Monthly Archives: March 2014

Online Games


The Great Gatsby (


Just for fun! Click the image to open in a new tab. Source:


Lord of the Flies (


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The Song of Achilles

A game I created with Scratch to test some knowledge of characters in the novel.

A game to test knowledge of characters in 'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller.

Click the image to open in a new tab.




Emily Dickinson ‘Riddles’ Quiz (


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Shakespeare Games (


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Shakespeare Playwright Game (


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Beat the Bard! (





Wordmaster (



Word Wangling (



Report Writing

This is a small project I did with first year students which revised and assessed some aspects of the Functional Writing and Media Studies aspects of the course.

The PDF (which retains the original format) of the text below can be accessed here. The report format below is only one of several which can be used.



What are reports?

A report is a document which presents facts in a clear and logical way to offer the reader important information.

A report contains facts and information on a particular subject, and gives an account of some event or situation.

It draws conclusions and makes recommendations.

It is written objectively in a formal tone.



What are the main features of a report?

When you are writing a report, make sure you use the following headings.

  • TITLE: Give the report a title.
  • TERMS OF REFERENCE: Mention who requested the report and why.
  • INTRODUCTION: Introduce what the report is about and briefly outline the aims of the report.
  • PROCEDURE: How was the information gathered?
  • FINDINGS: Present your facts and findings.
  • CONCLUSION: The discoveries you made based on the findings of the report. Avoid giving your opinions on the event/situation/incident.
  • RECOMMENDATIONS: Suggest some steps to take in response to the findings and explain your recommendations (why am I recommending to do this?).
  • SIGNED: Include your name and the date on which the report was written.



Word Construction Activity

Use the letters below to make as many words as you can in 4 minutes. Words with less than three letters are not allowed. You can have a maximum of: three 3-lettered words and four 4-lettered words. No other restrictions.




Sample Report

Pocket Money Survey


To: Board of Management, Hogwarts.


Terms of Reference

This report was commissioned by the Chairperson of the Board of Management to examine the spending habits of the school’s first year students.



A survey was conducted to determine how the pocket money of first year students is spent. The average pocket money was given as €10.



We surveyed 100 students asking them to fill in the questionnaire, which asked:

How much of your pocket money do you spend on the following areas?

  1. Food / Soft drinks
  2. Leisure goods/services
  3. Clothing
  4. Personal goods
  5. Transport



Males (%) Females (%)
Food / Soft drinks 39 24
Leisure goods/services 27 19
Clothing 10 24
Personal goods 14 23
Transport 10 10


  1. Food and drink accounts for the most pocket money: 39% of males and 24% of females.
  2. Leisure is the next priority for males, as they spend 27% of their money in this area.
  3. Females spend equal amounts on food and clothing (24%).
  4. Females spend more of their money on personal goods than makes (24% compared to 14%).
  5. Males spend equal amounts on clothing and transport (10%).
  6. Both males and females spend 10% of their money on transport.



  1. Transport is not a high priority for the students.
  2. Male students spend more than female students do on food and leisure.
  3. Female students give a higher priority to clothing and personal goods than their male counterparts.



  1. Students are spending too much money on food and soft drinks. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry should promote a healthy eating week. Student will be able to learn about their dietary needs from this.
  2. Too much pocket money is being spent on leisure. The school gym should be made available for students at certain times for them to use. They will then be less inclined to spend money unnecessarily.
  3. Students should consider walking more in order to save money they currently spend on transport. The money saved can be put to better use.



Salazar Slytherin.

25th March, 2014.



Using the sample report as a guideline,

circle the errors in the draft report below

and write why you circled each one.



To:       my school!!!



It was open every school day for noms from 11am to 11:15am and again from 1pm to 2pm.


Terms of references

This report was commissioned by the chairperson of the Board of Management to examine the performance of the school shop.



  1. Costs for the year were €750. Sales were €1,000. Profit for year: €350. The profit was donated to the school library for the purchase of new books. They made a load of money from us.
  2. The class surveys I done indicates that the shop was popular with students.
  3. The following probs arose during the year:

(a)   There was an increase in litter near the cafeteria.

