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CONTENTS



POETRY COMPETITION Senior and Junior Winners



Brief Guide to  LC Texts



Notices



 Ideas for Teaching First Year English



 Novels for First and Second Year



The Class Novel –  Ideas



John Clark Interview



Teaching English Magazine Crossword

Cover image: William Orpen The Wash House  National Gallery of Ireland




Teaching English Magazine

POETRY COMPETITION SENIOR WINNERS

Joint Second Place

st Place

Hark! The Harlequin Sound of Dancing Aristocrats

Fishwives Tales

Our feet: they are swinging to a scarlet symphony Gliding turning twisting diving all is dancing Maelstroms of colour red bleeding into yellow bleeding into gold blending into silver We will rise and sink and rise in kaleidoscope

Electricity hued hurricanes are our bodies Hands on waists the whirl of plumage dizzies Dust dances! We will dance our dust into diamonds

Air is dancing oxygen molecules batter themselves into violets fuchsias eye tightening artic blues Lurid silks and ribbons reach for our heads dangling and tangling Betwixt our legs so swift As music bound feet kick to crochets of crimson

“Did you hear about the Baker’s daughter?” Throw to the gutter a slap as a fish hits the table chop off the head and watch the eyes go misty let spangled innards spew to the floor

“Is it true about the Baker’s daughter?” Throw to the skinner a slap as a fish hits the table and he who peels with slimy distaste can sense the grimace in shards of silver

“Such a story about the Baker’s daughter!” Throw to the boner a slap as the fish hits the table press and prise the backbone apart as it joins a pile of marrow graves unseen

Yet He stands alone in a subdued centre

Green light duskily pulses

Peacock attired His hair is stiff with champagne

“Tell me more about the Baker’s daughter ” Throw to the cutter a slap as the fish hits the table slice goes the silver as the blade rips flooded flesh

Let red stain the floor chunks of meat thrown to a bucket

’The dance is unimportant ” he will smile with a charm that alarms And the corner of his eye is stained with a yearning

It is our thundering lava of colour that he so longs to suspend To present to her in a ruby encrusted vial upon pillows satin and secure

The fish is whole no more

Rebekah Mooney Loreto Community School Milford Co Donegal

Even though he is painfully aware That for all her breaths she dances Her own march to monochrome

(Inspired by the novel ’The Great Gatsby´ by F Scott Fitzgerald) Clíodhna Walsh St Angela’s Ursuline Convent Waterford




Joint Second Place

a mere twenty or thirty its Russian flavour is almost totally bastardized bar the biting chill that forces even the hardiest of farmers into the fireside where the kettle waits

It slips gracefully through the svelte pines as they reach out with their battle hardened foliage unaffected by the tenacious gusts

Still it migrates west to the highlands and lowlands of Scotland where it’s pneumatic power drives the kites of children who freely roam the fields well prepared for battle with the invisible foe armed with scarves and hats and gloves

It pitches and rolls the car ferries in the Irish Sea making unseasoned sailors reach for a bucket

The sun is shining in Donegal but the wind retains a certain self importance by refusing to warm even slightly

It subjects the metal and steel of ersatz high rises in Letterkenny to the sound of a cavalry charge

It makes a chorale hum as it passes the old brickwork of Ramelton’s Plantation buildings

Finally it arrives and swirls round me like the most elegant of cursive handwriting stinging my face as I watch the white capped waves break on the shores of Rathmullan beach

Airborne The cold wind blows into my face but this simple statement does not do justice to what went before: a skin drying eyeball watering and ultimately dead wind ends its journey here

Born in the Siberian Plains the calloused east it sweeps west an infinity of nothing

Frozen and void searching for the piece of exposed skin respecting neither personal space nor international boundaries

It is its own emancipator free to travel where it likes

It crosses St Petersburg whipping past the dreaming spires where religion and art and history all combine

It clutches at and manages to grasp the woody charcoal scent of the street vendors and their braziers

It rushes on to the seaport at Riga where the taste of fish is skimmed by a low breeze as if it is a natural part of the cobbled streets

A place where in the wet even the buildings shimmer as if made of scales

Across the Baltic Sea it toys with boats

With little conscience it forces the crew of a tiny trawler to batten down the hatches and pray to any God that will listen

It does its part for the jagged fjords and tiny inlets of the Scandinavian coast where indeed many a boat has met its end in the towering inferno and bone crushing drop of a thirty foot wave

As it moves over small Danish islands with populations of

Patrick Hull Loreto Community School Milford Co Donegal


Joint Second Place

Commended Lines from Life She sat round as a stone and content

Each night she stared through me at starless black nostalgic and misty eyed from a mile of lines locked inside

Finn’s Wood

Each night upon that splintered chair rug on knees vein snaked hands clasped her fingers smooth and thick like warm ice

The Field This is the gateway to heaven

A steep slope of radiant green descending To a pheasant’s nest a rabbit’s burrow Nestled along the ebbing tide of trees

I trudge into the unknown darkness alone

Yet generations gone by walk with me

Her face mapped cracked days Tears smiles stories and advice filled creases in her crinkled brow

Each moment in time etched her aging appearance with a line

The Brambles A tangled mass of razor teeth Grab and snatch at all in reach This beast has entwined half my family tree As it now entwines around my ankles Experienced feet feel their way with care Emerging triumphant from its lair

“Never walk in wet grass ” “Whatever is for you will not pass ” Tales told that seemed to go on tunes that hummed long after the song

The musky aroma of Cusson’s talc smoke and the murky grey of history lay heavy in the thick air

The Stream A delicate instrument tuned to nature’s song

Meandering without care without stop A narrow tendril of life sharing its vitality An artery and a vein to the green heart of the wood Shining bright flowing defiantly an instant muse And my guide through the chaos and confusion

This woman was born she lived and in a breath…

she was gone

But a ghost is left behind in her splintered chair to remind me of the lines from life that were there

The Bluebells They herald the approaching spring Youthful shoots springing from ancestral winter mud Baby blue heads swaying hypnotically left to right Sheltered lovingly by grandfather oak’s stout boughs

I step lightly over one then another Passing with care through this nursery

Sinead Carr Loreto Community School Milford Co Donegal

The Hill It rises before me pinnacle of the wood

All darkness and disorder falls way In the wake of its sloping grace and golden hue

These sights are a living draught to my weary mind As I sit upon its ancient peak and at a glance See among these trees both my past and present

(In response to ‘Carrigskeewaun’ by Michael Longley) Anne O’ Donovan Colaiste no Toirbhirte Bandon Co Cork


Commended

Commended

Sapling

Alternative Friendship

Skyline wombs split open umbilical cords sway like nooses

Another fault is found

We stopped speaking then

Not a word and it hurt me All rapport ended

I have not chosen another path

In between blood and water washed down the gutter

Olivia Laumenech St Mary’s Secondary School Newport Co Tipperary

Glorious misconceptions abandoned intentions

Intently conceived

Commended Little Skin tight Boxes

Mother Earth and Father Christmas

Prioritized for sapling youth

Enigmatic eyes open

There are secrets to be kept kept in dark little boxes In your heart In your head Little cubes Of secret shames of hands and cloths of eyes and moths

They see nothing at all

Flashes and prints

But there is nothing at all

In neon coated aspirations

Our ideological afterbirth

Cutting the ties that bind

Great bare bone coloured moths dull brown and dust smothered Dead eyes and listless Black and answerless Insect eyes

Flashing before youthful eyes they grow so tired they droop and weep

They flutter Make flutter by and soft pitter patters A soft insufficient brushing life like listless And yet will grow frantic with the draw of thought

Unfathomable apathy

Made so weak so vulnerable

As eyelashes scratch your iris It contracts

Another flower hiding from predators

The moths hold secrets little dark secrets In brown and silver boxes But black They are the most difficult to eat They take longest To be devoured by dead eyed moths

Another beauty Hiding from you

Alison O’ Shea John the Baptist Community School Hospital Co Limerick

Sinead Mercier Coláiste Chroí Mhuire An Spidéal Co na Gaillimhe




Commended

Commended The Last Years “Do I know you?� he might say While my mother sheds a tear It’s not his fault he is like this – I know She finds it hard to kill the pain

As the disease tightens its hold I toss a coin time’s way Can I buy her a few more moments please? Now things aren’t the same Can I buy a few more moments? Please Moments where he remembers her name

The Optimist

David Cooke ColĂĄiste Choilm Ballincollig Cork

The clock crawls Like a small insect Stamp on it run it down Yes sir no sir Let me go sir

Wait‌ the beautiful bell sounds Like the zoom of passing traffic

Commended Broken Our arrival and departure

It has left nature broken

Its heart broken Its people broken

Must get out fast Slam the doors keys in pedal down Away at last The engine roars glad to be set free I race I chase Against the wind Invincible

The wooden hull grated the stones underneath

Stepping out into the cold dark water We approached the sleeping peaceful village

Twenty uniformed and royal pirates Ordered to rape plunder and kill

No man on watch No man in bed No man on land

Need loud music quick No no boring news Tedious road deaths mangled metal Like a first year’s engineering project Eight one weekend nine the next Reminds me of maths distant figures Won’t happen to me

Five miles away Somhairle BuĂ­ received a messenger The wind had carried the first crack of the rifle And shortly afterwards the first scream

Defenseless mothers followed their tears to the ground

Inside lifeless homes babies would no longer stir in the crib

On the mainland Somhairle BuĂ­ watched flames invade the night

Faster faster Away from responsibility – a dirty word It reeks of school and nagging parents Get off you stifling seatbelt Tying me down like rules and speedlimits Break the rules eighty ninety The dial swings faster than the clock

Silently we turn our backs and leave this island But grown men will cry for their sins tonight Hoping that theses troubles will end one day

I eat the road A ravenous beast immortal I close my eyes I’m flying I’m up I’m away Away from limits Away from pessimistic people Away from life

(Written in response to “Rathlin� by Derek Mahon) Ethan Toal Ballyhaunis Community School Co Mayo

Laura Reaney Schull Community College Co Cork




Joint Second Place

JUNIOR WINNERS First Place Marmalade We talk on late evenings When the sky is copper rich with the descending sun

I walk up a mossy pathway to you Drooping shoulders from a day done

Sometimes I will catch your hand Where meandering veins run deep blue

I love the likeness of our fingers

Waiting is the game I play To cherish soft wrinkles like you do

A pot sits fat with oranges And sticky sugar boiling

I help you find numbers on knobs Put jars in the oven

Love Tears and Mourning (In response to Book  of Homer’s Illiad) They mourn their loved ones’ death Find comfort in each other And cry tenderly

