Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Library Books

The Chaplain pointed out this morning in Chapel that this is the day of St Jerome, patron saint of librarians (apparently, there's some dispute with other claimants St Lawrence and Catherine of Alexandria). Appropriate, then, to post our own Librarian's latest list of the new books available in our Library, here. And a happy St Jerome's Day to all.

Among the new batch in Junior Fiction is the excellently named novel by Sue Limb - Girls, Guilty But Somehow Glorious on the Prowl and Anne Cassidy's Witness. In Senior Fiction we have two more novels from the current Man Booker Prize shortlist - A.S.Byatt's The Children's Book, and The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. Among the non-fiction books is John Carey's much-noticed new biography William Golding: the man who wrote 'Lord of the Flies' (many years ago, Golding's editor, Charles Monteith, who discovered the famous novel while working at Faber and Faber, came to the College and talked to our Literary Society about this). Listen to Carey talking about Golding (and also Monteith) here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TY Book Recommendations 3

Shannen Keogan recommends Ben Shephard's After Daybreak:- This is a powerful and dramatic book about the liberation of Belsen in 1945. Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp during World War II, and in this book Shephard uncovers unbelievable scenes of horror. It also includes the actions and reactions of the British soldiers who discovered such a humanitarian disaster. This excellent and informative account is a very difficult read for younger people, but anyone with an interest in what happened in World War II should without doubt read it.

Jack Cherry is reading Norman Mailer's classic boxing book, The Fight:- This book is about Muhammed Ali and the lead-up to the fight with George Foreman. I like this book because I find the way it is written interesting. Mailer is a very descriptive writer, and so we really see what Ali's life was like, both the good and the bad.

Hopkins at Newman House

The Irish Times today carries an article on No Worst, There is None, a 'site-specific' production by The Stomach Box theatre company based on Gerard Manley Hopkins's 'Terrible Sonnets' or 'Sonnets of Desolation'. Three of these poems are on the Leaving Certificate course: 'I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day', 'Thou art indeed just, Lord', and the one which gives the title to this piece of drama.

The article, by Arminta Wallace, states:- The site-specific show will wend its way around Newman House on St Stephen’s Green, where Hopkins – an English convert to Catholicism – spent his final years, teaching Greek literature at UCD. During this time he wrote the poems known as “the terrible sonnets”; terrible, not because they’re no good, but because they’re full of physical and metaphysical terrors. The years he spent in Dublin saw Hopkins descend into an apparently bottomless depression, and the poems express the anguish of mental illness in a way few people have ever managed to articulate – including Sonnet 49, No Worst, There Is None , from which the play takes its title.

Monday, September 28, 2009

TY Book Recommendations 2

Seyive Hotonu recommends Darren Shan's Demon Thief :- This is a horror story based on a child and his experiences with magic and the world of demons. The storyline is about a demon stealing his younger brother, and how he tries to save him. During this adventure he meets new people and discovers he has magical powers. Some of the people he comes across are killed by demons. It is a book for readers who like this sort of novel. Every detail is explained clearly and vividly. It's quite scary, so for those who like to be thrilled and scared I would strongly recommend it.

Aoife Gernon is reading Jenny Downham's Before I Die and writes:- This is a very moving book. Tessa (the main character) is my age and I could connect with her. At the beginning of the book you find out that Tessa is dying from leukaemia and she writes down a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Most of these are within her grasp, as long as she hangs around with her best friend. But what she wants most is love. Then along comes Adam, her neighbour, who rides motorbikes and likes gardening. They fall in love...

All's Well introduction

There will be a half-hour introduction to All's Well That Ends Well for those attending the Shakespeare Society NT Live performance on Thursday. Tomorrow, 6.45pm, Adare.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

House Speech Competition 2009

This evening we had the annual Transition Year House Speech contest in the BSR. In a few days we'll have a pupil review here.

Henry Roe from Stackallan presented and linked the speeches - two from each House, being (in order): Robin Fitzpatrick on his visit to Thailand and China; Rebecca Stewart on her family outing to the latest Harry Potter film; Jack Cherry on food quality; Bronwyn Mallon on The Average Person; Lorcan Maule on the Special Olympics and the Paralympics; Thomas Gibbs on dogs; Shannen Keogan on cystic fibrosis; Jack Dunne on budgets; Rab Sheeran on foreigners; and Oyinda Onabanjo on travelling.

