Friday, October 28, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 9

Today we go on our half-term break, returning on Monday 7th November. After this we'll have plenty of news of the Shakespeare Society production of The Comedy of Errors on November 18th, 19th and 20th. 

Transition Year pupils will also be writing their Extended Essays after half-term, some of which will feature on this site in the future.  Alex Owens recommends Jupiter Williams by S.I .Martin.

The book is set in the early eighteen hundreds while the campaign for slave trade is gathering momentum. The story begins at Clapham Acadamy for wealthy blacks living in the London area. The story revolves around the lives of two brothers attending Clapham; however when Jupiter the oldest of the two finds out that his younger brother Robert has been kidnapped by highway men, he escapes from the Acadamy in search for him .

I would recommend this book becasue of how the author really showed the treatment towards blacks in detail and the harsh reality of life for them in the eighteen hundreds. You learn a bit of history along with being involved in a series of events throughout.
 And Marcia Kettern recommends The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks:

This is one of the best books I've ever read. You really can lose yourself in it. It's a sad, dramatic and romantic story about family, first loves, second chances and the moments in life that lead you back home. The whole story is written in a very serious way and the end is very sad. I enjoyed reading this book, because the story is very realistic and describes wonderful and also sad moments in life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 8

Sofia Bergareche has read Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for her Transition Year Extended Essay, and comments:-

I find this book really good because I think the book involves the reader. The author describes things so perfectly that you are able to feel and live what the characters do. I think this book is entertaining, intriguing and also moving. Even if I didn't understand some details I still think that it is a very good story. I can assure you that anybody who starts reading this book won't be able to stop until the end.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 8

Molly Buckingham has read How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff for her Extended Essay, and writes:

This was actually the second time I read this book and I found it to be even more enjoyable the second time round. It was so gripping and I found it hard to put the book down! I would recommend this book to anyone who is my age or older.

and Alex Bisgood has read The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart:

I found this book very good. It is set in the Far East during WWII. It is an autobiography about a soldier who is captured and is made to work on the Death Railway, which claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand prisoners.

It is shockingly vivid and shows what man, under an all-powerful ruler, can do to another man. In my opinion, what the Japanease did to their POW's is worse then what happened in the German concentration camps, and yet the German goverment has paid damages towards people and families while the Japanease goverment has denied that this has never happened and that they looked after their POWs as set down by the Geneva Convention.   

Friday, October 21, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 7

Clara Thiemann has read John Boyle's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for her Extended Essay. It's always a popular choice. She writes:

I really loved this book. It was amazing to read since it really made you feel with the characters. At some points it was hard for me to keep on reading because I was starting to cry quite often. The book is very emotional and explains two  childhoods that couldn't be any different! 

The book is really worth reading also for people who are not so fluent in English since it is quite easy to understand. I would definitely read this book again and will never forget what I learned from it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TY Book Recommendations 6

For her Transition Year Extended Essay, Emily Speckter has read Desert Flower, by Waris Dirie:-

I really enjoyed reading this book. The author describes in an impressive way what her life was like and how destiny, courage and wisdom led her through. I especially like the images of the details that are described as well as the emotions and the locations. That makes it real and conceivable. Maybe there could be a little bit more information of living in that country and the religion. That would have been useful for my essay.

And Jessica Scott read Kensuke's Kingdom, by Michael Morpurgo:-

This book is an account written by  of a young teenager who was living on a yacht and one night fell off and was deserted on an isolated island. Or so he thought. This book shows how chael learnt to cope in the great outdoors. It discusses his struggles but also the joy he got from being on the island and getting his own food and the adventure of it all. It's a great book because it is gripping; something keeps happening and it's realistic!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TY Book Recommendations 5

Molly Dunne has read Christy Brown's My Left Foot for her Transition Year Extended Essay, and writes-

I found the book really enjoyable and easy to read. To be honest I have no real knowledge about cerebral palsy and this book gave a really great insight into his life. There was no sugar coating - it was all real events from his life which in my opinion is very refreshing. My only complaint is that the book didn't include very many facts and I still feel that I have the same amount of information on cerebral palsy as I did when I started reading the book.

