Thursday, June 21, 2007

End of the Year

And so we come to the end of our first blogging year. Term ends tomorrow, and there will be occasional posts over the next couple of months, but regular posting resumes in September.

This is the 191st post, and over the past academic year we have featured work by 25% of the pupils in the school, and many staff, including
We're delighted to have become a Scoilnet Star Site, to have been interviewed for Teaching English, and to feature in Teachnet. We have various interesting ideas to develop further our site from September, and will be working on these over the summer.

Meanwhile, it's off to the - at least metaphorical - beach. Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Descriptive Tour

II formers recently wrote pieces on places within the school grounds, a portfolio that adds up to a kind of descriptive tour of the campus. Here, we post six examples of vividly recreated places.

Olivia Plunket writes about 'My Escape', a tree :-

I pick up my book and pen, open the door, and begin the journey to my favourite place. I walk along the stony path and then onto the grass, and past an oak tree. Then I see it, the sycamore tree, surrounded by grass, with leaves that come in thousands. It has vines that cling on to it as if it is all that they have. The branches seem to never stop growing and new ones are forever appearing.

This tree has seen many things in its life. It has many memories and if it could speak it could tell many stories, for I'm not the only person who lies beneath it. I've never climbed it for I do not want to disturb the nature that lives in it. When I reach it the smell of freshly cut grass surrounds me with the warmth of summer. I listen to my music when I'm there, but I can still hear the soft singing of the birds in the background.

Continued ...

And also,

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Millar Report - final edition

The Actiontrack Show on Saturday night was called "It's in the Bag" and featured a strange story about a critical tea shortage in a very odd kingdom. The final report from Joey Millar (who at one stage played an ER doctor dealing with the side-effects of the crisis):- The big day arrived, and after a somewhat stumbled-through dress rehearsal, the audience began slowly entering the BSR. Nerves were high, as lines were hurriedly looked over, and dance moves remembered. However the minute the first notes of the awe-inspiring "I Like Tea 'Cause I'm British" were sung, the nerves promptly sunk away, leaving raw excitement. The performance itself was a bit of a blur for the performers. It was a mixture of remembering one's lines, dancing the right dance, and noticing the 200+ teenagers watching your every move. While some lines were forgotten, and dance moves mixed up (guilty as charged here...), I think the majority of the team were just pleased to get it over and done with, and as the applause died away, ecstatic at the realisation that we were on our Summer Holidays. Thanks to the ActionTrack team, and Dr Stone and Mr Girdham.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Review of 'The Crucible'

Two weeks ago our V form went to the current Abbey Theatre production of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Here are Tarka Russell's impressions, describing in particular what struck her after previously studying the play in depth in class as the single text in next year's Leaving Certificate exam.

She writes :
In studying the text we had already gained a great knowledge of the background and main themes but to have actually seen the play as a production changed my view towards the play completely. There was a lot more emphasis on the main themes; religion, hysteria, power and also sexual motive. We were given an insight into a theocracy and saw a working example of the Puritan way of life.

Read the complete review here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Millar Report 3

Tonight is the Actiontrack Showbuild performance in the BSR. 21 Transition Year pupils have been working non-stop day and evening preparing their show. Joey Millar reports on yesterday's work:

With just one day to go before the actual play, the BSR was a beehive of activity today. People were hurriedly learning their lines, putting the finishing touches to the series of props, or helping with the staging. The evening featured the first public performances of many of the singers, and was a nervy time for all. Despite the nerves, each singer lived up to his or her expectations. As we went through our old dances, and began our new ones, it became clear that this would not be just a play, but also a showpiece of song and dance. While the nerves are building, so is our anticipation. See you tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Millar Report 2

Joey Millar continues his account of the Actiontrack week (performance tomorrow night) :-

ActionTrack Day 2

Today, we had the challenging job of mixing the many, many stories we had created yesterday, into one giant, play-friendly tale. We spent a large period of time brainstorming. Stories and ideas were thought up, mixed around, and often completely inverted. The future plan could go either way, we still aren't sure in which direction our play is headed. At the stage, we are in as much confusion as you are!

Another aspect of today's work was the creation of seven wonder-hit songs. We completed, and improved the songs we had started yesterday, and, come evening, we had lyrics, and indeed dance moves to many of our songs.

See you soon.

Day 3

The very look of our play made considerable progress, as we decided upon the set design, and costumes today. Today was also the day that we finally completed the storyline and decided on who would play which part. While I won't go into specifics (it would ruin the surprise!), I will reluctantly leak this - you will never see the common cup of tea in the same way...

After three days' constant acting, you will have to forgive me if I sign off here. I have to get my much-needed beauty sleep, and now that I think of it, a cup of tea wouldn't be bad either...


Out Stealing Horses

Yesterday the Norwegian novelist Per Petterson's book Out Stealing Horses won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, worth €100,000 (it also won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2006), and it is highly recommended here, too. It is already selling well in paperback, is a deserved winner and should be highly popular.

