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    M      A       G       A       Z      I     N       E
                                                                                               A u t u m n   2 0 0 9


    T       E          X       T              O         N   L   Y          V     E     R   S     I      O        N



                                                        CONTENTS
                                   2          Teaching English Magazine
                                              Poetry Winners


                                   9          Brief Guide to Texts

                                   16         First Year Project
                                              Una Smith & Catherine O Sullivan

                                   19         First Year Project
                                              Niamh Martin & Martin O Neill

                                   20         Have Your Say Brian Hanney

                                   21         Making Visible the Judgments Used
                                              in Assessing Students Writing
                                   21         1 Background Interview
                                   25         2 I tune into the conversations around me
                                   26         3 17 year old male protagonist
                                   28         4 Without My Library




                                       The Teaching English magazine is published by
                                       the Second Level Support Service.
                                       Co-ordinator of English: Dr Kevin Mc Dermott
                                       Navan Education Centre, Athlumney, Navan, Co. Meath.
                                       Phone: 046 907 8382 Mobile: 087 293 7302
                                       Fax: 046 907 8385    Email: english@slss.ie
                                       Administrative Officer: Esther Herlihy
                                       SLSS Regional Development Officers:
                                                                                                                       Design by Artmark.




                                       Della Meade    Mobile: 087 293 7311
                                       Pauline Kelly Mobile: 087 293 7293
                                       Alec MacAlister Mobile: 087 202 7138


1   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
                                    Teaching English Magazine
                                       POETRY WINNERS
SENIOR WINNERS                                           Joint 2nd Place

1st Place                                                Wearing Shorts All Winter

Windmill Lane                                            I am a scorpion
                                                         Heavy-limbed, unmotivated
My children will know Windmill Lane is beautiful,        Restless and unhappy
They will know that every love is true,                  I don t care what you ll pay
They will count the rainbows in an oil spill,            I just want to sleep
They will learn to fight so they never have to.          Through all the great things
                                                         That you say are happening.
My children will see pigeons wearing emeralds and
 magpies in tuxedos,                                     It s twelve o clock, pumpkin, and
They will see wings on every shoulder blade,             You ll come when you re called!
They will know the sound of their own voices,            Breakfast s on the table and
They will trust the dark, instead of being afraid.       The shovel s in the hall.

My children will read people before novels, novels       I am a scorpion damnit!
 before news,                                            Sore-eyed, unfriendly
They will sing their mind and speak their heart out,     Pissed off and tired.
They will write fairytales on train tickets,             You may make perfect sense
They will have faith made valuable by doubt.             But you re still wrong.
                                                         So please retreat from my lair
My children will have Dublin statues in their veins,     And consider me fired.
They will pick out galaxies in city lights,
They will hear the words that can t be said,             You do this every time you know!
They will know that nothing is ever black and white.     So suit yourself, bite your nose to spite your face,
                                                         But don t come crying to me when
My children will treasure questions more than answers,   You are wanting your own place.
They will know that you can t live unless you feel,
They will be the heart in every corner of the world,     I am a scorpion and there s
And then they will be real.                              Silence in my darkened room
                                                         I turn on my i-pod and quietly sing.
Sarah Grace                                              Bite my nose to spite my face?
Loreto Abbey                                             You may be onto something there.
Dalkey                                                   But I am a scorpion and
Co. Dublin                                               It s in my nature to sting.

                                                         Robert McCarthy
                                                         Wesley College
                                                         Ballinteer
                                                         Dublin 16




2   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Joint 2nd Place                                         Joint 3rd Place

Fires of Gylfaginning                                   Cancer Sticks

I saw a death today how vile,                           Cancer sticks Mum called them;
Foul murder of fine art,                                Her finger wagging in Marty s face
The victim did not scream, could not,                   Like Rex s tail
Yet still could wrench my heart,                        On a day at the beach.
No blood was spilled, nor entrails poured,
Yet still my stomach turned,                            Her cheerful optimism: You ll be dead by thirty
To see ashes in fair Florence town,                     Was like a breath of fresh air
Where Savonarola s hatred burned.                       Through the haze of tobacco
                                                        That lingered, regardless.
In Paris a tear tugged at my eye,
Where Lalique s fountains are marred,                   Cocooned in his pocket they lay
By a world that s held magnificence,                    Waiting,
But in such low regard.                                 Waiting,
                                                        Waiting
So I ask, finding Rome s sculpted face                  For liberation. Marty,
Lost in modernity,                                      Softly caressing death with his lips.
What scholars of eight decades past
Knew of eternity?                                       Then came the cough,
At Istanbul, were Turk blades stayed                    A hacking, rasping echo
For wonders in ancient Greek,                           Through the house,
Or for pretty golden wings and                          Rattling the single-glazed panes
A gold-enamelled beak?                                  As marbles in a tin.

By mortal smith, magic came to pass,                    Your anger when the newsagent
Flamed but for a mayfly s day,                          Closed on Labor Day.
Then by raged fire, by hand of man
Man-like, passed away.                                  I watched you through the keyhole
                                                        Heaving and retching,
Eoin O Leary                                            Stuffing bloodstained tissues out of sight.
Kinsale Community School                                But I kept quiet.
Kinsale                                                 Quiet as the whispers that passed
Co. Cork                                                Between my clasped palms
                                                        And the sky.

                                                        I remember that day
                                                        With planes on the telly.
                                                        When hushed sobs from the bedroom
                                                        Drowned out the explosions.
                                                        Tears extinguished the fires
                                                        As Marty fell alongside the twins.

                                                        Kyrsten Baker
                                                        Wesley College
                                                        Ballinteer
                                                        Dublin 16




3   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Joint 3rd Place                                         Highly Commended

Picnics                                                 How to Write a Poem

Lets cut out the stars                                  Firstly, you find a nice spot,
Suck up the clouds                                      Somewhere quiet, preferably inspirational.
Give the sun a sleeping tablet or two
I ll paralyse the moon                                  Secondly, you sit, take pen in hand and try to look
And we ll have a picnic                                   artistic,
In the clear sky                                        It helps to dress in black and wear a beret hat.
Reserved for me and you
                                                        Thirdly, you must put a sombre look on your face,
Emma Cahill, Manor House School                         Still looking artistic now!
Watermill Road, Raheny
Dublin 5                                                Fourthly, very slowly take up your pen and rest it on
                                                         the page,
                                                        Careful now, don t ruin your perfectly white paper.
Joint 3rd Place
                                                        Fifthly, the most important step,
A Skull in Connemara                                    Sit and wait for inspiration to strike and then you can
                                                         start writing.
After Samuel Beckett
                                                        Inspiration should come any minute now….
For millennia he has been there,                        Any minute….
blanched bone, decaying in silt.
Beneath the filth of time his                           Aoife Sweeney
hinged jaw cackles eternally.                           Killorglin Community College
                                                        Killorglin
Above, in a lonely future,                              Co. Kerry
pelting rain whittles at stone walls-
the rubbled, starving significance
of descendants born in coffin ships,
breathing Boston air.


Erosive water seeps down
from boreen to bog,
peaty history sodden in the same
old shite.

A sparrow hobbles about and burrows
for grubs between green blades.
A digger with a claw
crawls back home, pneumatic drill
slung in the trailer.

All around the skull
life shuffles on,
along a path
hewn,
hacked,
dug
from mud
and rocks.

Andrew King, Gonzaga College
Sandford Road, Ranelagh
Dublin 6




4   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
JUNIOR WINNERS                                          Joint 2nd Place
1st Place
                                                        The Art of War
Heritage
                                                        The destructive bomb,
I am from the hill                                      Frightening,
that lies between two valleys                           The brave solider,
the family of the mountains                             Frightened,
the family of the mill.                                 The hot gun,
                                                        accurate,
I am from the hand mangled                              The deafening bullets
by the threshing machine                                devastating.
My grandfather s blood                                  The bloody wound,
mixed with the age old land                             Infected,
                                                        The rotten blood,
I am from the fireplace banter,                         pungent,
the psalms of time,                                     The towering tank,
of David, Israel and Babylon,                           unstoppable,
the closely knit Covenanters.                           The tough truck,
                                                        Immune.
This is what I am:                                      The agile jet,
The hill, the hand, the Covenanters                     racing.
A child of the land.                                    The worn boots,
                                                        crawling,
Matthew Mc Mahon                                        The flaming desert,
Loreto Community School                                 baking,
Milford                                                 The tired solider,
Co. Donegal                                             sweating.
                                                        The hidden mine,
                                                        waiting,
                                                        The careless squad,
                                                        slip,
                                                        The lonely wife,
                                                        crying,
                                                        The art of war,
                                                        Overwhelming


                                                        Inspired by Dulce et Decorum est, by Wilfred Owen

                                                        Stephen Kelly
                                                        Patrician Secondary School
                                                        Newbridge
                                                        Co. Kildare




5   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Joint 2nd Place                                         Joint 3rd Place

After Amy                                               The Sword and the Sheath

Dust settled on the townscape on my sister s            So I draw the sword
abandoned table                                         From the falling sun.
every time she left the room.                           Blood of Aeneas
An eerie silence would fall on the town of skyscraper   Is staining my heart,
stacks of books                                         In a lover s anguish turned to black
A derelict winter town of dog-eared and graffitied
walls.                                                  I cast my wet eyes
Books of different sizes slumped together in a shanty   A pyre built high.
order only                                              And an effigy
she could understand.                                   With garlands of grief,
                                                        Like a scabbard to my naked heart.
The map of her chaos: her timetable lay open like a
bomb                                                    Clouds and stars climb high
ticking down the days.                                  But for me they fall.
Scrunched paper and fallen pen caps littered the        The heavens light up
scene                                                   And I rest my life,
while her reading lamp provided a dim streetlight.      In the dark, empty sheath of the night.
An open pencil case suggested an air of activity
like a travelling circus it returned with her each      Aoibheann Schwartz
night.                                                  Gorey Community School
                                                        Esmondes Street
The town was bedlam sparks of paint across the desk     Gorey
and                                                     Co. Wexford
frazzled paintbrushes- the delinquent residents-
were hard to miss when visiting.
Not that I got to often.
This was her city, her haven,
not big enough for the two of us.
                                                        Joint 3rd Place
The city sheltered her through the winter months
when she barely left,                                   What are ... the Stars
until the summer bomb came counting down.
The skyscrapers were demolished, the valuables,         The stars are glitter sparkling
packed,                                                 On a black board,
the litter binned.
It s been a year since I last saw the town and I        They are thousands of gold coins
wonder is there a                                       Thrown into the night sky,
new one where she is now.
                                                        They are pieces of bon fire
Alice Murray                                            Kicked into space,
Loreto Community School
Milford                                                 They are the sparks that shoot from fire
Co. Donegal                                             And land on black marble,

                                                        They are golden leaves
                                                        On navy silk.

