Category Archives: Teachers

Some posts aimed directly at teachers rather than students.


I’m posting yet another brilliant piece of writing from one of my students, this time a junior, but she also wants to remain anonymous! We had discussed descriptive writing & identified the main features of good descriptive writing; then I gave them a series of topics and they chose one… Here’s her vivid childhood memory…

sad girl

My head was over my mother’s shoulder. I snuggled into the nape of her neck, my arms and legs wrapped around her like a sloth on a tree, yet my body felt limp. As I entered the house, the warm burst of air hit my face and the star covered sky suddenly didn’t exist anymore. I could nearly taste the salt lingering in the air as I yawned with exhaustion. As my mother carried me away from the aromas I only ever witnessed once a year, I could feel this morning’s eggs and sausages dance in my stomach.

As we continued down the hall I could see the twinkling lights from the corner of my eye, but I quickly turned my head away, making sure I didn’t see anything I shouldn’t. The swirling increased as we neared the door of my sister’s bedroom. It was a yearly ritual that I slept with my sister as company on this night of supposed excitement but this terrified feeling that never left my stomach over-shadowed the anticipation that should have been enticing me to get to sleep quickly.

My breakfast started to dance around my belly as the thought of HIM entered my mind. Jumping up and down and hopping left to right, just like an Irish dancer was springing around covering the entire area of my stomach in a matter of seconds, leaping as high as they possibly could. My thoughts were as active as my eggs and sausages.

What if he saw me? He wouldn’t like me! He wouldn’t leave any presents!

What if he used his magic to kill me? Because I saw him! He doesn’t want people to see him.

What if I wake up too soon?


All of a sudden my thoughts flowed out of my mouth in the form of ground up eggs and sausages. My body went rigid. The vomit streamed down the back of my mother’s favourite purple and black blouse. Water gushed out of my eye sockets as my mother tried to calm me down by kissing my forehead and saying “it’s ok”.

She slowly lay me down on my sister’s double bed. I could see the light flashing off the computer which seemed to relax me. My weeping started to ease and my breathing slowed to its normal rate. Mother’s smile suddenly gloomed over me. With her old Mayo jersey on she picked me up and changed me into my winnie the pooh pyjamas. She tucked me in beside my sister who wasn’t too happy to share her bed. She was angry enough already that the computer had to be in her room (there’s never room for it in our sitting room when the Christmas tree goes up).

Gradually, my sore red eyes began to close and soon enough I couldn’t even remember the worries that made me feel so anxious because I knew, by the time my eyes opened again, Santa Claus would have already visited.


Features of Effective Speech-Writing

For Danielle and all my wonderful fifth years, as requested. Should help you with your comprehension question “Identify and comment on four features of effective speech writing“! Remember to

  • Identify the technique – include quotes / examples
  • Comment on the effect of this technique on you – how it makes you feel, what image it creates in your mind, what it makes you think, how it changes your perception and gives you a new way of looking at the issue.


  1. Welcome the audience
  2. Introduce yourself (unless you’re really really famous!)
  3. Use informal language & slang (depends on context / audience)
  4. Involve the audience (personal pronouns / ask questions / interactive)
  5. Use humour
  6. Mention celebrities & cartoon characters
  7. Include pauses & gestures
  8. Facts & statistics
  9. Varied sentence length
  11. Personal Anecdotes
  12. Strong opinions expressed – backed up with relevant and logical examples.
  13. Metaphors
  14. Rhetorical Questions
  15. Repetition of key phrases (or plant and pay-off)
  16. Lists
  17. Proper nouns
  18. Urgent references to time
  19. Contrast
  20. Emotive language / Sensationalism / Dramatics
  21. Hyperbole
  22. Vivid feckin imagery!
  23. Thank the audience at the end.

If you want a more detailed discussion of the general effect of individual techniques, look here but remember, when you discuss the effectiveness of a technique in a text, you MUST make your answer zoom in on how the technique works in this SPECIFIC EXAMPLE, not in general.

The Magic of Books

Here’s an essay written by one of my Junior Cert students for her mock on the topic “The Magic & Wonder of Books”. She thinks it makes her sound like a complete nerd but I think it’s lovely. Anyway, she’s actually got quite a bit of cred around here so I won’t oust her and her secret book obsession by naming her…


Reading a book is magical because it allows you to escape to the world of the book and away from the real world. I’m not the usual teenager; I don’t walk around like a zombie glued to the screen of my tablet, phone or iPod. I walk around like a zombie with my head stuck in a book, completely & totally immersed in the world of the book. My family frequently get mad at me for having to repeat themselves as I don’t hear a word anyone says! Except the characters in my book, of course! Their lives become mine. I remember when I read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” for the first time. I felt like I was there in Narnia following everything that happened as if I was the third daughter of Eve myself. I felt the cold snow and the loud roar of Aslan. That’s why books are so magical and wondrous for me. When I open a book it’s like I have bought an airplane ticket and am about to be flown to a different land.

