Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Macbeth resources

Here is a summary of some resources for study and revision of Macbeth, starting with our own.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Macbeth quotation practice: all 5 Acts

This Quizlet combines all five previous quotation sets to provide 98 quotations for learning practice. In each case it is important that you also think about the use of each quotation in providing evidence on comments about characters, themes and ideas.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Macbeth quotation test, Act v Quizlet

Monday, November 05, 2018

Macbeth quotation test, Act 4 Quizlet

Articles of the Week

This is an ongoing listing of links to the Articles of the Week used with our Leaving Certificate pupils, from September 2013 onwards.

The idea came from the American teacher and writer Kelly Gallagher, and it fits very well into the Leaving course, getting pupils used to reading interesting articles and thus helping them in both the comprehension and composition sections of their Paper 1, as well as expanding their knowledge base and vocabulary and providing interesting topics for discussion.

Click here for Gallagher's current articles, and read more about the theory behind the scheme in his excellent book Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Pupils have to mark up the articles with annotations before class discussion.
  1. November 2018: "Window for saving Earth from ecological annihilation closing" by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, October 16th 2018.
  2. October 2018: "'Fortnite' teaches the wrong lessons" by Nicholas Tampio, The Conversation, October 12th 2018.
  3. October 2018: "Why true horror movies are about more than things going bump in the night" by Aislinn Clarke, The Conversation [film, horror, comedy], October 3rd 2018.
  4. October 2018:  'Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on the extra challenges women face in moments of anger' by Kieran File, The Conversation, September 11th 2018 [women, gender, sport].
  5. September 2018: 'Why you should read this article slowly' by Joe Moran, The Guardian, September 14th 2018 [reading, internet].
  6. September 2018: 'The ideal school would put children's development before league tables' by Sue Roffey, The Conversation, September 17th 2018.
  7. September 2018: 'Another Angle: For the love of God, put down the phones' by Adrian Weckler, Irish Independent, August 20th 2018 [technology, phone].
  8. May 2018: 'Neuroscience is unlocking mysteries of the teenage brain' by Lucy Foulkes, The Conversation, April 23rd 2018 [adolescence, neuroscience].
  9. March 2018: 'The Tyranny of Convenience' by Tim Yu, New York Times, February 16th 2018 [modern life, technology].
  10. February 2018: "The death of reading is threatening the soul" by Philip Yancey, Washington Post, July 21st 2017 [reading, books, internet].
  11. January 2018: 'Why more men are wearing makeup than ever before' by Glen Jankowski, The Conversation, January 15th 2018 [make-up, masculinity].
  12. January 2018: 'Why 2017 was the best year in human history' by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 6, 2018 [history, progress, health].
  13. November 2017: 'Boys must behave if women are to be safe' by Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, October 31, 2017.
  14. October 2017: 'A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans' by Michael McCarthy, The Guardian, October 21, 2017.
  15. October 2017: 'We can't stop mass murder' by Shikha Dalmia, The Week, October 6, 2017.
  16. October 2017: 'What every teacher should know about ... memory' by Bradley Busch, The Guardian, October 6, 2017 [learning, memory, teaching].
  17. October 2017: 'Think the world is in a mess: here are 4 things you can do about it' by Alexandre Christoyannapoulos. The Conversation, November 16, 2016 [activism, citizenship, economics].
  18. September 2017: 'The power of silence in the smartphone age' by Erling Kagge, The Guardian, September 23rd 2017 [technology].
  19. September 2017: '5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters' by A.J. Willingham,, September 8th 2017 [journalism, psychology, social media].
  20. September 2017: 'Can you identify the psychopaths in your life?' by Rob Hastings, iNews, August 29th 2017 [psychology].
  21. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  22. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  23. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  24. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  25. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  26. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  27. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  28. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  29. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  30. February 2016: 'Then and now: how things have changed for teenage girls since the 1950s' by Clare Furniss, The Guardian, January 29th 2016 [teenagers, gender, sexism].
  31. January 2016: 'Teenagers risk being defined for life by their social media posts' by Karlin Lilllington, Irish Times, January 14th 2016 [social media, teenagers, identity].
  32. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  33. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  34. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  35. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, [reading, entertainment, education].
  36. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  37. September 2015: 'Fifth of secondary school pupils wake almost every night to use social media' by Sally Weale, The Guardian, September 15th 2015 [social media, learning, teenagers].