                                                        Modelled on the poem What is … the Sun , by Wes
                                                        Magee

                                                        Lorraine Bannon
                                                        St. Mogue s College
                                                        Bawnboy
                                                        Co. Cavan




6   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Joint 3rd Place                                         Highly Commended
                                                        Priceless
Frogs
                                                        Passed down through generations
Aching for a place                                      Has my little ragged doll,
Where they bow with ornate smiles                       Sits clueless on my windowsill
Where the sky needs not the ground                      All day long,
The gravity to lean on                                  Her head in the clouds.
Where there is love and nothing more
The instant kind                                        Wearing a beautiful blue
Like deep rich coffee                                   Chequered dress,
That they recognise you by your shoe size               Golden hair in pigtails,
That they dream about you                               Beady blue eyes,
Wake to see your eyes, your smile                       And a chubby button nose.
Gallantly chase after you
Fight tirelessly to save you                            My little doll has been to
Completely unable to                                    China and back,
Live without you                                        Seen scenes
You, the cool night ink                                 Of bloodshed to romance.
The golden dawn, the smoky dusk
Up high above the common futile dreams                  My little doll means the
Perfect beyond the need                                 World to me,
To saddle up in shining armour                          I can tell her all my secrets,
To fight and conquer the world                          And none come out
Freedom, a pointless word                               Of that tiny sewn mouth,
Beautiful, one could say                                My ragged doll echoes
A charm that can be bought and lost                     The beat of my heart.
Waiting like a delicate flower
The crinkle of a blossom                                Jennifer Downey
No purpose but to exist and shine                          a´i        a´i
                                                        Cola´iste Lorca´in
Waiting, searching for a prince                         Castledermot
                                                        Co. Kildare
Out of stories woven by desperate dreams
Returning to flashing lights and pounding music
Not in so many words a princess
But for some fanatical reason
Kissing frogs

Sinead Kilgarriff
Our Lady s Bower,
Retreat Road, Athlone
Co. Westmeath
Highly Commended


Tea Pot

My Dad s old teapot,
Boiling when it s angry,
Smelling of smoky Chinese tea,
The steam whistling out of the spout,
The worn handle willing to retire
But staying strong,
The peeling paint falling off,
The smooth edges becoming rough,
Since his teenage years making thousands
Of cups, filled with warmth inside.

Oliver Glenn-Craigie
St. Columba s College
Whitechurch
Dublin 16

7   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Highly Commended                                         Highly Commended

Hurls and Hammers                                        Queen of Cakes

In one hand I hold the hurl,                             I come home to the crack of an egg
And in the other rests the ball,                         and a cloud of flour,
On the pitch with every sprint I make,                   a sprinkle of this and dash of that.
I hear a thudding noise like my father hammering a       An exquisite aroma fills the kitchen
  nail into place.                                       and the dollop of the mixture
His straining hand among all the wood,                   signals to her hands to start cleaning.
His arm making swift fluent movements as he works,       A ping from the oven is the fanfare for the cakes-
Just as my hurl moves as I hit the ball.                 their royal highnesses.
                                                         A welcoming warmth wafting round
On the pitch shouts of encouragement from my             accompanies the taste of innocent happiness.
 manager,                                                Childhood and cakes.
Reminds me of my mother shouting to my father in
 the garden as he worked away,                           Sarah Coll
Slowly and steadily like a child riding a bike for the   Loreto Community School
 first time.                                             Milford
                                                         Co. Donegal
Years seem to pass as he thuds away gracefully,
Until the cold air comes and the nights grow short,
And it is too cold to hammer and the pitches are now
 nothing but a frozen field of grass,
The hurl the ball and the hammer now all rest in
 the shed.

Niamh Clinton
Maryfield College
Glandore Road
Drumcondra
Dublin 9




8   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
    BRIEF REVIEW OF TEXTS PRESCRIBED
        FOR EXAMINATION IN 2011
AUSTEN, Jane Emma                                       comic surface lies an exploration of chastity and
There is only one Emma Woodhouse, handsome,             marriage. Shot on location in Tuscany, the film is
clever and rich . She is also bored, gossipy,           beautiful to look at and the comedy is diverting,
generous, meddling, presumptuous; class                 though whether the casting is wholly successful
conscious, charming, blind, beautiful, intelligent,     is a moot point. Experienced Shakespearean
indulged, cruel, infuriating, mortified, apologetic     actors and American film stars play alongside
and, finally, happy. And there is only one man for      each other. And there is the age old question of
her, Mr Knightley         wise, gallant, good, and      the degree of misogyny in the text.
sincere though very dull! Austen s comic novel
on the dangers of meddling, the folly of youth,         BRONTE¨, Emily Wuthering Heights
the presumptions of the idle wealthy and the            Classic romantic novel of consuming passions,
ennui of life for a spirited young woman with no        played out against the wild Yorkshire moors.
real purpose in life.                                   Cathy and Heathcliff are the unhinged,
                                                        tempestuous lovers, who wreak havoc all round
BINCHY, Maeve Circle of Friends                         them. A dense overwritten, overwrought tale of
Although this is a long novel, it is not a daunting     passion, jealousy and revenge. A demanding read
read. Set in Ireland in the late 50s, the novel tells   but who can resist its peculiar madness: I am
the story of Eve and Benny two friends from the         Heathcliff! He s always, always in my mind; not
small town of Knockglen, who go to Dublin to            as a pleasure, any more than I am always a
attend university. Their encounters with Jack           pleasure to myself, but as my own being.
Foley and Nam Mahon teach them about true
friendship. Binchy s warm, conversational style,        CHANG, Jung Wild Swans
as she charts the up and downs of the two friends       Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is an
in life and love, engages the reader and makes us       autobiographical family history first published in
empathise with her heroines.                            1991. It tells the story of three female generations
                                                        of Chang s family: her grandmother, her mother
BOWEN, Elizabeth The Last September                     and finally her own autobiography. The book has
Set in Cork during 1920, Bowen s novel charts the       an epic sweep, covering the imperial history of
last days of the Anglo-Irish gentry in Ireland. As      China, the rise of communism, the Japanese
the country undergoes the war of Independence,          occupation of Manchuria and the Cultural
Sir Richard and Lady Myra Taylor carry on as            Revolution of Mao. The story portrays the
before. They entertain their guests, including          brutality of China s history, the suffering of
their niece, Lois Farquar; the English visitors         women as well as the courage and fortitude of
Hugo and Francie Montmorency, and the English           Chang s mother and grandmother. There is an old
army officer, Gerald Colthurst. Amongst the             Chinese curse that wishes an enemy to live in
party in the house, love and desire cause tension       interesting times. The Chang family seems to
and confusion, while outside the political              have been the victim of this curse given the litany
situation grows less certain and the threat of the      of slavery, persecution, hardship, injustice and
IRA hangs over the soirees and tennis parties of        cruelty which the family members endured.
the Big House. A coming-of-age novel; a comedy          Unsettling, uncomfortable, moving and uplifting
of manners; a description of personal tragedy set       Chang s simple and descriptive style keeps you
against the political upheaval of the War of            engaged through its lengthy 600+ pages.
Independence and the decline of a whole class,
Bowen s novel brilliantly conveys a moment              COETZEE, J.M.
 both private and public that is poised between         Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life
tradition and change, and the old and the new.          This is Coetzee s brilliant recreation of his
BRANAGH, Kenneth Dir. As You Like It Film               boyhood in South Africa in the years after the
This fast-moving version of Shakespeare s play is       Second World War. Written in the third-person,
an intricate tale of love a merry war and               this cool, clear-eyed narrative catches the interior
betrayal, jealousy and reconciliation. Under the        life of a child, with its confusion, loneliness and
                                                        secrets, in a tone of amused compassion and
9   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
tenderness. The child s perspective makes the            FRIEL, Brian Dancing at Lughnasa
casual hatred he observes all the more startling. A      Friel s heart-warming and heart-breaking play
fascinating study of the mother-child                    on the lives of the Mundy Sisters in Ballybeg
relationship and a skilful recreation of the             who, like the tramps in Beckett s Godot, always
consciousness of a young boy striving to make            seem to be waiting for things to happen. A
sense of the world and its segregations. Much for        powerful evocation of Ireland in the 1930s, this
the young writer to learn from and admire in this        is a play of private grief and vanishing dreams
portrait of the writer as a boy.                         with that memorable scene of uninhibited
                                                         energy as the sisters dance with Pagan abandon
CURTIZ, Michael Dir. Casablanca Film                     to the music from their new wireless. Dancing
Set in Morocco, during World War II, Rick s              at Lughnasa explores some of Friel s recurring
nightclub is a haven for refugees hoping to              concerns: memory; change; loss; and the
obtain transit documents that will eventually            identity that lies beneath the restrictions of
allow them to reach the USA. Rick s apparent             social and religious convention.
neutrality and his willingness to entertain both
Vichy and Gestapo forces is called into question         GAGE, Eleni North of Ithaka
when Ilsa, the great love of his life, and her           North of Ithaca is New York journalist Eleni
husband, Victor Laszlo, a famous Czech                   Cage s account of the rebuilding of her ancestral
nationalist and Resistance leader, show up in his        home in a Greek village, where her grandmother
bar. For many, Casablanca is the greatest                had been executed during the Greek Civil War in
example of the classic Hollywood film. It was            1948. Her grandmother s story is related in Eleni
shot entirely in a Hollywood studio, using studio        written by the writer s father. Her decision to
actors, writers and directors. Bogart s world-           restore the old house in the village of Lia, close to
weary Rick Blaine is one of the most iconoclastic        the Albanian border, causes tension in the family
figures in cinema history and the famous ending          and raises the spectre of old hurts and division.
will generate plenty of debate and discussion in         The story of an American making a connection
class. A genuine classic movie.                          with her Greek roots is comic and tragic with the
                                                         predictable clash between urban cosmopolitanism
DALDRY, Stephen Dir.                                     and rural traditionalism and told with energy
Billy Elliot Film                                        and affection. A story on the need to belong, as
A terrific coming-of age story, Billy Elliot tells       well as an interesting insight into modern Greek
the story of the boy who dares to be different.          history and society.
Eleven year-old Billy is not like his Dad. He
doesn t want to learn boxing or be a miner.
Instead, he is fascinated by the grace and magic         HARRIS, Robert Pompeii
of ballet and is determined to dance. Set at the         On the morning of August 24 A.D. 79, Mount
time of the miner s strike in England, during            Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the city of
the Thatcher era, the film traces Billy s fight          Pompeii, killing thousands of people. Thomas
against the prejudice of his father and brother          Harris brings this story to life in a novel that has
and the northern community in which they                 a very contemporary feel. The last hundred
live. The film is graced by fantastic                    pages, describing the destruction of the city, are
performances by Julie Walters and Jamie Bell             terrific and, though we know the end of the
and a soundtrack featuring the music of Marc             story, Harris creates real suspense and drama.
Bolan s T-Rex.                                           The Sherlock Holmes at the centre of the novel is
DICKENS, Charles Hard Times                              Marius Attilius, a young engineer from Rome. As
First published in 1854, Dickens attack on the           he sets out to discover the cause of a water
philosophy of Utilitarianism and the dangers of          shortage in the area of Naples, he finds himself in
unfettered industrialization and the myth of the         the new town of Pompeii on the slope s of
self-made man seems as fresh and relevant                Vesuvius. What follows is a detective story of
today as it was 150 years ago. A blistering attack       new money, local corruption, dodgy developers,
on education conceived in terms of measurement           love and heroism, with more than a passing
and efficiency, the novel asserts the importance         similarity between the Roman Empire and
and imagination and the emotions in education            contemporary America or Ireland, for that
and the development of a moral sensibility.              matter to amuse or irritate. A readable, stylish
Although it falters in parts, the novel contains         thriller and historical novel.
some of Dickens finest writing.