I listen for your heart to sing

It’s a gentle humming noise And it warms me through For I truly love to be with you When you are making marmalade

Hut lit by soft candle light To hide the harsh night – A room full of pain

Claire Anderson Carrigaline Community School Cork

Emptiness is felt strongly As each tear falls from his eye Heartbroken forever

With a Trojan hero dead A Greek companion lost Enemies grieve

Hector’s motionless body Is wrapped in a robe In pity for old Priam

Now holding his lifeless son Priam carries him to the cart And rests him down

They are greeted with sadness All wailing laments for him Tamer of horses

A burial full of grief A glorious feast For Hector the great

Danielle Doyle Gorey Community School County Wexford




Joint Second Place

Joint Third Place Me Myself and I Me is my laugh Me is my smirk It is the way I perk my head up And listen to things I shouldn’t

Myself is my sensible side The one I often hide The one I should consult But rarely do

I is the part of me That sees things clearly The part that keeps my head down And out of trouble

Fear

Without these three I am incomplete: I am a circle with no centre A cat with no claws The sad lonely wind at night

(In response to Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Base Details’) A tranquil field Grass tilting in a slight sigh of wind Turning into Heavy breathing heart thumping Noise Confusion Fear

Without these three There is no buzz around me I am a stranger to those around me So just accept me the way I am

Mary Black St Anne’s Secondary School Tipperary Town

The jagged stump of a tree hidden in moss The cheerful chirping of a blackbird Turning into Piercing screams the shriek of shells Bodies Darkness Fear

Fifty years The same field under the same Crimson tinged sunset will always hold Pain Blood A memory that’s more than just a memory

Noise Confusion The never ending nightmare from my past to my future

Bodies Darkness More than just a memory

Fear

Marie Claire Twomey St Aloysius College Carrigtwohill Co Cork




Joint Third Place

Commended

The Marines’ Mission

Literature

Bring your bombs bring your guns Watch the fathers mourn their Sons…

Respect their story Respect their books Respect any received glory Respect their pen Respect their ink Respect whatever they may think

With each bullet with each shell you Plunder more black gold to Sell

Respect their mind Respect their soul Respect their knowledge Respect their goal

With each battle with each fight You further your ever ‘righteous’ Plight In the desert fighting hard Ignorant of the wounded killed and Scarred!

Respect the talent they were given Respect the grant that they received Respect the dream that was within Respect the point that they believed

Neale Keegan St Killian’s Community School Ballywaltrim Bray Co Wicklow

Respect their muse Respect their idea Respect their right to confuse Respect Shakespeare’s hands that wrote Respect Dickens’s honesty Respect any given quote Respect Jane Austen’s bravery Respect the poet Respect the poem Respect the truth as they know it Respect their pain Respect their sorrow Respect the writers of tomorrow Lucy Murphy Stratford College Zion Road Dublin

Commended Night As the sun sets The darkness approaches

The moon savours The time when the sun wavers

The earth is covered in a blanket of black A small mouse scurries through a farmer’s shack

In this time nothing stirs

A cat looks at the stars and quietly purrs And waits for the night to end

The sun rises to send Its rays of light onto the sand And the darkness retreats form the land

Philip Smith St Patrick’s College Cavan




Commended

Commended

Reconciliation (In response to Book  of Homer’s Illiad)

My Mother Speedy walker Constant talker Soap lover TV watcher Tea drinker Quick thinker Fast knitter Not a sitter Dish washer Head wrecker Phone hogger Lipstick putter Clothes shopper Annoying singer Happy smiler Big hugger

Enemies grieving together A son a friend connected

Shadows from a candle tears

The moon shines the stars are bright

Outside a small stream trickles

Inside two kings

Grief is the victor and sadness Their tears flowing together

A truce a tear respect

Sharing a meal foes no more Honourable men feasting King gazing at king One old one young both worn out

My mother!! Now that grieving has drained them Sleep will spread its quilt

Rachel Sheridan Scoil Mhuire Trim Co Meath

Aoife O’ Donnell Gorey Community School Wexford

Commended Blank Canvas My water colour ship sails on brush strokes of green and white the sun comes up and the moon falls light The day grows long and like a song the chorus of my painting forms

Finger prints of individual colour making texture rougher bolder My mood then swings and of all things on comes rage I’m painting red right down the page I reach the end and sign my name just another picture for another frame

Áine Hennigan Loreto Abbey Dalkey Co Dublin




A Brief Guide to Texts Prescribed for Leaving Certificate  characters appear: an over bearing lord and a whimpering slave A boy comes to deliver the message that Godot will not come today but he will come tomorrow The tramps resume their vigil A few leaves appear on the tree Beckett’s brilliant play with its pared down dialogue sharp sense of comedy absurdity and deep anguish A play that can be enjoyed at many levels

Pride and Prejudice AUSTEN Jane There are five Bennet sisters living at Longbourn: the irrepressible Lizzie; the quiet beautiful Jane; the wildly silly Lydia; the impressionable Kitty and the pious and sententious Mary Five sisters in search of husbands; a ridiculous mother; a long suffering and neglectful father; the proud Darcy; the charming Bingley; the unscrupulous Wickham; the comical Mr Collins

In short Austen at her brilliant best

Circle of Friends BINCHY Maeve Although this is a long novel it is not a daunting read Set in Ireland in the late s the novel tells the story of Eve and Benny two friends from the small town of Knockglen who go to Dublin to attend university Their encounters with Jack Foley and Nam Mahon teach them about true friendship Binchy’s warm conversational style as she charts the up and downs of the two friends in life and love engages the reader and makes us empathise with her heroines

Kepler BANVILLE John Banville’s vividly imagined historical novel captures the squalor of life in central Europe in the th century during a time when magic and superstition vied with science and reason to capture the human imagination Banville’s genius is to paint a portrait of a burdened unhappy and in many respects an unappealing human being who dares to imagine the world as we now know it to be Apart from Kepler and his wife Barabra the novel is peopled with a rich cast of memorable and eccentric characters including Tycho Brahe and Rudolf II The background of the Reformation and the politics of power prestige and patronage add to the rich mix

The Last September BOWEN Elizabeth Set in Cork during  Bowen’s novel charts the last days of the Anglo Irish gentry in Ireland As the country undergoes the war of Independence Sir Richard and Lady Myra Taylor carry on as before They entertain their guests including their niece Lois Farquar; the English visitors Hugo and Francie Montmorency and the English army officer Gerald Colthurst Amongst the party in the house love and desire cause tension and confusion while outside the political situation grows less certain and the threat of the IRA hangs over the soirees and tennis parties of the Big House A coming of age novel; a comedy of manners; a description of personal tragedy set against the political upheaval of the War of Independence and the decline of a whole class Bowen’s novel brilliantly conveys a moment (both private and public) that is poised between tradition and change and the old and the new

Arthur and George BARNES Julian The ‘Arthur’ of the title is the Scottish novelist Arthur Conan Doyle ‘George’ is George Edjali a provincial solicitor son of an Indian vicar and his Scottish wife George spent seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit and Arthur Conan Doyle took up his case and succeeded in having a pardon secured for the innocent Edjali

Much of the novel alternates the story of Arthur with that of George until the two men ‘unofficial Englishmen’ finally meet The novel based on a true story is a good yarn an interesting detective story and an indictment of the prejudice and racism that facilitated the miscarriage of justice

Waiting for Godot BECKETT Samuel A bare tree some mounds of earth and the sky

Two tramps waiting for Godot They argue; they sleep; they eat; they contemplate suicide Two

NEW TEXT 


actors writers and directors Bogart’s world weary Rick Blaine is one of the most iconoclastic figures in cinema history and the famous ending will generate plenty of debate and discussion in class A genuine ‘classic’ movie

Wuthering Heights BRONTE Emily Classic romantic novel of consuming passions played out against the wild Yorkshire moors

Cathy and Heathcliff are the unhinged tempestuous lovers who wreak havoc all round them A dense overwritten overwrought tale of passion jealousy and revenge A demanding read but who can resist its peculiar madness: I am Heathcliff! He’s always always in my mind; not as a pleasure any more than I am always a pleasure to myself but as my own being

NEW TEXT Billy Elliot (Film) DALDRY Stephen (Dir ) A terrific coming of age story Billy Elliot tells the story of the boy who dares to be different 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 of ballet and is determined to dance Set at the time of the miner’s strike in England during the Thatcher era the film traces Billy’s fight against the prejudice of his father and brother and the northern community in which they live The film is graced by fantastic performances by Julie Walters and Jamie Bell and a soundtrack featuring the music of Marc Bolan’s T Rex

In Patagonia CHATWIN Bruce Chatwin’s account of his journeys in the southern tip of South America first published in  established a new kind of travel writing which mixes evocative description amusing anecdotes oral tradition odd bits of history and historical narrative and accounts of local outlaws! A genuine original from a writer who died prematurely in 

Girl with a Pearl Earring CHEVALIER Tracy The novel is set in Delft Griet is a sixteen year old girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Vermeer Calm and mature beyond her years Griet has a special eye for colour and composition Gradually master and servant develop an understanding In the hostile environment of the household they share a secret world that is not openly acknowledged until Griet poses for the painting ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’

Lyrical and descriptive Chevalier never loses sight of the social reality of Griet’s situation and the choices she is forced to make to support her poverty stricken family

NEW TEXT Hard Times DICKENS Charles First published in  Dickens’ attack on the philosophy of Utilitarianism and the dangers of unfettered industrialization (and the myth of the self made man) seems as fresh and relevant today as it was   years ago

A blistering attack on education conceived in terms of measurement and efficiency the novel asserts the importance and imagination and the emotions in education and the development of a moral sensibility Although it falters in parts the novel contains some of Dickens’ finest writing

Casablanca (Film) CURTIZ Michael (Dir ) Set in Morocco during World War II Rick’s nightclub is a haven for refugees hoping to obtain transit documents that will eventually allow them to reach the USA

Rick’s apparent neutrality and his willingness to entertain both Vichy and Gestapo forces is called into question when Ilsa the great love of his life and her husband Victor Laszlo a famous Czech nationalist and Resistance leader show up in his bar For many Casablanca is the greatest example of the classic Hollywood film It was shot entirely in a Hollywood studio using studio

NEW TEXT 


Dancing at Lughnasa FRIEL Brian Friel’s heart warming and heart breaking play on the lives of the Mundy Sisters in Ballybeg who like the tramps in Beckett’s Godot always seem to be waiting for things to happen A powerful evocation of Ireland in the s this is a play of private grief and vanishing dreams with that memorable scene of uninhibited energy as the sisters dance with Pagan abandon to the music from their new wireless Dancing at Lughnasa explores some of Friel’s recurring concerns: memory; change; loss; and the identity that lies beneath the restrictions of social and religious convention

is a detective story of new money local corruption dodgy developers love and heroism with more than a passing similarity between the Roman Empire and contemporary America to amuse or irritate A readable stylish thriller and historical novel

