Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Submarine, June 2019

The latest edition of the pupil magazine The Submarine, or rather, given the time of the year, The Summerine, has just been published in school in paper form, and now can be read here electronically, above, via Issuu (click for closer view and navigation, click on the arrows to move through the pages). Below, Noah Leach's composition (see the back page of the magazine).

In this issue, plenty of interesting writing, and lots of pupil art work. Thanks to this year's Editor Tania Stokes as she hands over to Avi and Edna Johnston, next year's Editors, and Emma Hinde, sub-editor.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Leaving Certificate Paper 2

Right now our candidates are deep into the marathon that is Paper 2 (Literature), but since the SEC has started to put papers online before the end of each exam, we can already assess it.

Almost all our candidates sit Higher Level, and everyone has studied Macbeth as the single text. No character question this year (character options are relatively limited in a play with such a small cast of important characters). Instead, there are questions on the ways 'horrific, bizarre and unbelievable elements' do or do not 'heighten the tragic intensity' of the play - pretty straightforward, allowing candidates to examine elements such as the witches and the murders of Duncan, Banquo and the Macduffs. The other option is on Shakespeare's use of language, including imagery, and this should be approached with caution (only if a candidate is fully prepared for quite a technical matter).

The comparative section asks on Literary Genre and Vision and Viewpoint, with the first question on the latter opening up possible sidetracking on the matter of 'our personal beliefs' and the second asking candidates to be fully au fait with just what 'personal integrity' is. The first Genre question, on techniques showing characters' mindsets, is straightforward, as is the second, on mood and atmosphere in texts.

The unseen poem is Carol Ann Duffy's 'The Wound in Time', commissioned by Danny Boyle for the centenary of the end of the First World War (odd, then, that it should appear here in 2019 rather than 2018). It is dense and quite knotty, and may well challenge a lot of candidates.

The infamous Poetry Stakes see in the frame Kennelly, Yeats, Bishop and Plath. The Kennelly question has a lot in it (let's hope all understand 'intrinsic'), while the Yeats and Plath questions seem a retreat to the more pared down questions of the past.

Not great that 'skilful' is misspelt in a Leaving Certificate English paper (the question on Bishop), replaced by the Americanism with two 'll's...

A handful of our pupils are sitting the exam at Ordinary Level: Macbeth is straightforward, the comparative questions were fair (on relationships or a theme), Elaine Feeney's 'Jack' is the unseen poem, and our candidates will be happy with writing on either Kennelly's 'Begin' or Bishop's 'The Fish' (skilfully or not).

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Leaving Certificate Paper 1, 2019

Good timing today for Paper 1 at Higher Level English, with one of the texts being David Park's brilliant short novel Travelling in a Strange Land, our own Book of the Year in 2018, and just last week named the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year at the Listowel Writers' Week. The extract was mostly disconnected from the narrative of the book (about a father driving across England to collect his snow-bound student son).

Though there are many complaints about teachers about the quality of new Junior Cycle material, at this level there was consistently good writing, since the other two comprehension extracts were by the novelist Jeanette Winterson and the columnist Caitlin Moran. The former's piece 'What is Art For?' was quite dense and may have proven challenging to some candidates. Moran's essay in support of public libraries was characteristically lively (plenty of good material for the style question).

As initiated last year, one question on each comprehension text sent candidate back into their Literature course, something we welcome as an exploration of content which certainly should be deeply embedded, and thus comfortable for candidates. The B short essays were in the forms of argument, a reflective essay (look at the photograph of the earth from space and 'imagine you are fleeing Earth on the last spaceship evacuating the planet have made our world uninhabitable' - hmm, not sure anyone would be writing a reflective essay in those circumstances...) and an introduction to a collection of essays. Again there is a lot in the instructions to such essays to grapple with.

The main Composition essay were well-judged, with topics such as 'a self-obsessed generation', the values of young people today, the places which shaped you and 'what feeds your imagination' attractive to all. Again short stories may have proven trickier, with one contorted choice for a collection of spy stories (a librarian, a photograph and a chair to be central to the narrative) to be treated warily by all by but the most confident - it would be easy to fall flat on your face.

Unsurprisingly the Ordinary Level paper (we have a handful of candidates) will have frightened no-one. The third piece was of the moment: addressing waste at a festival (Electric Picnic), and the compositions straightforward.

Now onto Literature. Lots of resources here to freshen up your understanding of Macbeth, and do some self-testing or pair up with a friend (best practice: don't merely reread notes, which wastes precious time and is largely useless).