Friday, 28 March 2014

Fifth Year Debate: 'The Best Poem by Sylvia Plath we studied...'

Coming to the end of a studied poet always brings the inevitable review of themes, techniques and essay points. In the last year or two I've really tried to help pupils appreciate how imaginative and creative a process writing poetry really is. Completing a poet and simply trying to disseminate their work into a bunch of bullet points, whilst maybe partly necessary for exams, just seems a little vacuous, when juxtaposed with the creative brilliance they have just studied.  With that in mind, I set my fifth year class a slightly more engaging way to revise the work of Sylvia Plath:

Step1 ) My pupils sit at group tables so I created an internal debate at each table. Each pupil had to pick a poem by Plath that they felt was 'The best poem I studied by Sylvia Plath'.
Step 2) Each pupil at the table was given half a class to research their poem and create points to support their argument.
Step 3) Each pupil was given part of the second half of class to speak and argue for their poem at their table.
Step 4) The table would then have to decide which poem they were going to put forward into the full class debate.
Step 5) Each table was then given a second class to create a group collection of points in support of their poem.
Step 6) A third and final class was spent recording each speech.

The recording class had so much engagement. There was a real sense of competition and some 'heated discussions' took place 'off camera'. It was great to see pupils show both a knowledge and understanding of their own poem but also by actively listening, and arguing, to other groups they demonstrated a critical appreciation of all the poems we studied by Plath. A collection of the recordings can be found below, which investigate everything from what Caesar and Plath had in common to the quality of Cathal's (a classmate) beard!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

EUfolio and Teacher Collaboration

Yesterday I attended a conference at Microsoft HQ in Dublin that was focusing on piloting the use of ePortfolios in schools across Ireland and parts of Europe. The EUfolio Project is also being piloted in Spain, Austria, Slovenia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Bulgaria. The central Objectives and Outcomes of the project are outlined on the EUfolio site as:

Project objectives:
  • To deliver a systemic analysis of the current policy approaches and developments on the use of ePortfolios in education, including assessment and evaluation of students, learning planning, and professional development of teachers.
  • To design potentially scalable ePortfolio models for teaching, learning and assessment use.
  • To carry out transnational implementation pilots in different contexts and approaches.
  • To draw valuable real-world lessons for deepening the use of ICT (specifically the portfolio approach) in teaching, learning and assessment going forward.
  • To highlight the evidence for the efficacy of ePortfolio teaching and learning approaches, as well as to promote strategies of effective practice, sustainable implementation and consistent management.
Main project outcomes:
  1. EUfolio Review of existing ePortfolio Policies and Practices (Report)
  2. EUfolio Process Specification
  3. Open Source ePortfolio Platform
  4. Microsoft based ePortfolio Platform
  5. Teacher CPD Resources
  6. School Case Studies
  7. Examplar ePortfolios
  8. Trans-national peer-to-peer online network of pilot schools and teachers
  9. EUfolio Policymaker’s Manual
Yesterday's event had teachers travel from all over all Ireland. Teachers were given a choice at the outset of the pilot of using either Microsoft Sharepoint or Mahara to use as their ePortfolio operating system. We spent the morning ironing out technical issues within the project so far. It was great to hear ideas from other schools about how they are using their ePortfolios already. In the afternoon a member of the Junior Cycle for Teachers team was on hand to go through a sample lesson that could be completed and/or stored on a pupil's ePortfolio once complete. We were then asked to design a similar lesson or a lesson that would follow on from the one we just completed.

 This was the real highlight of the day. There was so much creativity and so many ideas working at a table with fellow experienced teachers.With so much free software now available online I hope we are just at the start of an explosion of teacher created resources and activities. Can we please have some Croke Park hours to use for content creation? If an English Department was given 3 hours to create digital resources how many Animoto videos could they make? Could they create an entire series of Padlets on Romeo and Juliet? Make an eBook on skills for Leaving Cert Paper 1? The technology is now there to do so much. The talented teachers are certainly there! I just think we may need some help at both school and Department level in giving us the time to really ignite this new resource revolution.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Mr Doyle's Class: 1V World Book Day Class Magazine

Introducing 1V’s contribution to this year’s World Book Day activities.  V.I.P. magazine is an exciting new publications written and designed (and named) by 1V.  The magazine, like the class, is bursting with colour, information, imagination, humour and above all Confidence.  Have a read through and experience the world of a V.I.P. !

Ms Carey's Class: The Great Gatsby Flipagram

Please find below a Flipagram created by Ms Carey's Senior English class. The class had just finished studying the novel and decided to piece together key characters, themes and moments using PicCollage. The Flipagram below contains all their work.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Author Margaret Scott visits for World Book Day

World Book Day

As part of World Book Day, the author Margaret Scott visited our school. She has written the book 'Between You and Me' and is currently working on the sequel to the book which will be released in June as part of a trilogy. 

Author Margaret Scott talks to pupils during World Book Day activities here in the school.(More Images)
Our TY class met with Margaret on the 5th of March in the library. She told us about her journey to becoming an author and all the obstacles she experienced along the way, writing her book and the process she had to go through to get it from computer screen to paper. She also spoke to us about the life of a writer and some difficulties that you have to face as a writer. 

We then went on to discuss books that we had read and loved, books that we couldn’t finish and what makes a book good or bad. It was an interesting conversation and there were lots of books recommended to us. Lots of teenagers have stopped reading and we came up with some possibilities as to why this is happening.

Margaret’s visit opened the eyes of many students in our class to the world of reading. It resulted in a very enjoyable discussion and hopefully encouraged more students to begin reading again. 

Aoibhín Tutty-Bardon  

Margaret Scott Visits by Roisin King

 Margaret Scott came to our school last Wednesday the 5th March. I can remember being tired and fed-up, before she arrived. I hadn’t thought that she would say anything of interest, however from the moment Scott walked in she had my full attention. She looked as if she knew what she would say to us, and how she would say it. First impressions are important, they can judge whether or not we give our full attention to something, or someone. The author later told us that first impressions mean an awful lot, especially when it comes to reading. If you don’t enjoy the first paragraph of a book, chances are that the entire book won’t interest you. 
She also mentioned how this first impression is never perfect from the writer’s point of view. As the book is being written, the first page is chopped and changed as often as the overall story is added to.
We then heard an article written by Scott for an English website The piece was all about first impressions, and included the opening sentence from a few of Ms. Scott’s favourite books. According to the successful author, a book needs to immediately involve the reader and make them ask questions. They will want to read more to find out the answers!
The inspiring woman proceeded then to tell us the story of her first published novel, ‘Between You and Me’. We heard of the tornado of hard work, hope and rejection before she finally found a publisher who believed in her abilities. The writing world is a harsh world, and it is extremely difficult to make it as a unestablished author, unless you have the necessary hope and ambition to achieve your dreams.
Another valuable writing tip for aspiring authors given by Scott was to get your own style of writing. She stressed the importance of not copying other writers’ styles and voices, but rather to find your own personal feel for story-writing. For this reason, Scott shared her inability to read a fictional book while trying to write a novel to a deadline. She explained to us how she would end up twisting ideas from her reading material to suit the story, which distorted the overall plot of her unfinished book. Therefore, to resist the temptation, Scott shared that she read a huge amount of biographies and other non-fiction. 

Scott’s priceless tips given to us were worth more to every one of us than she could have ever thought. We eagerly asked question after question, parched with a thirst for good advice. The experience was one that I will never forget.

Her novel ‘Between You and Me’ is out in bookshops at the moment and the sequel is coming soon!