Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cool Things This Year

Term ended yesterday, and now we're on our Christmas holidays until Monday 10th January. Things will be quietish on this blog until then, though there will be occasional posts. The main priority now is reading lots of books (our Summer Reading recommendations still work at Christmas too, if you'd like some ideas).

Looking back over 2010, here are some 'cool things' on the technology front we discovered or started using in our Department:-
  • Google Docs: the collaborative features for pupils writing their Transition Year Extended Essays and III form book reports (some have been published here already, more will follow in January). This is a really powerful tool for English (and other) teachers, allowing us to monitor and support pupils in their writing.
  • Google Forms: so far only toes dipped in the water, but again this free service has lots of interesting applications for us, saving time and paperwork.
  • Twitter: we started on Twitter in 2009 (November), but the SCC English Twitter account has really taken off in 2010. This post on our 'twitterversary' shows how helpful the service has been.
  • Visualiser / Document Camera: the Department has had one for a few weeks now; it's a really helpful classroom tool, and a blog post will follow on its use. We'll be demonstrating it to other staff in an in-service session at the start of next term.
  • TinyLetter: this neat free newsletter service, recently started by @pud (he's refining and redeveloping it regularly) is a great way to maintain the conversation with our followers. There's only been time for one newsletter so far. Several more coming in 2011... Do join in.
  • Audioboo: another excellent service - five minute recordings made on an iPhone and then uploaded. This has facilitated the Patterns of Poetry series, which has just been voted runner-up in the Edublog Awards 'Best Educational Use of Audio' category. And here's the original post with an Audioboo explanation of the app.
  • QR codes: just a toe dipped in the water with these, but hoping to develop their use in 2011.
  • Mobile apps: here's our series reviewing helpful apps for English teaching and learning (concentrating on iPhone/iPad services). Plenty more coming in 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 15: hyperbole

Last night this series was voted first runner-up in the Edublog Awards in the category 'Best Educational Use of Audio.' Many thanks to all our supporters.

The 15th talk (all under 5 minutes) is about the figure of speech called hyperbole, and uses Patrick Kavanagh's well-known poem 'A Christmas Childhood' to examine this effect.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. The first 8 talks are available as a single podcast here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Hamlet' at NTLive reviewed

Last Thursday the Shakespeare Society went with 125 pupils to see the current National Theatre Live production of Hamlet at our local cinema, beamed in HD from London. The Society's secretary, Miriam Poulton, reports:

The most confusing thing about the production of Hamlet that Fifth and Sixth Form went to see on Thursday was, to me, whether or not one was supposed to clap. Broadcast live from the National Theatre in London to Dundrum cinema, amongst locations in sixteen different countries, this production starring Rory Kinnear in the title role, has been hyped up massively as being the definitive Hamlet of our generation. It didn’t fail to impress.

Using the setting of a Baroque palace as the headquarters of a modern European dictatorship, we were immediately thrown into a “Big Brother” sort of world. The corners of the stage were at all times filled with security guards and earpieces, and in his first scene rather than simply asking his parents’ permission to go back to university, we saw Hamlet being refused a visa to leave Denmark. The sense that the characters were constantly being watched gave the production an air of ill ease and the soliloquies were emphasised as being the only way a character could express himself freely (though in some cases it appeared they were still being watched even then).

Along with this new setting, new spins were taken on several features of the play. Claudius’s introductory speech and Fortinbras’s closing speech were both spoken as television broadcasts, and shortly before her death we saw Ophelia being dragged offstage by two burly security guards. These diversions from the traditional reading of the play made the production seem particularly fresh and exciting, even to Sixth Formers who, after finishing their second read-through, thought there was nothing about Hamlet that could surprise them.

Across the board, the acting was, as far as I could tell, faultless. Kinnear’s Hamlet was once again very different to the traditional prince I had in my mind, in his tired black suit and later a t-shirt adorned by a smiley face and the word “Villain.” His performance was spectacular, showing a huge range of talent, from soliloquies dripping with real emotion to some hilarious scenes of feigned madness- special mention must, of course, be given to his climbing into a suitcase full of books.

