Tag Archives: junior

Romeo & Juliet

Here’s a summary of the play in simple English with most of the relevant quotes.

Click to download: Romeo and Juliet.pdf

Remember the type of questions you’ll be asked:

  1. A central character (a winner or a loser, lucky or unlucky, your favourite character)
  2. The relationship between two characters (they might specify – a tense/conflicted/loving/close/important relationship)
  3. Character profiles & an introduction to the play (focusing on the main theme) for the programme.
  4. Discuss the main theme/message of the play (2006 they specified one of these 4 themes: love/death/conflict/harmony) and show how this is relevant to your own life.
  5. Describe the world of the play & discuss whether you would/would not like to live in this society.
  6. Would you recommend this play? (plot, setting, themes, characterisation, style of writing, opening & ending)
  7. A scene from the play – one filled with conflict or the most dramatic/memorable/tense/atmospheric/happy/sad/funny/tragic and discuss how this mood/feeling is created.
  8. Describe how you would produce a scene from the play you have studied.
  9. The opening scene or the final scene(s)  – their impact on the audience & on you personally.

Never ever write a summary of the story, that’s not what they’re looking for. Knowing the story is the first step for you which is why I’ve written this summary but you must look at individual aspects – characters, themes, dramatic scenes – for answering exam questions.

Best of luck!

Poetry vs. Song Lyrics

Once upon a time, long long ago, a song and a poem were published side by side on the Junior Cert exam paper, unseen poetry section. Students were asked to discuss the difference between the style of writing in songs and poems. I stumbled across this question in my first year of teaching and thought it was incredibly  unfair to ask something so difficult of 15yr olds. I fancied myself as a singer-songwriter when I was a teenager and as an adult had dabbled in writing poetry but I still had to think long and hard to verbalise the difference between the two. I knew the difference but found it hard to put it into words. In the end I decided the best way to become fully conscious of the differences was to change a poem into a song and then look at how the language changed.

So here’s the poem we chose:

Funeral Blues
W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.


Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,

Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.


He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,

I thought that love would last forever: ‘I was wrong’


The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

We decided that a song would need simpler imagery, everyday slang /direct speech, repetition of key ideas for the chorus, short snappy phrases to create a regular beat/rhythm, end-rhyme, and a bridge before the second chorus. With the help of a rhyming dictionary we butchered it, removed the essence (and lost the beauty). Here’s what we came up with:

Funeral Blues Song Lyrics

All of this noise keeps dragging me down to a place I cannot go,

All of these noises echo in the emptiness of my soul,

Clocks ticking. Phones ringing. Heart beating but I feel so low,

See his face when I close my eyes but then I realise

He ain’t never comin’ home


I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong, I was wrong.

I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong, I was wrong.

I put my faith in love but I was so naive

Now he is dead and gone and I can only grieve,

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.


Everyone’s life keeps trundling on but I’m here frozen in the street,

You gave me direction, without you I’m lost & lonely & incomplete

The stars burn out. The sun fades out. Oceans weep from my swollen eyes.

Try to find some will to fight on but then I realise

He ain’t ever comin home.


And nothing now can ever come to any good.

And nothing now can ever come to any good.

I trusted in forever – I misunderstood

And nothing now can ever come to any good.


I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong, I was wrong.

I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong, I was wrong.

I put my faith in love but I was so naive

Now he is dead and gone and I can only grieve,

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.


I think the comparison illustrates the difference well but something (a lot in fact) does get lost in translation. The sheer force of Auden’s pain is brilliantly captured in the final verse where he imagines the entire universe as a empty house to be abandoned and left behind “pour away the oceans and sweep up the woods” now that his lover is gone. I think a better songwriter than me might be able to keep the beauty of that imagery and still create a catchy love song/lament. I also think that the impact of the desolate final line is lost if you keep repeating it over and over. It’s much more effective to just hear it once and let the sadness sink into your bones.

Sample newspaper article



Victory seemed unlikely. Mount Saint Michael were two sets down and St. Leo’s certainly had the upper hand in the third set, dominating 9 points to 2. Each time St. Leo’s scored, they pounded the ground in unison, further intimidating an already shaky Claremorris team. So how, in these circumstances, did they snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat?

The first set seemed to suggest two teams who were equally matched. Michael’s fought point for point against a Leo’s team whose defence was almost impenetrable, yet Edel Nolan managed to hit home some impressive spikes. However, as the set drew to a close, they found themselves unable to finish the job and St Leo’s stormed into the second set with a 25-22 win in the first set under their belt.

