Wednesday, October 01, 2014

SCC Book Club

Mr Jameson is starting off the College Book Club again. All interested should go to the Library at 1.30pm on Tuesday 7th October. The plan is to choose a book at that meeting and get it read for a second meeting in December, after the exams. The format will be: meet in the library at lunchtime and talk about the chosen book over coffee and treats.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

The cast for this year's Senior Play, Oscar Wilde's great comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, has just been announced.  The directors are Mr Swift and Mr Clarke, and the performances will be on November 13th, 14th and 15th in the Big Schoolroom. We'll have more news here in due course.

Jack - Harvey McCone
Algernon - John Clarke
Lane - Nikolaus Eggers
Merriman - Óisín Large
Lady Bracknell - Darcy Maule
Gwendolen - Melissa Halpenny
Cecily - Phoebe Coulter
Miss. Prism - Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe
Dr. Chasuble - Sam Clarke

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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. September 2013 : '12 things we know about how the brain works' by Shane Parrish, The Week, August 26th 2013 [science, learning, studying].
  2. September : 'Never be lost for words' by Richard Fitzpatrick, The Irish Times, September 13th 2013 [sport, language, rhetoric, motivation].
  3. September: 'Synesthesia Sells' by Laura Spinney, Slate, from the New Scientist, September 22nd 2013 [science, marketing, commerce]. 
  4. October: 'Westgate mall attacks: urban areas are the battleground of the 21st century' by David Kilcullen, The Guardian, September 27th 2013 [terrorism, conflict, cities]. 
  5. October: 'Best. Column. Ever.' by Shane Hegarty, Irish Times, October 4th 2013 [sport, language, journalism]. 
  6. October: 'A Tiny Pronoun Says a Lot About You' by Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, October 7th 2013 [language, psychology, status].
  7. November: 'How Do Spies Bug Phones?' in The Economist, October 31st 2013 [spying, internet, privacy]. 
  8. December: 'How Music Makes Us Feel Better' by Maria Konnikova, New Yorker, September 26th 2013 [music, brain]. 
  9. December: 'Why European women are still smoking like chimneys' by Carmel Lobello, The Week, December 6th 2013 [health, marketing]. 
  10. January 2014: 'How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World' by Alan Yu, NPR, January 2nd 2014 [language, bilingualism, brain]. 
  11. January : 'We're a nation of mass dog murderers' by Aaron McKenna, The, January 18th 2014 [animals, society].
  12. January: The Roma - review of I Met Lucky People by Yaron Matras, by Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian, January 29th 2014 [Roma, prejudice, society]. 
  13. February: A giraffe has been killed - why the fuss? by Mary Warnock, The Guardian, February 10th 2014 [ethics, animals].
  14. February: The Disunited Kingdom by Kathleen Jamie, New York Times, February 23rd 2014 [Scotland, democracy, politics]. 
  15. March: 'Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert?' by Ben Carter, BBC News Magazine, March 1st 2014 [education, skill, learning, talent]. 
  16. May: 'Missing Nigerian schoolgirls: Boko Harem claims responsibility for kidnapping' by Monica Mark, The Guardian, May 6th 2014 [Nigeria, Islam].
  17. May: 'Do Our Kids Get Off Too Easily?' by Alfie Kohn, New York Times, May 3rd 2015 [education, psychology, childhood]. 
  18. September 2014: 'Why ISIL is worse than al-Qaeda'  by Bobby Ghosh, Quartz, August 10th 2014 [current affairs, politics, terrorism].
  19. September 2014: 'Can Reading Make You Smarter?' by Dan Hurley, The Guardian, January 23rd 2014 [reading, intelligence, education].
  20. 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].

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Actiontrack Video

Twenty years of Columbans have hugely enjoyed their experiences with Nick Brace and the Actiontrack crew. Here's their new promotional video, with several clips from their time recently at the College.

Actiontrack Performance Company from Actiontrack on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Alliteration and its Purpose

The next in the re-run series of brief talks on the Patterns of Poetry series of brief talks is on the technique of alliteration, and uses 'The Windhover' by Gerard Manley Hopkins to illustrate how powerfully it can be used.  Here's an article on Simon Armitage's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

What do you first see when you look at a poem?

Four years ago we started a series of very short talks on the 'Patterns of Poetry' (they went on t0 be runner-up in the 2010 Edublog Awards in the category 'Best Educational Use of Audio'. Since these talks are buried deep in the site, and they continue to be relevant to our pupils for both prescribed and unseen poems, here's another run at them over the next couple of weeks.

This is the original introduction:-

And this is the first talk that actually looks at poems, considering the importance of titles in poetry, and uses Elizabeth Bishop's 'The Fish' and Robert Frost's 'Out, Out' in 4 minutes:-

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader: infographic

See the original infographic at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Letters of Note

A great resource for English teachers, and a great well of interesting writing for pupils, is Shaun Usher's beautiful book Letters of Note: correspondence deserving of a wider audience, along with his website (also on Twitter as @lettersofnote). 