(b)   Some old people expressed concern at the sale of so-called ‘junk food’.

(c)    It was difficult to manage the long cues that frequently formed for food because we all want to go to there.



I would like to make the following recommendations:

(a) More litter bins should be provided.

(b) Teachers and some of the older students should help manage the queue.



The shop did grand this year. My recommendations would obviously make it even better.



Elizabeth Miervaldis Lemon 80>-<



Your Task

Prepare a report on one of the following:

1. Reading habits of your class.

2. Sports in which your year participates.

3. The type of films your year like to watch.

4. Genres of music your year listens to.

5. Family sizes of your year.

6. What changes your class would like to see in school.

7. A topic of your own choosing (to be agreed with teacher).



Write a letter explaining what you’d like to write a report on. Introduce yourself, explain why you chose this, how/when you will carry out the survey and who will be surveyed. (Draft, then finalised letter.)



Write your report using the ‘Pocket Money Survey’ as a model. (Outline, draft and finalised report.)



Write and design a newspaper article based on your report. Use two/three columns, and include a headline, by-line, and one small picture with a caption. (First: outline the article and draft the design.)




Related past exam questions:


JC English (Higher), Paper I, 2008:

You are a member of your school’s Student Council. As there are now students from a range of  different nationalities attending the school, your Principal has asked the Council to come up with some suggestions to help your school to develop as an intercultural community.

Write a report to be submitted by the Student Council to the Principal outlining your ideas.


JC English (Higher), Paper I, 2002:

The Transition Year Class in your school carried out a survey of how the students in third year spent an average of ten euro pocket money per week. Based on the figures supplied below, write a report on this survey for your school magazine.

Pocket Money Survey

Males Females
Food / Soft drinks 3.90 2.40
Leisure goods/services 2.70 1.90
Clothing 1.00 2.40
Personal goods 1.40 2.30
Transport 1.00 1.00


35 Short Films

Collection of Short Films


Alive in Joburg (2006; dir. Neill Blomkamp)

An eerie tale of a close encounter of the third kind in Johannesburg. Blomkamp's film District 9 is loosely based on this short.


Badgered (2005; dir. Sharon Colman)

The tale of a grumpy badger who just wants the world to let him sleep.


Badly Drawn Roy (2004; dir. Alan Shannon)

Meet Roy, Ireland's only living animated character, born into an ordinary 'live action' family. Roy is intelligent but unfortunately for him he is badly drawn. His failure to gain steady employment finally leads him to Hollywood in search of fame, fortune and corrective surgery.


Blinky™ (2011; dir. Ruairi Robinson)

Soon every home will have a robot helper. Don't worry. It's perfectly safe.


Caine’s Arcade (2012; dir. Nirvan Mullick)

A 9 year old boy who built an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad's auto parts store is about to have the best day of his life and inspire the world.


Doodlebug (1997; dir. Christopher Nolan)

A man waits patiently in his apartment to squash a bug, by he could be hurting himself more than he realises.


Free Chips Forever (2009; dir. Claire Dix)

Becky and her Dad are invincible chip robbers. Nothing can stand in their way. Nothing, that is, except her brother Tom.


Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (2008; dir. Nicky Phelan)

Granny O'Grimm, a seemingly sweet old lady, loses the plot as she tells her version of Sleeping Beauty to her terrified grandchild.


Gumdrop (2012; dir. Kerry Conran and Stephen Lawes)

A robot's life story emerges during a casting session.


Head Over Heels (2012; dir. Timothy Reckart)

After many years of marriage, Walter and Madge have grown apart: he lives on the floor and she lives on the ceiling. When Walter tries to reignite their old romance, their equilibrium comes crashing down, and the couple that can’t agree which way is up must find a way put their marriage back together.


Johnny Express (2014; dir. James (Kyungmin) Woo)

It's 2150. Johnny is a space delivery man who travels to different planets to deliver packages. However, it never goes as planned...