And Melchior de Preville read Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's L'Enfant de NoĆ©, which he calls 'brilliant': 

It's a a really great book about antisemitism during the Second World War. I really enjoyed this book because the story is fantasic and a true event. There are two main characters, a father and an orphan, giving two different views of all the terrible crimes against Jewish people by the Nazis.

Monday, October 17, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 4

Helene Peters has read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd for her Extended Essay, and writes-

The Secret Life of Bees is about the life of a girl called Lily Owens in the 1960s. She runs away from home, from her dad who doesn't seem to love her and from the place she accidentally killed her own mom when she was 4 years old, when her nanny Rosaleen gets beaten up in the streets for being not respectful to a white man and therefore has to go to jail.

Lily is 14 years old and finds a place with Rosaleen in the big pink house of the Boatwrights - August, May and April, who produce honey. Lily thinks her mom had been there before she killed her but at first doesn't tell, because she is not sure. After that, the complications of a searching father, of love between black and white and of the guilt that seems to grow inside of Lily follow.

The book is very touching and shows how people can change if they are hurt. You can see how immortal love is and into what kind of monsters loving people can turn, even though they don't want to. On the other side you learn how important the love of a mother is the feeling of having a home. How to forgive yourself is an essential part of the book as well.

In this book there are so many different kinds of love, how they can make you stronger or destroy you, that one word for love is far too small to express the emotions in the book.

INOTE Conference 2011

Our notes from the recent Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English conference in Kilkenny are now online on the INOTE website, at, as well as other notes and some photographs.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TY Book Recommendation 3

Sadhbh Sheeran has read The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks for her Extended Essay. Sadhbh writes:-

This is not one of those highbrow, complex-vocabulary novels that your parents tend to reccommend and yet it is not the junk that I often pick up in airports either. It is a very good book and is by no means trashy. An enjoyable read that appeals to all ages. Short and sweet.

And Inigo del Toro has read Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and writes:

I enjoyed the book a lot because is a beautiful history. I think it is the best book I have ever read. The book is about the love between two boys in Afghanistan and how love can move people. I highly recommend this book because the sensation is so powerful when you finish that you will remember the book for all your life.

Friday, October 14, 2011

TY Book Recommendations 2

Pascal Dillenberger has read Elie Wiesel's Night as one of his books for the Transition Year Extended Essays, and writes:

It is a very good book although it is a about a very sad and grim topic. Night is an autobiography. Elie Wiesel tells his story of being captured because he was a Jew and tells the story of getting deported and put to work in a concentration camp (Auschwitz). 

One of the reasons the book is so good is because the author is writing about his own experiences and feelings, which makes it very personal and also interesting and grabs for the reader. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested nonfiction books with a darker mood.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TY Book Recommendations

Transition Year are now well into their reading for their Extended Essays, due in mid-November. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be posting brief recommendations from them based on the reading they've done so far. First is Juliana Huggard, who has read Emma Donoghue's 2010 Booker Prize shortlisted novel Room:-

I thought this book was amazing because it was such a different story, yet it happens regularly. I have never read a book like this before. The book is about a boy called Jack who has been born and has lived in this room for five years. and when he eventually goes out he can not really adapt. The book is from Jack's perspective and I have never read a kidnapping from a child's point of view. I think this is an excellent read and would recommend this to anyone but clearly not younger readers than me because it is quite disturbing and I am fifteen and I found it still hard to read at some parts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Transition Year House Speeches

Alex Owens was the (excellent) presenter of this year's Transition Year House Speech competition on October 2nd. Here is her report on the process, and the evening itself:-

For the past week fifteen pupils were busily preparing their house speeches with the help of their classmates and English teachers. Throughout the process of building them up, those who were not picked contributed to them in class giving as much help as possible to improve each speech. Slowly but surely as the two weeks went by, the speeches gradually grew stronger and improved in content.

Before we knew it, it was the Sunday evening and tensions grew. Various speakers arrived at six thirty to have one last chance to practise their speech up on stage before the real thing later on that evening. I was there myself as I had been in the BSR practising my role for the night’s events as the presenter. As the speakers practised we all gave our last minute advice and tips, trying to reassure and calm each other down.

