Wednesday, March 28, 2012

II Form Actiontrack

Last week, II formers took part in the annual Actiontrack drama workshops over three days, with Nick and Molly. Afterwards, they wrote down their reflections on the experience, and here is a selection of comments:-

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Actiontrack: it really helped me think about how to act and how to go about doing the small things in acting which make a huge difference - for instance, the length of stride in your character's walk. 
  • At first I didn't know what to expect, but Molly and Nick were encouraging and enthusiastic. It was extraordinary how unique and personal are our walks are ; they differentiate characters.
  • We followed each others' hands and body parts: it taught you control, especially when you're leading someone.
  • It was a very fun and enjoyable experience and I can't wait to do it again in fourth form.
  • Nick and Molly were the first people I have met that express themselves in such a theatrical way.
  • I have never really enjoyed acting but Actiontrack made it fun. I had never been taken in so much depth into acting and really enjoyed mimicking.
  • I think the coolest part was when we got to add more emotion to characters.
  • I learnt that to create a character and story you only have to do the simplest of things.
  • The first thing we worked on was how to become someone else on the stage. They used a very simple exercise: look at each other's walk and try to do the same. That made me realize how different people are, even in their most common movements.
  • I think it was a big advantage to be a small group: we got personal advice, which was especially beneficial.
  • One of the most important thiings I learnt was when you are told to do something or given a direction, don't look around to see how everyone else takes the order - just go with your instincts and what you think is right. 
  • I think that doing Actiontrack has been the most fun I have had in a long time.
  • It was really interesting, the way we had to notice and be careful with details.
  • Working with spaces: we had to be really careful just opening a door! Indeed, a lot of us used to ring the locker with them having opened it, or simply walked into the wall. We had to imagine everything, which was really tricky. We worked on entering a swimming pool, but most of us couldn't even reach the ticket kiosk without making at least four mistakes!
  • Watching people's walks: this was very funny and interesting. It made me realise  that I lift my shoulders up when I walk. I never knew I did that!
  • I definitely wish we could have something like this once or twice a week. It really gives permission to you to have fun and be free while doing something educational. If this were to happen I think it would be one of the school's greatest ideas yet. Thank you for a wonderful and educational experience.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Questions for the Unseen

For VI formers trying to improve their approach to the 'unseen poem' in the Leaving Certificate, here's Richard Pollott with his 6W cube (who / where / what / when / how /why?)

Friday, March 23, 2012

The History of English (in 10 minutes)

One of the modules in our Transition Year course is on the history of the English language (focussing on Geoffrey Chaucer). Above, an entertaining whizz through that history from the Open University, complete with animation and a commentary spoken by Clive Anderson.

The Mahon Tribunal word-cloud

Click on the image for a closer view.
Above, another in our series of Public Wordles examining the way 'official' language is used in speeches and documents.

Yesterday, the immense final report of the Mahon Tribunal into planning scandals was published. This word-cloud condenses the 3270 pages of the report into the 100 most-used words (the larger the word, the more often it was used).

Names feature prominently of course (though perhaps surprisingly 'Ahern' is relatively small). Some interesting words are 'satisfied', 'political', and 'claimed'. And there's no doubt that this report focusses on men...

Above, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's response (the 230 most common words). Again, click for a closer view.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Edward Thomas, war and friendship

Connections and a question for Leaving Certificate pupils-
Matthew Hollis's fine and affecting new biography of Edward Thomas, Now All Roads Lead to France - the last years of Edward Thomas, focusses on Thomas's friendship with Robert Frost (elucidating 'The Road Not Taken' in a new way), and ends with the writer's death in France in April 1917. 95 years ago this month, Thomas wrote this in a letter to his friend, the poet Walter de la Mare:

We might see the apple blossom but I doubt that. Nobody is very hopeful. I think myself that things may go on at this rate for more than a year. The rate may be changed, but not if the Hun can help it, and his retirement looks very inconvenient in every way. I wish you had said more about Frost. One is absolutely friendless here ... You say it would be good if we could have a talk, but, you know, I fancy it would not do to have a real friend out here.

For our pupils in VI and V studying How Many Miles to Bablyon? and thinking of Alec and Jerry - why?

Below, Matthew Hollis reads from the book and talks about the origins of Thomas's poetry (the first also looks at 'The Road Not Taken').



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mr Swift's Library selection

The latest in the series of staff recommendations organised by Mr McConville for our Library is from Mr Ronan Swift, sometime of this English parish, and mastermind of the annual Voices of Poetry evening. The theme of this selection is 'Books I'd read by the age of 19, or wish I'd read by then.' Among them are Joyce's short stories Dubliners and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life. Ronan's comments can be read below (click once for closer view, again for close-up).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

English Teachers and Technology

On Twitter and the English Companion Ning, we've been asking what level of technical expertise new teachers coming into the profession should have. This has been prompted by a belief that, despite all the technology being used by the 'Facebook Generation', they may not be as adept as expected when starting their careers. 

The survey below (or click here) can take 30 seconds to complete or 30 minutes. Hope you can join in, or perhaps add a comment at the end of the post. Results and an analysis will be posted here in a while. Thank you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Twitter for English Teaching

It's easy for teachers to get caught up in the stream of resources, ideas and responses on Twitter, so it's worth every now and then stepping back a little and thinking about these.

Here are some ways Twitter has given me ideas, resources, and intellectual stimulation recently. Coming soon, a post on the nature of the technical expertise that training and new English teachers should have: Twitter as the centre of a Personal Learning Network will feature prominently.

