English is a compulsory subject which is studied at Junior and Senior Cycle, with many students receiving extra tuition and guidance from the Learning Support Team. During Junior Cycle and Transition Year, classes are grouped according to the principle of mixed ability. Students are streamed at the beginning of fifth year and grouped according to ability. Concurrent senior classes are timetabled in order to allow greater opportunities for shared activities and the sharing of ideas and resources among teachers. The English Department houses its own syllabi, videos, DVDs, material from the Department of Education and Skills, in-service resources etc.
A number of formal and informal meetings were held throughout the year in order to choose texts, organise trips, plan and review work and progress, and to examine the report by the Department of Education and Skills. As a department, we are extremely encouraged by the overall standard of results and the large number of students taking Higher Level English. While our long term plan is in accordance with the guidelines set down by the Department of Education and Skills, we are pleased that time is made available to revise and develop our own English Policy/Subject Plan and to allow for ongoing research and reviews.
Areas covered during the Junior Cycle include creative and functional writing, media studies, fiction, drama, poetry, film studies, debating, project work, comprehension and response to previously unseen texts.First and Second Year students also participate in the DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) Programme. This initiative is in line with the DES Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. One class period per week is dedicated to this programme, which not only encourages independent reading but also increases the average reading age of the students.
At Junior Cycle, the English Department has continued the rollout of the JCPA - Junior Certificate Profile of Achievement. There are also two Classroom-Based Assessments in English which relate to specified learning outcomes, and are scheduled to be undertaken by students in a defined time period within class contact time to a national timetable (as advised by the NCCA) in the school calendar. The breakdown of each task is as follows:
The first CBA is entitled "Oral Communication." Students are given an opportunity to choose a topic or issue that is of interest or importance to them and to carry out an exploration over time. The development of basic research skills will be central here, e.g. searching for information, reading and note-making, organising material, forming key questions to give shape to ideas, developing a point of view, preparing a presentation, using props, hand-outs etc. This task provides useful opportunities for the practice of a range of oral presentation styles. In addition, the task offers students opportunities, where appropriate, to collaborate with classmates and others in gathering and developing materials, leading to the Oral Communication for summative assessment.
The second CBA is entitled "The collection of student texts." Creative writing is a vital part of English, but students are not ‘born’ writers. They need to develop a voice and an identity, a good sense of audience, and an awareness of the process of writing – making notes from their reading and personal experience, trying things out, revising, and polishing material for ‘publication’. This is best done over time, with supportive feedback and scaffolding from the teacher. This assessment offers students a chance to celebrate their achievements as creators of texts by compiling a collection of their texts in a variety of genres over time and choosing a number of pieces to present for assessment.
Students undertake a written Assessment Task to be submitted to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for marking as part of the state-certified examination for English. The Assessment Task is based on the principal objective of The Collection of the Student’s Texts, which offers students a chance to celebrate their achievements as the creators of texts through compiling a collection of their texts in a variety of genres. The knowledge and skills developed by students during this Classroom-Based Assessment emerges from their growing awareness of the process of writing.
The Assessment Task is composed of engagement with a short stimulus in written, audio, audio-visual or multi-modal format in order to prepare for the written task. This written task assesses the students ability to outline and/or discuss their experience of compiling The Collection of the Student’s Texts, their understanding and evaluation of that experience, and their capacity to demonstrate and reflect upon the skills which they have developed.
In Transition Year the objective is to afford students the opportunity to develop a more personal appreciation of English language and literature. Focus is maintained on reading, writing, and the study of drama, fiction and poetry. Some areas covered this year included review writing, letter writing, debating, improvised drama, film studies and creative writing.
During Senior Cycle, students concentrate on comparative studies, poetry, language genres and in-depth study of a single text. Pupils' work and progress is assessed through the setting and correction of homework, project work and ongoing class tests. House exams are taken at Christmas by all. In May, exams are taken by those not sitting state exams. These are set and marked by class teachers. All Third and Sixth Year students sat their “mock” exams in February and most found the experience beneficial.
Many competitions were held at class level throughout the year: quizzes, poetry writing, book reviews and creative writing and entries presented in the form of posters, newspapers, advertisements and wall charts were displayed at the school's Open Night. During term time students' projects, reviews, poetry and media displays are exhibited in classrooms to acknowledge and celebrate their progress and creativity.
Core texts studied this year included:
First Years: Skellig, Wonder, Girl Missing, Spirals
Second & Third Years: Crescents, Blood Brothers, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, Stone Cold, Trash, The Weight of Water, Son of Rambow, E.T
Transition Year: A Monster Calls, Foster, Whiplash, Rubicon.
Fifth Year: Othello, This is Poetry, Rosie, Miss Emily.
Sixth Year: The Tempest, Pride, The Spinning Heart, By The Bog of Cats, Room, This is Poetry, Excellence in English.