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Macbeth quotation test, Act 3 Quizlet

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Macbeth quotation test, Act 2 Quizlet

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Macbeth quotations, Act 1 Quizlet

The first of five sets of Quizlet flashcards on Macbeth to embed knowledge of quotations. College pupils can also see these on Firefly.

Some basic principles of quotations -
  • Quotations are the knowledge-base and evidence-base for all answering.
  • Quotations are used to back up a point.
  • Options: organise by scene / character / theme. Many quotations will have multiple uses.
  • ‘Tag’ quotations with a system. Make connections.
  • Re-reading quotations (and notes) is a bad learning strategy.
  • Use flashcards / Quizlet / a questioning partner.
  • Write down what you know. What gaps?
  • Go back again and again over spaced time: embed them so you can retrieve automatically.
  • Little and often. Keep going, especially while you’ve finished the play.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Book Week, September 2018

Last year the first Book Week, to promote reading by everyone at St Columba's, was a great success, and this year's equivalent starts on Monday 24th. Mr Jameson introduced the elements of it in a Chapel talk on Wednesday.

These include:
  • The Library will be open every day at break and at lunch-time as well as the usual hours.
  • There will be competitions in the Library (including staff ‘shelfies’) plus a new bespoke Book Week book token available from Ms Kent-Sutton.
  • Book speed-dating will take place for First, Second, Third and Fourth Forms in the BSR.
  • Drop Everything And Read will take place on Friday. All pupils bring a reading book to every class.
  • There will be an author visit from Richie Conroy on Wednesday 26th from 11.00 to 12.20 in the BSR. There is a sign-up list pinned to the noticeboard in the Library.
You can follow events on Twitter at #sccbookweek.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again

The new National Library of Ireland exhibition Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again at the Bank of Ireland Cultural Centre in the centre of Dublin is superb, and the perfect outing for those who have studied Heaney. Below is a series of tweets about the exhibition, with photographs taken on the day it opened.

Monday, July 02, 2018

An English Teachers' Bibli-blogography

A tremendous resource for English teachers interested in some summer Continuing Professional Development is An English Teachers' Bibli-blogography from Team English in the UK. Here you can find a huge list of excellent writing about English.

Links are grouped in categories such as Planning, Assessment Systems, Feedback, Cognition and Memory, Revision, Multiple Choice Questions, Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar, Vocabulary, Reading for Pleasure (Kenny Pieper should be added), Reading, Rhetoric, Description, Narrative, Analytical Writing, Context, Drama, Poetry, Shakespeare, Speaking and Listening, and literary elements of exams.

It's difficult to make any selection, given the quality of writing and advice, but here is a starter of three posts well-worth your attention:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Submarine, summer 2018

The pupil magazine The Submarine has just released its end-of-year summer edition, and it can be read above (click on the arrows to navigate and zoom in). Its focus starts with the recent Eighth Amendment vote, and also in it are a poem by Iona Chavasse, illustrations by Flora Macrae and Tania Stokes and a Lord of the Flies wordsearch.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Leaving Certificate Paper 2

This year the SEC have started putting online papers as they are being taken, so with an hour or so left still we can have a look at the literature papers being sat in halls all over the country on this sunny Thursday afternoon.

The Higher Level paper 2 (click here to see it) first: we have studied King Lear as our single text, and questions there are a) on 'moments of riveting drama that offer thought-provoking insights into the human condition', which should be straightforward (Gloucester's blinding, Lear and others on the heath, Cordelia's death) and b) a character question on Cordelia having a more significant role than her sisters (despite her mere 100 lines or so in the text). These are both fair questions which allow an able candidate to show his/her abilities.

