serving expert Robert Dunbar recommends '30 great books for children and teenagers'. He mentions the latest from John Boyne, The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, as 'chilling and intense.
  4. In the Irish Independent, John Boland recommends fiction, starting with strong books from Irish authors, including the amazing Edna O'Brien, who at 85 has written The Little Red Chairs. 'The great and the good' choose their best books of the year as well, with Keelin Shanley at the top of the list for one of our own choices, the slim but resonant A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler.
  5. The go-to list of children's books of the year is the annual round-up by Susan Thomsen in Chicken Spaghetti.
  6.  The New York Times's 'Notable' books of the year are here for children and adults, including in the latter the latest from the spectacularly talented Irish writer Kevin Barry, Beatlebone, winner recently of the Goldsmiths' Prize.
  7.  The New York Times Sunday Book review chooses its Ten Best Books of 2015, including the much-noticed selection of short stories by Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women.
  8. The NYT also asks 'What's the best book, new or old, you read this year?' Zoe Heller goes for the terrific Mafia story Excellent Cadavers by Alexander Stille.
  9.  The Guardian's authors books of the year is in two parts: in the first, Julian Barnes is "still puzzling over why Colm Tóibín’s fine novel Nora Webster failed to win a major literary prize in 2015" and in the second Mariella Frostrup recommends Barnes's own collection of essay about art, Keeping an Eye Open. Tóibín recommends one of our own favourites, James Shapiro's 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear.
  10. The Guardian's Best Books of the Year lists are in many categories, gathered together on this page: Music, Politics, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Crime and Thrillers, Fiction, Food, Paperbacks. Nicholas Lezard, who compiled the last of these, always has interesting choices, and this year he notes the promising-sounding Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames, a (reprint) modern update of Wodehouse, which is 'either extremely funny or extremely sad'.
  11. The Guardian's publisher feature is always worth reading: books 'they loved, missed or envied', with Paul Baggaley of Picador wishing he had published Irish writer Sara Baume's much-praised Spill Simmer Falter Wither (best title of the year)? from Tramp Press.
  12. The Daily Telegraph's Best Young Adult Books by Martin Chilton seems to feature a lot of 3/5 star books but rightly gives five stars to a recent visitor to SCC, Louise O'Neill, whose Asking For It is "a brave and important book about rape culture, sexism and victim-blaming in modern society", and which has "an ending that is as pititful as it is honest."
  13. The School Library Journal 'Best of' page is always one of the best guides to children's literature. It is divided by age, with sections also for Apps, Latino books, audiobooks, graphic novels and more.  Best Adult Books for Teens is a useful list, including Joyce Carol Oates's The Sacrifice, which shares some concerns with Louise O'Neill's Asking For It.
  14. The Washington Post's lists include mystery, graphic novels, poetry, romance,audio and science/fiction fantasy. In their top 10 picks are the much-noted novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. There is also notable non-fiction (Henry Marsh's fascinating Do No Harm was the first pick of our recent staff book club meeting) and notable fiction, including Kazuo Ishiguro's A Buried Giant, which has puzzled some.
  15. The Herald in Scotland has lots of lists for younger readers, such as best picture books, and adult reading choices by 50 leading Scottish literary figures. The poet Liz Lochhead goes for Don Paterson's 40 Sonnets, which 'blow the whole form apart'. This overlaps with another list from Scotland's 'most influential people'. 
  16. In the Observer's Best Novels of 2015 Alex Preston says that Marlon James's Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings is 'the best winning novel since Alan Hollinghurst's A Line of Beauty in 2004'. In Best Biographies Robert McCrum identifies Charles Moore's superb Margaret Thatcher biography, now in its second volume, excellently-titled Everything She Wants, which McCrum is 'even more impressive than its predecessor' and 'spellbinding'.
  17. The Times Literary Supplement has a selection online of choices by critics and writers: Clive James goes for Niall MacMonagle's Windharp: Poems of Ireland since 1916 (just arrived in our Library), calling it 'a landmark book'.
  18. Largehearted Boy has a huge annual aggregation of lists here.
  19. The Boston Globe's Best Books of 2015 are in six categories. In fiction, a favourite: Keny Haruf's last short novel, Our Souls at Night. Irish novelist Paul Murray appears with his banking comedy The Mark and the Void.
  20. The Seattle Times critics' best books of 2015 features 16 works in both fiction and non-fiction, including Don Winslow's 'brutal, bloody and horrifying' The Cartel, which appears in several other lists. American readers are just catching up on Helen Macdonald's award-winning H is for Hawk, too.
  21. The Sunday Times in South Africa has a selection by their own reviewers, with more recommendations for the Macdonald.
  22. The Australian Huffington Post's Best 18 Fiction Books of 2015 has an interesting selection, with few predictable choices. Joy Williams's short story collection, The Visiting Privilege, sounds promising.
  23. Huffington Post has 10 Best Young Adult Books; 'best debut novel' is First & Then by Emma Mills, with 'Jane Austen references' in a football town. And also 20 Notable Non-Fiction Books You Might Have Missed, such as Yo, Miss, a (literally) graphic telling of a teacher's time at a 'New York City second chance school'.
  24. Regular reviewers from The Spectator look at both the best and most over-rated books of 2015, including Ian Thomson on Neurotribes, 'a superb amalgam of social history and contemporary reportage', which is just right. The great Jan Morris goes for another of the also-great Joseph Roth's writings, The Hotel Years.