10   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
lHOSSEINI, Khaled                                        power and purpose, in the tradition of Orwell. It
The Kite Runner NEW TEXT                                 brilliantly mimics society s ability to cover morally
Khaled Hosseini s debut, The Kite Runner, was            dubious practices under euphemism and scientific
one of the first novels to present Afghan culture        language and make the monstrous seem normal.
to Western readers. It is a gripping story of             263 Pages
friendship, betrayal, cowardice, exile and,
ultimately, redemption set against the political         JOHNSTON, Jennifer
upheavals of Afghanistan. The story has a                How Many Miles to Babylon?
Shakespearean sweep. Amir is the privileged son          Two boys, separated by class and religion, grow
of a wealthy Pashtun, living in Kabul. Hassan, a         up as friends on a large country estate. Their
member of Hazara tribe, is his devoted servant           relationship is frowned upon and they are forced
and friend. There is a shocking scene at the centre      apart. When WW1 begins, both young men leave
of the novel which shatters both boys lives and          to fight. We follow their careers separately until
leads to the severing of their relationship. As          they meet again near the dramatic and moving
Afghanistan falls apart, Amir and his father             end of the novel. Brilliantly written, with a
escape to America, but Amir returns to expiate           number of superb set pieces, Johnson s novel is a
the guilt of childhood and right a wrong                 meditation on class, war, loneliness and loss. A
committed against Hassan. Among other things,            great favourite among students.
The Kite Runner is an interesting exploration of
the lengths to which we are prepared to go to            KEANE, John B Sive
secure peace and peace of mind. 334 pages                First produced in Listowel in 1959, the play tells the
                                                         story of Sive, a young orphan, who lives with her
IBSEN, Henrik A Doll s House                             grandmother, her uncle and his bitter wife, Mena.
Ibsen s play on the need for freedom and the             Mena conspires with the local matchmaker to sell
oppressive affects of middle-class values in a           Sive in marriage to Sea´n Do´ta, a worn, exhausted
patriarchal society, written in 1879, still packs a      little lorgadawn of a man , Despite the protests of
punch. There are enough symbols and symbolic             Sive and her grandmother, the arrangement
motifs to engage most students, while Nora s             proceeds until the evening before the wedding
decision to leave the insufferable Torvald is sure to    when Sive takes her fate into her own hands with
generate heated classroom debate on the                  tragic consequences. A strong tale of innocence,
responsibility of the individual to herself versus her   lechery and betrayal. Contemporary young readers
responsibility to her family. There are many echoes      will question Sive s willingness to proceed as far as
of Ibsen s work in Friel s Dancing at Lughnasa.          she does with the arrangements made for her.

                                                         MacLAVERTY, Bernard Lamb
ISHIGURO, Kazuo
                                                         First published in 1980, the novel tells the story
Never Let Me Go NEW TEXT
                                                         of Michael Lamb, a young religious brother who,
Ishiguro s dystopian novel explores the dangers
                                                         shocked by the harsh regime in the Boys Home
of scientific advances in contemporary society.
                                                         run by his order, flees taking twelve-year-old
Hailsham is a seemingly idyllic boarding school in
                                                         Owen Kane with him. Posing as father and son,
the heart of the English countryside, dedicated to
                                                         the two enjoy a brief interlude of happiness until,
the welfare of the children who reside there.
                                                         running out of time, money and a place to hide,
However, through the narrative of Kathy H, a
                                                         Michael settles on a desperate and tragic course
 carer at the school, the dark secret of the
                                                         of action. Short, simple, unsettling with a
institution is revealed. The school is a sham a
                                                         shattering ending that will divide readers Lamb is
place as twisted as Miss Havisham s eerie
                                                         a powerful exploration of innocence and
residence in Great Expectations. The children at
                                                         goodness in a brutal world.
Hailsham are donors , cloned to provide healthy
organs so that other normal people might live.
                                                         MARTEL, Yann Life of Pi
So slyly does the truth of the society creep up on
                                                         Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize Life of Pi is
you in the reading of the novel that the impact is
                                                         part tall-tale, part fable, part philosophical
unforgettable. Margaret Atwood described the
                                                         treatise on faith and scepticism, a literary yarn
novel as like a cross between Enid Blyton and
                                                         with its tongue firmly in its cheek. It tells the
Blade Runner and this catches something of the           fantastic story of 16-year old Pi Patel, an Indian
strangeness of the work. Written in his
                                                         boy cast overboard from a sinking ship carrying a
customary spare, flat style, this is a novel of real
                                                         cargo of zoo animals, who finds himself sharing a

11   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
life raft with a hyena, a zebra, an orang-utan and       pharmaceutical industry and the unholy alliance
a Bengal tiger hiding under the tarpaulin. The           of Western Governments and Global pharmaceutical
majority of the book is taken up with the seven          companies. Ralph Fiennes plays Quayle, a quiet,
months Pi spends at sea alone on the raft with           unobtrusive British diplomat and the constant
the tiger, Richard Parker, who soon sees off the         gardener of the title. He is stationed in Nairobi in
other animals. Martel is playful and inventive and       the British Embassy. Following a whirlwind
there are many edge-of-the seat moments, and             romance Quayle marries the radical, impetuous
the book is full of useful hints for surviving on a      Tessa and takes his new wife to Kenya with him.
raft with a tiger! However, not all readers will         There, activist that she is, Tessa works with the poor
find that the charm and wit of the book will             and investigates the activities of pharmaceutical
sustain them through its 300+ pages.                     companies in drug testing. When she is killed in
                                                         suspicious circumstances, Qualyle sets out to find
McDONAGH, Martin The Lonesome West                       out the truth behind her death and the unsavoury
McDonagh is an exciting voice in Irish theatre. In       rumours that surround it. In undertaking his
The Lonesome West Quentin Tarantino meets J.M.           personal odyssey, Quayle learns that his wife was
Synge or J.B. Keane meets Father Ted in this black       murdered and is forced to confront the moral
comedy set in Leenane, the murder capital of the         corruption of his government and its collusion with
west. Featuring fratricide, sibling rivalry, a           an unscrupulous industry. Quayle s real quest is,
doubting-priest and a tough-talking teenager girl,       however, personal - what he finds out about himself
the play reveals McDonagh s gift for language and        in his search for the truth. And this focus on
exuberant comedy. Funny, dark, surreal, McDonagh         character prevents the film from becoming
will appeal to many Leaving Certificate students and     hectoring or issue-driven. Great acting, beautiful
provoke interesting debate on the way Irishness is       cinematography and well-judged direction bring
represented. Is the play a satire? Is it a parody?       this story vividly to life on the screen.
McDonagh s work will be known to many students
through his debut feature film, In Bruges.               MONK KIDD, Sue The Secret Life of Bees
                                                         Lily is fourteen and believes she accidentally
McEWAN, Ian Atonement NEW TEXT                           killed her mother when she was just four years
It is 1935. 13-year-old Briony Tallis reads a sexually   old. She lives with her father, a peach farmer,
explicit message sent by Robbie, her sister s beau,      who treats her badly and is cruel. For as long as
and then witnesses a passionate encounter                she can remember, Rosaleen has looked after her.
between her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie which she        And when, on Lily s fourteenth birthday, a couple
does not understand. Disturbed and unsettled             of days after the Civil Rights Act is passed,
Briony accuses Robbie of a crime he did not              Rosaleen decides to walk into town to register to
commit. Years later during World War II, Briony,         vote, Lily goes with her. This short walk changes
now estranged from Cecilia and Robbie, tries to          their lives. Rosaleen is attacked and beaten and
atone for her action by working as a nurse for the       soon she and Lily are on the run, heading for
wounded from Dunkirk. Working out from the               Tiburon the name of the town written on the back
two minor incidents the reading of her sister s          of a small picture of a black Madonna, one of the
note and the witnessing of the sexual encounter          few, secret mementoes Lily has of her mother.
between her sister and Robbie - McEwan creates           What they find there is unexpected and
a work that explores innocence, guilt, fate, love,       extraordinary. Set against the backdrop of the
the disturbing power of sex, bitterness, the social      battle for and against civil rights in the
upheaval of war and the search for forgiveness.          American south, this is a coming-of-age novel
Interestingly, Atonement echoes the work of              with a difference. The core of this story is Lily s
E.M. Forster, but has darker strands running             search for a mother, and she finds one in a place
through it. The novel works brilliantly in placing       she never expected. The Secret Life Of Bees is a
private guilt and upset against the grief and            lovely story with a host of eccentric characters. I
upheaval of public affairs and in depicting the          think it can be safely described as heart-warming .
psychological aftershock of singular incidents.
 371 pages                                               MOORE, Brian Lies of Silence
                                                         A thriller set in Belfast and London, during the
MEIRELLES, Fernando Dir.                                 Troubles, Moore s novel moves along at a terrific
The Constant Gardener Film NEW TEXT                      pace. A story of love and betrayal and the
Part thriller, part love story, Meirelles film           intersection of the private and the public, Lies of
explores the cynicism of the international               Silence touches on important moral issues

12   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
without becoming heavy-handed or moralistic. In           Inside I m Dancing Film
fact some may find Moore s treatment of the               Two young men in wheelchairs determined to live
Republican paramilitaries too one-dimensional             life to the full and escape from the institution where
and simplistic. The novel centres on the character        they are treated as children. Life in the world
of Michael Dillon, a young hotel manager, whose           beyond the institution proves more difficult than
life is caught in a web of lies and silences. Moore s     either of them had anticipated. For many this is a
novel has established itself as a popular choice          really vibrant film on rebellion and the search for
with students over the past eight years.                  love, freedom, friendship and a place to call home
                                                          with a good script and excellent performances. For
MURPHY, Tom A Whistle in the Dark                         others, it is cliche´d in its depiction of disabled people
First produced in 1961, a Whistle in the Dark is a        as emotionally immature and nai¨ve. A film that will
tragic exploration of the Carney family imploding         get students talking.
at a family re-union in Coventry. Michael is the
young Irishman living in Coventry with his young          PETTERSON, Per
English wife, Betty. Harry is his thuggish brother        Out Stealing Horses NEW TEXT
who has never forgiven Michael for perceived              Trond, a man in his 60s, buries himself in the far
slights and insults and who, with his brothers            north of Norway and takes to living in a
Iggy and Hugo, treats Betty with disdain. Dada is         subsistence manner, recreating the conditions of
the fierce patriarch, a domestic King Lear, foolish       an idyllic summer he spent with his father. A
and aggressive in equal measure, who goads his            chance encounter with a character from that far-
sons on. A fierce study of masculinity and inter          off time causes him to search the past for
and intra-family rivalry that hurtles to its tragic       answers to the questions which have dominated
conclusion, Murphy s play, described by one               his life. Moving between descriptions of everyday
reviewer as a clenched fist, is as raw and powerful       life in a cold climate and memories which seek to
today as it was in 1961.                                  solve the mystery of the disappearance of the
                                                          father he idolised, we piece together the story of
NGOZI ADICHIE, Chimamanda                                 Trond and his family. The story covers a span of
Purple Hibiscus                                           fifty years and includes the Nazi occupation of
This debut novel by the young Nigerian writer has         Norway; his father s role as a courier for the
been widely praised. The story is narrated by the         Resistance movement; the dangerous work of
15-year old Kambili. She describes a life of apparent     felling trees and sending the logs down river to
privilege. However, her wealthy father is a fanatic       the mills; love; betrayal and abandonment. The
and his strict adherence to Catholicism makes life a      telling of the story, the moving back and forth
misery for his wife and family. A kindly aunt alerts      between present and past is done with
Kambili to the possibility of a different kind of life,   breathtaking assurance, control and tightness in
free of fear and free of domestic tyranny. The            a narrative voice that is as low-key as the events
novel is grounded in the domestic world but               it describes are momentous. The moral viewpoint
explores themes and issues which move beyond              is scrupulously ambiguous as is the novel s
the boundaries of the personal and the familial.          balancing of the freedom of frontier lifestyle and
Through the eyes of the young narrator, we                the obligations of marriage and family. A
witness the conflict between Catholicism and the          contemporary literary masterpiece. 263 pages
tribal tradition of animism and ancestral worship.
We also witness the pernicious effect of religion in      PICOULT, Jodi My Sister s Keeper NEW TEXT
a society that is crumbling and struggling with the       A popular best-seller which, like Ishiguro s Never
aftershocks of colonization. Kambili s voice is sad,      Let me Go, explores the ethics of modern
poignant and hopeful.                                     medicine. The central character is Anna, a bright
                                                          13-year-old, who has acted as a donor for her
O CASEY, Sean                                             older sister, who suffers from leukaemia. When
The Plough and the Stars                                  her sister needs a kidney, Anna takes legal action
O Casey s classic, set in the Dublin tenements,           for the right to decide the medical procedures to
during the 1916 rising in which the dignity and           which she will or will not be subjected. Told from
heroism of women are set against the bluster and          a variety of perspectives, the novel nimbly moves
selfishness of men. Tragedy with a comic touch,           through the emotional, legal and familial
and an exuberant sense of language.                       repercussions of Anna s decision. Not all of the
                                                          novel works, but it does race along at a break-
O DONNELL, Damien Dir.                                    neck speed and ends with a real surprise, though