There are 125 letters from famous people such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (to his daughter Scottie, 'Things to Worry About'), Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Dororhy Parker. These are superbly presented as facsimiles, accompanied by transcripts, alongside portraits of the authors and other illustrations. There are rich opportunities here for classes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Poetry Aloud 2014

It's that time of the year again: volunteers are needed to enter the national Poetry Aloud competition, in which we've had a fair amount of success over the years. Full details are here, and also from English teachers.

The regional heats are from 13th to 24th October, and the category poems are 'Heirloom' by Gerard Smyth, 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death' by W.B. Yeats, and the late Seamus Heaney's wonderful 'St Kevin and the Blackbird' (see and listen to him reading it above). Then you add a poem from one of the prescribed anthologies - The Rattle Bag, Lifelines and Something Beginning with P.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Transition Year course 2014-15

The TY English course is now under way, and pupils are starting to select texts for their major Extended Essays, to be completed by mid-November.

Click here for the year's course, and here for advice and ideas on the Extended Essay. You should also go online to sites such as Amazon and Good Reads and of course visit the Library and browse...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ninth Season

The 2014 Michaelmas Term starts today, and also our ninth year a-blogging. We're not flagging: there are lots of interesting things ahead, including lots of resources for pupils, and plenty of pupils' work. We'll be kicking off mostly with material related to the Transition Year.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Language of Money

A good one here for senior pupils: John Lanchester on the language of money, with lots to discuss in class, including metaphor and the impact of figurative language on real lives.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

English 2016

The school year starts this time next week, and we've been preparing. An innovation this year is publishing our own Leaving Certificate book (the cover is above, with photos by Anna Herrero on the front, and Peter Watts on the back). This includes lots of advice, resources and materials for our incoming Fifth Form. A major part is an excellent version of Antigone by Sophocles, one of the comparative texts. A big shout-out here to Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, who generously makes his translation available free of charge to teachers and their students. Read more about this generosity on his site Johnstonia here.

This is the fourth time we've used the superb service of self-publishers; read about them in a previous post here and on the CESI site here. There's a gentle enough learning curve for your first publication, but then it becomes very easy to produce your own attractive books at a very reasonable cost (and save on lots of photocopying too).

All pupils involved will also receive the book in e-form, via their Google Drive.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Book recommendations 6: This Boy

This Boy: a memoir of a childhood is by the British Labour Party politician (former Home Secretary, among other things) Alan Johnson. The first thought on reading it is that his life experience is light years away from the cohort of younger privileged politicians currently at the head of British public life, who have known little other than that life. Johnson's childhood in pre-developed Notting Hill was very different, being both materially deprived and emotionally tragic. However, this cleanly-written memoir has no self-pity and does not over-egg the deep sadness at its core, the awful life of his mother Lily. And it has a real life heroine, his extraordinary sister Linda, who tried to save her mother and did save her brother in all sorts of ways. She grew up very early indeed, and her brother followed: towards the end he writes "At eighteen years of age I was about to move house for the seventh time. I'd left school, had four jobs, been in two bands and had fallen for the woman I was about to marry, in  the process becoming a father as well as a husband."

This is a great read for anyone, but a real eye-opener for teenagers today, being both a fascinating social history and a story to make everyone think about their - we hope - fortunate lives.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leaving Certificate results, 2014

Congratulations to our candidates on their results in the Leaving Certificate, which came out yesterday. The College's overall average points total was 441, maintaining the high standards of recent years, with the five-year average 452.  More details are here on the College website.

In English, 83% of our candidates sat the English exam at Higher Level (compared to 67% nationally).

  • 9% of all our candidates achieved an A at Higher Level (nationally, 6.2% of all candidates achieved this).
  • 36% achieved a B (nationally, 17.7% of all candidates).
  • 32% achieved a C (nationally, 27.1% of all candidates).

See previous results by clicking on the years for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendations 5: Darkness, Darkness

One of the very best crime series has just come to an end: John Harvey's Nottingham detective Charlie Resnick first appeared in Lonely Hearts in 1989. The 25 years since have seen a succession of excellently-written novels (there was a 10-year gap after Last Rites in 1989), culminating in the end of Resnick's career in Darkness, Darkness, the 12th in the series. This revisits the Miners' Strike of the 1980s and has all the virtues of the series, being beautifully paced, elegantly written and, in the final pages perfectly pitched, and not at all as dark, despite the title, as the end of Mankell's Kurt Wallender (though we miss the slavering sandwich descriptions of the earlier books).

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Summer Reading Recommendations 4: Love, Nina

This one has an odd and perhaps unpromising premise: subtitled 'Despatches from Family Life', Nina Stibbe's first book is a collection of her letters to her sister about her experiences as a nanny to a literary London family in the 1980s is enormously funny, with the highlights a series of dry and bizarre conversations. In the words one of the recurring figures, Alan Bennett, "It's funny. I'm not sure what it's about. A bunch of literary types doing laundry and making salad - or something." Love, Nina is a great holiday read (a great read full stop - it would cheer you up in the depths of winter too).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Shakespeare podcasts

A recommended resource and some interesting holiday listening: Oxford University has a series of podcasts from 2010-2012 called 'Approaching Shakespeare', with lectures by Emma Smith focussing on individual plays and an ePub version of the relevant text. 

Here is the iTunes link.