The comic element of the play was aided by a bumbling Polonius in David Calder - so convincing in losing his train of thought that most people in the cinema thought he had simply forgotten his line. Patrick Malahide’s Claudius was played to the extreme of cool and calculating; even his soliloquy seemed like some piece of clever publicity rather than actual emotion, and Ruth Negga succeeded in played Ophelia with a surprising amount of backbone. The production returned to the most simple of methods in portraying the Ghost- an actor in white make-up with red rimmed eyes walking across the stage which, despite its simplicity, managed to be particularly haunting. The Dumb Show just before the play was done in an extremely interesting way, the players in white masks dancing and giving a most modern interpretation of the word “mime.” These details, which are often hard to perform on stage, were treated with care, once more allowing fresh light to be shed on them.

Overall, the performance was hugely enjoyable. The performances were truly excellent, the interpretation of many parts of the play was highly original and allowed us to see the play from a different angle and whether we were supposed to or not, at the end we gave the peopleon screen a round of thunderous applause.

[click here for several press reviews of the production]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Final Day for Edublog Awards voting

Voting finishes early tomorrow morning (5am Irish time) in the Edublog Awards 2010: just click on the badges to the right to support us. Thanks!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The BBC Hamlet Archive

A great resource for those studying Hamlet, like our VI and V forms, is the BBC Hamlet Archive. It includes clips of actors such as John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, David Tennant and Kenneth Branagh talking about the role, as well as directors Jonathan Miller and Michael Pennington (who wrote an excellent book on the subject).

English Prizes 2010-11

This year's English prizes will be held tonight- the Senior in Adare from 6.45pm, the Junior in Kennedy from 6.30pm. You can't prepare for either exam. Just turn up and do your best...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Shadow Wave' and 'The Rescue'

III formers completed their book reports (preparation for the Junior Certificate) recently, and we'll post some of the best here, as usual. Juliana Huggard wrote on Robert Muchamore's Shadow Wave and Sophie McKenzie's The Medusa Project: The Rescue.

She writes: there was a a very helpful and wide range of interesting books on the list, but I have a very distinctive taste... these are equally extraordinary books.

Read Juliana's full essay here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great Gatsby

Later this year we'll be studying F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece with V form as part of their comparative study for the Leaving Certificate. Above is a recording from Studio 360. In the words of the site:

Studio 360 explores F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and finds out how this compact novel became the great American story of our age.  Novelist Jonathan Franzen tells Kurt Andersen why he still reads it every year or two, and writer Patricia Hampl explains why its lightness is deceptive. We’ll drive around the tony Long Island suburbs where Gatsby was set, and we’ll hear from Andrew Lauren about his film G, which sets Gatsby among the hip-hop moguls. And Azar Nafisi describes the power of teaching the book to university students in Tehran. Readings come courtesy of Scott Shepherd, an actor who sometimes performs the entire book from memory.

100 Top Classroom Blogs

SCC English, as well as our neighbours at the Frog Blog, features on Online Degrees' list of 100 Top Classroom Blogs, just out. It's well worth exploring this list, which stretches from Kindergarten to University. In our Secondary/High School section, there's lots of interest across several subject areas.

On the same site, there are other useful lists, such as 100 reasons why educators should use blogs and 20 helpful tools for teacher blogs.

Rory Kinnear's Hamlet

Last night 130 of us went to the National Theatre Live showing of Hamlet, featuring Rory Kinnear, in the Dundrum cinema; there will be a pupil report here shortly. A list of some of the reviews this production has received:-

  • The Guardian (Michael Billington): Elsinore has a hugely living presence in the production.
  • London Independent (David Lister). A world where everything is watched and noted.
  • Daily Telegraph (Charles Spencer). Kinnear captures the humanity, humour, pain and multi-layered complexity of the role.
  • The Express (Neil Norman). Hamlet is a kind of uber-geek who could happily captain the winning team on University Challenge.
  • This is London (Henry Hitchings). Kinnear refreshes the key speeches.
  • New York Times (Matt Wolf). This is a Hamlet who knows how to use language as its own kind of cloak, until those moments when grief takes over and he succumbs to a silent scream.
You can also hear Kinnear discuss the role with Mark Lawson on Front Row here.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'

It's only appropriate that the latest (69th) Poem of the Week should be Robert Frost's 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. Snow still lies deep in the College, though we are promised a thaw soon... Scan the QR code above with a free app like NeoReader and get a nice surprise...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Interesting Edublog Award links

We were delighted recently to be shortlisted in three categories in the Edublog Awards. Click here for more info (voting ends on Tuesday); you can also vote by clicking the badges to the right, and of course we'd be very happy to get your support.