Books open my mind to different scenarios. In books, anything can happen. Authors like Jacqueline Wilson introduce us to scenarios so many teenage girls face; the death of loved ones, bullying, emmigration – scenarios that wouldn’t cross my mind normally unless I was the victim of these tragedies. Yet when I read about them I feel the upset and the pain of the characters, or their delight and relief, as if it was me and I was dealing with these situations. It’s as if I magically transform into someone different, and live their lives with them as I read. When characters encounter difficulties, I don’t just imagine  what I would do, but I also connect with them as if the characters were my friends.

Books also allow you to see things from the point of view of a person you aren’t and might never be, like a model, princess or millionaire. They take you away from a life where money might be tight to one where it might as well fall from the skies like drops of golden sunshine; they transport you to lives filled with balls, photoshoots and dinner parties, not exams, study, chores and saving money. The magic and wonder of books is extraordinary as you can go from bored and stressed to excited in an instant, losing yourself in a red carpet event with papparazzi shouting your name!

Books can enchant you, educate you and change your opinions and can have as much of an effect on you as a real life experience. Before reading “The Hunger Games“, I didn’t understand the issue of inequality. I knew it wasn’t pleasant but I didn’t understand the extent to which it can destroy lives. Yes, “The Hunger Games” is fictional, yes it is not very realistic in this day and age that 24 people would be put into an arena to fight for their lives. But strip it all back and it comes down to one thing. The “Capital”/Government and the rich having control over the lives of the poor. Surely this is exactly what is happening in our world right now? It only took reading a fictional book to make me understand the inequality that exists in our world today and to change my view of myself, suddenly seeing how privileged I really am. It only took one book to do that. Just one book! And if that doesn’t show the magic and wonder of books then I honestly don’t know what magic is anymore.

I’ve been reading as far back as I can remember. Books were part of my growing up and taught me things that my parents, siblings, friends and teachers couldn’t teach me. They have helped me to escape from tough times to worlds of magic. Yes, not all the books I’ve read have been wonderful and magical but there is still a lesson to be learnt from every one. Books helped me through my beginning years at secondary school when I wanted to have time alone to escape from exams, stress, fights etc. All I had to do was open a book and I would be absorbed into it and forget everything else.

I think every parent should encourage their kids to read from an early age. Reading has so many benefits.  It develops your imagination, increases your vocabulary and allows you to encounter mysteries far beyond your daily experiences. The magic and wonder of books is one of the most powerful forces in my world. Ultimately it comes down to this: I would not be the same person if I had never picked up a book!


Guerrilla Advertising

Wikipedia guerrilla marketing1

I only remembered at lunch time yesterday that WBD was less than 24 hours away! So I was really impressed that it only took 20 minutes sitting on the floor outside my classroom with a couple of my Junior Certs & voilá – we planned a promo ; swore a solemn oath of secrecy; made a shopping list (blue tack, string, balloons, markers, bed sheet) & we were ready! Here’s the video of our escapades from earlier today:

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This all tied in very neatly with what we’d been covering in class recently:

Media Studies

It also led to me discussing, on a completely impromptu basis (because of the buzz our event created) the basics of guerrilla marketing campaigns with several of my classes today. Here’s what we came up with as a guide to created a successful campaign:


  1. Secrecy – the element of surprise if crucial. Whatever you plan, it’s vital that no-one suspects anything.
  2. Unexpected event – try to do something new & original so people’s curiosity is piqued.
  3. Unexpected location – choose a public location where random madness is rare: a church, a train station, a hospital, a courthouse – but try not to get arrested!
  4. Rapid – keep it short! Those who are there must feel they were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Those who hear about it afterwards must feel like they missed out!
  5. Planning – if you’re going to appear, do your thang & disappear, all in the space of 7 / 8 minutes, you’d better be sure everything’s ready in advance. As well as our shopping list, we agreed to leave the corridor untouched until after the 10.35 class began, then we transformed it so that when students emerged from neighbouring classrooms at 11.15, their environment had transformed utterly. Our lovely caretaker Mark also brought along a ladder & hung the balloons from the ceiling so we had no health & safety concerns to deal with!
  6. Message – there’s no point in having a memorable event, if nobody remembers what the event was promoting. Sticking the World Book Day vouchers – hundreds of them – on the walls made delivering our message pretty easy. Signs, posters, leaflets or props are a must.
  7. Respect – originally we discussed walking the corridors engrossed in a book & deliberately bumping into people, then wishing them a Happy World Book Day & handing them a voucher! However, we quickly decided against this. You don’t want people avoiding your event, you want them flocking towards it, but this must be a choice they want to make, so invading their personal space is a bad idea…
  8. Film It – the whole idea is to create a novel experience that people want to photograph / film and share on social media. This way you can reach thousands more, not just those who happened to be there! However, the video you create will probably be more professional & cover more camera angles than snippets of videos created by on-lookers so make it your priority to film from a few different angles. I was sorry afterwards we hadn’t gotten better reaction shots as people came in but without a zoom on our flip cams, there wasn’t a lot we could do! I blame our crappy equipment 😉 I was also sorry we hadn’t gotten an establishing shot of the corridor as it is normally so that you had a “before” and “after” effect. The better the video (content, originality, relevance to your life, and particularly if it’s funny!!!) the more likely it will be shared. The more it’s shared the more views it gets and the more successful your campaign has been.

