Irish is a compulsory, core subject which is taken at both Junior and Senior levels. There are five class periods allocated to the teaching of the subject per week. In addition to this, a positive attitude to the language and its usage is actively encouraged in the daily school environment. All first, second and third year classes are mixed ability. Senior classes run concurrently to facilitate movement between levels.
Junior and Leaving Certificate follow the syllabi as prescribed by the Department of Education and Skills. It is aimed at developing the four key language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Particular emphasis is placed upon the spoken aspect of the language as marks for this are 40% in the Leaving Certificate examination. We have introduced the new junior cycle specification for Irish with our first year group. They are following the new course, and will have two classroom based assessments (CBA's) and one assessment task (AT) in second and third year.
In the first CBA, students create a Language portfolio with samples of their work. The language portfolio focuses on the language learning process and places the student and their learning journey at the centre of teaching, learning, and assessment. This gives students an opportunity to set personal learning goals, showcase their work, reflect on the work, and observe progress. The portfolio may include a range of student-created texts, e.g. projects, learning logs, creative pieces (poems/songs etc. created by the student) reflective pieces, recorded material (audio-visual and visual), texts, presentations completed etc.
The second CBA, the Communicative task, gives students the opportunity to choose a subject, topic or issue in which they are interested or is important to them, and explore it over a period of time. In this task, strong emphasis is placed on the student’s oral and interactive skills and on their connection to other language users. In completing the task, students may use any one of the following formats: presentation, interview, role play, drama or conversation in response to stimulus material. Students may work individually, in pairs or in groups. However, where students have collaborated to complete the activity, the teacher should ensure that each student makes a meaningful individual contribution.
The students are given an opportunity to
- communicate and cooperate through Irish by interacting with their classmates, with the teacher and the language community
- enhance language skills
- develop general skills (researching, time management, self-management, working with others, etc.)
- assume ownership of learning
- enjoy the language.
Students may use literary texts from the literature list for second/third year as a stimulus for the topic/subject for this task.
On completion of the Classroom-Based Assessments, students will undertake an Assessment Task. This Assessment Task will be completed after the second Classroom-Based Assessment and is marked by the State Examinations Commission.
The Assessment Task will encompass some or all of the following elements:
- students’ ability to evaluate new knowledge or understanding that has emerged through their experience of the Classroom-Based Assessment
- students’ capacity to reflect on the skills they have developed, and to apply them to unfamiliar situations
- students’ ability to reflect on how their value system has been influenced through the experience of the Classroom-Based Assessment.
As a department, we chose to undertake the optional oral exam at Junior Certificate level. This affords students the opportunity to gain confidence in preparation and experience for the Leaving Certificate oral which now follows a similar format. This opportunity is not given to students in all other schools. This optional oral examination comprises of 40% of the overall grade at Junior Certificate and it was felt by the department that it would greatly help students and provide an advantageous basis for their Leaving Certificate examination.
The Irish department adopted the new approach to language teaching as recommended internationally, 'An Cur Chuige Teámach'. This involves contextualising the content taught by placing it within the daily sphere of the student. It is also the policy of the department to use authentic resources where possible.