English is a compulsory subject and 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.
Areas covered during the Junior Cycle include creative and functional writing, media studies, fiction, drama, poetry, 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 two Classroom-Based Assessments in English. They 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. Following the second of these assessments, students, in Year Three, complete an Assessment Task which is sent to the State Examinations Commission, with the final examination script for that subject, for marking.
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, using 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 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 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 creators of texts by compiling a collection of their texts in a variety of genres. The knowledge and skills developed by students during this Classroom-Based Assessment emerge from their growing awareness of the process of writing.
The Assessment Task comprimses of some or all of the following;Engagement with a short stimulus in written, audio, audio-visual or multi-modal format to prepare for the written task.A written task that tests the students in one or more of their ability to outline &/or discuss their experience of compiling The Collection of the Student’s Texts, their understanding & evaluation of that experience and their capacity to demonstrate and reflect on the skills 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. TY attended a performance of 'The Father' in the Gate Theatre, Dublin. They staged performances of their own in February including a variety of comic sketches and a comic play.
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.
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.