The moment finally came. Only five minutes before the doors opened to the public, Mr Canning casually entered the BSR with the final list of the ten speakers who were chosen to present their final pieces. Those ten were Helene Peters, Sean Freney, Alexander Bisgood, Harry Johnson, Tara McCormick, Juliana Huggard, Aidan Chisholm, Christina Alvarez, Oliver Glenn-Craigie and William Wood.

After the doors were closed I finally kicked off the evening by introducing and then going straight into it, calling up the first speaker of the night, Helene Peters speaking on what she found most important in life. Gradually the night went on with pupils speaking on a variety of different things such as allergies, grandparents, cows, being adopted, boarding and the truths about where they really live. The list goes on.

From the presenter's point of view on the night I felt that all speakers spoke extremely well. However there were some speeches in particular that won me over.

One of them was Helene Peters’s speech, which was on what she found most important in life. Her speech was very well put together overall and was very well presented seeing as she wasn’t even speaking her first language. Her views on what she found most important in life were both interesting to me and to the audience as there was dead silence throughout the whole of it. She made those listening think and question themselves on what they too found most important and also pointed out that things like money don’t actually matter later on but instead enjoying the moment when you are in beautiful surroundings, completely free and with the people that you love.

Another speech which I enjoyed immensely was Willy Wood’s on his home county, Cavan. He spoke about the truths and lies on his precious county, setting the facts straight including humour and interesting facts. Such as - that people in Co. Cavan actually have secret drawers in their tables so that when uninvited guests come around they slip their dinner into the secret drawer so they don’t have to share their food with them! This in fact was new to Willy himself, seeing that he had only heard it a couple of weeks ago which inspired him to do his speech on exactly that. Overall I think every member of the audience enjoyed it seeing as his speech ended the evening perfectly with everyone in stitches of laughter.

After the speeches ended the judges went off to tally the results. While that was happening we had a bit of entertainment done by a few members of the fourth form with Aidan Chisholm on guitar and Brendan Dickerson singing ‘Stand By Me', followed by Lasse, Tosan and Stevie dancing.

Mr McCarthy called out the final winners of the night who were Alexander Bisgood coming in third speaking on his grandparents, Christina Alvarez second speaking on Down Syndrome and Helene Peters the winner speaking on what she finds most important in life.

In order of Houses Hollypark came first followed by Iona and then Stackallan.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Websites for English Teaching

Put together for the annual conference of INOTE, the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English, in Kilkenny, on Saturday 8th October, here is a start on a list of useful websites for English teachers (not as a foreign or second language, but as a 'humanities' subject).  'Useful' actually means recommended - this is a 'curated' list, and very much evolving.

The list will be updated frequently, so feel free to suggest more sites, with a brief comment, by the comments section underneath the post, or by Twitter via @sccenglish. Thanks to members of the EC Ning (see below), who are suggesting sites on this thread (sign up for free membership to access).