NEW TEXT

A Doll’s House IBSEN Henrik Ibsen’s play on the need for freedom and the oppressive affects of middle class values in a patriarchal society written in  still packs a punch There are enough symbols and symbolic motifs to engage most students while Nora’s decision to leave the insufferable Torvald is sure to generate heated classroom debate on the responsibility of the individual to herself versus her responsibility to her family There are many echoes of Ibsen’s work in Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa

North of Ithaca GAGE Eleni North of Ithaca is New York journalist Eleni Cage’s account of the rebuilding of her ancestral home in a Greek village where her grandmother had been executed during the Greek Civil War in   (Her grandmother’s story is related in Eleni written by the writer’s father ) Her decision to restore the old house in the village of Lia close to the Albanian border causes tension in the family and raises the spectre of old hurts and division

The story of an American making a connection with her Greek roots is comic and tragic (with the predictable clash between urban cosmopolitanism and rural traditionalism) and told with energy and affection A story on the need to belong as well as an interesting insight into modern Greek history and society

Sive KEANE John B First produced in Listowel in   the play tells the story of Sive a young orphan who lives with her grandmother her uncle and his bitter wife Mena Mena conspires with the local matchmaker to sell Sive in marriage to SeĂĄn DĂłta a “worn exhausted little lorgadawn of a manâ€? Despite the protests of Sive and her grandmother the arrangement proceeds until the evening before the wedding when Sive takes her fate into her own hands with tragic consequences A strong tale of innocence lechery and betrayal Contemporary young readers will question Sive’s willingness to proceed as far as she does with the arrangements made for her

Pompeii HARRIS Robert On the morning of August  A D  Mount Vesusius erupted and destroyed the city of Pompeii killing thousands of people Thomas Harris brings this story to life in a novel that has a very contemporary feel The last hundred pages describing the destruction of the city are terrific and though we know the end of the story Harris creates real suspense and drama The Sherlock Holmes at the centre of the novel is Marius Attilius a young engineer from Rome As he sets out to discover the cause of a water shortage in the area of Naples he finds himself in the new town of Pompeii on the slope s of Vesuvius What follows

Richard III (Film) LONCRAINE Richard (Dir) Loncarine’s fast paced adaptation of Richard III is set in an imaginary England of the s Richard is the totalitarian dictator motivated by ambition and a desire for revenge who crushes all who stand in his way Richard is played with real verve by Ian McKellen who draws you into his schemes and amoral life with roguish charm and wit A terrific film that really catches the intoxication and smell of power desire and ambition Loncraine’s film is certain to generate discussion and debate

The Silent People MACKEN Walter An historical novel set at the time of Catholic Emancipation with the specter of famine haunting the land Macken’s novel tells the story Dualta Duane and his love for Una daughter of an English Protestant Landlord and an Irish




Lies of Silence MOORE Brian A thriller set in Belfast and London during the Troubles Moore’s novel moves along at a terrific pace A story of love and betrayal and the intersection of the private and the public Lies of Silence touches on important moral issues without becoming heavy handed or moralistic In fact some may find Moore’s treatment of the Republican paramilitaries too one dimensional and simplistic The novel centres on the character of Michael Dillon a young hotel manager whose life is caught in a web of lies and silences Moore’s novel has established itself as a popular choice with students over the past eight years

Catholic mother Beset by legal restrictions unfair laws and treatment poverty and famine Dualta struggles to maintain his dignity and sense of integrity A well written fast paced novel The Silent People (first published in ) is intelligent enough to avoid a black and white approach to its subject matter while at the same time exploiting all the dramatic potential of nineteenth century Irish history A good story written in an engaging style

Fly Away Peter MALOUF David This short lyrical novel set during the First World War contrasts the crumbling civilisation of Europe with an Australia that seems like Paradise on earth The hero is Jim Saddler the bird watcher and naturalist who befriends the landowner Ashley Crowther and Imogen Harcourt an eccentric English photographer The novel contrasts their idyllic life in Australia with the hellish life in the trenches where Jim loses his life Episodic poetic and sad the novel succeeds in being hopeful despite the ruins of war

A Whistle in the Dark MURPHY Tom First produced in  A Whistle in the Dark is a tragic exploration of the Carney family imploding at a family re union in Coventry Michael is the young Irishman living in Coventry with his young English wife Betty Harry is his thuggish brother who has never forgiven Michael for perceived slights and insults and who with his brothers Iggy and Hugo treats Betty with disdain Dada is the fierce patriarch a domestic King Lear foolish and aggressive in equal measure who goads his sons on A fierce study of masculinity and inter and intra family rivalry that hurtles to its tragic conclusion Murphy’s play described by one reviewer as a clenched fist is as raw and powerful today as it was in 

The Lonesome West McDONAGH Martin McDonagh is an exciting voice in Irish theatre In The Lonesome West Quentin Tarantino meets J M

Synge or J B Keane meets Father Ted in this black comedy set in Leenane the “murder capital” of the west Featuring fratricide sibling rivalry a doubting priest and a tough talking teenager girl the play reveals McDonagh’s gift for language and exuberant comedy Funny dark surreal McDonagh will appeal to many Leaving Certificate students and provoke interesting debate on the way ‘Irishness’ is represented

Is the play a satire? Is it a parody? McDonagh’s work will be known to many students through his debut feature film In Bruges

NEW TEXT Purple Hibiscus NGOZI ADICHIE Chimamanda This debut novel by the young Nigerian writer has been widely praised The story is narrated by the  year old Kambili She describes a life of apparent privilege However her wealthy father is a fanatic and his strict adherence to Catholicism makes life a misery for his wife and family A kindly aunt alerts Kambili to the possibility of a different kind of life free of fear and free of domestic tyranny The novel is grounded in the domestic world but explores themes and issues which move beyond the boundaries of the personal and the familial

Through the eyes of the young narrator we witness the conflict between Catholicism and the tribal tradition of animism and ancestral worship

We also witness the pernicious effect of religion in a society that is crumbling and struggling with the aftershocks of colonization Kambili’s voice is sad poignant and hopeful

Lamb McLAVERTY Bernard First published in  the novel tells the story of Michael Lamb a young religious brother who shocked by the harsh regime in the Boys’ Home run by his order flees taking twelve year old Owen Kane with him Posing as father and son the two enjoy a brief interlude of happiness until running out of time money and a place to hide Michael settles on a desperate and tragic course of action Short simple unsettling with a shattering ending that will divide readers Lamb is a powerful exploration of innocence and goodness in a brutal world




Inside I’m Dancing O’DONNELL Damien Two young men in wheelchairs determined to live life to the full and escape from the institution where they are treated as children For many this is a really vibrant film on rebellion and the search for love freedom and friendship with a good script and excellent performances For others it is clichÊd in its depiction of disabled people as emotionally immature and naïve A film that will get students talking

In  Asne Seierstad a Norwegian journalist met an Afghan bookseller in Kabul and was invited into his household to write a book about his family In spite of war and a repressive regime the bookseller worked to keep literature alive in his native city Seierstad’a fictionalised account tells the story of a cultured man who is also a tyrannical patriarch in whose household women are treated as little better than slaves Was the hospitality of the bookseller betrayed by an ungrateful guest? Was the bookseller undone by his own arrogance and lack of self awareness? Can a Western sensibility look fairly on a society so far removed from its own or is the stark truth that Afghanistan is hopelessly mired in poverty with a society that hates women? A fascinating read

Panther in the Basement OZ Amos This coming of age novel is set in Jerusalem in   in the last summer of British rule before the declaration of independence in   which set up the state of Israel Proofy is the twelve year old narrator who dreams of fighting for his country by driving out the British and defending the homeland from the attack of its enemies

Proofy discovers that the real world is more complicated than his boyish fantasy of war allows when he befriends a young British soldier who is interested in learning Hebrew When Proofy’s fellow would be fighters learn of this friendship they accuse Proffy of treason and of loving the enemy Oz’s short novel captures Jerusalem in   as well as offering a humane morality tale on love and friendship

King Lear SHAKESPEARE William For many Lear is Shakespeare’s greatest play The powerful king who is self indulgent and open to flattery; the foolish king who banishes his friends and loving daughter; the powerless king who suffers and grows wise; the wise king who fears he is not in perfect mind and whose heart is broken Add to this the acerbic wit of the Fool and the machinations of the evil sisters and you have one mighty play

The Tempest SHAKESPEARE William Prospero is the unjustly usurped Duke of Milan living on a magical island with his daughter Miranda where he perfects his magical arts His servants are Ariel and Caliban the son of the witch Sycorax Magic comedy love and reconciliation abound as Prospero employs his powers to restore the losses he has endured before relinquishing his magic and presenting himself as an old man whose life’s work is done

The Tempest is a very rich play from the pen of the mature Shakespeare

Bel Canto PATCHETT Ann The story of a hostage taking in an unnamed Latin American country As negotiations on the rebels’ demands drag on interminably the captors and their international group of hostages settle into an unlikely routine centred on the daily practice of an opera diva For some of the hostages and their young captors the time spent in the besieged house is an idyll A story about music and love that is brilliantly sustained to its unexpected ending A literary novel with a sure sense of plotting and suspense

II Postino (Film) RADFORD Michael (Dir)  Described by one reviewer as a long poem of beauty romance and tragedy Il Postino follows the story of a shy love struck postman (Mario) on a remote Mediterranean island who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda Under the poet’s tutelage the postman learns to look at life in lyrical terms and masters the art of talking to women! Humorous with warm characterisation and beautiful cinematography Il Postino is underscored by tragedy and a sense of political reality This film has Italian dialogue and is subtitled The Bookseller of Kabul SEIERSTAD Asne




