Monthly Archives: March 2014
The Great Gatsby (GreatGatsbyGame.com)
Lord of the Flies (NobelPrize.org)
The Song of Achilles
A game I created with Scratch to test some knowledge of characters in the novel.
Emily Dickinson ‘Riddles’ Quiz (EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org)
Shakespeare Games (ModernLibrary.com)
Shakespeare Playwright Game (PBS.org)
Beat the Bard! (TheGuardian.com)
Word Wangling (BritishCouncil.org)
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.
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?
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.
(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>-<
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
Collection of Short Films
Alive in Joburg (2006; dir. Neill Blomkamp)
Badgered (2005; dir. Sharon Colman)
Badly Drawn Roy (2004; dir. Alan Shannon)
Blinky™ (2011; dir. Ruairi Robinson)
Caine’s Arcade (2012; dir. Nirvan Mullick)
Doodlebug (1997; dir. Christopher Nolan)
Free Chips Forever (2009; dir. Claire Dix)
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (2008; dir. Nicky Phelan)
Gumdrop (2012; dir. Kerry Conran and Stephen Lawes)
Head Over Heels (2012; dir. Timothy Reckart)
Johnny Express (2014; dir. James (Kyungmin) Woo)
La Maison en Petits Cubes (2008; dir. Kunio Katō)
Mr Foley (2009; dir. Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, also known as D.A.D.D.Y.)
Mr Hublot (2013; dir. Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares)
My Mom’s Motorcycle (2014; dir. Douglas Gautraud)
My Strange Grandfather (2011; dir. Dina Velikovskaya)
New Boy (2007; dir. Steph Green)
Paperman (2010; dir. Richard Kelly)
Paperman (2012; dir. John Kahrs)
Signs (2010; dir. Vincent Gallagher)
Some One Not Like You (2009; Virtual Cinema)
The Black Hole (2008; Philip Sansom and Olly Williams)
The Crush (2010; dir. Michael Creagh)
The Eagleman Stag (2010; dir. Mikey Please)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (2011; dir. William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg)
The Gift (2010; dir. Carl E. Rinsch)
The Herd (2009; dir. Ken Wardrop)
The Lady and the Reaper (2009; dir. Javier Recio Gracia)
The Longest Daycare (2012; dir. David Silverman)
The Lunch Date (1989; dir. Adam Davidson)
The Rooster, The Crocodile and The Night Sky (2008; dir. Padraig Fagan)
The White Dress (2006; dir. Vanessa Gildea)
The Wonderful Story of Kelvin Kind (2004; dir. Ian Power)
This Way Up (2008; dir. Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith, also known as Smith & Foulkes)
Umbra (2010; dir. Malcolm Sutherland)
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.
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
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.