It tells the story of Trond, in his late 60s, thinking back to his childhood from his new home in the isolated Norwegian countryside, starting :-

Early November. It's nine o'clock. The titmice are banging against the window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the snow until they can take off again. I don't know what they want that I have. I look out the window at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake.

What follows is an atmospheric, evocative and moving novel about memory, pain, childhood, parenthood and loneliness. It is perfectly translated by Anne Born, who shares the prize. 'Scandinavian' fiction has recently been successful elsewhere in Europe, and, although this is set in a different country, this book may remind some readers of Henning Mankell's fine crime fiction.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jennifer Johnston interview

Recently V former Sophie Haslett interviewed the novelist Jennifer Johnston about her life and work. In particular, she questioned her on one of the novels on the comparative module of the Leaving Certificate course, How Many Miles to Babylon? Our recently-finished LC candidates studied the book this year, and it is also being studied by next year's candidates. Sophie's interview is wide-ranging, and also covers other work such as Shadows on our Skin, Johnston's background, and her general approach to starting a novel.

Among the questions and answers :-

SH : "Is there a theme or a strand running through all of your novels?"

JJ : "Ireland is the main theme, and Irish women and their plight if you like to call it. The mess that all make of our lives too, because I don’t know anybody who hasn’t made a mess of their lives one way or another. Human relationships is another and the relationships between the very old and the very young has always fascinated me. Then there are all the normal themes like love, violence and death. Another common one is the impossibility of so many things that we’re told as children that we can do. But Ireland is the main one. I’m very attached to it, it’s my home."

This interview (click here) is recommended for our V form in particular, as well as Johnston's essay on the SLSS website here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Poem of the Week : 'Windwheels'

Our last Poem of the Week in this academic year is our first by one of our own pupils, Benjamin Russell, winner of this year's Senior Poetry Prize.


Winding our way through terraced wine groves and cork-trees,
a fleeting glimpse of this other form of life
from behind protective glass of course.

Gazing down on the rows of yellow flecked scrub

and to our right, white-capped hills:
each windmill like a toy set down by giant children

as they knelt to pick the wild flowers,
the meadows' sparkling teeth.

The Submarine

The latest edition of the excellent Library magazine, The Submarine, is out shortly, and can be seen online here.

Page One features Librarian Tom McConville's thoughts on the popularity of fantasy fiction -

"Riding dragons or broomsticks, breathing underwater, flying, changing shape and talking to animals are all things that were possible in our childhood imaginations, and reconnect us to childhood. Yet the quest aspect, as in all storytelling, symbolises life's reality: one leaves home (childhood and parents) to confront and conquer demons (inner and outer), finding one s place in the world (significance) and rescuing one's prince or princess along the way (love). Thus one achieves oneself, becoming a whole and unique adult, with the skills and independence necessary for the adult world. (In case this sounds patronising I might point out that many adults known to me personally are still on the way)."

Among the other features are :-
  • A review by Rowland Cooper of Christopher Paolini's Eragon (the 'Book of the Year' in our World Book Day questionnaire).
  • Several staff book recommendations (including Miss Kilfeather's recommendation of The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle)
  • An article by Rebecca Feeney-Barry on this year's fund-raising for a school telescope (via the extraordinary 24-hour run organised by Mr Coldrick),
  • An Irish cartoon by Poppy Vernon
  • Three staff reviews : Mr Richard Brett's of Amo, Amas, Amat ('Put a Little Latin in your Life') by Harry Mount ("The fact that this book has risen so high in the bestseller list is at first sight surprising. Perhaps its subtitle How to become a Latin Lover tempted some inadequate purchasers on the Internet"); Dr Jeremy Stone's of the controversial Atlas of Creation; and by Dr Garry Bannister of Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea,
  • Robert Murtagh's obituary of Old Columban Michael Yeats,
  • The poem 'Windwheels' by Ben Russell (see today's other post),
  • David Cooper's review of Joseph O'Connor's novel Star of the Sea.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Actiontrack : The Millar Report 1

As promised, here is a quick report on the first day of the Actiontrack project, as described by our reporter Joey Millar (by Saturday, a whole show will have been constructed, and will be performed at 8.15pm in the BSR)-

Transition Year ActionTrackDay One : After several warm-up games, including the ever- popular "Zip-Zap-Boing", the group enjoyed a number of drama exercises. The dramatic skills of the pupils were viewed and improved, and come the end of the day most members were all a lot more confident than before. The team were also split into groups, and each group created a small play. Particular highlights included Ramon Barbier being the prime ingredient of an omelette, and some starfish attacking Issy Hunter. If it's ActionTrack, anything can happen. Our final task of the day was to write our own individual songs. Watch out Justin Timberlake; a series of inspirational songs were written today, including, amongst others, "Sleeping Cows", "I Like Tea Because I'm British", and a song by Jorge which should not be repeated on this site. Watch this space.