Oedipus the King SOPHOCLES Written almost   years ago Sophocles masterpiece relates the tragedy of Oedipus who in attempting to escape the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle (that he will kill his father and marry his mother) leaves Corinth and the court of King Polybus whom he believes to be his father and heads to Thebes There without knowing it he fulfils the prophecy by slaying Laius and marrying Queen Jocasta Oedipus the King opens with Oedipus as King of Thebes unaware that the prophecy has been fulfilled The play charts the inevitable tragedy as the true facts of his life and actions emerge In the themes of self knowledge suffering sight and blindness Oedipus the King explores many of the same themes that appear in Shakespeare’s King Lear

is also a shrewd exploration of the natives’ reaction to the arrival of the stranger Written in Synge’s poetic inimitable style with terrific speeches and set pieces The Playboy is an intoxicating mixture of farce violence and lost opportunity Christy’s transformation from a shy nervous fellow afraid of his shadow into the boastful hero is wonderfully done Hard to imagine now that the first production led to riots and calls to “Kill the Author!� A contemporary audience might well view The Playboy of the Western World as a cautionary tale on the fickle nature of celebrity! The Road to Memphis TAYLOR Mildred This is the third of Taylor’s novels on the Logan family who strive to maintain their dignity and their land in the face of racist bigotry The Road to Memphis is set in   as Cassie the central character is preparing to go to college and then to law school Over three turbulent days her life is thrown into crisis as she helps her friend to flee to Memphis following a fight in which he injures a while boy Set against the backdrop of America’s entry into the Second World War the novel charts Cassie’s growing pains as she enters adulthood and seeks to join the political movement against racism A dramatic story written in a simple and accessible style

The Grapes of Wrath STEINBECK John Steinbeck’s  novel is set during the Great Depression and focuses on the story of the Joad family from Oklahoma who are driven from their home by drought poverty and the indus trialization of agriculture

Wooed by the promise of work in a Californian paradise the Joads join thousand of other Okies in the search for a new life in the ‘Promised Land’

The journey to California is marked by tragedy and loss In California they fall victim to unscrupulous corporate farmers and wages and conditions are inhuman As in Of Mice and Men the tragedy lies as much in the modesty of their dream (a family a house a steady job) as in their failure to make their dream come through A master class in storytelling from one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century The Grapes of Wrath has the feel of a biblical epic and there are many images and situation which echo biblical themes

The Blackwater Lightship TOIBIN Colm Set in Wexford in the s Toibin’s novel explores the tangled web of guilt recrimination loss and love which binds Helen to her mother Lily as she struggles to come to terms with the illness of her brother Declan Written in a clear unshowy style Toibin’s novel portrays an Irish family struggling to face their feelings and admit their needs as their beloved Declan falls victim to AIDS A straight forward story written in a simple style about characters who are complex and relate to each other in complicated ways The novel has the feel of a play as six characters spend a short period in the old family home by the sea The crumbling house and the disused lighthouse are effective symbols in a book whose ending is sufficiently open to invite speculation on the future lives of the characters

Character dialogue and introspection are the driving forces of this Booker shortlisted novel

NEW TEXT The Playboy of the Western World SYNGE JM The young Christy Mahon appears in a shebeen “near a village on a wild coast of Mayo� When he tells Pegeen Mike the publican’s daughter that he murdered his father the news spreads like wildfire and he becomes a local wonder Synge’s masterpiece on love and attraction and the difference between a gallous story and a dirty deed




The Truman Show (Film) WEIR Peter (Director) Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the star of the most popular show in the history of television For   days it has been on the air showing every moment in every day of the life of one man

Everyone in “The Truman Show” is an actor with one important exception: the lead character himself Truman thinks the show is real However when a former member of the cast tips him off Truman begins to suspect the truth Essentially a satire on the power of television The Truman Show is also a touching story of a man struggling to retain a sense of himself in a false world Peter Weir makes good use of documentary style interviews and footage to raise some interesting questions about the nature of the reality portrayed by television without losing sight of the comic intention of the film

SOME NOTES FOR TEACHERS Teachers and students should make sure that the texts they are studying come from the prescribed list for the year of the examination Candidates who are repeating the Leaving Certificate course should note that texts prescribed for one year may not necessarily be prescribed for subsequent years

The Story of Lucy Gault TREVOR William In  in the wake of the War of Independence and unrest throughout the country Captain Everard Gault and his family prepare to leave their modest county Cork estate of Lahadane

Having accidentally shot a local youth Gault fears reprisals and decides to go to England

Trying to protect  year old Lucy her parents don’t tell her the full story behind their departure Unable to understand what she sees as her parents cruelty Lucy runs away When she doesn’t return her heart broken parents fear she has drowned and leave moving from one place to another in Europe and severing all contact with Ireland Only Lucy hasn’t drowned and the novel then becomes a story of regret and guilt Lucy’s life in Lahadane where she is taken care of by the former servants is that of a sleeping beauty marking time in the enchanted house she didn’t want to leave In a short review it is hard to do justice to the beauty and simplicity of Trevor’s writing and it is the quality of the writing that makes us accept some of the unrealistic or fairy tale elements of the story Covering some of the same territory as Bowen’s The Last of September The Story of Lucy Gault is a very readable novel

For students taking the Higher Level Papers the study of a Shakespearean play is compulsory as either a single text or as part of a comparative study The study of a film adaptation of a Shakespearean play does not fulfil this requirement as the director of the film is considered the author of the film text

It is also worth noting that three texts are prescribed for study in a comparative manner at both Higher and Ordinary level

As the syllabus indicates students are required to study from this list: One text on its own from the following texts: BRONTE Emily FRIEL Brian KEANE John B McLAVERTY B MOORE Brian OZ Amos SHAKESPEARE W STEINBECK John TOIBIN Colm

NEW TEXT 

Wuthering Heights (H/O) Dancing at Lughnasa (H/O) Sive (O) Lamb (O) Lies of Silence (O) Panther in the Basement (O) King Lear (H/O) The Grapes of Wrath (H/O) The Blackwater Lightship (H/O)


The Comparative Modes for Examination in  are:

One of the texts marked with H/O may be studied on its own at Higher level and at Ordinary Level

Higher Level (i) Literary Genre (ii) The General Vision and Viewpoint (iii) The Cultural Context

One of the texts marked with O may be studied on its own at Ordinary level

Three other texts in a comparative manner according to the comparative modes prescribed for this course

Ordinary Level (i) Hero/Heroine/Villain (ii) Theme (iii) Social Setting

Any texts from the list of texts prescribed for comparative study other than the one already chosen for study on its own may be selected for the comparative study Texts chosen must be from the prescribed list for the current year

Shakespearean Drama At Higher level a play by Shakespeare must be one of the texts chosen This can be studied on its own or as an element in a comparative study

At Higher level and at Ordinary level a film may be studied as one of the three texts in a comparative study

At Ordinary level the study of a play by Shakespeare is optional

Black Death in Dixie Black Death in Dixie is a DVD resource with teaching notes on the subject of the Death Penalty in the Southern States of the USA

This documentary was broadcast on RTE of part of the ‘What in the World?’ Series If you would like a free copy of the DVD and resource materials please contact the English Support Service Office on    or english@slss ie

Did you know that the English Second Level Support Service website has a host of resources? Check it out on http://english slss ie/ 


 Ideas for Teaching First Year English

 Work with a Colleague Work with a colleague and share ideas and resources Select a new novel and discuss your ideas on teaching it Keep notes on what worked well and discuss questions and issues which arise such as setting work for gifted students Don’t treat your collaboration as a cosy chat but push yourselves to develop ideas and record what happens We’ll be happy to publish ideas and insights generated by your work together (A useful website address for ideas on professional collaboration is: www prodait org/approaches)



Use a Film Build a unit of work around a film Some good titles are: Bridge to Terabithia; Bend it like Beckham; Stand by Me; Rabbit Proof Fence; Holes; Whale Rider

Make use of the film’s narrative to help students follow the journey of the main character(s) At the end of the journey the character is older and more experienced (time has passed things have happened) and usually wiser (he/she has found out things about themselves and the world) In other words the journey is always one of growing up A simple way to begin exploring a film is to look at the key moments or points on the journey The study of film can also help students to write better short stories For example if you are studying Bridge to Terabithia you might invite the students to write a short story in which two friends find a secret location and decide to make it their private world

Carefully plot the story using the structure of Situation Revelation or Discovery Conflict or Dilemma and Resolution or Aftermath

 Teach for Understanding Try a Teaching for Understanding approach

Developed by Howard Gardner and David Perkins at Harvard along with hundreds of teachers with whom they have worked Teaching for Understanding pretty much sets out to do what it says on the tin The diagram that follows these notes summarises the main ideas Check out the

Project Zero website for more information and ideas (www pz harvard edu) As a pedagogic approach Teaching for Understanding describes what many teachers do and the ideas which underpin their practice Presented as a series of steps it reads something like this: Select interesting material

Ask interesting questions that are worth pursuing

Give students time to consider these questions

Make sure that work has through lines that connect one idea to another

Invite students to respond in creative forms

Give feedback to students on how they are doing on an on going basis

Exploratory Talk Use exploratory talk to help students develop their ideas and gain access to their insights Exploratory talk is a conscious attempt to develop thinking in the classroom in a way that is both public and communal

Obviously it is closely linked to Teaching for Understanding Two features are worth emphasising: using extended exchanges to help students clarify and express their ideas; and acknowledging students’ ideas by recording them (on the blackboard for example) and attributing authorship by putting the student’s name after the idea

Variety of Reading Use a variety of whole class small group and individual reading This can range from the traditional class novel where everyone reads the same novel to individual reading and reading sets where five or six students read the one title and discuss as part of a reading group The latter can be useful in a mixed ability class where you want to match material to the reading age and the interest of different sets of students

 Multi Media Project on ‘My Place’ Many primary schools do local history projects so avoid repetition However using digital cameras or disposable cameras the students can capture




images of their local place and use headline style captions in labelling them The photos can also inspire poetry as in the example of Dermot Bolger’s ‘Girl Fifteen Walking in Ronanstown’ one of a suite of poems he wrote as writer in resident for South Dublin County Council (http://incontext southdublin ie) The project can also include short interviews with a local resident or a report with photos on a local news item Last year a number of teachers incorporated work on Horoscopes into their media project and the students had fun learning about genre and register



Improvise Give students a starter and encourage improvisation in pairs or small groups Encourage students to develop scripts for short scenes and give them an opportunity to act then out You can start with all kinds of things: A Teenager wants to go to a party with a friend

A parent does not like the new friend the teenager is hanging around with and refuses permission

A new boy or girl arrives in the school You think the new student is terrific and want to include her in your group of friends Your best friend doesn’t like the new student

Two people sitting at a table Neither will look at the other

A Prop This can be as simple as a photograph or a key ring

know using graphic forms of organising their content – spider diagrams graphs of a narrative venn diagrams Avoid summary work Research carried out in England by the Institute of Education at London University found that students believed that: Homework should be clearly related to class work ? There should be a clear pattern to class and homework ? Homework should be varied ? Homework should be manageable ? Homework ?

should be challenging but not too difficult ? Homework should allow for individual initiative and creativity ? Homework should promote self confidence and understanding ? There should be recognition for work done ? There should be guidance and support