13   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
the final twist of the plot may tie things up far        SHAKESPEARE, William The Tempest
too neatly for some readers. Picoult s books are a       Prospero is the unjustly usurped Duke of Milan,
publishing sensation, devoured by many youthful          living on a magical island, with his daughter
readers. Read My Sister s Keeper to find out why.        Miranda, where he perfects his magical arts. His
 422 pages                                               servants are Ariel, a spirit of the air, and the earth-
                                                         bound Caliban, the son of the witch, Sycorax.
RADFORD, Michael Dir. Il Postino Film                    Magic, comedy, love and reconciliation abound as
Described by one reviewer as a long poem of              Prospero employs his powers to restore the losses
beauty, romance and tragedy, Il Postino follows          he has endured, before relinquishing his magic
the story of a shy, love-struck postman Mario , on       and presenting himself as an old man whose life s
a remote Mediterranean island, who strikes up an         work is done. The Tempest is a very rich play from
unlikely friendship with the exiled Chilean poet,        the pen of the mature Shakespeare.
Pablo Neruda. Under the poet s tutelage, the
postman learns to look at life in lyrical terms and      SHIELDS, Carol Unless
masters the art of talking to women! Humorous,           Reta Winter is a translator, a successful author, the
with warm characterisation and beautiful                 wife of the local doctor in a small Canadian town and
cinematography, Il Postino is underscored by             the mother of three teenage girls. Her life is perfect
tragedy and a sense of political reality. This film      until her daughter, Norah, suddenly abandons her
has Italian dialogue and is subtitled.                   studies and becomes a vagrant, sitting all day on a
                                                         street corner in Toronto with a begging bowl and a
ROSOFF, Meg How I Live Now NEW TEXT                      sign with the word goodness printed on it. Unless
Rosoff s work is marketed as Young Adult fiction,        charts Reta s struggle to make sense of her
but she is one of those writers whose work is so         daughter s action while, at the same time, attending
sophisticated that it can be read by young and not so    to the everyday concerns of her life and her family. It
young adults alike. The central character is Daisy, a    captures the tragedy and the absurdity of the
fifteen-year-old New Yorker who comes to stay            situation as Reta muddles along as best she can in
with her bohemian English cousins in an English          spite of the rage she feels on her daughter s behalf
country manor. The family is happily dysfunctional,      for the way women are excluded from life and life s
unconventional and close to nature. Daisy falls in       greatness. Carol Shields was suffering from the
love with Edmond and they develop an almost              cancer which claimed her life in 2003 during the
telepathic understanding. When war breaks out,           writing of Unless and it is hard not to read the novel
 the novel is set in an alternative present the          as autobiographical with Shields reflecting on the
cousins are left to fend for themselves. The question    choices she made and the situation of women and
then becomes, how will these child-adults live in        women writers in contemporary culture. Written in
the absence of adults? The answer is more hopeful        Shields light, fluent prose, with many interesting and
than that provided by Lord of the Flies. Daisy is a      amusing digressions, Unless is a novel about being a
terrific narrator, breezy, intelligent, infuriating.     woman, being a mother and being a writer. It is
Some readers may question the suitability of some        funny, touching, satiric and forceful, all in one, and
of the elements of the novel for young adult readers     packs more into its 200 pages than many novels
   Daisy s love for her cousin is not chaste; she is     twice its length.
prone to anorexia … And then there s the lack of
punctuation and the mixing of tenses but most will       SOPHOCLES Oedipus the King
fall in love with the narrator and with Rosoff s         Written almost 2,500 years ago, Sophocles
memorable and lyrical novel. Winner of the               masterpiece relates the tragedy of Oedipus who, in
Guardian Children s Fiction prize and a host of other    attempting to escape the prophecy of the Delphic
prizes. pages 208                                        Oracle that he will kill his father and marry his
                                                         mother , leaves Corinth and the court of King
SHAKESPEARE, William Hamlet                              Polybus, whom he believes to be his father, and
The Prince Philosopher; The Carefree Student;            heads to Thebes. There, without knowing it, he fulfils
The Sensitive Soul; The Callous Lover, The               the prophecy by slaying Laius and marrying Queen
Avenging Son; the Oedipal Son; The Playwright;           Jocasta. Oedipus the King opens with Oedipus as
The Swordsman; The Man of Action; the Man of             King of Thebes, unaware that the prophecy has been
Inaction; The Savage in a savage time; The Seeker        fulfilled. The play charts the inevitable tragedy as the
of Truth; Sweet-natured; Ill-tempered. To be or          true facts of his life and actions emerge. In the
not to be. What a piece of work man is. What a           themes of self-knowledge, suffering, sight and
writer Shakespeare is!                                   blindness, Oedipus the King explores many of the

14   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
same themes that appear in Shakespeare s King Lear.        For students taking the Higher Level Papers, the
                                                           study of a Shakespearean play is compulsory as
STEINBECK, John The Grapes of Wrath                        either a single text or as part of a comparative study.
Steinbeck s 1939 novel is set during the Great             The study of a film adaptation of a Shakespearean
Depression and focuses on the story of the Joad            play does not fulfil this requirement as the director
family from Oklahoma who are driven from their             of the film is considered the author of the film text.
home by drought, poverty and the industrialization         It is also worth noting that three texts are prescribed
of agriculture. Wooed by the promise of work in a          for study in a comparative manner at both Higher
Californian paradise, the Joads join thousand of other     and Ordinary level.
Okies in the search for a new life in the Promised
Land . The journey to California is marked by tragedy      As the syllabus indicates, students are required to
and loss. In California, they fall victim to               study from this list:
unscrupulous corporate farmers and wages and               1. One text on its own from the following texts:
conditions are inhuman. As in Of Mice and Men, the         BINCHY, Maeve Circle of Friends O
tragedy lies as much in the modesty of their dream a       BRONTE¨, Emily Wuthering Heights H/O
family, a house, a steady job as in their failure to       IBSEN, Henrik A Doll s House H/O
make their dream come through. A master-class in           JOHNSTON, Jennifer How Many Miles to Babylon? O
storytelling from one of the greatest American             MONK KIDD, Sue The Secret Life of Bees O
writers of the twentieth century, The Grapes of            MURPHY, Tom A Whistle in the Dark H/O
Wrath has the feel of a biblical epic and there are        O CASEY, Sean The Plough and the Stars O
many images and situation which echo biblical              SHAKESPEARE, William Hamlet H/O
themes.                                                    STEINBECK, John The Grapes of Wrath H/O
                                                           · One of the texts marked with H/O may be
TREVOR, William The Story of Lucy Gault
                                                           studied on its own at Higher Level and at
In 1921 in the wake of the War of Independence, and
                                                           Ordinary Level.
unrest throughout the country, Captain Everard
Gault and his family prepare to leave their modest         · One of the texts marked with O may be studied
county Cork estate of Lahadane. Having accidentally        on its own at Ordinary Level.
shot a local youth, Gault fears reprisals and decides to
go to England. Trying to protect 9-year old Lucy, her      2. Three other texts in a comparative manner,
parents don t tell her the full story behind their         according to the comparative modes
departure. Unable to understand what she sees as           prescribed for this course.
her parents cruelty, Lucy runs away. When she              · Any texts from the list of texts prescribed for
doesn t return, her heart-broken parents fear she has      comparative study, other than the one already
drowned and leave, moving from one place to                chosen for study on its own, may be selected for
another in Europe and severing all contact with            the comparative study. Texts chosen must be
Ireland. Only Lucy hasn t drowned and the novel            from the prescribed list for the current year.
then becomes a story of regret and guilt. Lucy s life in   · At Higher Level and at Ordinary Level, a film
Lahadane, where she is taken care of by the former         may be studied as one of the three texts in a
servants, is that of a sleeping beauty, marking time in    comparative study.
the enchanted house she didn t want to leave. In a
short review it is hard to do justice to the beauty and    3. The Comparative Modes for Examination in
simplicity of Trevor s writing and it is the quality of    2011 are:
the writing that makes us accept some of the
                                                           Higher Level
unrealistic or fairy-tale elements of the story.
                                                            i Theme or Issue ii The General Vision and
Covering some of the same territory as Bowen s The
                                                           Viewpoint iii The Cultural Context
Last of September, The Story of Lucy Gault is a very
readable novel.                                            Ordinary Level
                                                            i Relationships ii Theme iii Social Setting
SOME NOTES FOR TEACHERS                                    4. Shakespearean Drama
Teachers and students should make sure that the            At Higher Level a play by Shakespeare must be
texts they are studying come from the prescribed list      one of the texts chosen. This can be studied on
for the year of the examination. Candidates who are        its own or as an element in a comparative study.
repeating the Leaving Certificate course should note
that texts prescribed for one year may not                 At O r d i n a r y L e v e l the study of a play by
necessarily be prescribed for subsequent years.            Shakespeare is optional.