This is where it all went wrong for Claremorris. Having lost the first set, their nerves took over and their difficulty settling into the match was evident in a plethora of unforced errors, despite excellent positioning by Nikki Hanley and impact substitutions by Lisa McGreal and Jackie Prendergast. They lost the second set 25-19 and hope began to fade for their 200+ supporters.

The third set began in similar fashion but sensing that they now had nothing to lose – except of course the All-Ireland Title – the team lifted their game tremendously, aided by the now deafening cries of their desperate supporters, led by Lisa Brett and Chloe Hughes. Strategic use of time outs by coach Fionnghuala King saw the girls finally settle into the match. She no doubt reminded them of their team mantra – no matter how badly things seem to be going ‘don’t lose your marbles’. Stephanie Mellet had a great run of serves and made a stunning save at this crucial point in the set. Aisling Croghan made some unbelievable hits from the wings and Edel Nolan shone as the driving force behind Mount St Michael’s incredible comeback. They won the third set 25-16 and St Leo’s game began to fall apart.

A fear of losing now defined their play, and they frequently only used two of their three hits, eager to simply get the ball across the net. Meanwhile, Claremorris grew in confidence, scoring a resounding victory in the fourth set 25-13.

As it finally dawned that Claremorris could actually win this match, the excitement and tension in the arena reached fever pitch, and the daddies on the sideline (Gerry Croghan & Con Nolan) riled up the crowd, ably assisted by vice-principal Margaret Burke. However, St Leo’s finally realised that it was still all to play for and once again their defence, led by Sinead Ruth, became near-impossible to break down. Edel Nolan made three excellent spikes in a row only to find each and every one returned. Long rallies defined the 5th and final set (first to 15 points but the team must win by 2 points) and every time Claremorris inched ahead St Leo’s reeled them in again. Finally, however, they reached 14 – 13 and faced their first match point. Sinead Croghan, whose strength was such a defining feature of her play up to this point, unfortunately hit the serve long and it was back to stalemate. Two more match points followed, but Mount St Michael couldn’t seem to finish Leo’s off. At last, with 2 sets all and 17-16 on the scoreboard, Nikki Hanley served, raced forward to set the ball and Edel Nolan spiked the girls to the sweetest victory of their lives. No wonder, then, she was named Most Valuable Player of the match.

Final score = St Leo’s v’s Mount Saint Michael

25-22, 25-19, 16-25, 13-25, 16-18

Coach: Ms Fionnghuala King

Team: Aisling Croghan (captain)

Sinead Croghan

Edel Nolan (MVP)

Nikki Hanley

April Higgins

Stephanie Mellet

Stephanie Delaney

Jackie Prendergast

Lisa McGreal

Rebecca Kearns

Grainne McNieve

Katie McCormack


You may be asked to write a review of a

ONE: storytelling

  • book you have read
  • film you have seen
  • tv show

TWO: music

  • CD or iTunes album you have listened to
  • concert you’ve attended
  • theatre performance (play, ballet, stand-up comedy) you’ve attended

THREE: games

  • video game you have played
  • app you’ve downloaded
  • board game

FOUR: devices

  • mobile phone
  • mp3 player
  • games console
  • e-book reader

FIVE: places

  • restaurant / cafe
  • hotel
  • travel company
  • shop / chain of shops / online shop

So what do you do?

  1. Introduce – begin with a dramatic statement. Never begin a review by telling the reader that you are writing a review. They already know that and will think you are very stupid for stating the obvious (“I am writing a review of…”  blah blah blah yawn). Instead try this: “The eagerly anticipated sequel to the best-selling [name of book/CD/film/video game] is finally here and let me tell you it does not disappoint“.  Or this: “Let me offer you fair warning dear readers –  [name of book/CD/film/video game] offers a dark, intense, disturbing glimpse of the human condition“. Or this: “Critics will love [name of book/CD/film/video game] but the public won’t be impressed. Let me tell you why…
  2. Details – but no plot spoilers! don’t tell the entire story or give away every detail of the book/CD/game/performance. If the thing you’re reviewing is any good, you want to make the reader curious enough to buy the book/CD/game or go to the performance to see it for themselves. They won’t still be curious if you tell them everything. The amount of time given to plot/individual songs etc.. varies widely from review to review.  You might mention basic plot outline, recurring themes, use of symbolism, feelings evoked in the audience/reader/listener/gamer.
  3. Evaluation – what works, what doesn’t and why! Remember you must give concrete reasons WHY you liked or disliked the book/ CD/ game/ performance. Avoid generalisations like “the story/music/game was very moving“. Instead be more specific “the scene/song where Amos loses the only friend he has left in the world is enough to move even the hardest teenage heart to tears. Thank God the room’s in darkness, eh?“.
  4. Recommendation –  who should buy/see this book / CD / game / concert /performance and why? Keep this bit of your review short and sweet. Is this thing worth buying/seeing? (Sum up why). For everyone or just a select target audience?