 Assessment Encourage students to do self assessment and correct recurring mistakes

There is growing acceptance that peer and self assessment is important in helping students improve their standards of writing and presentation However helping students to get it right is no easy task

Teaching the mechanics of language is something I’m continually trying to make enjoyable I try to incorporate it into what else is going on in class but this is not always successful However if it is taught separately students ‌ tend to see it as a completely separate item



A Line You have some nerve

Who do you think you are? Who let you in here? We might as well give up! As one teacher of first year said: The students absolutely love doing improvs and all kinds of interesting work comes out of it whether it be creative writing or responding to a novel short story or film

Shadow the Bisto Awards Scheme Children’s Books Ireland have a terrific scheme that allows class groups to read the shortlisted titles in the annual Bisto Awards CBI have prepared support material and a range of suggested activities

Full information is available from: www childrensbooksireland com



Reading Read a short story or a novel aloud to the students just for the pleasure of it The students love just to sit and listen to the story

 Presenting Work Give students opportunities to present what they



(These ideas arise from a pilot project on teaching First Year English The English Support Service would like to thank the English teachers in Manor House School; Collinstown Park Community College; and Gorey Community School Thanks also to Statia Somers Aileen Ivory and SLARI )


Fiction for First and Second Year Would you like to create a new class library for your first or second year students? Here are fifty suggestions Many of these titles have been used in Irish classrooms and have proved popular and successful with students and teachers alike The reviews are taken from the website of Booktrust (www booktrust org uk) a UK based charity which promotes reading The Teaching English magazine is grateful for permission to use the reviews Thanks to the teachers in Manor House School Collinstown Park Community College and Gorey Community School for their feedback on individual titles Thanks also to Statia Somers for her advice and to Aileen Ivory and SLARI for their help

Please note it is always recommended that you read a novel before deciding to use it in class A theme situation or reference that I deem appropriate for my class might not be deemed appropriate by you for your class

Skellig by David Almond Michael and his family move to a new home Exploring a ramshackle garage with his new found friend Mina he discovers a strange part human ‘creature’ Skellig as the creature likes to be known is ill mannered with questionable personal hygiene but persevering in their kindness towards him Michael and Mina find a bond forms between them that will change their lives forever This is an unusual intriguing and captivating winner of both the Carnegie Medal and Whitbread Children’s Book Award (both )

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett When three mysterious letters are sent to three strangers a set of events are set in motion that bring together two young students on a quest to find a missing painting

Petra and Calder are both clever students who love school and their new teacher Ms Hussey Inspired by Ms Hussey’s ability to shirk rules and explore the unexplainable Petra and Calder set out to solve the mysterious disappearance of Vermeer’s ‘A Lady Writing’ Filled with secret puzzles encrypted text colourful characters and a surprise ending Chasing Vermeer is a brilliant story told from the ingenious perspectives of its two  year old protagonists The story’s hidden clues and interesting plot twists leave the reader in eager anticipation for Petra and Calder’s next adventure

Reading Age  Interest Level:   Granny the Pag by Nina Bawden Catriona lives with her chain smoking motorbike riding grandmother However as she gets older her career minded parents soon realise that she might be more of an asset than a burden and want her home – but Catriona isn’t so sure A witty and ingenious story superbly illustrating the way it is possible to love the relatives one also finds infuriating and embarrassing

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Playing Against the Odds by Bernard Ashley As soon as Fiona joins his class Chris can’t stop thinking about her and blushes every time she is near However as people’s belongings start to go missing a gold ring a personal organiser and an expensive flute all suspicion falls on the new girl

How can Chris ask her out when all the evidence points to her being a thief? An intriguing tale of conflicting teenage emotions ideal for older reluctant or dyslexic readers

Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks Martyn Pig leads a fairly dismal life living alone with his drunken abusive father During a violent outburst Martyn pushes his dad in self defence and accidentally kills him When his friendly neighbour Alex discovers his awful secret she takes charge helping him to dispose of the body and entangling Martyn in an increasingly complicated web of deceit In his debut novel Brooks successfully combines suspense humour and an unexpected twist to create a darkly comic thriller that will grip readers right up to the final page

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Reading Age  Interest Level 

Reading Age  Interest Level  




Sara’s Face by Melvin Burgess Sara is a beautiful but troubled teenager desirous of fame at any cost Despite her good looks and the attention of a boyfriend who loves her for who she is Sara is riddled with insecurity about her appearance During a stay in hospital Sara is visited by the legendary pop star Jonathan Heat whose constant experiments with plastic surgery have destroyed his face Heat invites Sara to live at his mansion offering her plastic surgery and the chance to gain her own singing career and the fame she craves The narrative told through a series of journalistic interviews and extracts from Sara’s video diary soon reveals Heat’s motivation is more than simple altruism; he wants Sara’s face for himself A chilling sometimes shocking tale of contemporary obsession with beauty and celebrity

Reading Age:  Interest Level:  All American Girl by Meg Cabot Teenager Sam is the All American Girl of the title a privileged youngster with caring parents and two sisters all of whom live in comfortable middle class Washington D C One day quite by chance she just happens to save the life of the President This brings her instant fame and changes her life in ways she never imagined; in the process she learns a lot about herself and those around her This very ‘girly’ book is full of talk about clothes hairstyles and pop stars but it also tackles the serious issues of loyalty and consideration of others Fluffy and fun

Reading Age  Interest Level  Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer A fifth episode in the ongoing saga of Colfer’s teenage criminal mastermind in which the renegade fairies the Demons begin popping up in unexpected places and Artemis feels the first stirrings of adolescent emotion for (and meets his match in) another juvenile genius Minerva Paradizo As ever Artemis sidesteps trouble with the help of his bodyguard Butler and fairy assistance



from Holly Short The formerly disgraced Holly has now been recruited to a covert organization designed to keep tabs on Fowl Once more Colfer combines wit humour action folklore and fantasy in a rip roaring spy story which nonetheless encourages readers to debate some serious issues Fowl’s move into full blown adolescence adds extra interest and possibilities to this enthralling instalment

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Replay by Sharon Creech This wonderful book uses the genre of drama to explore the adolescent world of Leo and how as individuals we come to understand ourselves

Leo finds refuge from a big family and teenage reality by playing at being someone else through acting and his fantasy life as a hero

Using theatre as a metaphor for life Creech shows how as in rehearsals we repeat patterns of behaviour in our lives both in the way we relate to people and in the traits we inherit from our parents A book that looks at all the elements that make us who we are: age gender family and experience whilst exploring the impossibility of ever completely knowing someone The novel values remembering reminiscing and storytelling in all its forms

Reading Age  Interest Level  The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson For generations a spell cast by a powerful wizard has protected the Valley from the Emperor’s destructive army However when the magic begins to weaken Tilja and Tahl along with their respective grandparents embark on a dangerous journey in an attempt to restore it Tilja gradually comes to learn that she has magical powers which can be used to counterbalance the evil magic that they encounter on their quest This rich fantasy adventure takes the reader on an exciting magical journey with many surprises along the way

Reading Age:  Interest Level: 


Holly Starcross by Berlie Doherty Holly Starcross is having an identity crisis She lives with her mom Henry (her mother’s partner) and her half brother and sisters She has a great best friend and a crush on the cutest boy in school but she keeps asking herself the question ‘who am I?’ When her long last father turns up out of the blue Holly is forced to face up to her past and reassess her future This is a beautifully told story about the confusion of growing up and the pain caused by family separation and torn loyalties

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Wilderness by Roddy Doyle Teenage Gråinne is meeting her mother for the first time since she walked out when she was a child To allow her some space for this momentous encounter her step mother and step brothers Tom and Johnny have left for a holiday in the Finnish wilderness Whilst Gråinne comes to terms with her own conflicting emotions her brothers are forced to grow up quickly when the excitement of their Finnish adventure turns sour with the disappearance of their mother on a sleighing expedition As ever Doyle’s tone is warm and inviting; the juxtaposition of the parallel stories works well with believable realistic exchanges between the cheeky young brothers and the inner conflict of their sister adding emotional depth to the story

Reading Age:  Interest Level:  The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis This timely novel is simply and effectively written for readers in senior classes of primary school and junior classes in secondary school but is worth reading by everyone

It makes very clear why women at least have reason to rejoice at the overthrow of the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan Parvana is eleven and unlike her older sister Nooria has not yet begun to develop sexually so when the family comes to the edge of starvation because her father is in prison and women are not allowed to leave the house without a man she has to dress as a boy and go out to earn money and buy food

Her adventures in the market and the graveyard where she and a friend dig up bones to sell are alarmingly believable and the feelings expressed – her mother’s paralysis of grief the quarrels with her sister the importance of her baby brother are deeply familiar

Reading Age  Interest Level  

The Cinnamon Tree by Aubrey Flegg Stepping on a landmine remaining from a civil war Yola loses her leg below the knee In her culture she has become unmarriageable Then Yola meets Hans sent to de mine the area and travels to hospital in Ireland for treatment where she meets Fintan and discovers the extent and power of the international arms trade controlled by ruthless and dangerous people thousands of miles away from the conflicts A deeply thought provoking and compassionate novel with a powerful and engaging heroine whose experience underlines how little we understand about the values and sophistication of African culture Readers will also realize the high degree of involvement of European arms dealers in distant wars and the terrible outcomes resulting from their selfish actions

Reading Age  Interest Level  Coraline by Neil Gaiman One day Coraline unlocks a mysterious door that opens onto another world a twisted parody of Coraline’s own dimension She discovers something very sinister about her ‘other mother’ who has trapped her real parents and plans to keep the family there forever As Coraline tries to escape she is faced with a fantastical series of macabre and bizarre situations

Excellently written and superbly original Coraline is well suited to those who enjoy reading about the weird and the wonderful with a dash of horror and humour It is destined to become a classic modern fairytale

Reading Age  Interest Level  The Bull Raid by Carlo Gebler From early boyhood Cúchulainn knows he will die young but he doesn’t mind because he knows he is destined to become a legend As he grows up the young man performs heroic deeds singlehandedly defending Ulster against an invading army But he isn’t all good: he won’t listen to advice treats his wife badly and kills his own son Gebler’s subtly humorous retelling of the Tåin can be read simply as an exciting yarn but this portrait of a flawed hero is also a moral tale that addresses the obsession with celebrity as well as the consequences of arrogance and greed