15   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
     APPROACHES TO LEARNING AND TEACHING
      IN THE FIRST YEAR ENGLISH CLASSROOM
Catherine O Sullivan and Una Smith of Virigina           a way into the world of their novel and help their
College Cavan recount their involvement in the           understanding of the backdrop. Next, pupils were
project, Developing Approaches to Learning and           given their books. But not allowed to touch
Teaching in the First Year English Classroom. The        them! They had to sit on their hands if they
project was co-ordinated by the English Support          couldn t resist temptation. We used I see, I think,
Service. The aim of the project was to develop           I wonder to allow them to get full value from the
and disseminate ideas for teaching English in            cover. Then, each individual student read the blurb
First Year. A full report on the project will shortly    of the novel assigned to his or her group and then
be available on the English page of the SLSS             joined a group discussion on their expectations of
website along with audio recordings of the               the novel. Students were given two weeks to read
teachers involved.                                       to the mid point. This time period took into
                                                         account all levels of reading ability. On reaching
Introduction                                             the midpoint they were given guidelines for a
The Virginia College first year English journey has      group presentation. Each group was to produce a
been hugely successful. Taking our first year            power point or poster and oral presentation to the
students through a range of books, poems, drama          class it was to include: plot outline, character
and films they have experienced the joy of reading,      descriptions, the world they inhabit, writing styles
creative writing, film analysis, observation on          and group opinion. They also had to predict what
several levels and, most importantly, a love for         would happen next. Students made a selection as
English.                                                 to the most appealing novel based on these
                                                         presentations. Hana s Suitcase and Billy Elliot
As teachers we have deployed several new teaching        were the most popular.
strategies to enthuse our eager first years. The
student profiling gave an insight into each student      Again, two weeks were allowed to finish reading.
and their individual needs. This informed our choice     End of book exercises included intervention
of teaching methods highlighting the preference for      pieces based on main character and significant
kinaesthetic learning.                                   events ie: diary, letter of advice , newspaper
                                                         article and visual summary of novel.
Group Reading
Titles Each Title by 5 Copies                            In their groups, the students discussed the
1 Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman.               changes to the character and also their experience
   Reading Age 12+. Interest Level 12-16                 of reading the novel. We felt it was a good idea to
2 Annan Water by Kate Thompson.                          introduce, on a basic level, the idea of cultural
   Reading Age 12+. Interest Level: 13-16                context: Would you like to live in the world of
3 Hana s Suitcase: A True Story by Karen Levine.         the novel? Why would it be or not be a good
   Reading Age 9+. Interest Level 9-13                   time or place to live? These questions allowed
4 The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.                      them to use all they had learned about the society
   Reading Age 10+ Interest Level 10-14                  portrayed in the novel to support their opinion.
5 Billy Eliot by Burgess Melvin.                         Finally, we reviewed their I see ... I think ... I
   Interest level 12+                                    wonder to evaluate the success of the novel in
6 Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates.          answering their initial questions and ideas.
   Reading Age 12+ Interest level 12-15                  Both classes enjoyed the reading experience. Pupils
                                                         got to do a lot more. They enjoyed the group work
We put our new resources to good use, getting            and presentations whilst producing some great
straight into group reading early in the year.           examples of creative writing and opinion pieces.
Classes were divided into groups and assigned
one of the group novels. Before we began to read         We intend to use this module again next year and
each student was given a set of research                 have already edited the choice of books to make
instructions, related to their book. Following a         all novels as enjoyable as possible.
class in the computer room they came back
together as a group and shared their results. Each       Poetry
student kept a copy of what they had found in            The class novel Private Peaceful offered the
their research. We felt this would allow students        opportunity to introduce two war poems Dulce Et

16   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth .                   the evidence in the film to create the prayer.
Both poems were presented and discussion work               Following this, students wrote the story of the
arose from that. Students became aware of the               white dress in first and third person narrative
importance of imagery and language, work, which             using the show not tell method.
otherwise would seem difficult in first year, here
seemed accessible.                                       • Story writing in groups worked well as this
                                                           alleviated the pressure of writing alone. A
Students were also invited to create a freeze              story entitled Telling a lie followed the
frame image of the poem My Father . This was               reading of the drama script The Gold of Lies .
particularly memorable as other class members              We enjoyed listening to all the lies told before
had to interpret the frame and it led to                   putting pen to paper! It was inspiring listening
interesting discussion.                                    to students argue over the order of sentences
                                                           and the use of vocabulary.
The method of reading a poem aloud, asking
students to write down key words and phrases             Drama
worked exceptionally well. Without the weight of         The textbook Dive In offered many drama
words on the page, students engaged with the             extracts which were read in class and also allowed
poems and gave either an individual or group             for comprehension practice. Particular favourites
response. This activity also highlighted the             were Blood Brothers and Sive. In addition,
importance of listening and allowed the class the        students particularly enjoyed transferring a prose
opportunity to piece the ideas of the poem               piece on the wrong label shoes into a drama
together on the board.                                   script. Characters, setting and stage directions
                                                         were expertly incorporated and made for fun
Another successful activity was when students            viewing as the dramas unfolded.
were asked to bring in suitable images to create
poetry posters. In groups, students took charge          Class Reading
of one poem and displayed the images around a            For many years, we had both read a novel with
new typed copy of the poem. Questions on                 our first years. This year we were to depart from
theme, tone and language features were given             the read chapter and answer questions method.
to each group who then presented their                   The novel we read was Private Peaceful by
answers on the poster. Students were also                Micheal Morpugo.
asked if any images were missing from the
posters. This we found to be particularly                Our initial foray into the novel was a prop box. A
effective as it ensured that the students                few items related to a young male of that period,
focused on all stanzas and ideas of the poem.            Photos, matches, marbles , a bullet etc. This got
Poems we used included: Tich Miller , Woman              students thinking of characters. When students
Work , Daffodils and The Eagle all of which              were given their book they were not allowed to
were interpreted in visual form.                         touch it, in an attempt to heighten the anticipation.
                                                         They were asked to write down what I see, think
Writing Prompts                                          wonder to catch their initial impression of the
Every opportunity was given to the students to           novel. These intial thoughts were turned into
write a variety of material in a variety of styles.      decorated posters to be used in the final review.
• Private Peaceful offered the opportunity for           The novel was read in class, aloud. Sometimes by
  diary writing and letter writing in character.         ourselves, mostly by students. We used the tapping
  Newspaper front covers were created on                 method. Each student could read as much or as
  Microsoft publisher and were proudly                   little as they wanted, when they were finished they
  displayed in our English cabinet. Spider               tapped the desk and the next student took up. This
  diagrams recorded character quotes and                 allowed reluctant readers to read an amount they
  vocabulary to keep track of character                  were comfortable with. We did try to set a
  thoughts and feelings.                                 minimum of a page of text.

• Vanessa Gildea s The White Dress was a                 We got students to write intervention pieces at
  poignant short film 4 minutes that led to              various stages in the narrative such as diary writing,
  thought-provoking written work. Students               character description, letter writing and newspaper
  were asked to write the girl s prayer when she         reports. We also looked at language analysis and
  sat in church. They were encouraged to use all         the choosing of apt quotes.This provided support

17   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
and reassurance for students in doing                    Film
comprehension and pieces of creative writing. We         We used film in our classes to stimulate writing
used the poem The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, just         and to begin to give students the tools with which
before the boys in the novel went to war, to examine      to read film. Using Bridge to Terabithia we used
the mindset of men going off to fight in World War       the opening section as a springboard to create a
1. Using the internet, we looked at propaganda           character and, from that, a scenario. Another
posters from that era to supplement the ideas on         exercise was to divide the class into groups and
recruitment we encountered in the novel. Another         assign them aspects of the film to observe. The
poem we read was Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred         areas included: setting, costume, facial expression,
Owen, following the reading of the gas attack            lighting and sound effects/music. Each group
episode in Private Peaceful. This enhanced the           watched the opening and made notes on their
experience of a gas attack for the student and           aspect, they then discussed their findings and
allowed us to examine the graphic images portrayed.      came up with a presentation for the rest of the
On finishing the novel we got students to write          class. By its conclusion each student had a more
articles, newspaper front pages, reviews and             detailed insight into all aspects of film language.
conversations twenty years later. We also produced       We used the close-up shot of Jess s teacher to
a new prop box, containing a gas mask!, and chapter      discuss the creation and presentation of a
summaries with only pictures. We revisited our           character and this lead to interesting discussions
initial ideas on the novel and evaluated whether they    re teachers! The film shorts we received from The
had been fulfilled. A great novel and a great way to     Irish Film Board were excellent to use with the
read it, teach it and learn about it.                    classes. In relation to The White Dress students
                                                         were full of insight and ideas. The classes
Library Reading                                          brainstormed possible scenarios and backgrounds.
Many kids don t have the opportunity to read for         Through this film short we explored 1st and 3rd
pleasure. As part of our first year course we decided    person perspectives. Students generated excellent
to give our classes this opportunity. The school         work with interesting prayers, diaries and
library is not up and running yet so we used our class   conversations.
libraries. We tried to give over one period a week to
quiet reading. The teacher also read at this time.       Conclusion
Students were free to read from the class library,       Participating in this project was worthwhile. We
take the novel home or read their own book. A goal       found it very interesting and we benefitted from
was set of at least three books in the course of         the teaching resources and ideas generated from
the year. We also set out a list of end of book          the various inservices. Working closely with a
activities, ranging from reviews, rewritten blurbs       colleague provided necessary support and
and news articles to dress up, prop boxes, musical       encouragement. Overall this year has revived our
accompaniment and story boards. To round off             enthusiasm for teaching first year English. A
the year the classes held dress up day. Each student     special word of thanks to Della Meade, Regional
had to dress up or bring in a prop to illustrate their   Developement Officer for the Second Level
favourite character in a novel. They had to present      Support Service, for her direction, encouragement
to the class to convey their enthusiasm for the          and enthusiasm throughout.
character and the novel. A fun and interesting way
to conclude our library reading.




18   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
     APPROACHES TO LEARNING AND TEACHING
        IN THE FIRST YEAR ENGLISH PROJECT
Here two of the teachers involved in the project,         MON I was most surprised by how well my
Niamh Martin of Cardonagh Community School                 academically weak 1st year group responded to
and M a r t i n O N e i l l of St Kieran s College         the novel Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Kilkenny, reflect on the year.                             and how reading it aloud, without any initial
                                                           written exercises, grasped the attention of the
What worked well in First Year English this                group.
year?
                                                          What might you do differently next year?
NM Student profiling was a useful insight into
 the students thoughts on the subject and                 NM Aim to structure more definite units of work
 provided a good starting point. It was                    which cover all aspects of English syllabus and
 refreshing to use new texts, particularly visual          make sure that students are aware that they
 texts, with first year classes.                           have covered these aspects.

     Independent research was productive. It              • Increase collaboration between classes.
     encouraged an awareness of current affairs and       • Encourage more activity based learning.
     students responded well to having the end result     • Examine possibility of some type of simple
     of a project to work towards. It was also possible     introduction to basic comparative work.
     to incorporate other elements of the syllabus such
     as poetry and fiction extracts.                      M O N Instead of having copies which the
                                                            students take home at night and often lose or
MON Two things worked extremely well with                   forget I would have an individual folder of
 this particular group. Firstly the film, Bridge            their work that would be kept in the
 to Terabithia was a wonderful resource in                  classroom. I would use the textbook much less.
 introducing film in this age group. I had never
 studied a film with First years before. Secondly         Some things that you would like to see
 I felt that using creative writing to teach the          happening in your school next year.
 ideas and skills relating to poetry worked
 really well. Each student had to write his own           NM Make increased use of the school library,
 poem and then share this with the class via the           perhaps structure a timetable among first year
 white board. Later we put all the poems into a            classes or look at possibility of introducing a
 broadsheet and gave each student a copy.                  special first year library card.

What most surprised you?                                    Establish an ongoing book review board. Each
                                                            teacher takes responsibility for the board for a
NM The results of the student profiling showed              month and it is updated regularly.
 that students generally had a keen interest in
 improving their literacy skills.                         MON Read aloud a novel collectively as a class,
                                                           enjoying it for its own sake. Every first year
     The use of freeze-frame and key word                  class to get an opportunity to observe the
     recognition in poetry was more successful             debating team in action and then attempt the
     than anticipated.                                     art of debating themselves.

     Independent research projects and group work         The study of film to become part of First Year
     during reading classes gave students a chance to       English for every student.
     take responsibility for their own learning and
     they reacted well to this.                           Every class in First Year produce an anthology of
                                                            their own poems.