Actiontrack Showbuild

Nick, Ed, Rachel and Julia from the Actiontrack Performance Company are back on site once again, and are taking 21 members of the Transition Year from today until Saturday evening, and constructing a 'showbuild'. They have been doing this for many years now (pictured, one of the most memorable shows some years, ago, outdoors, complete with real horse). A full show with design and music is conceived, written, rehearsed and performed within five days. The pupils will be filling us in as the week progresses.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Habitat for Humanity trip

Good luck to our 16 Transition Year pupils and four members of staff who this morning set off for Hungary to build houses under the aegis of Habitat for Humanity. Once they start work, you can keep up to date on their progress in their blog here (also now in our sidebar under 'And More').

Sunday, June 10, 2007

TY Work Portfolio 4

Oli Smith's version of 'My First Home' starts :

"My first home was beautiful. I was only eight months old and I had just moved from Australia. My parents borrowed a bit of money and we settled down in our big house on the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful French village of Montelimar. The town is known for its manufacture of nougat, a French sweet, so as you drove into the village that lovely sweet smell would hit you."

Read the full piece here.

One of the narrative tasks in the Work Portfolio is to tell a story from two different perspectives. Here is Rosemary Wentges's piece. Another popular title is 'My First Love' - rarely anything conventionally romantic, and an example is Rebecca Roe's memory here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

TY Work Portfolio 3

This is just my street. Dogs bark at all hours, the milkman comes far too early and people need help remembering the day. A city is not a single community. It is made up of hundreds of little semi-communities all heated by the same bright sun in the day, and all covered by the same dark blanket protecting us at night. We lie looking at the same twinkling diamonds in the sky as everybody else around town, and around the world. As I sit and look around me I feel at home. Everything is how it should be and the city is still moving, beating in my pulse, keeping me alive with it.

This is the end of 'A description of a street late at night' by Emily Plunket, one of this year's four Premier TY Award winners (read the full piece here). And here is her piece 'The Oldest Person I Know', about her grandfather.

A new and popular title on our list is 'My First Home' (referred to previously here). An example is David Cooper's piece :-

I drift to the stairs; they're like a thin layer of baby grass covering a steep slope. My foot warms as it touches this green carpet. I clamber up to my bedroom running my hand along the smooth banister, partially broken from where my brother fell into it. I enter my room and squint in as my eyes begin to adjust to the light. I scan it carefully trying to take in every detail.

Read his full essay here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

TY Work Portfolio 2

More from the 2006/07 Transition Year Work Portfolios:-

Celeste Guinness received one of the four Premier Awards this year, and here is her piece 'Suddenly there was no noise', which starts :-

Suddenly there was no noise. The usual singing of the crickets was now inaudible. It was as if the shrieking howler monkeys had become mute. The general humming and buzzing of the jungle was nowhere to be heard. Sensing this aura of unease, I silently stalked backwards along the moss-ridden branch, on which I was resting, to flatten myself against the sturdy tree trunk for camouflage.

Read on ...

Two different kinds of writing are shown by Hanne Grainger who here discusses the idea 'Has the Internet fundamentally improved our lives?', and also writes about 'My First Love' (one of the most popular titles on the Work Portfolio list) here. And finally, here, Brian Leveau writes about the House Speeches, one of the most memorable events of his own Transition year.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Certificate Exams

Our best wishes this morning go to the Leaving and Junior Certificate candidates who will be spending most of the day in our Sports Hall sitting their English exams.

Friday, June 01, 2007

TY Work Portfolio 1

Over the next week we'll be posting some of the work done for the recently-completed Transition Year course (more after the weekend).

The first three pieces are :-
I am emerging from a long slumber. I look out. The world looks so green. I remember seeing this world before but somehow it was different then. I did not have the same feeling of joy that I have now. I can sense the air against my slender body, warm and kind. As I unfold it slowly caresses my new wings to dry them. The moisture that has protected them all this time slowly evaporates. They feel light but powerful. I stand still, swaying gently. I look down and see the ground many times my own height below me. I know I could reach it in a second. I have a moment of fear, of apprehension, but now, the adrenalin rushes back into my veins. This is what I was meant to do.

Read on ...

Scoilnet and Teachnet

We're very pleased to be one of Scoilnet's Star Sites (thus the logo in the sidebar), and also one of Teachnet's recommended resources for English at secondary level (here).

We'll start posting Transition Year pieces from their Work Portfolios shortly. The TY themselves have now finished their academic work for the year. They go on the Columban Award Scheme to Achill Island next week, and then 16 (with four teachers) leave for Hungary on the Habitat for Humanity scheme (they may be blogging this experience, and if so we'll link to them), while the remainder join in the Actiontrack Showbuild week back at school, which we'll be reporting on here.