Reading Age  Interest Level 




Tales of the Otori I: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn This is the first novel in the outstanding Tales of the Otori trilogy An epic fantasy story set in a feudal Japanese society it is an exciting tale of treason violence and death Tomasu is a young boy from the Hidden clan all but wiped out by Iida Sadamu the cruel Lord of the Tohan clan Saved then adopted educated and renamed Takeo by the good hearted Otori Shigeru the boy grows up to love and respect his guardian However when Shigeru plans to marry in order to promote peace between the two clans Takeo has an opportunity to avenge himself on Iida This is a taut compelling tale in the Samurai warrior tradition

Reading Age  Interest Level:  Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse This hauntingly beautiful verse novel describes the experiences of the Aleutian people who were evacuated from their island during the Second World War and made to live in camps on the mainland The teenage narrator describes the difficulties of being in a totally alien environment far removed from her way of life: ‘abandoned in the dark suffocation of the forest ‌ we cannot from any corner of the camp catch a glimpse of open water ’ Many Aleutians fell sick or died and almost all were unhappy unable to earn their livelihood deprived of their culture and unpopular with the ‘white’ people Karen Hesse tells her tale sympathetically and realistically without resorting to sentimentality Her language is simple but the imagery of her loose verse is rich and enhances the description of the islanders’ stoicism patience and courage

Reading Age  Interest Level  

difficult and dangerous so it’s a relief to have the help of some unusual and mysterious allies This is an engaging and light hearted thriller about issues that matter: justice family and the environment

The Paine family are well drawn and likeable the pace easy and flowing and the villains not quite as wicked as we suspected

Reading Age  Interest Level  Coming Home by Gaye Hicyilmaz Elif is thrilled when she and her brother are allowed to live with their relatives in Turkey However she has difficulty adjusting to the unfamiliar culture and fears for her young brother’s safety as he is drawn into a right wing political group led by their fascist brother in law Refik Bey A gripping and thought provoking read

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz In trouble with the law and facing prison Matt Freeman opts for an experimental fostering programme But Lesser Malling is eerie the villagers decidedly hostile and his new ‘mother’ emanates menace Desperate to escape Matt finds everyone he turns to ends up unpleasantly dead Matt slowly uncovers a story of ancient dark powers held at bay by the mysterious Raven’s Gate the villagers hell bent on releasing them Only Matt the four shadowy others he encounters in recurring dreams and the shadowy Nexus group can stop them

Horowitz aimed for ‘shivery horror’ and he’s succeeded! Suspense pervades Raven’s Gate with its snaking plot of sinister twists and unpleasant dead ends Matt is likeably believable and the final pages definitely leave the reader wanting more! Reading Age  Interest Level 

Flush by Carl Hiaasen Noah’s dad can be very impulsive and when he finds out someone is illegally dumping sewage in the sea spoiling the beaches and endangering the wildlife he sinks the boat responsible With their Dad in prison it is up to Noah and little sister Abbey to put together a plan to clear his name and stop the dumping Noah’s plan proves to be both




A Nest Of Vipers by Catherine Johnson We meet Cato Hopkins in Newgate Prison in September  on the morning of the day he is due to be hanged for fraud Cato is a boy criminal part of Mother Hopkins’ adopted family and as he relates the story of how he came to be on the verge of paying for his sins with his life Cato takes us on a journey through the underworld of London in the eighteenth century Poverty slavery and social injustice are just a few of the issues to which Cato exposes us but this is not a sad story On the contrary a lively writing style plenty of humour and the bad guys getting their comeuppance make this a cracking read for both boys and girls

Hana’s Suitcase: A True Story by Karen Levine When Fumiko Ishioka curator of a Holocaust Education Centre in Japan received an old suitcase with the name Hana Brady written on it she became determined to find out more about its owner She discovered that Hana was born in a small town in Czechoslovakia and that her parents and brother were taken to concentration camps But what happened to Hana? The book interweaves chapters about Hana’s life with the story of Fumiko’s search for the truth Suitable for readers not yet old enough to appreciate The Diary of Anne Frank this book which is illustrated with black and white photographs will help children to understand concepts of hate xenophobia and intolerance

Reading Age  Interest Level 

The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean Haoyou feels powerless when the man responsible for his father’s death demands to marry his mother

Determined to support her himself the young boy joins a travelling circus Strapped to a kite he takes to the skies and amazes audiences across the land including the feared Kublai Khan Set in thirteenth century China this is a fascinating and exciting adventure about greed loyalty and friendship

The View from Saturday by E L Konigsburg ‘The Souls’ are a group of friends brought together by a madcap wedding a mission to protect sea turtles and by a mysterious invitation to afternoon tea But how they were chosen to be a quiz team is a question that their teacher (who uses a wheelchair) answers differently each time she is asked As Noah Nadia Ethan and Julian correctly answer questions for the Academic Bowl Quiz the story shifts to their personal narratives to show the moments when they acquired the knowledge for their answers And so we piece together the quirky amusing and vulnerable twists of their lives This Newberry Medal winner is a wonderful complex book brilliantly told It has memorable characters and themes: life is a journey no part of our experience is lost and our friendships are our salvation

Reading Age  Interest Level  Apache by Tanya Landman Fourteen year old Siki is an orphan of the Black Mountain Apache tribe Her father failed to return from an ambush in Mexico while her mother was killed by raiding Mexican soldiers Siki already has a fierce hatred for the Mexican warriors but when her little brother Tazhi is brutally slain in front of her she vows with all her heart to become an apache warrior and avenge his death This is a moving and powerful story of one woman’s determination and courage in a world of great suffering and hardship It is a fascinating view of the Native American struggle and makes for a thrilling if at times uneasy read

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Reading Age  Interest Level  My Funny Valentine by Karen McCombie For Shaunna the whole conventional ‘engaged/married/

children’ thing is a no no

When her sister Ruth gets engaged to Boring Brian and the wedding is planned for next Valentine’s Day Shaunna is horrified to realise that the bridesmaid is going to be her! Shaunna wants romance to be unpredictable dangerous exciting: and when she glimpses The One star gazing in the park she’s convinced life’s got more in store for her than a Tesco’s Club Card But as Shaunna’s diary reveals for her for Ruth and her friends the course of true love never did run smooth‌ By turns funny and honestly self aware McCombie captures the emotional roller coaster that accompanies first forays in the quest for love

Hugely readable and entertaining! Reading Age  Interest Level  

Reading Age  Interest Level 




Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay Families don’t come much stranger than Saffron’s

The children are all named after paints on a colour chart their mother spends most of her time locked in the garden shed and the family home (inexplicably named ‘Banana House’) is teeming with guinea pigs A few years previously Saffy discovered that her brothers and sisters are actually her cousins (her real mother died when she was small) but it is her grandfather’s death that suddenly triggers distant memories Aided by her wheelchair using neighbour Sarah Saffy starts to investigate This is an uplifting story about an eccentric family encased in chaos but also full of intense warmth and loyalty

Reading Age  Interest Level   The Worm in the Well by William Mayne In a story which constantly confounds expectations Robin and Meric set off into the forest on a fishing trip that has profound implications on their lives as Robin’s son Alan finds himself battling with the Worm to undo the past Mayne writes with power and wit creating an imaginative story with elements of horror magic and fantasy set in medieval times Mayne’s style is deceptively simple making this a challenging story for younger readers

However the richness and originality of the writing makes it an enjoyable and worthwhile read

Reading Age  Interest Level  Billy Elliot by Burgess Melvin Billy Elliot’s not like his Dad He doesn’t want to learn boxing or be a miner Instead he is fascinated by the grace and magic of ballet and is determined to dance Set at the time of the miner’s strike the story traces Billy’s fight against the prejudice of a northern community and family

Interest level  Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo Set in the First World War Private Peaceful charts eight hours in the life of Tommo a young soldier at the Front as he looks back over the formative events of his life: his father’s early death his relationship with his loving mother and brothers Big Joe and Charlie and their beloved schoolfriend Molly – all set among an evocative and beautifully realised rural



landscape Passionate beguiling and moving the book is also an unflinching examination of the horrors of war and the injustice surrounding the execution of soldiers by firing squad on the – often false – grounds of desertion or cowardice

Reading Age  Interest Level  

The Wind Singer by William Nicholson This is a stunningly original fantasy set in the mythical city of Aramanth where every household is judged solely on its members’ ability to perform in examinations Only one family has the strength to rebel fighting the system and in doing so risks all Leaving their parents and baby sibling behind Bowman and his sister Kestrel embark on a dangerous journey in search of secrets which will make the ‘wind singer’ sing once again thus restoring normality to their world Their epic quest is depicted with a perfect balance of drama tenderness and a touch of humour

Reading Age  Interest Level  Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates Matt Donaghy has always been a big mouth but it has never got him into trouble – until one day when two detectives escort him out of class for questioning The charge? Matt has been accused of threatening to blow up Rocky River High School

Ursula Riggs has always been ‘an ugly girl’ In other words she has no time for petty high school stuff like friends and dating Ursula is content with minding her own business And she doesn’t even really know Matt Donaghy But Ursula knows injustice when she sees it and she’s not afraid to speak out

Reading Age  Interest level   Something Invisible by Siobhan Parkinson Jake likes encyclopaedias He also likes thinking talking football and fish So he’s really not at all prepared for the changes in his world when a new baby sister arrives making his step dad a father Neither is he prepared for meeting Stella her eccentric and numerous family and their neighbour old Mrs Kennedy Hanging out with Stella leads to unexpected uncharacteristic things happening to Jake like heroically saving a child from drowning


But then something truly dreadful happens and Jake realises he doesn’t really know anything at all

Siobhan Parkinson’s elegant constantly surprising language perfectly captures Jake’s personal interior life in this thoughtful delicately devastating and beautifully paced novel The book ultimately explores what it means to discover “something invisible� that connects you to family or friends

food on the table the resourceful Skiff hatches a bold but risky plan pitting himself and his tiny skiff against a mighty fish and even against the treacherous ocean itself In this gripping tale about a boy who faces life’s challenges with determination and skill Philbrick movingly delineates the harsh beauty of life in a fishing community

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Reading Age  Interest Level  Bridge to Terabithia by Katharine Paterson Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all But on the first day of school a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side of the playground and outruns everyone That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable It doesn’t matter to Jess that Leslie dresses funny or that her family has a lot of money – but no TV Leslie has imagination Together she and Jess create Terabithia a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen and their imaginations set the only limits

Reading Age  Interest Level  

The Penalty by Mal Peet Carnegie winner Peet reintroduces us to Paul Faustino South America’s top sports journalist who is reluctantly drawn into investigating the disappearance of San Juan’s teenage football prodigy El Brujito As the story of corruption and murder unfolds he discovers the bitter history of slavery and the continuing power of the occult in a twenty first century world A gripping thriller aimed to engage a teenage male audience this novel addresses historical and cultural issues which underpin the heritage and attitudes of vast areas of the world today Faustino encounters not only evil but prejudice superstition and ignorance and Peet shows that these are powerful forces against rationality and justice A taut narrative with a tough and thought provoking message