The judging panel consisted of Mrs Canning, last year's winner Andrew Martin, and former Head of English Mr Fanagan, who at the end complimented all the speakers on their confidence and the way they spoke from the heart. He then announced the first three: winner Thomas Gibbs, equal seconds Bronwyn Mallon and Lorcan Maule, and House winners Stackallan.

Friday, September 25, 2009

TY Book Recommendations

Over the next couple of weeks we'll post here plenty of book recommendations by Transition Year pupils who are currently reading for and researching their Extended Essays.

Mena Fitzgibbon has been reading James Meek's The People's Act of Love and writes:- This book is a great and really fulfilling story, full of secrets, half-tales and hidden woes. It is set in Siberia in 1919 and is full of how different people show how they can prove love, and is also about one man's journey through the frosted forests. It shows the savagery of mankind, but also the hope we hang onto in times of need. At the end of each chapter is leaves you eager to more. It's an indescribable book, that has you guessing until the last page.

Neil Scott recommends John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas :- I really liked this book. It's a moving story about a boy who had it all - friends, a big house and a brilliant life - and how he feels it's being taken away from him. His luck changes though when he meets a boy who he gets along with, even though there is a fence in the way. The story ends in moving tragedy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And the winners are...

Ms Smith writes:-

The highly recommended publication Teaching English magazine holds an annual poetry competition which this year received in excess of 3,000 entries. We were delighted that two Columbans’ poems were selected: Oliver Glenn-Craigie was commended in the junior category for his poem 'Teapot', about his father’s much-used teapot, and Thomas Emmet was commended in the senior category for his poem 'The Old Guitarist', inspired by Picasso’s painting of the same name. Last Wednesday Oliver and Thomas were honoured at a prize ceremony and poetry day held in Portlaoise.

During the morning, Joe Woods, poet and director of Poetry Ireland, took the young writers for a session in which they tried different techniques and took useful advice on composing poetry. In the meantime the accompanying teachers had a valuable discussion about the teaching and writing of poetry in schools. Maureen Curran, an English teacher in Loreto Milford, Co. Donegal, led by sharing her experiences of nurturing poetry in her school through a group project known as Poetry Factory. There is an excellent feature in the summer edition of the magazine about their work (see below via Issuu - click for larger view, and click again for close view).

When the workshops were finished the parents, pupils, teachers and organisers gathered for the prize-giving ceremony; each of the young writers was presented with an engraved plate (Oliver is pictured above) and a laminated A3 print-out of their poem. There was an overall winner for each category and we were treated to a recital of the two winning poems by their respective authors. These assured and touching poems (along with the nineteen other winners’ poems) can be read in the autumn edition of the magazine which will be published online shortly.

A tasty lunch was provided which we enjoyed with Oliver’s mum and dad, and then it was Dublin-bound to make it back to the College just in time for his hockey game. Thanks are due to Kevin McDermott and his team from the English Support Service for such an enjoyable day; it was a pleasure to celebrate the fruits of the pupils’ work. We look forward to another year of poetry and creativity here in St Columba’s, and are galvanised by the fact that so many other schools, from Kerry to Donegal, share our enthusiasm for the art.

'The Uncertainty of the Poet'

The 55th Poem of the Week is Wendy Cope's 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' (1913), which you can hear her reading here. She explains that she read this after seeing Giorgio di Chirico's painting of the same name, which you can see on Tate Gallery site here.

There are more readings by Wendy Cope on the Poetry Archive site, which we've often recommended.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Library 'Facts of Life'

The annual College Open Day is on Saturday morning, and as usual our Library will feature as one of the highlights of the tours that visitors take. So in advance, and also for new pupils, Librarian Tom McConville has posted some key Library facts:-
  • The Library was built in 1994 to a design by Old Columban John Somerville-Large.
  • We have over 10,000 books on our shelves and in store, both fiction and non-fiction.
  • The Library is open for over 80 hours a week, supervised by a member of staff.
  • The Library is completely computerised. Our library management software is ALICE.
  • Pupils borrow books by self-issue. That is, they take out their own books using the barcode scanner. They can borrow up to 8 books at a time.
  • The Library is divided into Junior and Senior sections. Pupils borrow freely from both sections.

Monday, September 21, 2009

NT Live

Above, the trailer for the National Theatre's production of All's Well That Ends Well, which we'll be seeing on Thursday 1st October (see last week's post).