In the Comparative section, Cultural Context and Literary Genre are the modes, and questions there include ones on 'unacceptable behaviour' (possibly tricky depending on the texts you have studied), and cultural norms affecting the happiness and successful of individuals (this would test most candidates). The Literary Genre options are very straightforward (a woolly question on techniques affecting our response to characters, and the techniques used at the start of texts).

The Unseen Poem is well-chosen: Moya Cannon's 'Two Ivory Swans'- she can be seen and heard reading it at the top of this post.

The annual Poetry Derby sees four coming past the post: Robert Frost, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, John Montague and Philip Larkin. As has been the case in recent years, these tend to wordiness, and have plenty of potential tripping points, such as the question on Montague, on his 'effective use of place, both literal and metaphorical, to explore elements of his personal and cultural identity': there's a lot there to get your head around.

The Ordinary Level paper, which a small number of our candidates take, is very straightforward: the Lear questions will frighten no-one, and nor will Comparative questions on Hero, Heroine, Villain and Social Setting. Richard Peabody's 'Walking to Dublin' is the Unseen Poem, and Prescribed Poems are Larkin's great poem 'The Explosion', Ted Hughes's 'Hawk Roosting', Eavan Boland's 'Child of our Time' and Michael Coady's 'New World'.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Leaving Certificate Paper 1

The annual national stress-fest that is the Leaving Certificate exam season is on us, accompanied by the usual 'exam weather'. Paper 1 English was taken this morning, and there was certainly nothing in the Higher Level paper to increase those stress levels (Paper 2 tomorrow might be a different matter). Almost all our pupils take Higher Level.

The comprehension passages were interesting and well-chosen, starting with Colum McCann's 'Advice to Young Writers'. The second question on this text unusually opened up the literature course too, which probably surprised candidates, and this reappeared in different contexts for all the comprehension texts. Question B on this text was an interesting one about young people responding to 'unwanted advice'.

It was also good to see an extract from the very recently published Elmet by Fiona Mozley (above, shortlisted for last year's Man Booker Prize). The B question here was also accessible, being to do with 'the education you have received.'

The third text was the most inventively chosen, being from Above the Dreamless Dead, a collection of poetry and graphic illustration on the subject of World War 1 (here, an Isaac Rosenberg poem, 'Dead Man's Dump'. The questions fully exploited the meeting of the two media, and again the B question allowed candidates to use their literature knowledge.

The big question (25% of the overall mark) is of course the Composition. Two short stories, a descriptive essay, a personal essay, a speech and a discursive essay formed the mix this time. Candidates should have stayed away from a very demanding question of writing a short story in a collection of detective fiction (a tough one to take on extempore), but other tasks were more straightforward, including a essay about 'the value of personal space and quietness in the modern world'. Everyone sitting the Leaving Certificate should take just some such time this evening to themselves.

The Ordinary Level paper was as usual pretty straightforward. There were comprehension passages from Joanne O'Riordan (on technology and her disability Total Amelia - only seven people in the world have this), Larry Ryan (an interview with the Olympic rower Gary O'Donovan) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi. The B questions posed no great challenges. In the full Composition section, there were three personal essays (including one on having or not having brothers/sisters), as well as a speech (impact of technology), two short stories and an article.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Signs Of Life

Another poem by Tania Stokes, winner recently of the 2018 Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry.

Signs of Life

One night,
I found myself under the stars.
I was alone
But for the brief flashes of cars
All driving home.

Always, the night hummed softly,
Engines revving somewhere else.
Under each orange spotlight
The faint buzz of lithium
Kept silence from waking.

The night grew strange

When the last pair of headlights
Melted away out of sight.
An absence reigned,
And the orange noise flickered
Down to nothing.

The quietest place in the world
Is by a road.
Silence, like an owl’s wings, unfurled
Into a shroud.