FILM REVIEW – checklist

Name of film, release date, age rating, director, cast (actors & actresses), screenwriters, running time, plot, characters, dialogue, cinematography, sets/locations, special effects & CGI, genre, soundtrack, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/shocking/sad? – but don’t give the ending away), background info (other films in this franchise/ by this director/ this film remind you of).

Phrases for film reviews =

Characters: well-developed, believable, likeable, flawed, endearing, unconvincing, one dimensional, protagonist, antagonist, villain, hero, heroine, gangster, psycho, love-interest etc…

Genre:  Fairy-tale romance, action-packed thriller, edge-of-your-seat terror/horror, gross-out comedy, period drama, kids animation with an adult sense of humour, sci-fi adventure, summer blockbuster, monster movie etc…

Plot: laugh out loud funny, full of in your face violence,  suspense, familiar scenes of family life, car chases, gags, engrossing, gripping, emotionally engaging, soppy and melodramatic, pretentious, moves quickly to a breathtaking conclusion, loses its way at times, crams too much into the final half hour, grips from the first second, is convoluted and difficult to follow, is predictable and lacklustre, is slow moving but intense, offers a fantastic psychological roller-coaster of emotions, climax is satisfying/ unexpected/ predictable/ disappointing/ uplifting/ depressing/ shocking/ memorable/ creepy/ terrifying/ charming.

If like me you love movies, check out Mark Kermode’s film reviews on his podcast or go to http://www.empireonline.com/

MUSIC REVIEW – checklist

Number of tracks, sequence of tracks, genre (hip-hop, dance, reggae, jazz etc), pace/speed of songs, other albums by this band, lyrics, themes, emotions, vocals, harmonies, instruments – guitar solos, drumming, orchestral accompaniment, quotes from lead singer, background to the albums release, comparison to other similar bands/singers.

To read music and concert reviews &  get a sense of what is expected look at: http://www.hotpress.com



VIDEO GAME REVIEW -checklist???

I confess to having zero interest in gaming so I might have to get one of my mates to come up with a checklist for what goes into a game review. In the meantime check out Ben Croshaw’s zeropunctuation for some hilariously entertaining reviews.

BOOK REVIEWS – checklist

Author biography, previous books published, genre, plot, characterisation, style of writing, quotes from author interview, nominations for awards, target audience, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/shocking/sad? – but don’t give the ending away).

Check out the book reviews in The Guardian.


Acting, blocking (movement on stage), body language/gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, costume, props, set design & setting, sound effects, music, lighting, plot, themes, emotions, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/ shocking/ sad? – but don’t give the ending away), quotes from director and actors/actresses.

Check out theatre reviews in the Irish Theatre magazine or in The Guardian.


Junior Cert English 1

Here’s an overview of the different sections on Paper 1 and links to the relevant sections on this site that you might find useful.

Paper 1

Section 1: Reading Comprehension – HALF AN HOUR – 40 marks

Most of the advice for answering comprehensions is the same as for Leaving Cert but you only have half an hour so the questions are easier and your answers can be shorter and less detailed. They tend to ask one style question.

Section 2: Personal Writing – 1 HOUR – 70 marks – choice of 7 or 8 titles

Most of the advice is the same for essay writing and for specific styles such as short stories, personal essays, speeches, articles, dialogues and diary entries.

However, in the leaving cert they will tell you what style to write in, whereas in the Junior Cert it says at the top of the page “Except where otherwise stated, you are free to write in any form you wish e.g. narrative, descriptive, dramatic, short story” (as if ‘dramatic’ is a style! who sets this paper?)

Section 3: Functional writing – HALF AN HOUR – 30 marks

The range of questions they can ask is huge. Generally speaking you are using formal, informative language but not always. Don’t freak out if you think you couldn’t do some of the tasks below – you always have a choice in the exam.

Questions have included asking you to write a

Section 4: Media studies – HALF AN HOUR – 40 marks

Again the range of questions is quite broad. You can be asked to discuss

  • an ad (target market/audience, visuals, effectiveness, compare ads)
  • a magazine (contents page – layout)
  • an editorial
  • a review
  • posters
  • cartoons
  • media (radio, television, newspapers, internet) as a force for changing people’s opinions
  • talk-radio (type of show that appeals to teenagers / difference between local & national radio)
  • television (watershed & classification of programmes, difference between radio & television, advantages & disadvantages)
  • newspapers (broadsheets v’s tabloids, layout of front page)
  • a news story (newsworthiness)
  • news sources – newspapers, radio, television, internet (effectiveness to deliver info and to promote products/services)
  • designer labels

Or to write a