Primary, I, II form plays

Rehearsals have started for the first drama productions of the year, which are traditionally by the most junior pupils. This year we're going to see adaptations of two literary classics. Primary and I form are taking on Treasure Island (directed by Mr Patterson), and II form are showing The Tell-Tale Heart (directed by Mr McCarthy). Both performances will be in the BSR on the evening of Sunday 18th October. More then.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well

The College Shakespeare Society was founded to promote Shakespeare's work within the College; we've put on productions of the plays, and try to see anything good that's on in Dublin (including, last year, The Winter's Tale and The Comedy of Errors). We're planning a trip to the National Theatre of London live telecast of All's Well That Ends Well at Dundrum cinema on Thursday 1st October (above the whole text seen via Wordle. Click on it for a closer look). Pupils, please give names to Fiona Boyd.

Read reviews from the Guardian, the Times and the Evening Standard here at the NT site.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Poem of the Week 54 : 'Brown Penny'

Our 54th Poem of the Week is W.B. Yeats's 'Brown Penny'. Yeats's poems again feature in Poetry Aloud this year. And again, both the exhibition itself and the website in the National Library are highly recommended.

I whispered, "I am too young,"
And then, "I am old enough";

Wherefore I threw a penny

To find out if I might love.

"Go and love, go and love, young man,

If the lady be young and fair."

Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough

To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love

Till the stars had run away

And the shadows eaten the moon.

Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

One cannot begin it too soon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Realex Irish Web Awards 2009

SCC English has been nominated in the 'Best Education and Third Level' category, sponsored by the National Digital Research Centre, in the 09 Realex Irish Web Awards. We're one of about 30 nominees, so we're not exactly preparing our acceptance speech quite yet, and there are definitely some big chaps in our category, including several universities' websites. Well done to Anseo, too, from the primary sector. The full lists are here.

Going Places

In May 2008 we published our first book, Going Places, a selection of writing from this blog in its first two years. It can be bought from the printers, Lulu here; below, you can read it online for the first time today via Issuu ... (click below on the pages for a larger view, and again to zoom.)

... which is a way of saying that we're now half-way through another Lulu cycle, as it were, and hope to publish another book in May 2010, collecting the best writing from SCC English from 2008 to 2010.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Greetings to the latest addition to SCC sites, the Latin Department, whose 'domus' is here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Poetry Aloud 2009

The Poetry Aloud competition for this year has just been launched, and over the next two weeks we'll be holding our own internal auditions and competitions to select candidates to go forward to the first heat.

The set poems by Yeats are 'Who Goes with Fergus?' (junior), 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death' (intermediate) and 'What Then?' (senior), and the second poem is to be chosen from The Rattle Bag or Lifelines. Pupils can borrow a copy of The Rattle Bag from their teachers. Full details here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Man Behind the Spoon

Back in March, colleague Ronan Swift was on our first podcast, an interview about his new album Farewell Future Wives (listen again via the player at the bottom of this post). It's taken a little while, but the launch concert is on Thursday, and all are welcome. More here.

Details : Unitarian Church, St Stephen's Green, Dublin. Doors open at 8pm for a prompt 8.30 start. €10 in (and the same price for the night for the CD itself). And a wine reception thrown in too in the Damer Hall afterwards.

See you there.

You can also listen to our podcasts via the 'widget' on the sidebar to the right, or by visiting our podcast page here (if you have iTunes on your computer you can also subscribe by clicking here, and so download our episodes to your MP3 player, or by searching for 'SCC English' in the iTunes Store).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Web 2.0 links

For tutors at the NCTE course today in Tallaght, this is the link to the summary sheet for Web 2.0 tools used by SCC English, including links to the Wiki and Netvibes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Man Booker Prize shortlist

On Tuesday the annual Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced in London. Many thanks to our former colleague, John Fanagan, who was at the occasion, and has written this account for us (go here for an earlier recommendation of William Trevor's Love and Summer):-

Much comment in the Irish media about this year's Man Booker shortlist centred on the failure of Colm Toibin and (Old Columban) William Trevor to make the cut. I have just finished reading both books and felt that they are very fine works. Not having read the six that the Man Booker jury chose, I can't say (yet) if their choices were justified.

On September 8th I was at the reception to announce the short list in the Orangery of Kensington Palace. It was a very convivial occasion, with everyone mingling and chatting on a beautiful, warm evening. I bearded the jury chairman, James Naughtie, about the Trevor/Toibin exclusions and he sighed with a world-weary “if only we could have” bit of flannel. Another jury member, Lucasta Miller, said something similar when I met her later. She has young children (her husband is the singer Ian Bostridge) and she was very interesting on the whole process of reading so many books while running a family home.