19   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
                                            HAVE YOUR SAY
B r i a n H a n n e y of Gairmscoil na bPiarsach,        sharing success.
Rosmuc, airs his views on the visual component
of the Leaving Certificate Examination.                  It is the idea the wealthy being altruistic and not
Visual Literacy and the Leaving Certificate              the visual presentation that the student is expected
English Examination                                      to respond to and, indeed, who could respond
The Leaving Certificate s Paper One in English is        imaginatively to the kid of image that we find in
failing almost completely to exploit the visual          give-away newspapers all the time. The
element.                                                 accompanying questions reinforce the purely literary
                                                         emphasis. Choose one of the six images and describe
One of the key differences in the new syllabus first     what you see. Add another image of success to this
examined in 2001 was the emphasis placed on the          collection, that is, imagine and describe a picture.
visual. In accordance with the aim of the syllabus,
students were to develop an ability to understand        Even when the pictures are good examples of the
and respond creatively to visual as well as written      photographer s art they are frequently too small,
documents. In practice, however, Paper One hardly        or the reproduction/printing is not of a
ever gives students the opportunity to show their        sufficiently high standard to be properly
aptitude in this regard. It can be argued that many      examined. This further contributes to the
or most schools are treating the film like a literary    impression that visual appreciation is not given a
text rather than a primarily visual creation as well,    high priority amongst those setting the papers.
but that is for another day.                             Up to ten pictures may be squeezed on to a single
                                                         page so that significant detail becomes lost. The
In a previous issue of the Teaching English magazine,    best collection of images was on the 2005 Higher
a contributor expressed his apprehension that            Level paper on the theme of women and war.
teachers would simply teach the new syllabus in the
old way. What seems to have happened in relation to      The images are strong although again three out
visual literacy is that a bold initiative is now being   of the four are conventionally posed shots with
presented in such a way that the pictures become         the subject in the centre of the frame looking at
excuses for literary production instead of being         the camera and one of the questions invites an
examined for their visual qualities. This raises the     engagement with the visual quality of the
question, Why . Is it because those in the State         images. The size and quality of the reproductions
Examination Commission, who set the examination          is poor however.
papers, are nervous of the visual element?
                                                         What should be done? I think there are three
Consider one kind of picture which often features        simple things which could be done:
on Paper One. It is the kind of picture we all take.
The frame is almost filled by a subject who is           First, choose pictures which show photographers
looking directly at the camera and there is hardly       demonstrating the full potential of the medium.
any background. It is the sort of image dear to          Secondly, present the pictures in a large-scale
those who know the subject and dreary to                 format and high-quality reproduction. Thirdly,
everyone else. 2006, HL and 2007 OL are                  set questions which make it worth a teacher s
particularly guilty in this regard. How is it possible   while to teach visual appreciation by giving
to say much about visual style here and to discuss       students the opportunity to comment on such
the use of camera angle, colour, composition in          things as composition, camera angle and the use
these hopelessly unimaginative pictures?                 of colour, light and shade. Don t ask a student to
                                                         contribute another image. They have an
The problem is, of course, that the questions require    opportunity to show their ability for vivid
only literary production unlinked to visual              description in the composition.
appreciation. Consider the images used in the 2007
Ordinary Level paper. They are on the theme of           A round of in-service courses to prepare and
success and they are utterly conventional, the sort of   enthuse teachers to teach this aspect of the
snapshot that anyone could take. One has a picture       course, which is also relevant to those who
of Bill Gates presenting an oversize cheque but it is    choose a film text for the comparative question,
the caption that gives the game away: Bill Gates         would also be helpful.

20   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
     MAKING VISIBLE THE JUDGMENTS USED IN
         ASSESSING STUDENTS WRITING
Making Visible the Judgements We Use in                   What grade does this piece of work deserve? ,
Assessing Students Writing in the Senior Cycle           than to answer the second question without
                                                         considering the first. And, of course, there are
The Teaching English magazine is publishing the          implications in this for our teaching and for the
first part of a series of reports on the English         way we respond to students writing.
Support service s pilot project, Making Visible the
Judgements We Use in Assessing Students Writing          And that experience influenced your
in the Senior Cycle . This report deals with narrative   subsequent work?
writing. It consists of a background interview with      Yes. I wanted to develop the idea of responding
Kevin Mc Dermott who co-ordinated the pilot as           to the writerly qualities in a student s writing.
well three narrative compositions, written by            Influenced by Edward de Bono s thinking hats, I
Leaving Certificate students, with a summary of          began to try to describe the various hats we wear
comments, observations and question from                 when we read and respond to students writings.
teachers who participated in the workshops run as
part of the project.                                     Isn t writerly qualities a vague idea?
                                                         Yes and no. Vague because it is not possible to
Background                                               write a set of literary characteristics that will
                                                         cover every instance of writing and because, even
How did this work begin?                                 if you could, the important thing is the way these
This work began when I was invited to visit a            characteristics reveal themselves in the context
school to work with two young teachers on                of a particular piece of writing by an individual
assessing essays. Both of them lacked confidence         writer. James Joyce is a modernist writer but not
in their own judgements of the essays they were          every modernist writer is James Joyce. And, as
reading. In speaking with them I realised that if        readers, we are confident in our ability to identity
together we could identify the writerly qualities in     the qualities in a piece of writing and in the
individual pieces of work, qualities in the writing      writer that move, inspire or impress us. By
and in the writer then the question would be less        emphasising the writerly qualities, you are asking
about the subjective capability of each young            teachers of English to work from their strengths
teacher to call the grade and more about the             as readers of literature. And the reader s hat is a
qualities in a piece of writing which move us to         very important one.
respond to it in the ways we do. In reading a
number of essays, written by students in the             What ideas underpin the approach you ve
school, we employed a form of appreciative               used in the workshops?
enquiry. In other words, as readers, we noted            One of the ideas is certainly that of appreciative
everything we thought admirable or successful in         enquiry identifying the qualities in a piece of
each piece. Having discussed our findings, we            writing and in the writer and, in this way, giving
then considered the questions or issues that were        teachers access to the judgements they make in
preoccupying us. Setting these questions or              assessing any piece of written work. These visible
uncertainties against the qualities we had               judgements provide the basis for feedback to the
identified, we agreed on the grade we thought            student writer. In turn, this feedback helps the
each piece deserved within its own terms.                student recognise and take confidence from their
                                                         strengths as a writer and also raises questions
At the end of the session it was apparent that           which help the student to understand the issues
identifying the qualities in a piece of writing          which come into play in determining the success of
made it easier to value it, while working with a         what they have written. What feedback from a
colleague removed the psychological insecurity           reader does is to help the writer become a reader
of the teacher working in isolation. Grading the         of his or her own work. The switch from writing
essays was still a matter of judgement but the           something to reading something is similar to the
process was less daunting. In simple terms, it is        progress in a dialogue, when the discussion moves
easier for an English teacher to answer the              from the I to the You . And each student must
question, What s good about this piece of                learn to become a reader of his own work, to move
writing? , and then go on to answer the question,        from an I perspective to a You perspective, if he

21   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
or she is to really develop as a writer. Of course the   between what I m calling the Teacher s/Mentor s
ultimate aim of writing practice is help students        Hat and the Examiner s Hat . From their
make a connection between what Seamus Heaney             perspective, teaching is largely about preparing
calls the performative student and the inner             the students for the examination, and is rarely
 writer-in-waiting .                                     separated from it. For some of the teachers I ve
                                                         met, the horizon is always the exam.
The approach to the work is also informed by
Gardner s and Perkins s work in Harvard on               In the workshops, has there been consensus on
Teaching for Understanding , and the work on             the value of individual pieces?
assessment in King s College, London. And, as I have     To a large extent, yes, though this has to be
already indicated, by de Bono s thinking hats .          qualified. When teachers wear their teaching/
                                                         mentoring hat there is pretty near unanimous
What does the work to date suggest to you                consensus on the value and impact of a piece of
about grading ?                                          work. To that extent, the series of workshops has
Within the contexts of the exercise, the grading         demonstrated the degree to which there is general
of a piece of work involves assigning value to the       consensus on the merits of individual pieces of work
writerly qualities identified and discussed by the       within the community of English teachers. This is
participating teachers. Once this is done, the           not simply a matter of subjective impression
participants go on to consider the extent to             because the judgements were informed by writing
which the questions raised about a piece, and the        qualities identified in a piece of writing. Identifying
discussion which follows from this questioning,          qualities in a piece of writing is, of course, an act of
cause a re-valuing of the piece and the qualities it     subjective interpretation, but one that relates to
displays. It s a bit like writing a review of a film     standards of judgement that are commonly
and then assigning it a number of stars.                 available and understood. What is also true is that
Interestingly, the questions which have most             teachers learn from the dialogue and discussion that
affected the grade of an individual piece of             the process creates. I have met a small number of
writing are influenced less by the reader and            young teachers who have offered stinging criticisms
teacher perspective and more by the perspective          of individual pieces of work which have been at odds
of the Leaving Certificate examiner, questions           with their colleagues reading of the same piece.
such as the degree to which the writer has               What this illustrates, I think, is the apprenticeship
strayed outside the parameters of the task: Is it        element in becoming teacher. The judgments of a
a personal essay? Is it a short story?                   small number of young teachers revealed an
                                                         unrealistic expectation of student writing. Not
Are you saying teachers read texts in different          every student who writes a short story is Ray Carver.
ways or, to use your own terms, wear                     However, listening to their colleagues discuss
different reading hats?                                  individual pieces has helped these young teachers
That s exactly what I m saying. At this stage in         look upon those pieces with new eyes and
the work, I talk about teachers wearing three            understand the values of their colleagues and the
different hats in responding to written work.            collective wisdom brought to bear by a group of
There is the reader s hat, where you respond to          teachers in reading individual pieces.
the qualities you identify in the piece of writing
and in the young writer. Then there s the                In the 1960s James Britton of the Institute of
teaching/mentoring hat, where you think about            Education in London undertook some interesting
the advice and suggestions you would offer to            work on the assessment of written English. He
the young writer that might help him or her to           suggested that three English teachers reading an
improve the work. Finally, there s the examiner s        essay quickly will agree a grade that is as accurate
hat, where you consider the piece of writing less        and reliable as one person following a careful,
in its own terms and more in terms of the context        analytic marking scheme. I think the workshop
of a final examination. In wearing the examiner          sessions bear out his research. And this may be one
hat the questions you raise relate to the success        idea that teachers will bring to the English
of a given piece of writing in terms of a set task,      Department in their school. The more we talk about
and issues of task and genre come to the fore.           the assessment of written work with colleagues and
                                                         engage with them in the process of assessing, the
Having said this, there are some teachers who            more we create a community of shared practice,
might question the validity of the distinction           shared values and shared meanings.
being made. For them, there is little difference