  25. Time magazine has various lists, counting down its fiction list with an author not much-mentioned elsewhere, Louis de Bernieres, with The Dust That Falls from Dreams. Kamel Daoud's The Meursalt Investigation, a response to Camus, is getting a lot of positive notice. And in non-fiction, Stacy Schiff's The Witches sounds really good. Top Young Adult and Children's Books (a dubious lumping together) includes Jennifer Niven's popular novel All the Bright Places.
  26. Quill and Quire from Canada have 2015: Kids' Books of the Yearsuch as Alan Stratton's 'intricate and truly creepy' psychological thriller The Dogs. Their Books of the Year feature includes The Social Life of Ink by Ted  Bishop, a history of ballpoint pens. Yes, please. There are 13 more 'notable books' on another list.
  27. The World Travel Guide's best books of the year extend beyond travel, but Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare, winner of the Stanford Travel Book of the Year Award, looks promising.
  28. The San Francisco Chronicle has Writers' Favorite Books. Anthony Doerr, writer of the much-acclaimed All The Light We Cannot See, recommends Jim Shepherd's The Book of Aron, calling it 'distressing, moving, absorbing' and more besides. 
  29. Atlantic Magazine has The Best Book I Read in 2015. Lauren Cassani Davis goes back to an earlier book by the late Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars, and makes you want to start re-reading this distinguished author.
  30. The New Statesman has best children's books, selected by Amanda Craig. Emerald Fennell's Monsters sounds fun. 
  31. Vanity Fair goes for Best Books for Gifting ... and Hoarding (in other words, for others or for yourself). Patti Smith's much-noticed M Train gets there in the category 'best books to give someone you've never met' (interesting, buy why?).
  32. Printers' Row in the Chicago Tribune selects ten from what it calls 'a great year for books'.
  33. The Vancouver Sun book reviewers' choice is yet another to include Elena Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child, the fourth in her Neapolitan series, which might well be the most-mentioned book of the year.
  34. The Wall Street Journal has top fiction and non-fiction of the yearneatly presented by cover, and also Who Read What, such as Gillian Anderson (Helen Garner's gripping House of Grief, which is indeed like the podcast Serial).
  35. The London Independent, as usual, has many lists, such as Literary Fiction of the Year (such as the much-mentioned and apparently puzzling The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, a real 'Marmite-book', it seems), Poetry Books of the Year, Sci-Fi Books of the Year and Paperbacks of the Year.
  36. The Daily Beast has Best Fiction of 2015: the first one, Finale by Thomas Mallon, a novel of the Reagan years, looks good value.  Also, Best Photograph Books.
  37. Books and Culture has a selection from John Wilson, including Stacy Schiff's book on the Salem witch trials.
  38. The New Yorker's annual feature, Books We Loved, is always a contender for Pseud's Corner, and there are a few giggles this year again - but also, of course, plenty which is of genuine interest. Alexis Okeowo goes back to Barbara Demmick's powerful account of North Korea, Nothing to Envy.
  39. The English and Media Centre has a good list of 40ish Great Reads, for pupils and for teachers, including The Fisherman, Chigozie Obiama's well-received novel.
  40. The indefatigible Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has Best Science Books (including her favourite, the late Oliver Sacks), Best Children's Books (with fabulous illustrations - see JooHee Yoon's stunning-looking Beastly Verse) and Best Art Books.
  41. The Sydney Morning Herald has Children's Books of the Year and A Year of Reading Wonderfully: what writers recommend for the holidays, with plenty of interesting choices: Alexis Wright has delved deep into the excellent nature writer Robert Macfarlane.
  42. Scott Pack always has interesting choices: his 2015 Top Five has at Number 1 Our Souls at Night by the late great Kent Haruf: "It is a masterpiece of restraint. A novel with space and absence within its very prose. It is also a most beautiful love story. A short novel that is as close to perfect as you are likely to get."
  43. The Millions has a great series of 'The Year in Reading' by lots of writers. Nick Ripatrazone is an English teacher, and recommends New American Stories.
  44. For nature and general science books, no better place to go than Nature magazine, with its Top 20: a year of reading immersively (the best way).
  45. Paste magazine has 30 Best Fiction Books of 2015, such as The Rocks, a novel set in Mallorca by Peter Nicholas, and also 30 Best Young Adult Books.
  46. Electric Literature's Best Non-Fiction Books of 2015 include the much-noticed Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, his 'reflections on social and systemic racism' and they also have Best Short Story Collections, including The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams, which 'might have been the best book of the year'.
  47. The Economist's list's prime focus is non-fiction, such as the excellent Mary Beard's new history of Rome, SPQR.
  48. GQ magazine's choice includes Maggie Nelson's much-mentioned The Argonauts, and a photo essay by Doug DuBois of adolescents in 's southern Irish town, My Last Day at Seventeen.
  49. Schools Week's Books of the Year include one of our own, John Tomsett's This Much I Know About Love Over Fear.
  50. Hypable's selection, made by staff, includes Jon Ronson's scary So You've Been Publicly Shamed, 'a must-read for the majority of us who are now, whether we like it or not, citizens of the internet'.
  51. The Houston Chronicle has 15 Notable Books of 2015, such as the year's big noise, Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.
  52. The excellent Poetry Foundation has a staff choice, with lots of interesting ideas.
  53. John Self's Asylum blog has 'Twelve from the Shelves', such as Claire-Louise Bennett's Pond, and Gavin Corbett's Green Glowing Skulls: 'in a year of strange books, this is the most cracked of the lot'.
  54. David Hebblethwaite at David's Book World shares John Self's enthusiasm for Han Kang's The Vegetarian, 'an extraordinary experience'. Per Olov Enquist's The Wandering Pine sounds interesting, too.
  55. The Chicago Reader has All the Books We Liked in 2015, with The Breakbeat Poets the only choice in the Poetry category.