Dipping into the stream-
  • was advised to try out SugarSync: and it's a brilliant service, as good as Dropbox (in a slightly different way). Synced entire English documents from the laptop and now am able to access these anywhere, including the classroom (and display there). The slight difference is that SugarSync synchronises your current folders, so you don't have to make new ones (Dropbox).
  • discovered the ShowMe app, a form of screencasting for the iPad: which has prompted a series of close analyses of moments in The Great Gatsby (more to come, on Hamlet and poetry).
  • an excellent resource for genre in story-telling via @tombarrett - Seth Worley's film Plot Device.
  • another neat quick film from @mediaguardian - 'Three Little Pigs' as covered in the Twitter/social media age.
  • would probably have read it eventually, but prompted to start on Matthew Hollis's excellent Now All Roads Lead to France, the last years of Edward Thomas by John Self's review on his Asylum blog- @john_self. Two poets for the price of one, since Robert Frost is also at the core of this biography. And the biographer's video tour of Hampshire via @guardianbooks.
  • discovered  the excellent (newish) blog RAMS English by @kenc18 , which has lots of intelligent reflective posts on our profession. Check out this one on 'Books for English teachers'.
  • prompted to think about an 'Article of the Week' for Leaving Cert pupils after tweets about Kelly Gallagher's work - @KellyGToGo.
  • from @mediaguardian this short video about how the Three Little Pigs story might be covered nowadays.
  • a great list of 'Great Read-Alouds' from the New York Times Learning Network @NYTimeslearning via @caroljago.
  • from @nybooks an interesting case by the novelist Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books, favouring e-books over paper: The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience.
  • Conversations with English teachers in Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and more... 
  • some ideas about using @edmodo.
  • discovered these books - Margaret Edson's Wit, her play about cancer, and John Donne; Thomas Newkirk's fascinating and essential The Art of Slow Reading (particularly valuable if you spend time on Twitter); Kelly Gallagher's Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it; Old Friend from Far Away: the practice of memoir by Natalie Goldberg - lots of ideas for encouraging writing.
  • after reading Teju Cole's fine 'Sebaldian' novel Open City, came across his 'Small Fates' Twitter project - an interesting use of the medium by @tejucole.
  • interesting articles such as Confessions of a 'Bad' Teacher.
  • a fine story by Yiyun Li, 'Sweeping Past', for discussion with pupils, via @caroljago.
  • fun: make your own silent movie with 'The Artistifier'. 
  • and an unimportant failure - asked PLN for an iPad app that would mask and gradually reveal what's on the screen but haven't yet come across one (would be very helpful in class). So if anyone reads this, please send suggestions to @sccenglish.
  • and this is just the English subject-related tweets, but check out Irish hashtags #cesi12 and #edchatie too...


Here's our English teaching Twitter list.

Friday, March 09, 2012

M.T. Anderson & Mark Haddon : Junior Cert book report

For his Junior Certificate preparation book report, Peter Quigley chose two books about outsiders, and explains:

"The books I read were called The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing by M.T Anderson  and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. I chose these books because they both involve somebody who is an outsider in society. In “Astonishing Life” Octavian is a coloured boy who lives in colonial Boston. In  “Curious Incident” Christopher is a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives in modern Britain. Although the time in which they are both set are hundreds of years apart, the people’s views of the two boys are very similar. Both books are written in the 1st person and both are written through the minds of children. Both authors do this very well"

Read Peter's full essay here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

'The Great Gatsby' 15: the end of the novel

No 15 (and last) in a series of close analyses of key moments in The Great Gatsby looks at the last paragraphs of the novel.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

'The Great Gatsby' 14: Nick and Gatsby's last meeting

No 14 in a series of close analyses of key moments in The Great Gatsby. This deals with the last time Nick sees Gatsby, who dies shortly afterwards.

Monday, March 05, 2012

INOTE Dublin West

For those at the INOTE in-service session in the Dublin West Education Centre today, here are the documents for notes and links, and the presentation.

'The Great Gatsby' 13: Gatsby falls in love with Daisy

No 13 in a series of close analyses of key moments in The Great Gatsby. This is when a devastated Gatsby tells Nick about how he first fell in love with Daisy.

Friday, March 02, 2012

'The Field'

The Junior Play, John B. Keane's The Field, is on tonight and tomorrow night in the BSR. Below, Garry Bannister's video introduction to the production.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

'The Comedy of Errors' at NTLive

Tonight, the cast and crew of our November 2011 Shakespeare Society production of The Comedy of Errors are looking forward to see their equivalents in the National Theatre in London perform the play, via the live telecast into the local cinema in Dundrum.  Below, the trailer.

'Three Little Pigs' in media storm

The Guardian has a neat take on the Three Little Pigs fairy-tale, as it might be covered by both the conventional media and social media nowadays. Handy for Media Studies?


'The Field'

This Friday and Saturday, 2nd and 3rd March, sees the performances of the annual Junior Play in the BSR. This year it is John B. Keane's classic 1965 story of conflict over land in Kerry, The Field. Mr Jameson is again the director, following successful productions of Gizmo, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Romeo and Juliet in recent years.

Parents are welcome on either night, with both performances starting at 7pm.

The cast is-

The Bull McCabe - Mark McAuley
Tadhg - Brendan Dickerson
Maimie Flanagan - Lydia Johnson
Mick Flanagan - Aidan Chisholm
Leamy Flanagan - Samuel Clarke
Sergeant Leahy - Jessica Beresford
Bird Finnegan - John Clarke
Maggie Butler - Molly Buckingham
William Dee - Ugo Onwurah
Dandy McCabe - Callan Elliott
Mrs McCabe - Jessye Faulkner
Father Murphy - Sofia McConnell
The Bishop - Siobhan Brady