22   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Were there any noticeable differences in the             coming into play when we read something with a
assessment       strategies      adopted       by        view to developing the feedback we give to our
participating teachers?                                  students. In this regard, the exercise was directed
There is a big difference in assessing a piece of        towards formative as opposed to summative
work on its own terms, in a pedagogic or teaching        assessment. And as I ve facilitated more
context for formative purposes, and assessing a          workshops, I think I ve made this clearer. More
piece of work in an examination context for              importantly, the grades discussed in the
summative purposes. That s a bit of a mouthful,          workshop have not been subjected to the
but it s worth saying. The majority of teachers          rigorous process of the examination system.
read and responded to the individual pieces              There was no marking scheme; there was no
simply as pieces of writing. Some teachers,              marking conference; there was no attempt to
however, read and assessed always with                   establish a standard; there was no direction to
reference to the Leaving Certificate examination.        examiners and no supervision of examiners; there
                                                         was no cross-moderation, and there was no
The other difference that emerged is that of the         appeal. Mind you having said all that, it is still
 hard and the lenient marker, those who graded           remarkable the degree to which there was
a piece of writing well above or below the               general consensus in most groups on the value of
generally agreed grade. I think there are two            a given piece of work.
related processes teaching and psychological at
work in each strategy or approach. The second            So, why are you publishing this work?
 the lenient marker seeks to foster confidence in        Because I hope it will generate some discussion
the student and generate an optimistic yes, we           among teachers on how best to provide feedback
can philosophy in relation to realising potential        to students on their writing.
and achieving success in public examinations.
The first, the hard marker seeks to motivate the         Initially, when I started doing the workshops, I
student writer by suggesting there is more to be         wondered if it would be possible or useful to
done and seeks to protect the student and the            generate a general set of descriptions for
teacher from disappointment it the public                different types of essays from a detailed look at a
examination. An impression I ve formed is that           small sample. I wondered if such a set of
the lenient approach was more common among               descriptions would help teachers in assessing
teachers working in schools in disadvantaged             essays for both formative and summative
areas; while the hard approach was more                  purposes. Now I am not sure if this is really a
common in middle-class schools. Of course this is        good idea. While I think such a set of descriptions
only an observation and I have also encountered          might help focus teachers and students
the phenomenon where teachers in a middle-               attention on aspects on the essays they are
class school awarded inflated grades to their            reading and writing, they certainly wouldn t offer
students because there was an expectation                a guide to students or teachers on what
among      teachers,   parents     and    school         constitutes a good essay. Recognising that a
management, that students in that school were            young writer displays an emotional maturity in
 A grade students. In other words, in-school             dealing with the subject matter of a short story is
assessment is influenced by both the ethos of the        different than saying to a student, You must
school and socio-economic factors in much the            show emotional maturity in your short story.
same way as, I suspect, approaches to teaching           Equally, recognising that a variety of sentences
are influenced.                                          length has contributed to the suspense in a story
                                                         does not guarantee that an instruction to Vary
Do you think the same grade would have been              your sentence length to achieve suspense will
given to each piece of work in a public                  have the same result. In other words, literary and
examination as was given to it in the                    aesthetic effects and judgements are always
workshop?                                                contingent and relate to this piece of writing in
The initial workshops were developed to explore          this context. Hopefully, what the exercise will do
an idea, without too many defined objectives. It         is provide a model for a process of assessment
was more, let s see what happens when we talk            that will be of help to teachers in thinking about
about what we re doing when we read an essay .           assessing students essays and also help students
So, the object of the exercise was not to agree a        to recognise the qualities in their own work and
grade and test its reliability, but to raise             consider questions worth considering in relation
questions and issues about the kind of things            to developing and improving it. To go back to

23   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
Heaney, I hope the work will help teachers               though there was nothing riding on the grading
encourage more writers-in-waiting.                       part of the workshop, the tensions and anxieties
                                                         around high-stake examinations found their way
Any other observations you would like to make?           into the discussion. So, next time, for some
What I have found interesting is that the                workshops, I ll leave out all references to
qualities identified in each piece of writing are        examinations and we ll just concentrate on the
related to the singularity and texture of that           writerly qualities; in others the focus will be on
particular piece. I think the workshops would            the kind of feedback that might be useful for
have been less successful had we posited a whole         students; and we will have some workshops
series of characteristics of good writing in a           where the focus will be on writing for the
particular genre and then set about trying to find       examination.
them, in what the students had written.
Similarly, helping students to improve their             Of course it is not possible nor do I want to set
writing will come about through consideration of         aside the Leaving Certificate syllabus. The
questions related to what they and their                 decision to concentrate on three different
classmates have written, rather than                     categories of writing Narrative, Personal and
consideration of general criteria. Questions of          Argument/Persuasive reflects the treatment of
success in writing are, essentially, practical           language in the syllabus.
questions: Does this work here? Indeed I d
characterise the aesthetics of writing as writers        Earlier you mentioned the influence of
posing this question of themselves: Have I made          Teaching for Understanding. A key idea in
the right choice here? When students ask real            Teaching for Understanding is the Generative
questions of their work, and of themselves,              Question. Having done this work, what do you
valuable discussion and learning will follow.            consider the generative questions that teacher
                                                         might ask of a piece of work?
Will you continue with this work?
Undoubtedly, yes. There is so much to learn              I ll limit myself to four!
about the way that English teachers, myself
included, assess students work.                          What are the qualities in the writing and in the
                                                         young writer that I admire?
What will you do differently?
In giving out some pieces of work in the initial         What questions can I raise with the student to
workshops, there were references to questions            help her or him improve this piece of writing?
on past state examination papers. For example,
some essays were identified as having been               What grade will I award this piece of work
written in response in a question set on the             considering it in its own terms?
Leaving Certificate examination of 2007. In these
instances the teachers who gave me the essays            What grade do I think this piece of work would
had asked their students to write in response to a       be awarded in the state examination?
question from a past paper. In addition, the early
workshops were titled, Making Visible the                You are not publishing a grade with this
Judgements Used in Assessing Leaving Certificate         sample of essays. Why?
Essays. These two factors clouded participants           Because there is too great a danger that the
responses. For a number of teachers once they            grades will be taken as setting a standard that
saw something that related to the Leaving                will apply in the Leaving Certificate examination
Certificate examination, they approached the             and the emphasis on appreciative assessment will
workshop less as a reader and a teacher/mentor           be lost. Exemplars of standards are available on
and more as an examiner. Such is the influence of        the SEC website in the Chief Examiner s Report.
the Leaving Certificate examination that even




24   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
                                 I TUNE INTO THE
                            CONVERSATIONS AROUND ME
Composing LC 2007                                        she ll have forgotten she said that. The pity of it!
 I tune into conversations around me.                    He is stroking her hair in quite desperation, as if
Write a short story suggested by the above               the touch of his hand will heal her. Childhood
sentence.                                                sweethearts, they had dated in secret, until the
                                                         day she left school to be a young bride. Now she
I Tune Into Conversations Around Me.                     gazes in wonderment at her wedding photo
                                                         which we have shown her eight times. Not a
The typical Irish drizzle patterns my windscreen         flicker of recognition engulfs her, although she
and lightly sprinkles the grey roadside. If this was     points excitedly at the beautiful bride, herself.
a film, the wind would cut through the town like         The bell sounds. Time to go. She pulls distractedly
a whetted knife. This isn t a film. This is my life.     at the various tubes, by which she is entrapped. A
Even if it was a film, it wouldn t be a blockbuster.     quick word to the nurse, a needle is prepared. We
Blockbusters need beautiful characters, special          are ushered out as the professionals take over.
effects and vampire killing cheerleaders. Instead        She waves an unquestioning good-bye.
of high quality virtual lighting, I have rain,
seeping rain that looks as if somebody is just           Shauna is crying again. I feel the pin prick of
sprinkling icing sugar over a camera lens.               tears. In the sterile hall I quickly tune into
                                                         conversations around, although my vision is
My life until now has been average. Two caring           blurred by my tears. In the reflection of the
parents who loved each other, am older brother           window, I see them again, four fowl-like
who adored me, a younger sister whom I in turn           creatures, Fiona, Fiachra, Aodh and Conn. But she
adored. Never experiencing hardship of any kind          set them free. The small, dark, pleasant, little
was probably the only thing which made me                nurse bustles with tea things. As Frost says, Life,
different. My life swung as carefree as the tree         it goes on . She will not be free. Dropping
branches which soughed blissfully on our family          exhausted into my car the MP3 player resumes its
walks. At Christmas the crunching snow moulded           playing:
itself in designs under our new shoes. In summer, a              On sleepless roads the sleepless go
light breeze fanned our dresses into colourful sails.             May angels lead you in .
Moments that merit a frame, but no need to take
pictures, because that was how it always was.            589 words
I knew how lucky I was. I wasn t some spoilt brat,
in a second rate Sunday movie, who needed to be
taught a lesson. The car stereo softly plays May         WORKSHOP RESPONSES
Angels lead you in .
 I never said thank you for that                         I Tune Into Conversations Around Me.
I thought I might get one more chance
What would you think of me now?                          The Reading Hat: Qualities Identified
So lucky, so strong so proud?                            Ambitious piece of writing. Imaginative and
Lough Derravaragh passes and in the dark                 empathetic. Immediately catches the interest of
lumpen shapes, I see them, huddled for shelter,          the reader and sets the scene. Deals with an
Fionn, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn, ensnared by the           important issue in a mature way. Real emotions
evil enchantress Aoife, to a forlorn existence.          described without excess. Displays a depth of
                                                         feeling. Clear voice, sensitive and sincere,
We drive along the endless motorway until we             emerging from the writing. Interesting use of
reach the familiar hospital car park. We pace the        literary and legendary allusions to provide
same anonymous corridor and stairs. There she is.        context and frame story. The description of the
What a stark contrast to the banal journey we            landscape helps evoke a mood and an
make every day! Everything is new to her.                atmosphere. Lyrical and descriptive, with a
Kavanagh would have been proud. She sees the             cinematic quality. Interesting use of figurative
extraordinary in the ordinary. She has been in the       language. Flowing style. Easy transitions
same room for weeks. It all seems new to me!             between internal monologue and descriptive.
She turns around delightedly. In half an hour,           Interesting use of tense, linked to themes of time

25   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
and memory. Variety of sentence structures is
impressive in creating rhythm and mood of piece.
                                                             17 YEAR OLD MALE
Comes at subject in an interesting way.
                                                                PROTAGONIST
The Teaching Hat: Questions for the Young                Composing LC 2008 Short Story
Writer to Consider                                        … 17 year old male protagonist with a darting
Are some of the references too forced? Is the            gaze …
piece too convoluted or contrived? Is there a            Write a short story in which the central
balance between the set up and the rest of the           character is a rebellious teenager male or
story? Is it confusing rather than subtle? Is it         female .
disjointed? Is it too short? Are some of the word
choices ill-judged?                                      17 Year Old Male Protagonist With A Darting
                                                         Gaze
The Examiner s Hat: Exam Focused Questions
Is there a strong enough link between the prompt         The car stopped. Mum handed me a wrinkled
sentence and the essay?                                  tenner.
Does it read more as a descriptive fragment than          Go on, she said, and no drinking tonight .
a story?                                                 Her concern was touching. Also it was entirely
                                                         unnecessary, as it was Wednesday evening.
The vast majority of teachers who read this              Things weren t that tough just yet, even with the
composition agreed that it would merit a high            Leaving Cert looming over June. Alone on a one-
grade in an examination situation.                       way street, I began to walk. I felt the familiar
                                                         prickle of discomfort as cars sped by. The
                                                         vulnerability of the pedestrian became obvious. It
                                                         never ceases to amaze me how fascinating a
                                                         person walking on a footpath is, especially to
                                                         those of the motoring public! Yet, here I was,
                                                         being subjected to minute scrutiny. You could
                                                         almost see the bubble thoughts rising from the
                                                         car. Who let her out in that? I m glad I m not
                                                         her mother . Oh, please! I m going to a match,
                                                         the match, the Champions League Semi-Final
                                                         Away to Chelsea match. I m a supporter, get it?

                                                         As I walked, I pulled out my trusty cellular
                                                         telecommunication device. Nothing like a mobile
                                                         to distract me from staring eyes and noses
                                                         pressed against car windows. I dialled Orla s
                                                         number. Burr ... burr ... It was ringing
                                                         somewhere behind me. A car slowed.
                                                          Look behind you! Orla said down the phone.
                                                         Looking around I saw Orla, all legs and bags,
                                                         climbing out of her mother s battered red Focus.
                                                          I hope ye get the right result, her Mum called, as
                                                         she drove off. Orla and I exchanged a glance. So
                                                         did we. This was a crunch game. A place in the
                                                         Champion s League was at stake. We linked arms
                                                         and headed off.