A remnant of the Rapture,
I walked in the white moonlight
And Debussy came to mind;
When the last bars drifted off,
I had been left behind.

The feeling grew

As I looked to the night sky,
Afraid I’d been forgotten.
I searched all through
The pattern of the heavens
To find the truth.

Though slight,
A sadness I could not describe
Came over me.
Somewhere, too far away from us,
There might be life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Transition Year English Evening 2018

The 25th annual TY English Evening was held in the BSR last night to round off the pupils' course. As usual the formula consisted of pupils reading out interesting pieces from their Work Portfolios, and a guest commenting on these and then on 'matters English'.

The guest speaker last night was the first 'graduate' of the TY programme itself, Sophie Grenham, journalist and Old Columban. She has an excellent series in The Gloss magazine called "Writers' Block", having interviewed writers such as Louise O'Neill, Dave Rudden, Sebastian Barry and Sarah Webb. The presenter, Mr Girdham, mentioned the many other guests who have spoken at the evening over the years, including: academics Professor Colin Graham of Maynooth (last year), Professor Terry Dolan, Professor Kevin Barry; English teachers John Fanagan, Colin Polden and Mary Milne; and journalists Trevor White and Tom Doorley.

Shannon Dent started, with a reading of her evocative piece 'My Secret Place of Wonder', about the lush nature of Ecuador. Sam Lawrence gave us 'Being Underwater', another but rather different world. Charlotte Klingmann, who the previous night had performed several pieces at the TY Music Concert, read out 'The Greatest Pleasure of My Life' (music, of course). Andrew Kim's piece was vivid about the early morning urban sprawl of Seoul in South Korea. Kathryn Kelly struck a recent note, since 'The Big Snow' was her most memorable event of the last 12 months, as she took the chance to reconnect with old friends. Frances Wilkinson was the only person to read a poem, "You", delicately examining the difficulty of saying those three words "I love you". Tania Stokes's garden piece about a day in the sunshine was fine with detail. Finally, Andrew Pollock ended things entertainingly with his quirkly essay 'Is Donald Trump Bald?'

Sophie Grenham then gave an account of her writing life, and of how well the College had prepared her for this. She said it was particularly important for young writers to 'find their own voice', and she made attentive comments about each piece she had heard.

She then made the annual announcement of Premier Awards winners. Congratulations go to Shannon Dent, Charlotte Klingmann, Sam Lawrence, Songyon Oh, Eliza Somerville and Tania Stokes.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Electric Picnic

Caoimhe Cleary was Commended in the recent Senior Poetry Prize for her portfolio, and indeed read one of these poems, Electric Picnic, at the Voices of Poetry event last night.  

Mr Canning comments: '"Caoimhe's body of poems on 'Wellness' sought to chronicle stages of recovering from mental illness and trauma.  Her poem 'Electric Picnic' was a strong, gritty assortment of images accentuated by jumpy alliteration. Her poem 'Bulb' echoed William Carlos Williams and imagist poems like 'This is Just to Say', while 'White Swans' evoked a very different take on Yeats's masterpiece 'The Wild Swans At Coole.'"

Electric Picnic

Strobe lights pound.

Sweat cascades.

Screams roughly grope me.

I’m a fish

jerking for water

through greasy air.

The bass jumps beneath

my skin.

I latch on

to your arm

Looking into your

endlessly cold


I’m hot.

I’m so burning



We twist away to twitch.


My chore has always been

to put away the leftovers.

I slide the food

From box to box

Trying to find the right fit,

making a mess.

As I put away the food in the freezer,

steam swiftly seems to rise

and fill the space.

The fridge light flickers

And dies,

pneumatic suction hisses

A breath of frost grazes me

I sigh

and go to the shelf

For a new bulb.

White Swans

During my holidays

I go out by the lake,

and just sit for a while.

Below the Homeric waves

dance fatal weeds.