La Maison en Petits Cubes (2008; dir. Kunio Katō)

As his town is flooded by water, an old man is forced to add additional levels onto his home with bricks (cubes) in order to stay dry. But when he accidentally drops his favorite smoking pipe into the lower levels of his home, his search for the pipe eventually makes him relive scenes from his eventful life.


Mr Foley (2009; dir. Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, also known as D.A.D.D.Y.)

Sound effects Mr Foley, but he doesn't know the score.


Mr Hublot (2013; dir. Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares)

Mr Hublot lives in a world where characters made partially of mechanical parts, driving huge vehicles, rub shoulders with each other. A world where the giant scale of machines and the relentless use of salvaged materials reign supreme. A withdrawn, idiosyncratic character with OCD, Mr Hublot is scared of change and the outside world. His solution: he doesn't step foot outside his apartment! The arrival of the dog Robot Pet will turn his life upside down: he has to share his home with this very invasive companion...


My Mom’s Motorcycle (2014; dir. Douglas Gautraud)

A short film about how people use objects to connect with times, ideas, and people.


My Strange Grandfather (2011; dir. Dina Velikovskaya)

A creative person often seems weird, funny and a little bit crazy. Even his friends and family do not always understand him and often feel ashamed of him. But sometimes he can create a real miracle - merely from garbage.


New Boy (2007; dir. Steph Green)

Based on a short story by Roddy Doyle this poignant and comedic short film deftly captures the experience of being the new boy in school through the eyes of Joseph, a nine-year-old African boy.


Paperman (2010; dir. Richard Kelly)

A lone man's quest to find his true love in a busy paper metropolis. Will he find the Papergirl he hopes for? This is the story of Paperman.


Paperman (2012; dir. John Kahrs)

An urban office worker finds that paper airplanes are instrumental in meeting a girl in ways he never expected.


Signs (2010; dir. Vincent Gallagher)

There is magic in what we see every day, sometimes you just have to look hard enough.


Some One Not Like You (2009; Virtual Cinema)

A note begins with one man and gets passed from person to person, but what is it all about?


The Black Hole (2008; Philip Sansom and Olly Williams)

A sleep-deprived office worker accidentally discovers a black hole - and then greed gets the better of him...


The Crush (2010; dir. Michael Creagh)

An 8-year old schoolboy is so besotted with his teacher that he challenges her boyfriend to a duel... to the death.


The Eagleman Stag (2010; dir. Mikey Please)

If you repeat the word 'fly' for long enough it sounds like you are saying 'life'. This is of no help to Peter. His answers lie in the brain of the beetle.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (2011; dir. William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg)

After a hurricane levels his city, a young man wanders into a mysterious library where books literally come to life.


The Gift (2010; dir. Carl E. Rinsch)

A messenger delivers a mysterious box to a wealthy man.


The Herd (2009; dir. Ken Wardrop)

A farmer and his mother discuss the arrival of a strange animal amongst their herd of Limousin cattle.


The Lady and the Reaper (2009; dir. Javier Recio Gracia)

A sweet old lady is living alone in her farm, waiting for the arrival of death to meet her beloved husband again. One night, while sleeping, her life fades out and she is invited to cross death's door. But when she is about to do so, the old lady wakes up inside a hospital's ward: and arrogant doctor has taken her back to life and he will fight hard against death to recover the old lady's life at any cost. A comical short showing how fast medicine rushes to save the elderly, even if they may not want to be saved from death.


The Longest Daycare (2012; dir. David Silverman)

Maggie Simpson spends the day in the Ayn Rand School for Tots.


The Lunch Date (1989; dir. Adam Davidson)

A woman misses her train and buys lunch in a café. When she returns to her table, a man is eating her salad.


The Rooster, The Crocodile and The Night Sky (2008; dir. Padraig Fagan)

A tale of passion, loss, surreal comedy and explosive violence. Animated in a cut-out style combining cardboard, tinfoil, paint on glass and super 8 film creating a dreamy, hand-made aesthetic.