Of the two Irish novels, I felt that Trevor's

II Form reading list

Yesterday we posted the III Junior Cert reading list. Now here's the II form one for this term, with plenty of good suggestions of books available in our Library. II formers will write reports in their exam in November based on some of these books. Included are books such as Anthony Horowitz's Raven's Gate, Karen Levine's Hana's Suitcase, and Siobhan Parkinson's Something Invisible.

Pupils: you can read the list here, and always find it by clicking through to Department Documents in the right-hand sidebar.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Junior Certificate reading list

The day after last year's Junior Cert candidates got their marks, we're posting this year's III form reading list. Each year in the first term, III formers write a long essay comparing books, which goes towards 25% of their exam marks. An earlier version of the list of choices from our Library collection was published in the Spring 2007 edition of the Teaching English magazine, and can be read by clicking the Issuu version at the bottom of this post.

Included in the list are novels such Teresa Breslin's Divided City, M.T.Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing and Margaret Bechard's Hanging on to Max. Pupils - you can read the entire list here, and also always under Department Documents (scroll down for the link on the right).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Junior Certificate results 2009

Congratulations to our Junior Cert candidates this year, who have just received their results. There were some very impressive overall performances.  In English, 83% of all our candidates gained A, B or C at Higher Level. No national statistics are available for 2009 yet, but this compares with 52% of all candidates in 2008.

Poem of the Week 53 : 'Leaving School'

Our 53rd Poem of the Week (and our first this term) is 'Leaving Home' by Hugo Williams, in which the eight-year old Williams is bewildered by all the strange procedures and customs of his new boarding school. Maybe an appropriate start to the new school year.

On the Poetry Archive site, you can listen to Williams reading four other poems - 'When I Grow Up', 'Dinner with my Mother', 'Prayer' and 'Her News'. The site points out that :-

The quality of the writing itself embodies a similar tension, employing an informal diction, but subject to rigorous re-drafting. Like the casual elegance he was taught to emulate as a boy, Williams's own reading of his work is an artless art, his precise tones providing enough context to illuminate the poems but without adding to their creative autobiography.

Read a recent interview with Williams in The Guardian here.

We post each Poem of the Week around the school, and use them in English classes too. See a post here about the beginning of the idea.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Transition Year Course 2009-10

Our Transition Year are now setting off on our successful TY course, which we've been running for about 15 years now. Over the coming week or so they will be selecting the books for their Extended Essays, and we'll be posting plenty of recommendations in the next few weeks as they get into their reading, as we've done for the last three years.

Pupils : your advice sheet is here, and always available under 'Department Documents' on the right, as is the course summary.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Web 2.0 links

For tutors at the NCTE course today in Limerick, this is the link to the summary sheet for Web 2.0 tools used by SCC English, including links to the Wiki and Netvibes.

Friday, September 04, 2009

New Library Books

New pupils were introduced last night to our superb central resource, the College Library. With 10,000 books in a beautiful space, it is an exceptional place in which to read and study. Over the next few months, we'll have plenty of book reviews and recommendations here from pupils about their discoveries from the shelves. And, of course, there are lots of new books at the start of the school year.

Included in the newest batch are two novels recently recommended here - William Trevor's Love and Summer and James Lever's Me Cheeta (both Booker long-listed). In Junior Fiction, there's Elizabeth Laird's Lost Riders (read an enthusiastic review on The Book Bag here) and Sinead Moriarty's The Right Fit. In Non-Fiction we have William Fiennes's evocative autobiography The Music Room: in the Guardian, John Burnside writes:-

That Fiennes is an unusually skilled writer is already evidenced by The Snow Geese, a work in which, time and time again, he conveys not only the incandescence of life in the quotidian flow of events, but also the richness of the idea of home, a richness that is, perhaps, only fully appreciated after long absence.

Read the list of new books here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Start of Term

All pupils are now in school, and our first classes are being held this afternoon. Since SCC English started in 2006, we've posted about 250 times a year, and no doubt this year will be no less busy. Last year we started podcasting, and have plans for plenty more podcasts in the coming months, including regular short sessions on individual poems on the Leaving Certificate course.

Ahead of us also are: the large amount of work done by Transition Year pupils on their Extended Essays (and lots of accompanying book recommendations), many of which we'll publish here later in the term, the Senior Play, the House Speech competition, Poetry Aloud, Poems of the Week, possibly another 'Everybody Writes' various theatre expeditions, and other projects. And of course there are bound to be things we didn't foresee.

So, keep watching... you can sign up to our email posts at the bottom of the sidebar on the right, and to our RSS feed too, to keep up to date.