  1. Shakespeare Search Engine: a brilliant tool, a 'Google for Shakespeare'. Search by play, by character, by theme...
  2. Word frequency lists: combine this with Wordle (see here for our own series of Shakespeare Wordles) for fascinating analysis and class discussion.
  3. Folger Shakespeare Library: lots of resources, including teaching ones.
  4. Royal Shakespeare Company: ditto, including their education section
  5. 60 Minutes with Shakespeare: Sixty Speakers, Sixty Minutes on Shakespeare and his time, via short audio talks from experts (sign-up needed). For anyone who's interested in the cultural and historical background to the plays.
General Poetry
  1. Poetry Archive: outstanding site with a stellar cast of contributors, which focusses on poets reading their own work. Highly recommended for classroom use.
  2. Poetry Foundation: the American equivalent, from Chicago, with terrific resources, essays and, again, audio material.
  3. Poetry 180: 'a poem a day' for American High Schools, from the Library of Congress, set up by Billy Collins when he was US Poet Laureate.
  4. Poetry Ireland: back home now, with a useful educational section.
General English Teaching & Resources
  1. The English Support Service for secondary schools - the best site for those of us who teach in Ireland to check on courses, events and resources.
  2. Geoff Barton's site: 'Free English resources for students and teachers' - and a lot of them. Very helpful, from a top practitioner. And if you don't know it, you have to read 'Twelve Things that Great English Teachers Do.'
  3. The English Companion Ning. Founded by Californian teacher Jim Burke, this is a social network of 30,000 English educationalists. An extraordinary resource, with instant access to support and help for teachers all around the world.
  4. Times Educational Supplement English resources: the site from one of the world's best-known educational publications. A vast number of resources are available, including our own here.
  5. New York Times Learning Network: as you would expect from such a distinguished publication, a lot of impressive material (in many subjects), such as their Great Gatsby microsite. 
  6. BBC Learning for English: all the depth you'd expect of the world's top broadcaster.
  7. Teachit ('English Teaching Online'): UK site full of teaching resources, advice and 'whizzy things' (such as this very handy timer for classroom activities and tests). Subscription for full access, some resources free.
  8. Leaving Cert English is a site from Evelyn O'Connor from Claremorris: does what it says on the tin - lots of advice for the exam, with a strong emphasis on podcasting. 
  9. WebEnglishTeacher: lots of links to lots of English literature and language resources.
Individual Poets
  1. Wilfred Owen & WW1 Poets: oustanding site from the Oxford University First World War Poetry Digital Archive, with manuscripts of the poems and much more.
  2. Billy Collins Action Poetry: these animations of the poems are great for class, at any age level.
  3. Elizabeth Bishop: helpful commentary and critical paragraphs on the great American poet.
  4. Seamus Heaney: excellent microsite on the Irish Nobel Laureate from RTE, with plenty of video material.
  1. Plain English Campaign: a good way to demonstrate to your classes how not to use language. Nice Gobbledygook Generator.
  2. British Library Learning (Language and Literature): terrific resources, including 'Changing Language'.
  3. Oxford Dictionaries: plenty of free resources here (as well as the subscription option), including 'How Shakespearean are you?
  4. Word Dynamo, from lots of tests, word-lists and more.
Media & Film
  1. Film Education: UK site with resources, training and microsites on films.
  2. Association for Media Literacy: ' the impact of the mass media on contemporary culture' with plenty of resources (thanks to @msolomonteacher).
(hard to select: good writing can be found anywhere. But selections from these sites often provide valuable material for exemplars and class discussions, as well as our own pleasure).
  1. McSweeney's Internet Tendency: quirky and often brilliant (including their parodies).
  2. New Yorker: much of the magazine is also available online, including the fiction microsite (and podcasts of writers reading others' stories), plus articles like this one by Atul Gawande, which will make you think about your own teaching.
  3. Longreads: exactly that - the best long writing on the web, curated.
  4. Arts and Letters Daily: has been around for a while, just as good as ever. Fine writing gathered.
  5. ReadWriteThink: suggested by several members of the EC Ning. Lots of resources from the International Reading Association and the American National Council of Teachers of English.
  6. Storybird: designed for young children, but also a brilliant tool for older pupils, putting together a structured narrative. And great fun. 
  7. Spellathon: one for your pupils - have fun and raise money in the 'global spelling event.' 
  8. Writing Prompts: an excellent visual blog with regular ideas for prompting writing of all sorts. 
  9. Following which: our list of visual prompts for writing on various sites.
Website Tools
  1. Wordle: lots of uses for analysing and discussing texts - see here for our series of Shakespeare Wordles, here for 'Tintern Abbey', here for our series analysing the public and political use of language, here for the soliloquies in Hamlet.
  2. Audioboo (also a mobile app): an easy way to record and podcast short talks - click here for our series on 10 Characters in Hamlet, here for the Patterns of Poetry series.
  3. Lulu: the world's top self-publishing service. We've published two smart books based on this blog - Going Places and Outside the Frame (read how here). A great opportunity for showcasing pupils' work.
  4. Diigo: perhaps the best bookmarking tool, and more - collect and annotate information, and share it with your pupils.
  5. Twitter: here are reasons why it's great for English teachers.
  6. Instapaper: Marco Ament's brilliant tool (with associated mobile apps) strips website articles down to the words and cuts out everything else, so that you can read them later on almost any device (including the Kindle).