The White Dress (2006; dir. Vanessa Gildea)

The White Dress is the story of a girl on her communion day, but unlike most other little girls, she is making her communion all on her own.


The Wonderful Story of Kelvin Kind (2004; dir. Ian Power)

Kelvin Kind, a wonderful loser with a heart of gold, is blissfully unaware of his own loneliness. But when a beautiful girl moves into the apartment across the hall, Kelvin's solitary world is turned upside down. As he tries in vain to get the girl's attention, Kelvin is soon forced to realise that being in love isn't easy for nice guys...


This Way Up (2008; dir. Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith, also known as Smith & Foulkes)

A.T. Shank & Son have a bad day at the parlour when a falling boulder flattens their hearse. Emotional and literal pitfalls lie in wait for the odd couple as they make their way cross country with just a coffin for company. This short animated caper puts the fun back into funeral as their journey and relationship unravel on an epic scale.


Umbra (2010; dir. Malcolm Sutherland)

An explorer adventures into an unknown world, yet it seems that he has been there before.




Related Posts:

Film Revision: Key Words

Literacy: Reading Skills, Comments and Thoughts from a Live Chat

Two weeks ago I was a panellist in a two hour live Q&A about ‘boosting literacy’ on the Teacher Network section of The Guardian website. 

As it was the same week as World Book Day, many of the comments tended to focus on reading (and reluctant readers) and writing. In preparation, I gathered some of my thoughts on the more practical side to literacy in the classroom so that I would be better able to keep up with the number of comments.

I was asked in a Twitter DM for some approaches to developing reading skills. Below is my (edited) response, as well as some of my other comments from the Q&A.


Approaches I’ve used to develop reading skills

1. Physical Environment

As I mentioned in a comment asking about strategies to implement in a History class, I think having a visually (and textually) rich environment which is regularly updated is important to have in the classroom. It gives students the opportunity to get creative: word walls, maps and illustrations, a themed wall (e.g. portraits of poets and their important works accompanied with a few sentences about each, or images/articles focusing on a particular theme such as ‘identity’ – get the students to create it!), and cut-outs from magazines/newspapers relevant to a particular topic the class has learned about.

a.) Promote voluntary student reading by discussing book choices in class to support their choices of reading material, and celebrate students’ reading accomplishments (e.g. give students a ‘reading log/journal’ or have a ‘reading wall’ in class).

The reading wall can have small coloured pieces of card pinned on it showing the name of the student/teacher, what they’re reading at the moment, and a sentence about the book. They change their entries once they have finished reading the book. If the book was available in the school library or local library, this can also be mentioned on the card. For extra visual impact, add print outs of the book covers around the board. This will create a positive, supportive classroom environment in which students are encouraged to read and they are in charge of their own reading and choices of books – something which I think is very important.

b.) Add some colour! Regularly update the walls with students’ own creations or printed posters. I’ve seen a few classrooms in which students created prints of poetry (an illustration of ‘Wandered lonely…’ spanned a few A3 sheets) or important quotes from plays/novels (the quote plus a related image). Great way to reduce the number of old materials on walls and corridors!

c.) Use keyword and KWL/KWLA charts. Students identify key words (e.g. important words or new/difficult words) in the studied topic/lesson. Students keep a record of the words used on the keyword chart, thus consolidating their vocabulary. A strategy which can be used to expand/apply this vocabulary is by using cloze or crazy cloze sheets. The JCSP website has some printables to use for KWL and a variety of other strategies.


2. Model approaches in selecting and retrieving information from texts

For example, highlighting important passages/events/ideas, underlining key words/concepts/quotations.


3. Comprehension skills

a.) Tapping into prior knowledge via prediction activities with questions such as ‘what do you think happens next?’

b.) Read for meaning by decoding and understanding main points of information in a text by skimming. Re-reading is also helpful for this. Combined, these should encourage students to continue reading if they encounter a word they do not understand.

c.) Using graphic organisers. I’m keeping a list of some which I find useful here.

d.) Deduce/infer/interpret information in texts by using ‘Who/What/Where am I?’ activities. Inferring from visual images is also very useful (e.g. a man with an umbrella = it is raining). Pair/group work works particularly well for this.

e.) Creating images using information presented in a text (students could create their own images by elaborating on a description in a text).