                                                         We could hear the crowds long before we saw
                                                         them. Great waves of sound washed down the
                                                         sun-filled street. Our excitement mounted. As
                                                         Orla pushed the peeling green door of The
                                                         Huddle , a chorus of shouts greeted us.
                                                          His armband proved he was a red Torres Torres!
                                                          You ll never walk alone, they said, Torres, Torres .

26   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
We scanned the dimly-lit bar for seats. Standing         else, up our area. But we knew how to support
room only was available. We chose our corner             our team. Go lads, make us proud. As the teams
carefully. The only two girls in a room full of          re-emerged on the screen, red faces became
men. As I leaned back against a photo-covered            almost black as blood pressure soared. Chelsea
green wall, a familiar face swam into my line of         got the better start, but Liverpool hung on. As
vision. And he was bearing bar stools. Mr.               the clock wound down, people began to whisper
O Sullivan, our SPHE teacher. Do you ever know           about penalties and away goals. The air was thick
who is a fan?                                            with tension.
 Um … thanks… Sir.
We sank gratefully onto the two stools. Would            Twenty minutes to go, and Alonso put in a
this make an interesting discussion, the following       dangerous tackle. The ref s whistle pierced the air
day in class? For now though, Orla and I had to          as play was stopped. He rummaged in his pocket
focus on the game in hand. As the teams were             before showing Alonso a yellow card. A painful
announced, the volume increased. The noise rose          silence echoed around the bar. I was torn
to a thundering crescendo as players drew strings        between not wanting to watch and not being
of unrepeatable remarks while they walked onto           able to tear my eyes away. The only sound as
the pitch and we gave it our best shot too! The          Lampard stepped up to strike was the
whistle blew. The game began. The first half was,        commentator s voice.
let s face it, unremarkable. The crowd grew               And Lampard moves to strike the ball.
increasingly impatient as both sides squandered          O god!
chances. I began to complain about Liverpool s            The ball curls in left.
catastrophic defending. Orla noticed that Torres         Please let Rena save it.
needed a hair-cut. Suddenly the ball broke at             And Rena dives right. Goal Chelsea. Frank
midfield. Chelsea won possession. Drogba with            Lampard has scored the penalty.
the ball at his feet surged forward. My knuckles         No!
whitened as I gripped the edge of the table. The          And it s all over here at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea
Liverpool goal came in sight. As one we stood and        are going through to the next stage in Moscow…
roared. My stomach churned. Drogba, with only            The rest of the commentator s gleeful remarks
the keeper to beat, stopped and aimed with ice-          were lost in the low, angry buzz of the communal
cold precision. No, no, no! Goal Chelsea!                groan of despair. We had wanted, needed the win
                                                         so much. One hot angry tear spilled down my
Now the atmosphere had moved up a gear. The              cheek. Glasses began to be filled. Sorrow had to
roars were deafening as fans, both at the game in        be drowned…. 971 WORDS
Stamford Bridge and watching with us in The
Huddle began to urge on the Pool.
 Walk on, walk on,                                       WORKSHOP RESPONSES
With hope in your hearts
And you ll never walk alone .                            17 Year Old Male Protagonist With A Darting
The crowd were as one urging, begging, praying.          Gaze
It just had to be. A sharp cry split the air.
Liverpool were awarded a free. Steven Gerrard            The Reading Hat: Qualities Identified
stepped up to take it. He eyed the ball. The crowd       Great immediacy. Entertaining. Sets the scene
went silent. He eyed the goal.                           clearly. Setting is contemporary and convincing.
 Come on, come on Stevie G,                              Natural voice intelligent, humorous, knowing,
Take the free, take the free .                           observant, fresh. Intelligent use of small detail to
As if in slow motion he took a swing at the ball,        convey setting and create sense of realism.
and t rose in a perfect arc, connecting with Dirk        Dialogue convincing and realistic. Captures
Kuyt s head. A beauty! One all. The ref s whistle        teenage consciousness. Moves easily between
sounded, half time was called.                           commentary, description and dialogue. Lovely
                                                         turn of phrase. Moments of tension created
The crowd split like the Red Sea, one half to the        through use of short and long sentences and sure
smoking area, the other half to the bar. All             sense of rhythm. Captures atmosphere of
around us conversations rose, like the buzzing of        excitement. Conveys flow of time. Clever link
an angry swarm of bees, as the merits and                between opening and ending. Fluent writing.
demerits of the first half were hotly debated. The       Well structured piece. Original take on a
pride of a city was at stake. We didn t have much        common, gendered topic. This young writer

27   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
shows real potential. As a reader, would like to
read more work by this writer.                           WITHOUT MY LIBRARY
The Teaching Hat: Questions for the Young                 Write a short story suggested by the phrase
Writer to Consider                                                    without my library
Is the piece shaped enough? Does it have dramatic
tension or conflict? Is there a sense of character?      Without My Library
Does it fall into the sequence of action trap a
description of events over a defined period of time,     It was another hot night in July, a windless hot
rather than a story? Is there too much reporting?        night, the kind that makes people do secret and
Is there a mismatch between the set-up and the           dark things. Xavier von Marz walked through the
development?        Are the more interesting             floors of his villa near Berlin Tiergarten, he wore
observations left undeveloped?                           an expensive bathrobe with a swastika right over
                                                         the heart, in one hand he carried a thick
The Examiner s Hat: Exam Focused Questions               hardcover book in the other he held a half-filled
Is there a sufficient link between the title and the     glass of Whiskey. Xavier von Marz was no tall
writing?                                                 man, just about five feet and three inches, and his
Is it a short story?                                     enormous belly made him look smaller, his hair
Would this young writer be better advised to do          belonged to the past and apart from his
the Personal Essay in an examination?                    moustache he was completely bald.

Most teachers recognised the strengths of this           He passed through the saloon, and stopped short
young writer. Questions were raised about genre          to look at the place where his van Gogh used to
and the effect of this on the grade the                  hang, now it was behind a faked wall down in his
composition would merit in an examination                cellar, he knew that they would have taken it if
situation.                                               he had left it there. Now a, in his opinion, very
                                                         poor imitation of Martin Beck s Wilhelm auf der
                                                         Albatross showing Kaiser Wilhelm sailing on his
                                                         favourite ship was hanging on its place. A really
                                                         poor replacement thought von Marz for maybe
                                                         the tenth time.

                                                         But then, after taking a big gulp from his glass he left
                                                         and walked towards the library, there he sat down in
                                                         a big leather chair and looked at his favourite room
                                                         in the house, the room wasn t big, but the shelves
                                                         reached the ceiling. The shelves were around the
                                                         whole room and their black wood in addition to the
                                                         dark books and the fireplace gave the room a heavy
                                                         but comfortable atmosphere. Von Marz opened the
                                                         book he carried with him for now quite a while, he
                                                         couldn t bear the thought of sending it into another
                                                         country but here his poor Kafka would be murdered,
                                                         like all the other books they had already murdered,
                                                         burned like witches five hundred years earlier, but it
                                                         really was like that, enemies of the system.

                                                         Normally von Marz agreed with his party, but this
                                                         time he was nearly shocked, how could this man,
                                                         who was worshipped by von Marz for all these years,
                                                         order the destruction of innocent books, pictures and
                                                         statues. The day von Marz heard about the
                                                         Bucherverbrennungen , the burning of books, he
                                                         drove home from his work place and checked his
                                                         house, he found four pictures, one statue and
                                                         countless books he would have to see burn and he

28   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009
would also see soldiers marching around the fire and     watching his garden and the street. Luckily the big
celebrating the destruction of his books.                trees avoided every sight from the street to his
                                                         house, so the operation couldn t be watched. After
On that day he decided to disobey his orders for the     the guards had stored the boxed he sat down in the
first time, and to hide his books and pictures. With     driver s chair and looked at von Marz, who looked
the help of a loyal friend he managed to hide the        back, then reached into his pocket took out a bundle
statue and the pictures behind a fake wall down in is    of Reichsmark and threw it to the guard who caught
cellar, but he couldn t hide the books that way, there   it without effort, started the van and drove away.
were too many of them. So he took the risk and           They had spoken about the plan again a few minutes
bribed a guard at the DRB, the German train              ago. Von Marz himself walked around this house and
company, who would take the three boxes with time        took his own car, a black Mercedes-Benz with the
on a ride to Paris, where a priest would keep them in    Reichseagle on its bonnet, and followed the van.
his church. A generous denotation was already paid.
                                                         During the driving von Marz thought about all the
Von Marz finished his Whiskey and looked again at        risks he had taken, what if his friend was less loyal
the long boxes lying in his library, they were           than he thought, what if the guard was more loyal
maybe six feet long, two wide and one high, the          to the Reich then to the money and what to do if
normal size, black letters at each side said             they discovered the boxes? He parked the car at
 Maschienenteile , machine components. Von               the train station, walked on the gangway, sat
Marz still had doubts if it would work, but the          down, lit a cigarette and thought: After all it was
guard had insured him that there were hundreds of        worth it, if they get me for this it was the right
boxes like that on the train, only the box s number      thing to do and I will wait to see my friends again,
would be the identification for the priest. The          without my library life is not worth living. Then
guard said that he d come around at midnight to          he took a puff of his cigarette and watched the
collect the boxes and to leave quickly after he had      train leaving the station towards Paris.
been paid. Von Marz looked at this pocket watch,
more than half an hour left, enough for one more          1113 Words
Scotch and getting dressed. He stood up, ran his
hand over the book, then put it into the box.            WORKSHOP RESPONSES

Back in his room he put his uniform on. With the         Without My Library
black and silver uniform of an SS-General he
looked much more like an authority than in his           The Reading Hat: Qualities Identified
normal clothes, he thought about taking his              Wholly convincing world which successfully evokes
pistol with him, decided not to, but then decided        character and situation. Historically authentic
again against it, he took the Luger out of its box,      setting. Portrayal of psychology of central character
loaded the clip and let it slide into the weapon, as     is very impressive. While conflict is largely internal,
always the clicking sound made him feel good             the threat of the external world is conveyed. Young
and sure of his position as a general.                   writer has a sure sense of story structure and
                                                         elements. The opening draws the reader into the
Then he heard the doorbell, he had to remember           story. Drama and suspense maintained till the end.
himself that he had given his servant Daniel a free      Story is well-paced and never loses momentum.
evening and that he would have to got on his own.        Intelligent writing. Good use of small convincing
So he left his room and walked down to the hall, the     details. Ending is cinematic in quality. Leaves the
sound of his polished leather boots made an              reader wondering, What happened then?
uncommon loud sound in the silence of the empty
house, he reached the door and let the guard in who      The Teaching Hat: Questions for the Young
raised his arm and greeted Heil Hitler Heil Hitler ,     Writer to Consider
come on in, you have work to do. The guard               Is sentence construction too elaborate?
followed von Marz silent and entered the library, he     Is situation and conflict over-written?
had brought a small vehicle with him to transport        Could there be more dialogue?
the boxes to the van. The work needed less then
thirty minutes, the guard nailed the boxes and           The Examiner s Hat
brought them with hard effort to the VW-van              All teachers agreed that this essay would merit a
waiting outside the door. Von Marz didn t help him       very high grade in an examination situation.
 He is paid well enough for this effort he thought

29   Teaching English Magazine . Text only Autumn 2009

				
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