Reading Age  Interest Level  Lobster Boy by Rodman Philbrick Since the death of his mother Samuel ‘Skiff’ Beaman’s father has spent his days lying on the sofa drinking immobilised by grief A fisherman by trade he is unable to rouse himself even when his boat sinks taking his livelihood with it In order to keep

Shylock’s Daughter by Miriam Pressler Set in the th century and based loosely around characters from The Merchant of Venice this is an engaging tale which focuses on the miser’s  year old daughter Jessica In love with a young Christian Jessica yearns for the glamour and freedom of life outside the Jewish ghetto but soon finds that it does not bring all she has hoped for A memorable and highly original read

Reading Age  Interest Level  Witch Child by Celia Rees This is the gripping tale of Mary the granddaughter of a witch After seeing her grandmother burned at the stake Mary is rescued and sent overseas to America to live amongst a Puritan community

However with her background and gifts this is not always the safest place to be Set in the mid seventeenth century this well written powerful story is perfect for confident readers

Reading Age  Interest Level 




Just In Case by Meg Rosoff Fate is watching David Case and the fifteen year old soon becomes consumed by the fear that it is going to catch up with him David feels doomed and even changing his name to Justin and adopting an edgy new image does not seem to protect him entirely from its clutches In trying to escape fate Justin embarks on a voyage of self discovery finding solace in the company of beautiful and eccentric photographer Agnes his baby brother Charlie and his imaginary dog Boy But will he find the strength to fight fate in one last terrifying encounter? This quirky off beat novel acutely depicts the feelings of pain and alienation felt by many adolescents At times both surreal and existential this is a gripping second novel from the acclaimed author of How I Live Now

Reading Age  Interest Level 

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott A fantasy adventure narrative that follows the destiny of  year old twins Josh and Sophie Newman who are the subjects of an ancient prophesy Scott weaves his mesmerizing and energetic plot around a mythological framework

Interest level  Undercover Angel by Dyan Sheldon Twelve year old Elmo is embarrassed by his environmental activist mother and wishes he had a ‘normal’ family He is excited when the Bambers their wealthy neighbours adopt a child from South America but his dreams of befriending the child and persuading the Bambers to also adopt him are shattered when Elmo discovers that not only is she a girl but she is an undercover angel sent to ensure Elmo helps his mother to save the planet! A very funny tale with an environmental message

Reading Age  Interest Level  

The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

Feather Boy by Nicky Singer Robert is having a tough time at school being bullied by Nicker; he’s also trying to deal with the break up of his parents’ marriage He feels like it’s just his luck to be landed with ‘a spooky old bat’ called Edith when his class takes part in a project with the local old people’s home However in attempting to solve the mystery of her son’s death he confronts both the bully and his own fears The reader is drawn through this novel by some wonderfully moving moments of humour tension and sadness

Reading Age  Interest Level  

Desperate to be accepted by the ‘in crowd’ David helps to steal Old Mrs Bayfield’s cane but is immediately wracked with guilt When everything in his life starts to go wrong he becomes convinced that Mrs Bayfield has put a curse on him He is taunted by his classmates and his best friend Scott makes fun of him to gain popularity with the bullies To make matters worse he is smitten with classmate Tori Williams but unable to ask her out in case the curse strikes again Luckily his new friends Larry and Moe are on hand to help him confront the ‘bullies’ and overcome the ‘curse’ This is a funny thought provoking insight into the mind of an anxious teenager David is an immensely likeable protagonist and his relationships with his family friends and enemies is thoroughly convincing

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Stargirl Caraway arrives at her new school with a unique dress sense and a ukulele After some debate the bemused students decide that she is actually quite cool and for a while she even becomes something of an idol However the book deftly predicts the fickle side of human nature and its suspicion of anything which refuses to conform

Despite her contemporaries turning against her Stargirl’s innocent appeal and consideration for others never falters Meanwhile narrator Leo struggles with his deep affection for the captivating Stargirl and his need for acceptance from his peers

A memorable read which leaves the reader with a lasting sense of having been touched by someone very special

Reading Age  Interest Level 

Reading Age  Interest Level  




The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliffe

Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig Ten year old Bamse is asleep on Henry the V’s throne when the German’s invade Copenhagen Son to one of Denmark’s most famous actors Bamse grows up in a world of drama and make believe but during the Nazi occupation everything that was once comfortable and familiar is threatened and his way of life is changed forever This story uniquely portrays the war through the eyes of a child stuck between the need for safety and the desire to help

Hitler’s Canary ultimately is about the courage and heroism of ordinary citizens in a time of danger and strife Bamse himself stands as a metaphor for the extraordinary efforts of the Danes to save their Jewish countrymen: in the face of courage and goodness power and size will remain fallible

Reading Age  Interest Level  

One volume combines Rosemary Sutcliffe’s three classic books about King Arthur and his knights

Beginning before Arthur’s birth and ending with the disintegration of the brotherhood of the Round Table this mystical retelling of the ancient legends takes readers on a magical journey through the England of the Dark Ages The story of the Sword in the Stone and of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may already be familiar to young readers but how many will know the tragic tale of Tristan and Iseult or recognise Beaumains the Kitchen Knight? Positively bursting with heroic quests damsels in distress and chivalrous deeds along with a fair smattering of magic courtesy of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake this is an ideal introduction to the Arthurian stories from a respected author whose work has stood the test of time

The Wind Eye by Robert Westall The Studdards go on holiday to Northumberland

Each member of the family nurses a need a fear or a hurt that needs resolution and as a result they are

Reading Age  Interest Level   Annan Water by Kate Thompson Michael leads a bleak unhappy existence working for his parents’ horse dealing business occasionally attending school and trying to come to terms with a family tragedy Then he meets the vibrant and rebellious Annie who lives the other side of the mysterious River Annan and the two become close

This novel evokes a strong sense of place and is a compelling exploration of the issues of young adulthood: the search for love loyalty independence and meaning

all unhappy constantly arguing and provoking each other Some of the family find a very old boat like a small Viking ship This boat has the power to take them back thirteen hundred years into the past to the time when St Cuthbert lived Many stories surround this ancient character and each of them must meet Cuthbert in their own way Will they survive the encounter? Will he help them or destroy them? This apparently simple mystery becomes an unpredictable and intriguing mix of the supernatural history and human nature

Reading Age  Interest Level:  

Reading Age  Interest Level 




Fourteen Ideas for Working on a Class Novel “Narrative is a primary act of mind transferred from life to art ”

culture or identifying the emotions at the heart of a text in a way that everyone can understand

Barbara Hardy

The following ideas may help you meet the challenge of making the pleasure of reading a novel available to everyone in your class There are not ‘new’ ideas but they have been tried and tested by different teachers in different contexts

Hopefully you will find something here that interests you You might find something that you used to do but have forgotten about Now is your chance to remember Have fun!

Introduction What happens when we read a novel? One answer is that we create a world in our imagination in response to the words on the page Within that world we respond to characters their situations and dilemmas and their feelings When a novel grabs out attention we enter into its world and lose ourselves in it

When the spell is broken when we stand back we can consider how the illusion was created

If this is the case then the questions we ask students might usefully concentrate on a) the imagined world; b) our response to that world; c) the means by which the world is created

Often as readers we don’t have an immediate response to a novel and it takes some time for us to settle on one If this is true for experienced readers it can be doubly so for younger ones For many students it is only when they engage in imaginative tasks (drawing painting talking acting story making freeze framing …) arising out of a novel they have read that they begin to find their own response

Experienced readers make sense of the book they’re reading by reference to other reading experiences – we read a book and recognise it as an example of a particular genre; we recognise the human emotion being explored and compare it to the way it is explored in another book we’ve read; we encounter a situation in a novel and understand it by reference to a foundational myth like the story of Oedipus These frames of reference enable us to encounter a book with confidence Experienced readers are also conscious of the way in which the rhetoric of a book tries to force us to read it in a certain way and we either allow ourselves to be led or we resist the leading

Students will not have the same depth of reading experience that we experienced readers have but they do have wide experience of ‘reading’ from fairytales to film and television One of the challenges of teaching is to help our students find a frame of reference within which their reading of a text makes sense This can involve the teacher moving nimbly between popular and literary



 Response Journal Encourage each student to keep a response journal a growing changing tentative account of their response to the novel as they read it The entries in the journal are like diary entries – essays at understanding The style is personal

Entries can be condensed – written versions of inner speech – questions or snatches of creative or imitative writing

You can direct the students with a small number of general questions: Were you surprised by what happened? What do you think will happen next? What were your feelings at that moment? You can use one of the thinking routines associated with Teaching for Understanding: What do you see? What do you think? What do you wonder? You can invite students to respond by taking a word or a related series of words phrases image(s) moment(s) or piece of dialogue and writing in response to it This can be free writing in any form they wish responding in an intuitive way to what they have read

You can also offer areas to consider: Emerging Ideas or Themes The Relationship between Writer and Reader Relationships in the Novel The Central Character Key Moments/Turning Points Powerful Symbols The Writer’s Art


The response journal is not something to be assessed – it is a means by which a student explores and engages with a novel

students can prepare boxes as part of a group exercise Each prop must be relevant to the character and to the story and have symbolic value Prop Boxes can be used to develop scenarios for the students’ creative writing A simple homework is to invite the students to speak in character about the items or props in their bag and explain their significance This can be done in diary or letter form

 Spider Diagrams

Late Late Show

Spider Diagrams (Tree Diagrams) can be used to chart relationships in a novel and can be developed as the novel unfolds The diagram begins by recording the basic relationship between two characters but other adjectives can be added to fill out the description of the characters and the relationship

This is a good activity for reviewing a central character The classroom becomes a TV studio

The teacher may choose to play the TV Host The ‘programme’ is a celebration of the life of the central character or an investigation into the life (depending on the plot of the novel) The students must decide on the guests to invite

Each guest is interviewed by the host There is scope for creative dialogue but characters must stay true to the spirit of the novel Guests can interrupt and challenge each other or make accusations against each other based on the contents of the novel Characters who did not play an honourable part in the life of the central character may try to change their story to show themselves off in a good light It is up to the host or the other characters to set the record straight

Encourage an explorative approach – writing in character or addressing a character; creating a parallel text to the original Anything that strikes an imaginative chord with a student and keeps him or her engaged

Spider diagrams are very useful for revision and for assembling information in a simple way They are also good for building up a descriptive vocabulary for characters and relationships