4. Fluency – role-play/improvisation

Students read out loud a text in different ways to demonstrate expression/intonation. The expressions can be influenced by punctuation and phrasing. This needs to go a step further in a role-play/improv scenario: how a character has felt earlier in a scene or their body language, for example, can influence this.

Acting out texts will also illustrate the effects of punctuation: for example, the effect of full-stop vs an exclamation mark when speaking/reading (change the punctuation to yield some humorous results!).

I use this role-play/improvisation to develop students’ awareness of how dialogue is spoken when they are reading individually/silently. Looking back on my own practice, I’ve found that it is has also proven useful for word decoding. I think role-play/improv can also be incredibly useful (and fun) in building conversational/oral skills.



Some of my other comments from the Q&A

Strategies to implement in History class

Definitely agree that History can be quite text-based. Something I would suggest is to try and give students a digital space for students to contribute to in class or at home, e.g. creating a History Wiki using Wikipaces or creating blogs for students.

I think having a visually (and textually) rich environment which is regularly updated is also important to have in the classroom, and it also gives students the opportunity to get creative: word walls, maps and illustrations from periods in History (e.g. the Hereford map, map of Europe during WWI), a themed wall (e.g. portraits of artists and their important works accompanied with a few sentences about each – get the students to create it!), and cut-outs from magazines/newspapers relevant to a particular topic the class has learned about.

In relation to whole school strategies, I’ve found the Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) initiative to be particularly good. There’s a danger to avoid here: students viewing DEAR as another task to be done in school. Book choice is important to prevent that; ask students what topics they are interested in, what authors they like (if any!), and then start accumulating books. A reading log/journal or a printable ‘book review’ may benefit some – something for them to reflect on and evaluate what they have read! Once it’s based in reading for pleasure rather than ‘reading because we have to’, it should work excellently.

Using key-word charts and KWL/KWLA reinforces student vocabulary across the whole school. Students keeping note of key words is sometimes overlooked. JCSP and PDST have some excellent printables to use for KWL and a variety of other strategies.

Cross-curricular linking is valuable as part of a whole-school literacy strategy too. Involves a bit of teacher co-operation to match-up what is being done in multiple subjects.


Mixing LSRW (Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing) in lessons

From my experience, speaking/listening often get put to the side when approaching literacy. Like reading and writing, they’re essential life skills.

Some find it challenging to incorporate a mixture of LSRW in lessons and whole-school strategies, but I think it’s essential that we hit all four bases with our students.

Here are a few I’ve used in the past:
– Listening tasks: reading aloud & asking students to re-tell it; improvisation activity in which students must continue a story.
– Building conversational/oral skills tasks: I’ve found role-play/improv to be incredibly useful (and fun).
– Auditory memory tasks: a quick ‘Chinese Whisper’ relevant to the learning (this obviously comes with a warning!).


Approach to Grammar/Punctuation

As jcatton mentioned, it needs to be “seen in context.” I think having some ‘seize the moment’ activities in lessons is a nice way of doing this. Switching the order of punctuation marks or the form of a word can illustrate why they were in a certain form and order. Likewise in simply reading a poem, unchanged, which has many commas or run-on lines: students can better grasp how to read the text when it is read aloud using the ‘brief pause’ of a comma etc. Chain writing and human sentence line can work well with the younger groups of secondary schools, particularly for developing vocabulary and spelling. Latc22’s comment earlier in the chat about the ‘mantle of the expert’ is definitely worth looking at. A problem-solving or ‘correcting’ approach might also be worth considering (students receive a piece of text and they have to identify what is wrong with it).

