Friday, October 25, 2013

Green, Collins

We start half-term today, and so this blog will get going again on Monday week. 

Here are the latest two book recommendations from IV formers reading for their Transition Year Extended Essays, which they will write when we resume (as always, a selection of the best will be published here).

Sophia Wehner has read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:-
This book is one of my favorite books because it is not like other books about cancer, it is refreshing in the way it´s written even if you think you know from the beginning how it will end. It tells the story of twoyoung people, Hazel and Augustus. Hazel was diagnosed with Stage 4 Thyroid cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs when she was 13, but has managed to live with her disease thanks to doses of an experimental drug called Phalanxifor. They get to know each other in a Support Group for children with cancer. Augustus or "Gus" shows her that everything could be possible even if she is ill. They fall in love although they know that Hazel has not much time anymore...  If you want to know how this book ends, read it!

Simon Glennon recommends The Hunger Games, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I always go for dramatic books. I like to always have something to think about and to be lead on by. Something to keep me reading.  The Hunger Games is a great book series as it's so unpredictable. I highly recommend the series to anyone with similar interests.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hesse, Morpurgo, Remarque

Three more recommendations from IV formers of books they have read recently for their TY Extended Essays:-

Michael Murphy has read Michael Morpurgo's Alone on a Wide Wide Sea:-
I really liked this book because it was so interesting to find out what was going to happen in Arthur's life. It was the first book I've ever wanted to actually make sure I get my prep done fast so I can have a little time just to read more of the book. The story is very good and also very sad; it really makes you feel like you know the characters as if they were your actual friends in life. I'd recommend this book to anyone as I'd know they'd enjoy it as well.

Ciaran Chisholm recommends Erich Maria Remarque's classic All Quiet on the Western Front:
Anyone at all interested in the First World War would love this novel. Remarque describes the perspective of a everyday German soldier in the trenches with very powerful and poignant imagery that keeps the reader gripped with every word.

And Oisin Large recommends Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game: 
It's about a man named Joseph Knecht who explains his life through the book. His dream is to become the Magister Ludi (the master of the game) of the glass bead game. The glass bead game helps people to understand their own lives better. It makes fiction become reality and you realise the truth of the world.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

INOTE 2013

Earlier today INOTE, the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English, held its annual conference in Kilkenny. Here are some tweets and resources from the day:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Transition Year House Speech competition, 2013

On Sunday 29th September we had the annual Transition Year House Speech competition in the Big Schoolroom. Now we have a very thorough review of the speeches and the evening by TY pupil Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe.

As she writes: All in all, the house speech competition  was truly a wonderful night. From touching, heart-wrenching speeches to ones which made us cry with laughter, that night, we had it all. The wide variety of subjects chosen by the pupils gave an interesting mix to the whole evening, which I will do my best to review in the following lines.

Read Louvisa's full review here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Clara Vogel has read John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for her TY Extended Essay and writes: 

This book is one of the most interesting books I have read about the Second World War. Lots of books about the Second World War are told from the view of a victim. But this book is from the view of an officer's child, which is very difficult to do. 

The family has to leave Berlin for moving to the Aus chwitz concentration camp. The two siblings don't really know where they are and why they had to move away from their hometown Berlin. The older girl is very self confident and does not have a problem with having no friends there. She is always playing with her dolls. But the younger boy Bruno misses his friends  very much. He is very desperate because no other kids live next to him.

One day he decided to explore his environment and finds a fence. He really wants to know what is behind the fence. Then one day a little boy of Bruno's age is sitting on the other side of the fence. They become friends and talk every day. Bruno is learns new things about the other side, where everybody is wearing the same 'pyjamas' and the same short haircut.

I really like the book because of the fact that it is based on a true story. It is very well written so you can't put it away.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Never Let Me Go

For his Transition Year Extended Essay, Harvey McCone is reading Kazuo Ishiguro's haunting Never Let Me Go and writes:-

I like weird books. In a different kind of world or time. That is why I decided to read 'Never Let me Go'. It is a tale of three main characters: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. The story is told by Kathy. She talks about her meories of their time growing up. They were raised in a picturesque boarding school in the countryside called Hailsham. However this school is different. The students never leave and they call their teachers guardians. They are taught that personal welfare is most imortant.

This is a story of young people growing up and discovering the devastating truth about the short lives ahead of them. It is about love, freindship and loss. I liked this book a lot. I developed strong feelings for the three characters, especially Kathy. If you enjoy books about young people and don't mind something a bit different, this should be the book for you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

Now for the first in our annual series of book recommendations by Transition Year pupils currently reading for their Extended Essays.

Margareta Laudien thinks that John Green's The Fault in our Stars is 'superb', and writes:

It is about the story of two teenagers, Augustus and Hazel, who get to know each other in a support group for people with cancer. But the incredible thing in the book is that Green is able to push the cancer into the background. You almost forget the disease while reading the book. Augustus and Hazel both concentrate on each other, on their life, and try to ignore their bodies - with success. They finally fly to Amsterdam together, where Hazel is hoping to meet her favourite author. 

Once started, you don't really want to put the book down. Green wrote it with so much love and humour, that it is nearly impossible not to cry or laugh while reading it. It doesn't tell the story of two teenagers who have cancer. It tells the story of two teenagers who fall in love and live their life. 