Friday, October 07, 2011


Over recent weeks, members of the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English (INOTE) have been filling in a form designed by SCC English on how they use technology. This is the first such survey of English teachers in Ireland, and here are some results prior to the annual conference in Kilkenny tomorrow:-

Question: 'For how long have you taught English?'
  • Under 5 years: 16%
  • 5 to 10 years: 27%
  • 11 to 20 years: 35%
  • Over 20 years: 22%

Question: 'How often do you use technology in teaching English?'
  • Never: 5%
  • Occasionally: 40%
  • Frequently: 39%
  • Constantly: 17%

Question: 'How important do you think technology is, in teaching English?'
  • Unimportant/Peripheral: 5%
  • Quite useful: 73%
  • Vital/Central: 22%

Question: Which of these do you use in your classroom?
(multiple answers allowed, so % more than 100)
  • Computer: 85%
  • Digital Projector: 91%
  • Interactive Whiteboard: 10%
  • Smartphone: 5%
  • None of the above: 5%

Do you use Google Docs?
  • Yes: 29%
  • No: 71%

Does your school use Google Apps?
  • Yes: 19%
  • No: 42%
  • Not sure: 39%

Do you use Twitter?
  • Yes: 13%
  • No: 87%
Another post coming soon on the survey's comments about web and software use, recommended websites, and training needs.

INOTE IT Survey (Software and Web Use)

The first post today recorded some statistics from our online survey of English teachers in Ireland for the INOTE conference. Now here are some responses given to the question: What web tools and/or software do you use regularly and find helpful in your teaching? Here's an entirely disordered list, with several quotes:-
  • Overhead projector is very useful. I often use visuals for poetry, for example or you may find the poem on you tube set to music and visuals. I also put the poem on the overhead and then write over it showing them important imagery or techniques used etc. Great for sample answers also, showing them how to structure their answers and so forth.
  • SLSS
  • Scoilnet
  • Random searched sites
  • YouTube (the most-mentioned tool)
  • Microsoft Word (several times)
  • Video websites
  • Google (many times...)
  • Very simple use of computers which project sites and information on screen.
  • Playing DVDs on projector, using YouTube for clips, Powerpoint
  • Active Inspire whiteboard and software
  • Online adverts
  • Wikipedia (a few times)
  • I just started using YouTube this year as it's available for the first time in our school. We just got computers and projectors installed in the classrooms!
  • I don’t have a laptop.
  • I use microsoft, emails etc on a desktop. Need to modernise
  • I have the use of an i-pad in the Classroom. An excellent tool! Hundreds of apps for the classroom. All TY's use i-pads in our school.
  • Shakespeare in Bits
  • Powerpoint (several times)
  • MS Publisher
  • E-portal
  • Wordpress
  • Google Blogger, Microsoft Office, Keynote.
  • Webtools: I don't really.
  • Tarsia (puzzlemaker)
  • Various websites for supplementary notes
  • Digitised versions of books
  • Edmodo
  • Google images
  • Unsure regarding 'web tools'
  • Prezi
  • Google for research
  • Teaching English sites
  • Wordprocessing notes.  DVD in the laptop.
  • Just for research sometimes.  I use web more for History.
  • Mediaconverter
  • Email
  • Music (online)
  • Wordpress, Audacity for recording podcasts, YouTube, Edmodo (VLE).
  • Powerpoint
  • Promethean
  • Powerpoint
  • VLC Media Player
  • RealPlayer
  • Dreamweaver
  • I use Powerpoint quite often and take images from Google Images. 
  • TV/DVD
  • Google for posters for the Shakespearan plays over time to see what aspects of main chararacter are presented to an audience before they see the production.
  • [continued - click Read More below]

INOTE IT Survey (Recommended Websites)