I rest on the little boardwalk

next to the two festering

white corpses;

candles and rotting flowers by their feet,

still getting used to the smell.

I look out.

A crowd of cows amble out,

and swimming through the reeds,

are two white Hallmark swans

gently touching heads.   


Voices of Poetry 2018

That excellent annual event, Voices of Poetry, took place last night in the BSR. Every year it seems the sun is shining outside as the darkened space, lit by a single spotlight, gives us an hour's treat of great poetry. As Mr Swift, the compère in black tie, pointed out, there was a '175' tinge this time.

Again there was the mixture of poems in English and other languages, and of pupils and staff reading. The first off was appropriately the Senior Prefect, Kitty Morris, with a poem she had studied in Irish class, followed by two pupils with their own poems - Emma Hinde, winner of the Junior Poetry Prize, with 'Eye of the Storm' and Caoimhe Cleary, Commended for the Peter Dix Memorial Prize, with 'Electric Picnic'.

Mr Swift was proud to have unearthed possibly the most obscure yet in the history of the event, as Shannon Dent read a poem from a native pre-Columbian Ecuadorian language. This was followed i by Latin (JiWoo Park), Italian (Sveva Ciofani), French (Georg Mueller-Methling), Korean (JiWoo Park again) and Vietnamese (Florian Zitzmann). Tiernan Mullane read in 'American' Raymond Carver's 'My Death', and then there were Swedish (Gioia Doenhoff), German (Carla Ladanyi) and Swahili (Akin Babajide).

Poetry has featured throughout the Columban year, and Jasmine Williams read a piece from the 'Poem in Your Pocket' initiative on Ireland Poetry Day (and in Mental Health Week), Walt Whitman's 'I Dreamed in a Dream'. Poetry Aloud was represented by national finalist Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, who recited Thomas McCarthy's 'State Funeral'. Next Mr Swift sprang a surprise: a €10 tuck-shop voucher with a poem was taped to the bottom of one chair, and Polina Grakhovskaia had it. She sportingly came into the spotlight to read our 'The Dead' by Billy Collins (and retain the voucher). There was a bravura performance by Mr Swift himself of his own 'Poetry Slam' piece, written as lyrics for one of his songs. Next was Kate Higgins with another Irish poem.

Four teachers were next. Mr Girdham read 'Breaking-up Night', a poem from The Columban magazine of 1890 nostalgically recalling the old pre-Christmas tradition; it is reproduced in the new book Floreat Columba. The founder of Voices of Poetry, retired Head of English Mr John Fanagan, had written his own poem marking the College's 175 years, and read it out. You can see it at the bottom of this post. The Warden followed, impressively reciting from memory Rudyard Kipling's famous 'If' (written for Kipling's only son, who died in the Great War: this is marked in Wellington College, where the Warden previously taught). Mr Finn followed, also reciting from memory, this time Yeats's 'September 1913', which he had learned when studying for the Leaving Certificate (it is still often on the course).

Frank Meng's reading of a poem Mandarin was dramatic, as was Katie Lam's in Cantonese, and then Éile Ní Chianáin read the third Irish poem of the evening.

 Rounding off, as is traditional, was the recent winner of the Peter Dix Senior Prize for Poetry, Tania Stokes, with her 'Death of A Moth' (she is pictured above with Mr Swift and Mr Fanagan), and then Manuela Sanchez from Primary with Yeats's 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.'

And so the final whole-school BSR event of the year came to a lovely close.

SCC 175, by John Fanagan

May in 1843 saw
St Columba's on its way.
From the plains of County Meath
To Whitechurch where we are today.

Wardens, teachers, pupils all
Have given of their very best.
We celebrate 175
Moving forward with new zest.

So much has changed, yet much remains
Of what has made us what we are:
Our friendships and our memories
Now span the world both near and far.

Next weekend it's party time,
With sports, a barbeque and ball.
Tonight, as one who loves this place,
I say happy birthday to us all.

27 May 2018