I recommend this book to everyone. Not only to teenager girls and boys. This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read and can be an inspiration for everyone!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

HMC Poetry Competition

Last week Sadhbh Sheeran travelled to London to read her poem 'Anniversary' at the HMC Conference, and here is her account of the experience - 

Last Tuesday, the 1st of October, accompanied by my ever-encouraging mother, I headed for the HMC conference in London. I had been chosen by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy (pictured), as one of four runners-up in the HMC’s sixth form poetry competition and I was to read my poem at an evening of music and poetry in London. On arriving at the Hilton hotel on Edgeware Road, where the conference was being held, I was met by the Warden and James Priory, organiser of the event. After meeting the winner and other runners-up we had a short rehearsal.  The evening was opened and closed with a number of pieces of music from different schools. The music varied from jazz to opera. I was particularly taken by a choir from King's School Canterbury who had put a modern twist on some classic songs. When it came to the poetry section of the night we were each presented with a certificate by the Poet Laureate and in turn read our winning entries. She read a few of her poems including the very amusing ‘The Laughter of Stafford Girls' High’.

I still cannot quite believe that Carol Ann Duffy has not only read my poems but that I was able to read one to her. I had a lovely evening in London, albeit a somewhat unexpected addition to my week. I particularly enjoyed hearing Carol Ann read her own work; it had an entirely different impression on me when read by its author. Meeting her and other young poets has encouraged me to continue writing. It was altogehter together a thoroughly inspiring experience.

by Sadhbh Sheeran
I want to say I threw you a party,
Played your songs and told your stories,
But I didn’t.
I wore pyjamas down to breakfast.
I want to say I put on your jacket,
The one you gave me,
But I didn’t.
I did visit you, for the first time all year.
A muddy oblong without a stone.
I chose a card for you. I’d painted it,
Brimming with colours.
I didn’t know what to write so mummy did it.
Maybe you could read it,
I couldn’t.
I did bring you flowers, boring out of season
Flowers; white, cold, nameless things and
Yellow roses.
I placed them close to your head.
Maybe you could smell them.
I couldn’t.
Somebody had put a rock where your heart should be,
Flat and round and white against the mud.
Maybe you could feel it.
I could,
It hurt.
I wanted to tell you that Spring will come
But I didn’t,
Because I know that you know that,
Can taste it in the earth and rain.
For then the mud shall turn to flowers,
And you shall show the world you came!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

iPad Apps for English

The iPad is making plenty of waves in education, and certainly for teachers, for whom its portability and handiness for display is just right. So here are some recommended apps for English teachers (and pupils). And plenty will suit teachers of other subjects too, of course. Many are free, few cost much.

Join in the comments section if you'd like to recommend others...


  • Notability: top class app for taking notes (including audio) and using for class demonstration and annotation of texts.
  • Simplenote: excellent simple note app which syncs with apps for other operating systems (the Mac app has just been released - needs Mountain Lion). Searchable, with tags.
  • Notesy: another simple and elegant note-taking app (backup through Dropbox).
  • Paper: beautiful drawing app for displaying your own notes to class (in-app purchases for more tools).
  • WorkFlowy : excellent versatile outlining tool, with perfect syncing on other devices - our review here.


  • SugarSync: similar to Dropbox, but in some areas even better - bring all your notes and English documents to class with you.
  • Numbers: there are lots of grading and specialist teaching apps out there, but this standard Apple spreadsheet app does the job well. So ditch the paper markbook and make sure you backup via iCloud.
  • Quickoffice: now free from Google, with Google Drive integration. Allows you to work easily on Microsoft Office files 
  • Attendance: well designed and easy to use app for taking attendance records - our quick review here.
  • Edmodo: Facebook-like app for connecting with classes, accepting essay submissions, storing class documents and more, all within a safe private environment. And you can connect with other teachers around the world too.
  • Good Reader: possibly the best app for reading and annotating PDFs. Well worth the modest cost.
  • Phoster: creates attractive posters for noticeboards easily.


  • ShowMe: excellent demonstration app - check out our own video/audio annotations of texts such as The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Hamlet and Macbeth here.
  • MarkUp: from the people behind ShowMe comes this simple and very handy marking app. Take in pupils' work via email, mark it, send it back.
  • Haiku Deck: classy and dramatic presentations.
  • TED: there's a wealth of material on TED for classroom discussion, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'The Danger of a Single Story'.
  • Story Cubes: great app for prompting ideas about story-telling and narrative structure. See our review here.

The Usual Suspects
Everyone recommends these, and everyone's right

  • Dropbox : still the best way to save and share your files across all devices. Our own Department 'filing cabinet' now exists in Dropbox, with a shared folder of administrative documents and teaching materials.
  • Google Drive : the best medium for collaboration between pupils and between staff. And more besides.
  • Evernote : some swear by it, some don't really get going. At its best, a great place to store notes, pictures, projects and more.
  • Skype : connections with educators and classes all over the world - see Skype Education
  • Twitter: essential Personal Learning Network, with resources and support from all over the world. See #engchat for English teaching matters.  We recommend Tweetbot for using Twitter.


  • Instapaper: English teachers and pupils are (should be) 'text maniacs'. Instapaper is a terrific service that saves long articles from the web, strips out the 'gunge' and allows you to sit back and read them on your iPad at the end of the day. Pocket does the same job.
  • Kindle: the original and the best. Plenty of annotation and note-taking opportunities, and you don't need a Kindle for reading.
  • Zite: excellently designed aggregator for browsing items of interest.


  • The Waste Land: more 'expensive' than most apps, but worth it - a stunning teaching and learning resource on Eliot's complex poem.
  • The Sonnets: all Shakespeare's sonnets beautifully presented in text, audio and video, with plenty of notes. See our review here.
  • Cambridge Shakespeare: excellent resource for Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Twelfth Night.

(see a related and sometimes overlapping series on iOS apps here).