Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The image above is created from the entire text of Macbeth by Jonathan Feinberg's addictive Wordle gizmo ('beautiful word clouds'). You input any text you like and can customise the resulting 'cloud' in your own shapes and colours. These are the 150 words most frequently used in the play (the biggest are the most used). A year ago we used John Keats's ode 'To Autumn' as a Poem of the Week, and below is another Wordle, again from the entire text. English teachers could use Wordle for classroom posters, for prompting creative writing, for pupils' own work and much more.

Feinberg can be heard here discussing his invention. Click on the images to make them bigger and more readable.
Finally, another one, of all the words in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' See more of our Wordles here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

House Speeches

The annual House Speaking Competition, which involves Transition Year, was won last night by Andrew Martin (individual, Gwynn), and Stackallan (House). Andrew's speech was on 'irritating girls' (he also won the Junior Public Speaking competition 18 months ago) The two Stackallan speakers were Alex Cafolla (who came second in the individual competition on the subject of his hair) and Rob Nolan (last year's JCT rugby side). Other speakers in a high-quality evening were Kate Boyd Crotty (her home county, Offaly), Olivia Plunket (3rd individual, on embarrassing parents), Jake Jacobson (the Olympics), Jessica Sheil (shoes), Harry Brooke (his baby sister), Andrew McCabe (skateboarding) and Virginia Peck (being yourself).

A review by one of the TY will appear here later in the week.

Friday, September 26, 2008


IV form are currently preparing their speeches for the annual Transition Year House Speech competition, which will be held on Sunday night in the Big Schoolroom. TY also all saw the Abbey Theatre production of An Ideal Husband on Monday, and there will be a review here next week. They're also well underway now in reading for their Extended Essay projects. Junior forms are competing to be our representatives at the Poetry Aloud event in the National Library: we're holding an internal competition before selecting who we'll send along. Tomorrow is the annual Open Day (to which all visitors are welcome - see further details on the College site), and during this, among all the many extracurricular activities that will be on show, there will be My Fair Lady and House Speech rehearsals. Finally, plans are underway for the Primary, I and II form plays in October - more on these before long.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Bird came down the Walk-

Our 33rd Poem of the Week is Emily Dickinson's 'A Bird came down the Walk -'. This poem, along with much else, can be heard read by the author and broadcaster Garrison Keillor on his site The Writer's Almanac, which offers a daily podcast of readings from short poems.

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad —
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Blind Pieces

Here are some more brief exercises following on from yesterday's post, in which I formers describe objects while being blindfolded...

Jessica Scott and Christian Sullivan :
It fees like a marshmallow in the sky. It’s like thick candyfloss at a carnival on a hot summer’s day. It reminds me of when I go to bed and put my head on the pillow and cosy times like lying on a sofa on a cold rainy day. [cotton wool]

Pia Gromotka :
When I pick it up it runs through my fingers like sand. The grains are hard like hailstones falling from the sky. All the grains are the size of ants, so tiny. The grains are smooth, yet when you put your hand into them they feel rough and pointy. [rice]

Michael Dunne :

It is spiky and rough. It has one point like the Spire of Dublin, with a bowl underneath which is sticky so I leave it. It smells like I’m in the tuck shop. It’s got a guitar pick on it. There’s a hole by the pick, round and thick. [crushed can]

Sally Beeby :
It’s as hairy as a monkey and squishy like a peach. It has a prickly root at the bottom of this peculiar object. It is like a heavy tennis ball, or an apple. It is as cold as ice. [kiwi fruit

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Touchy Writers

I form pupils of English here are beginning their year's work with an introduction to figurative language and with writing tasks that explore the different senses. Mr. Swift's set recently split into pairs with one member taking it in turns to be blindfolded while their partner took notes of their observations based only from touch and smell. Here are some of the results -

Matt Brooke :
It’s like the hair of my hamster, it’s squishy like a banana. It’s got a hard bit at the top, like a house on a planet of emptiness. No, wait! Two houses. It’s as though I’m at home testing the plums. It’s rough like the bark of trees. It’s as if I’m holding a tennis ball, about to serve. It smells like the market in France, when my brothers and I collect fruit for breakfast. It smells like my baby sister’s room. It’s like a small egg with hair. It’s rough like the sand of Oman. It’s like a sand ball just waiting to be thrown. Oops! I’ve made a tiny crack in it, like the desert on flood day as the juice sweeps around the thing. [kiwifruit]

William Wood :
It’s like smooth particles of glass or broad sand on a beach. It’s something lovely and smooth, like marbles. It’s getting sticky, like your hands after eating sweets. It may smell of nothing but it’s so good you’d go swimming in it. [rice]

Tara McCormick :
It’s as smooth as this soft, creamy table, as cold as ice, just out of the freezer. It’s scrunched up like a ball of paper carelessly thrown in the corner of a room. It’s hollow, like a paper-thin wall. [crushed can]

Harry Johnson :
It’s fluffy, like a cloud. It’s like the end of a soft paintbrush. It feels like a pom-pom. It’s a duvet wrapped around you on a cold rainy day. It is weightless almost like a feather, but lighter. It is the building blocks of heaven. [Cotton wool]

More shortly ...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Today in the Irish Times, Patrick Lonergan reviews the Druid production of Martin McDonogh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, which we will be seeing with Transition Year in the Dublin Theatre Festival on October 9th :-

This, then, is an intelligent and compassionate production of an important Irish play. The Cripple of Inishmaan remains a well-observed satire on Ireland's obsession with how it's seen by the outside world. But what is much clearer now is this: Martin McDonagh is not just a brilliant storyteller, but a brilliant analyst of the importance of storytelling.