 Freeze Frame Take a chapter (A scene) and invite students to freeze frame a moment that gets to the heart of the chapter Students are invited to read the image The students who create the image can speak in character if requested to do so The group who creates the image can add their comments and explanations after the other students have interpreted what they have seen The students’ response to the image and the issues raised can be incorporated into the response journal or written up as homework The freeze frame should not be overdone However it is a useful way of exploring students’ understanding and it extends the ways in which students make meaning and create ‘text’

In this as in all class and homework the purpose is to allow students to show what they understand in as interesting and imaginative ways as possible

Prop Box A good way to introduce or revise a novel is to create a Prop Box for a number of key characters

The teacher can create the boxes and invite the students to read each of the entries or the

Another version of this technique is to set up a trail situation with witnesses called in the defence or prosecution of a character

 Blame Game Honour Game Another device for establishing honourable characters and disreputable characters is to create a set of character cards which groups of students must arrange in order of honour and disrepute

The different groups compare the way they have arranged the cards and explain their choices This is an interesting way of generating a moral or ethical interpretation of a text and of opening up the degree to which literary interpretation is linked to moral and ethical values It lays the groundwork for more sophisticated discussion around aesthetic judgement

 Plot Line/Journey Line Invite students to chart the journey/plot of the




novel using a river/snake diagram or a graph drawn on the horizontal axis This allows for a visual representation of the turning points in the journey of the central character as well as allowing the student to chart the trajectory upwards or downwards of the novel If the river diagram is used the students can invent names for various episodes and fill these in on the ‘map’

The river diagram can form the basis of an allegorical version of the novel with different topographical features being used to symbolise different events in the story

 Plot Summary Invite the students to tell the story of the novel in ten sentences When they have done this they select a short quotation of image from the novel to match individual sentences This kind of exercise may help students to distinguish between commentary on a text and overlong and unnecessary summary in their response to novels

You can also encourage students to make causal links in their summaries Dad died Jim left These are two statements of fact When Dad died Jim left These two statements are now linked by time and put in sequence They are heading towards a plot It was because Dad died that Jim left Now we’ve established a plot

 Empty Chair The central character is represented by the empty chair Groups of students (up to a maximum of ) circle the chair while the teacher sets the scene

Each of the circling students is a character in the novel When the commentary is finished the characters speak about the central character moving clockwise at all times As they circle the students create a parallel creative text based on the text of the novel

A follow on homework can be to write up some of the parallel text they have created This is another way of developing ‘creative modelling’

 Design a Cover Give students an opportunity to create a cover and write a blurb for the novel An excellent way of demonstrating the power of symbols and the nature of semiotic codes without labouring the point



 Character Diary Encourage students to create diary entries for a character Sometimes it is useful to use a minor character who can give a slightly different perspective to the one provided by the narrative focus in the novel Sometimes an entire novel can be read and commented on through this device

 Newspaper & Newspaper Reports Re write key scenes in the form of a newspaper report with headlines and sub headings There is scope here for exploring the limits of the language of information You could encourage two different versions of the same event by asking students to select different pieces of information for inclusion in their article

Another way of creating a class response to a text is to create a newspaper based on that text The news items can include articles based on the plot of the novel; the horoscopes can be referenced to characters; the photographs can capture the setting of the novel; you can also include an agony aunt page; a page of reviews that fill in social background

 Alternative Scenes/ Dialogues If only Things happen in novels which the reader would wish otherwise Things turn out in ways that disappoint a reader Encourage the students to become the writer to devise alternative scenarios to write different endings to compose alternative dialogues Keep tasks short and specific This is an excellent way to explore different writing styles in a novel and to practice creative imitation



Short Stories & Poems Novels create a richly textured imaginative world

Use the exploration of this world to encourage your students to create similar worlds in their writing by creating parallel stories drawing on characters settings or situations Take key moments and invite your students to turn them into short stories changing the narrative voice or the narrative perspective Invite students to respond to key moments through composing a poem Encourage free responses striving as much as possible to take away students’ inhibitions about writing

Encourage them to let rip imaginatively


Writing music Writing Poetry Clonkeen College is an all boys’ secondary school in County Dublin Last year’s winning senior poem in the Teaching English ‘Write a Poem’ competition came from Clonkeen student Eoghan Carrick

particular have very fine poetic sensibilities and as this year’s course went on they found someone who would sing for them

PK Give us a sense of how you move through this process

JC At the start of the year I cover music theory only insofar as it is applicable to what we’re doing

Even without any musical training the boys can apply the theory we do in class After theory we move on to vocal exercises Then we look at different styles such as Baroque Renaissance Romantic and we work forward to contemporary song so the students are exposed to music other than their own The creative writing gets going around January We have three periods a week Some of the writing is done in class and some after school After school is when most of the recording is done

John Clarke has been teaching English and music to TY students there for the past six years In this interview with Pauline Kelly of the Teaching English magazine he talks about his song writing class and how the students compose an album entirely of their own making both for performance in the school and for recording on CD

PK Does their reading influence the lyrics they write? JC Yes I teach fiction and poetry in TY We study the poetry of World War One From this starting point some students are now writing lyrics on the Iraq war Of course the students are free to write on subjects of their own choosing

PK John tell me about the work you’ve been doing in English with your TY students

JC Well we do a year long TY course which is optional where students can use the writing skills they have learned in English over the past three years to write song lyrics It is an opportunity to write poetry without putting the name poetry on it because sometimes boys have a resistance to the idea of writing poetry The basic aim is to get the boys to write original songs

PK Do they tend to write from their own experiences or from something they’ve read? JC The boys tend to have a perception of what songwriters are and they try to reach for that So there’s a lot of love lyrics and lyrics about their struggle to get through and the difficulties of teenagers and so on Also they write lyrics that they don’t consciously understand but that sound good and poetic and they like the sound of the individual words

Sometimes thy write just for the pleasure of hearing the rhyme rhythm and sounds:

When we began some boys came to me with poems they had written in rd year and I asked them to write lyrics that we could use as songs They brought in those lyrics and we made some recordings of the lyrics to music With our TY funds this year we bought an eight track digital recording machine It’s a small piece of machinery a multi track device that can record their instruments first and then they can sing over the recording Two years ago we went to a commercial studio but from a cost point of view having our recording equipment is much better So our studio is not a place it’s the eight track digital recording machine And we can record students while they are performing

Seraphim hate you now Jealousy has taught them how To envy you so much Your ecstasy at every touch Ciarán McIlwee PK So would you say that the learning of the music and the rhythm of the music has an impact on how they shape the lyrics? JC Well we look at different ways that people write songs For instance some people come into a studio with a set of lyrics already written but they have no melody so if they learn a scale you can show them how to tap out a scale and make up a melody on that scale using just a few notes Many songwriters work like that including the Beatles They mightn’t know how to write music but they know how to tap it out

They know the sound that is in their head and they find a melody on the guitar or the keyboard that captures that sound So it’s actually melody and

PC So what comes first the lyrics or the music? JC Some of the boys come with complete songs

Some go in and it’s a workshop situation while one is recording another is writing lyrics or changing lyrics as they listen

PK Do they work in pairs or in groups? JC They arrange themselves in groups Some of them play music outside of school Three or four in




harmony they learn first The rhythm is something that we look at later on

talking about what inspired them to write the lyrics they did

PK Are there challenges in bringing the full composition together? JC Most of the boys want to play guitar Getting a singer is more challenging At first so as not to frighten them off I teach the students to sing in a group You find then that if someone has written the music and the words they also want to be the singer of the song as in this example from the track Dilemma on the album

Now I see you standing there Innocent and unaware A silent crime You’ll never know Buried deep I’ll never show

PK This course must create an interest in writing that can be difficult to generate otherwise I can see how your students coming into fifth year have an appreciation of the craft of writing and sees it as a natural process

JC Yes and I try to make it as natural as possible

This process takes away the intellectual barrier that stands between the students and poetry They don’t usually hear the ‘music’ in poetry for want of a better word

A bittersweet gift to me That I must have your company PK Does everybody in the class write lyrics? JC Some of the boys write instrumentals but most write lyrics The overall aim of the course is that the students will use the writing skills they have learned I leave the themes to them

Not surprisingly there are a lot of songs on the theme of love (I scan the lyrics not just for language but for content too!) The students tend to write at home and then we tidy the lyrics up in the classroom But I stay out of it as much as I can because as well intentioned as you might be as an adult the boys have made those lyrics themselves I encourage them to write the music first to put the headphones on and let the music suggest words The sound even of a few guitar chords can suggest the mood or tone of the song which in turn suggest the words

There’s a saying in music that good composers borrow and great composers steal So they can learn the chords of a famous song and just change the sequence of the chords and change the rhythm and then as they play that they find it suggests a new song

PK This must make for a bonded group with a common purpose

JC Yes because they have a purpose you get their commitment The boys also do the sleeve work for the album themselves They write the sleeve notes they write and rewrite the blurb and come back to me to ask if they can write it this way and so on

PK So they learn to draft and edit and they learn a sense of register They also have a sense of an audience for their compositions

JC Yes this all leads to a performance of the full album in the school hall We’ll have all first year second year and fifth year We also make   CDs and any money we make goes to our school’s Third World project Two years ago we used the profits to buy a top class PA system which we’re using now

PK So they’re using the terms we use in writing about poems? Does this have an impact on how they think about other people’s writing? JC Yes! Because they don’t hear poetry spoken as a popular medium it doesn’t have a life for them it’s just words on a page When they’re writing their own poems/songs they get into the poetry of their words

There’s something about lyric writing and the shaping of it that becomes poetic for them When they appreciate the sounds of poetry they begin to appreciate the meaning They are naturally artistic so it’s a question of giving them a place where they can do it

The Timeless Year Music Class / CD Project album was released in May of this year and performed by its TY composers in the Clonkeen College assembly hall on Wednesday May  th

At this live concert  euro was raised for the school Third World Fund

PK Have you found ways to inspire their creativity in songwriting? JC We watch some DVDs about well known bands and how they made a great album We listen to them




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Take some time out of your busy day to relax with a cup of tea and our crossword

Solutions Across:  School Crucible  Larder  Abattoir  Nonet  Emigrates  Urn  Eater  Plough  Psalms  Eliza  Tee  Charlotte  Ngozi  Operetta  Mozart  Lonesome  Edison

Down:  Salinger  Hartnett  Overtures Rabbi  Cater  Bronte  Egress  Pen pal  Gnu  Oyster  Greenwood  Bifocals  Hamilton  Ado  Scroll  Tavern  Loess  Totem

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Teaching English Magazine  

Winter 2008 edition

Teaching English Magazine  

Winter 2008 edition

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