The awards are a great way to discover other interesting educational work and resources, and this post will pick out a (very) few things which caught our eye. However, it's very much a matter of scratching the surface, so go to the awards site itself and start surfing...

Brian Lenihan's Budget speech

(Click on the image for a closer view)

Following on from the Wordle we recently posted of the National Recovery Plan, which got a lot of attention, here is another, this time of Finance Minister Brian Cowan's budget speech yesterday in the Dáil. These are the 300 most-used words in the text of what he said. An exercise in class would be to compare the two; yesterday's is of course more rhetorical than the previously-published plan, being a speech delivered in a parliament.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

'Hush' & 'White Noise'

Ms Smith's Primary class have been inspired by the current Winter Wonderland Weather Conditions to pen some poems, and here are two of them (photo above by Mr Jones). As this post goes up, the flakes are coming down thickly once again in the Dublin hills...

'Hush' by Penny Nash

Crunching footsteps in the snow,
Smash of the ice,
Caw of the crow

Frosty breath in the air,
Landing flakes
White everywhere

Warmth of the summer long gone,
Gusts of wind
Leaves in wrong


Twinkling light explodes.

'White Noise' by Gregory Munday

All you can hear is a quiet trickling sound,
falling down from the sky to the bare barren ground.

The snow falls down like a soft wet wave,
like water flowing down in a deep dark cave.

Most people would say that this white stuff is chaos,
But I think the snow is something to inspire us.

I like the snow because it’s fun to play in,
But also to forget the pains we are in.

The snow just shows us what a beautiful world we have,
And we should make the most of it before time comes to pass.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Edublog Awards 2010

The 2010 shortlists for the international Edublog Awards are out, and this blog has managed to get nominations in three categories (many thanks to our nominators). Of course, we'd be delighted if you voted for us (it takes 5 seconds - see below). The best thing about these awards is that you can find and explore lots of examples of new good educational work, and another post soon will mention some of these, including some other Irish nominees.

You can vote by clicking on the category titles below, or just by clicking here for the full category list (scroll down). Voting closes on Tuesday 14th December.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

TY Extended Essay: Tóibín, Keegan, O'Neill

Here's the first of the best Extended Essays written by our Transition Year pupils this year. Click on the years for essays from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

Annika Franz's essay is on Emigration, which she examines through three novels by Irish authors: Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn, Joan O'Neill's Dream Chaser and Gerard Keegan's Famine Diary.

Annika writes:

I chose this topic because I think it has always been a relevant and actual theme in the past as it will be in the future, too. On top of that it is a topic that is mostly relevant for young people, so I am able to make my own opinion about how I would decide at their place. In my opinion it is interesting to see why people want or don´t want to leave their home country, what their dreams, plans, and fears are, and how the beginning of their new lives look like. Besides, I can compare the developing of the stories, find parallels but also huge differences between the three destinies.
Read her full essay here.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Books of the Year

For readers, it's delicious to read through the 'Books of the Year' features in the press coming up Christmas, partly when you discover something new. So here's a handy list of recent lists, including recommendations for the season; click the publication's title to read the original articles, followed in some cases by just three of those who are recommending books. More links will be added as they appear.