The third post today prior to the INOTE conference in Kilkenny tomorrow gathers together suggestions in response to our online survey question:- Are there any other websites you would recommend to other English teachers? Our own comprehensive list (constantly growing) is here. And now for other teachers' responses and recommendations:-

INOTE IT survey (training needs)

The fourth post today from our survey of English teachers in Ireland. This one quotes responses to the question What areas of technology would you like training in?
  • Interactive whiteboard (useful when I actually get one!)
  • How to incorporate simple IT into my teaching of English.
  • Just recently appointed Principal - ITC has been designated one of our priorities so any practical help on making ITC accessible and easily used in English classes would help. ITC needs to be part of daily teaching plans not the novelty item!
  • Would like more on Google Docs and Apps
  • Using i-pads, lists of useful web-sites, Moodle.
  • Computers!
  • I would really, really like to upskill in this area. I believe technology will be more important in the classroom going forward and I'm not that skilled. Looking forward to the presentation in Kilkenny.
  • Presentations, animations, useful websites for english
  • All and any!
  • Not sure, but keen to hear about others.
  • Anything that's going.
  • Use of visualiser & other such equipment.
  • Everything. I am a technophobe!
  • I find that practice and experimentation are the best way to hone my technology skills, as, at 56, I don't feel that I'm as 'receptive' to learning all of these new skills as readily as some of my younger colleagues!  We had some very useful in-service in May as part of our Croke Park hours. What I need to do is to work on what we learned there, to master and perfect those skills.  Colleagues in my school are wonderful in terms of helping and teaching each other, as we slowly adapt our teaching methodologies to the new era.  Such 'gradual' learning suits me!  Interestingly, I asked my 6th year Higher Level students today if they would like me to use the Data Projector/Powerpoint presentation, in conjunction with my handout for teaching 'Literary Genre'  and they said no.  They preferred me to use the whiteboard + marker with the handouts, teaching in my traditional way!!!!
  • Using laptop and screen to present and to engage pupils in texts and debate, etc. 
  • Moodle, Visualisers, Educational apps.
  • Any training would be great apart from the very basics! 
  • Interactive whiteboards (many times).
  • Using technology in a more interactive way for students.
  • Day to day stuff - to make English more interactive - update skills
  • Audacity - interactive whiteboards - recording/filming students doing recitals/presentations
  • Use of interactive whiteboard (and to have one!!)
  • Basics
  • Downloading YouTube clips
  • Loading notes/lessons onto the Internet 
  • Interactive whiteboard & useful websites for english
  • I don't tend to use technology in my English class other than showing a DVD on the projector screen, so I'd be interested in any ideas about how to use it.  Ideas need to be easy to prepare and to implement as I'm not an expert in using technology. One of the main reasons I don't use technology often is that I'm not confident I'll be able to fix a problem if something goes wrong, so some trouble-shooting ideas would also be good.
  • Using laptop and data projector as an interactive resource in class instead of writing on white bard
  • Using more technology in the English classroom in general
  • How to safely and accurately download material from the net. 
  • Information on available software & how to help students  make and upload their own videos
  • Interactive white board (just very unsure about it)
  • Troubleshooting when problems occur and I end up completely stuck. That's when I end up resorting to chalk and talk - sad but true. 
  • Using interactive resources such as Moodle
  • All areas
  • Blogging with Blogger and/or Wordpress - Ways to self-publish one's own notes - Moodle
  • Probably all of them - particularly the areas I have not even heard of!!
  • Whatever areas will enhance the teaching/learning experience of English in my classrooms
  • Using social media - could I use Twitter - How do I set up a blog?
  • Powerpoint and YouTube
  • Google apps and the various brilliant but confusing apps I see on SCC English!
  • All of it!
  • Scanning machine you can scan a picture into and then present to class via pc tv screen.
  • Further expansion on IT in classroom - Collaborative projects for inter-school work
  • Google docs / Google apps / Prezi
  • (click Read More below for further responses)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

TY Extended Essay Book Recommendations

Transition Year pupils should now start filling in this form (over the next 7 days), writing a paragraph or two recommending the Extended Essay book you have read or are reading. Link also on the top right column.