I should add that the English syllabi stress that “language skills” (listening, speaking, reading, writing) are not themselves schemes of work – they should be integrated into each syllabus unit as part of an “organic wholeness of experience in the living context” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus)p. 1). In other words, language skills are to be developed in a meaningful context – not in the abstract. This point is also valid when discussing the development of literacy skills (e.g. oral language in the integrated language process, and likewise with reading, writing, digital literacy, etc.), and I think it is best achieved through active learning.


Some questions about the relationship between literacy and ICT

Do some teachers find the use of technology in the classroom a barrier or an aid in boosting literacy? I’ve found its usage to be very beneficial for students in promoting LSRW skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing).

And what about the students’ use of technology? Do you think we can improve literacy levels by ‘exploiting’ their access to this? From my experience, some students who are reluctant to read a (physical) book cite the “length” of the book, and they are actually more willing to read it in e-book format on a smartphone or tablet. They may be reading in shorter bursts, but they’re still reading.


Literacy plans incorporating more than reading and writing?

Anyone here teaching in a school with a literacy plan which incorporates more than reading and writing – what about the promotion of listening/speaking skills and “visual” and “digital” literacy?



Post-Q&A Thoughts

Approaches for both primary and post-primary students were in abundance, but establishing some continuity between primary and post-primary was something which I thought wasn’t stressed enough. I think being familiar with and continuing the literacy strategies the students encountered at primary level is an excellent way to inform your own literacy practices in a post-primary classroom (e.g. drafting/re-drafting – a valuable skill to build upon).

English Language Teacher Guidelines (the curriculum can be viewed here).

The English curriculum page on the PDST site is also very useful.


As I previously mentioned, the Q&A tended to focus on reading and writing. Of course, we know that ‘literacy’ encompasses much more than that. What about oral skills for instance? Some comments in the Q&A mentioned this, but reading and writing clearly took prominence.

A concept in the current Junior Certificate English syllabus is the fostering of a “growth in listening, speaking, reading and writing” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus)p. 1, my emphasis) – and this is carried forward to the Leaving Certificate syllabus: “students should engage with the domains of comprehending and composing in oral, written and, where possible, visual contexts… They will come to see acts of speaking, listening, reading and writing not just as instrumental skills but as interpretive, creative activities through which specific meanings can be placed on experience” (LC Syllabus, p. 14, my emphasis).

Effective questioning in the classroom is the most common way we try to develop these skills – it’s an everyday occurrence. Walking debates and fishbowl conversations are excellent methods to use to focus primarily on oral skills and they can be used as interventions (or “seizing the moment” activities) in any lesson – during a poetry revision activity, an introduction to repetition in speech writing, etc.

However, the Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life reported that “the opportunity provided by the syllabus to engage students with a range of literary and non-literary texts and develop their literacy skills, including their oral language skills, is not fully exploited in classrooms due to a focus on teaching to the examination and an overuse of textbooks which largely promote lower-order thinking skills” ( p. 51, my emphasis). We know that steps have been made in response to this under the new Junior Cycle English Specification, in which communication skills form some of the learning outcomes, and oral communication will actually be assessed and form 15% of the subject (60 marks out of 400).

In light of the findings of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy (as well as my own experience): are oral skills being accounted for in whole-school literacy approaches? Are listening and speaking skills currently “put to the side” in other teachers’ experiences?


I use a lot of visual materials in class to develop a skills such as comprehension skills (TV Adverts and Film Posters, for example), create projects which prompt students to research online and encourage students to read extra materials which I put online for them. In the Q&A, Latc22 offered an anecdote about putting materials online for students.

Much more so than oral skills, there is a great emphasis on students (and teachers) using technology in the classroom. Despite this, “visual” and “digital” literacy were almost wholly absent from the discussion. I again wonder to what extent these are being accounted for in schools’ literacy plans.



Useful Links

Literacy and English presentation (PDST)

Literacy Link Teacher Day 2 presentation (with supporting materials) (PDST)



Update (8/5/14)

An article on The Guardian website, ‘Ten ways to improve student literacy’, features two of my comments from the live chat: reading walls and using role-play/improvisation.


Related Post:

Encouraging Reading for Pleasure