  1. The Guardian: John Banville, Julian Barnes, Jackie Kay, and readers' favourites here, with a round-up of critics' fiction favourites here.
  2. The Irish Times: Joseph O'Connor, Tim Parks, Claire Keegan, and their Children's Books of the Year. And Science Books for Christmas from Dick Ahlstrom, Technology Books from Karlin Lillington, literary critic Eileen Battersby's Books of the Year
  3. The New York Times: 100 notable books of the year, and the 10 Best Books of 2010 (including Freedom and Room).
  4. The New Statesman: Alain de Botton, Emma Donoghue, Margaret Drabble.
  5. The Observer: Sebastian Faulks, Hari Kunzru, John Lanchester.
  6. The Daily Telegraph (part 1 and part 2): Anthony Horowitz, Justin Cartwright, Sadie Jones. Plus the Top 10 Books of 2010, including Lydia Davis's Collected Stories.
  7. The Atlantic: from Benjamin Schwartz (click at the bottom of the post to see 'runners-up').
  8. Times Literary Supplement: John Ashbery, Paul Muldoon, Ali Smith.
  9. School Library Journal: divided into Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Books
  10. The London Independent: the paper's regular reviewers. See also Children's Books, Travel Books, Literary Fiction, Biography and Memoir, Cinema, Teenagers.
  11. Financial Times: fiction by regular reviewers.
  12. The Economist: the magazine's selection, across all genres.
  13. School Library Journal: 'Best Adult Books for Teens, 2010'.
  14. New York Magazine: Sam Anderson's Top 10 books of 2010.
  15. Book Trust: Books of the Year (with links to reviews) and Translated Fiction.
  16. The New Yorker: 'Books Briefly Noted: a year's reading'.
  17. The Atlantic Monthly: 'The Best Book I Read This Year'.
  18. The Sydney Morning Herald: Christos Tsiolkas, Helen Garner, Brenda Walker
  19. Irish Independent: 'A feast of fiction'- John Boland's top 10 novels of 2010, and Children's Books by Sarah Webb.
  20. The Scotsman: Fiction by Allan Massie (3 pages), Children's Books by Jane Sandall (4 pages), Non-Fiction by Stuart Kelly (2 pages), Travel by Tom Adair (2 pages).
  21. Washington Post: Best 10 books gallery (including David Grossman & Emma Donoghue), Best Fiction & Poetry, Best Non-Fiction, Best 10 Books for Young Readers gallery, Jonathan Yardley's Best Books.
  22. New Zealand Herald: includes Damon Galgut's superb In a Strange Room.
  23. Salon (starting some web only lists now): Dave Eggars, Curtis Sittenfeld, Laura Lippman.
  24. Slate: regular reviewers, over 3 pages.
  25. Boston Globe: Best Fiction (including Peter Carey), Best Non-Fiction (including Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia), Top 10 Children's Books.
  26. The Anti-Room blog: including Paul Murray's Skippy Dies and Natasha Walter's Living Dolls.
  27. Huffington Post: The 10 Best Books, including J.M. Coetzee's Summertime.
  28. The Millions: Maud Newton's 'Year in Reading' (and other contributors).
  29. National Public Radio: Best Books of 2010. Many lists (some audio too), including Year's Best Teen Reads, Maureen Corrigan's list and The Complete List. Word Power- the Year's Best Poetry includes Anne Carson and Charles Simic, and has extracts from the poetry.
  30. Young Adult Library Services Association: Best Books for Young Adults, and 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.
  31. Chicago Tribune: Mary Schmich's Top 9 Books, including Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists.
  32. Poetry books of the year, from the Véhicule Press Blog, including Derek Walcott's White Egrets.
  33. Los Angeles Times: book critic David Ulin's favourite books of 2010, including The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg.
  34. San Francisco Chronicle: Top 10 Books of 2010 by John McMurtrie, including Room and William Trevor's Selected Stories.
  35. Front Row (BBC Radio 4)- text and audio - Children's, Older Children's, Sports and Crime Fiction.
  36. Ready Steady Book: Best of 2010, including John Lanchester's Whoops!
  37. Brainpickings: Best Children's Books of 2010 by Maria Popova.
  38. Asylum Blog: John Self's Twelve from the Shelves, including several 'old' books, such as Bernard Malamud's excellent The Magic Barrel (short stories).
  39. Inside Higher Ed: The Year in Reading.
  40. Daily Beast: Shannon Donnelly's Best Young Adult Novels.
  41. January Magazine: including Non-Fiction, Children and Young Adults, Art and Culture, Crime Fiction 1, Crime Fiction 2, Fiction.
  42. Granta Books: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry, More Non-Fiction.
  43. Editors' Picks: top 100 books. From the bookseller, a choice genuinely based on quality - 15th place goes to Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet.
  44. The Children's Book Review: Best Kids' Picture Books 2010.
  45. ANZ LitLovers LitBlog: 'Top Tens 2010', concentrating on Australian and New Zealand literature.
  46. Reading Matters blog: Best Reads of 2010. Another mention here for Room, with some interesting other choices, including Lee Rourke's The Canal.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


In the words of the great Yogi Berra, it's Déjà vu all over again: the College is deep under a blanket of snow, as we start back again after the Exodus. About half the boarders have returned. So here's an excuse to show again Amelia Shirley's photograph of the Deerpark from earlier this year.