Full review here.

[added 10.10.08 : Lyn Gardner gives the production four stars in her review in today's Guardian]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blackberry Eating

Our second Poem of the Week this term is Galway Kinnell's 'Blackberry Eating'. The full text, and a reading by the poet, is on the Poetry Archive site here. Below, a half-hour reading and interview with Kinnell from the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego series 'Artists on the Cutting Edge'.

Monday, September 15, 2008

An Ideal Husband

Tonight all our Transition Year go to their first theatre visit of this year's TY course, the successful Abbey Theatre production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. We'll post a pupil review later. The next visit will be to the Druid production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Olympia Theatre in the Dublin Theatre Festival, on October 9th. For the full text of the play, go here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Fair Lady

Casting has just been completed for our November production of My Fair Lady, and chorus practices start this evening in the Cadogan. The cast is :

Eliza Doolittle : Poppy Vernon
Henry Higgins : Ollie Smith
Colonel Pickering : Michael McBurney
Mrs. Pearce : Gina Mirow
Alfred Doolittle : Fred Mann
Mrs. Higgins : Anna Traill
Freddie Eynsford Hill : Shane Lavin
Mrs. Eynsford Hill : Olivia Plunket
Lady Boxington : Celeste Guinness
Jamie : Robbie Hollis
Queen of Transylvania : Daphne Wright
Zoltan Karpathy : Sebastian Stephenson
Maids/Racegoers : Lauren Meyler, Jane Quigley, Rosemary Wentges, Sope Anthony-Ojolola, Emma Moore, Hannah Wentges.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Junior Certificate results

Congratulations to the many pupils who yesterday received excellent Junior Cert results. In English, 91% sat the papers at Higher Level (the national figure is 67%), and 18% of all who entered received A grades (nationally, 7% of the entire cohort get Higher As).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is Poetry?

Our first Poem of the Week this year is 'What is Poetry?' by Adrian Mitchell. Mitchell's own website is here. Poems of the Week are displayed around the school, and read and discussed in English classes.

Below, Mitchell reads (or performs) the poem at the Medellin Poetry Festival (thus the Spanish translation), and below that he reads perhaps his best-known poem, 'To whom it may concern - tell me lies about Vietnam'. Both poems feature in Neil Astley's new Bloodaxe DVD anthology, In Person - 30 Poets, which is now in the Library (in this, Mitchell updates his Vietnam poem to refer to Iraq too).

Poetry Archive has more audio recordings by Mitchell here.

Monday, September 08, 2008


There are lots of competitions around at the start of the school year, and pupils may like to get involved in one or more of these, such as :-
  • the annual Poetry Aloud competition organised by Poetry Ireland and the National Library. Over the next week, we'll be asking pupils to take part in our preliminary round, and then entering the winners for the competition itself.
  • the new Spooky Story competition organised by Children's Books Ireland based on Tomm Moore's artwork (above).
  • the new Young Emerging Writer's and Artists' Forum, which is publishing an arts journal later this year.
(click on the links for further details: your English teachers will be encouraging you in class ...)

Friday, September 05, 2008

TY Extended Essays

Today, our new Transition Year starts off on its journey towards the Extended Essay, the major project which we have been running for many years as part of our English TY course. By mid-November, every pupil in the form completes a major comparative essay on a topic and books of their own choice. Previous posts and online essays are under this label, and advice on making choices is available here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Start of Term

Today, pupils returned ready for the start of our Michaelmas Term. As usual, there's a lot of action ahead of us: the TY House Speeches and Extended Essays, the Senior Play (or rather musical, My Fair Lady), House Debates, the English Prizes, various theatre expeditions, and much more, and later in term we'll start posting lots of pupils' work, as we've done since 2006. See the right-hand sidebar for our book, Going Places, which gathers much of this work.

So, lots of exciting events and work ahead of us ...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sylvia Plath reads 'Daddy'

Yesterday's Observer Review had a feature on 'The 50 Greatest Arts Videos on YouTube', including literature clips - Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, and, below, Sylvia Plath reading 'Daddy', on which Ajesh Patalay comments : "what a rendition. Plath's mesmerising voice - refined, meticulous, scathing - gets stuck into 'Daddy' with considerable bite".

In the same edition of the newspaper, there is an interview with Judy Carver, William Golding's daughter, on Lord of the Flies and its stage version.