As an aside, guerrilla marketing came up on the 2013 Junior Cert English Paper 1, in the media studies section.

Wikipedia Guerrilla Marketing2


Leaving Cert students were asked to write out the text to accompany an ad for a house as a QB in 2003 so there’s every chance something like this could come up in the exam. Plus, when you’re settled into college next year & you’ve got a part time job in promotions working for the Students Union Ents Crew, this might come in very useful indeed 😉

ABCs of Bullying

A student of mine, who would prefer to remain anonymous, wrote this wonderful essay on bullying as a follow up to our school’s anti-bullying week and has kindly given me permission to publish it here. I feel it deserves to be read by a wider audience than me…

Letter z

The ABC of Bullying


In every year group there is a girl just like the letter ‘Z’. Last in the ranking, no support behind her, often forgotten about.  ‘Z’ did not choose this life for herself. It almost just happened automatically, like nature. At the end of the day, if everyone is popular then nobody is popular.

In the beginning, ‘Z’ is her own worst enemy. Last on the list of 26 letters, she often feels lonely and out of the loop. Looking around my year group today, I can pick out quite a few ‘Z’s’. Easy targets. Insecure. Nobodies.

I can only imagine to a bully, they stick out like a sore thumb. A bully, someone deeply insecure in themselves, can easily sniff out other damaged souls of its kind. Do I feel sorry for the bully? The answer is yes, I completely do. I ask myself the question, is a bully a murderer or a mountain lion? Both kill, however one does it out of evil, the other does it to survive. I have always been of the opinion that the bully is the one who needs human help. The one who, similar to the victim, needs support.

“If a man cannot understand the beauty of life, it is probably because life never understood the beauty in him “

– Anonymous

Sometimes it is hard to believe the bully has no support. They come across so superior and confident. But on deeper observation they too are often missing some form of family/friendship back-up. They may belong to a tight group of friends, yet still not feel secure.

‘A’ is confident and popular. Leader of an elite group, the vowels. ‘A, E, I, O& U’ call the shots. If you are not in with them, you probably don’t exist. What proper word doesn’t have a vowel in it? Dominators of the English language, they have the power. ‘A’ knows all the letters in the Alphabet very well. However, she never really bothers with ‘Z’. She finds ‘Z’ to be boring, weird and ugly. “Not even symmetrical!

‘A’ knows ‘Z’ is unpopular. She knows ‘Z’ holds very few pages in the dictionary. She just excludes her.

In today’s world, this behaviour is rampant. I see it every day. Nobody wants to be seen or associated with someone classed as ‘unpopular’. At this age in school, everything revolves around your social standing. And in an all-girls school, it is very important to have a boyfriend. If you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.

So where is ‘Z’ in all of this? So far we have established ‘Z’ is lonely, unsupported and insecure. Not popular, and with very few pages in the dictionary. Insignificant. The perfect victim.

‘A’ on the other hand, acts the complete opposite way. However, always being the centre of attention, she feels used and abused. She is fed up, but she wears the best disguise. ‘A’ really feels like ‘a’. She is about to snap.

It takes two to tango. ’A’ and ‘Z’ are a match made in heaven. It doesn’t take long for ‘A’ to unleash her pain and anger on ‘Z’. It doesn’t take long for ‘Z’ to let her away with this. And this is where the vicious cycle starts. Neither party really knows what they are doing, neither party knows how to escape.

So where am I in this equation of bullying?

I see myself as the letter ‘M’. Smack bang in the middle. Ordinary. Symmetrical. Safe. Neither a full bully, neither a full victim. Have I done some terribly cruel things to other humans during my short time on this planet? Yes, and I am forever ashamed of them, but haven’t we all at some point in our lives? However, since coming into secondary school, I have grown a lot.  I would like to think I know the difference between right and wrong, but is this enough?

Today, I know I could do a lot more for the ‘Z’s’ of my class. I know they are there yet I don’t do anything to help them. Being honest, I classify myself worse than a bully. Me being the letter ‘M’ means I have support all around. I have the ability to see both sides of the story and make the right decision. I have the ability to help. I have the ability to stop bullying!

Knowing what is right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right

-Theodore Roosevelt

I have learnt a lot from this year’s anti-bullying week.

Now I know my ‘ABCs’, it’s time for me to start helping all those ‘Z’s’.