All posts by Miss Ryan

John Keats HL 2009

Here’s a look at how to handle a Keats poetry exam question. You can see a model introduction and then some broad tips on how to plan the essay. A plan is just the bones – some flesh will be added in the next day or two.

LC HL 2009

Keats presents abstract ideas in a style that is clear and direct. Do you agree….

From my study of the poetry of John Keats, I am not surprised that many call him the finest English poet of the Romantic period. In many ways, his work is typical of his era. His themes reflect his deepest beliefs about what was important to him in life. Imagination, nature, strong emotions, love, death, transience, immortality are among the many abstract ideas with which his poetry is concerned. The manner in which Keats writes is often clear and direct as he creates verbal music in his sound effects, sensuous imagery that is tactile and aural. However, there are often times when his style can be challenging such as his use of paradoxes and antithesis to explore his themes. Therefore, I agree with this view of Keats’ work to a large but not full extent.

Now, you can approach this essay in one of two ways:

  1. Poem by poem:

Go through 4/5 of the six studied poems – one par or two paragraphs for each poem. As you discuss each poem – refer to one or two of the different abstract ideas mentioned in the intro and show how the style is clear / direct or not. If you are discussing one poem in each paragraph, make sure you link to another poem (perhaps the 6th poem, not being assigned its own paragraph) by way of a quote that shows a similar or different view/use of the theme/style being discussed. As always use words that show your personal response eg I was impressed with, I was challenged by, I enjoyed, I have often/never felt the same way about… I was pushed out of my comfort zone when studying… Keats’ use of x is striking… and so on.

  1. Theme by theme (or aspect of style by aspect of style):

Choose a different abstract idea according to the ones listed in the intro for each different paragraph. As you discuss each theme, refer to two or more poems that deal with it. Also show how Keats explores the idea – his style and comment on its clarity and directness (as the question requires). Again, include a personal element. As always keep the focus on the exact terms (or synonyms) of the question.

What is ultimately expected is that you show you know and understand Keats’ poetry thoroughly; and that you have thought about it and formed an opinion that you can justify and defend. Furthermore, you are being tested on how well you can interpret a question and apply your knowledge and understanding and opinion to what the question asks of you. (RTFQ and ATFQ J)

Now for two outlines – one following each approach:

  1. Poem by poem outline:

As always have a think about putting your paragraphs in a logical order that will create a flow to your thinking – and try to create smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Intro: (similar to above)

MB 1: Ode to a Nightingale

(Ask yourself: What abstract themes does this poem deal with and are those themes expressed in a clear and direct style?)

Abstract ideas – the imagination, transience, poetry, nature, mortality, death

Style – synaesthesia, sensuous imagery esp smell, allusion, contrast, changing tone

(Now ask yourself: How will I shape these points to suit my paragraph? OR: Which of these points will I use for my paragraph? OR: What will my paragraph topic be in relation to the question asked?)

MB 2: Ode to a Nightingale

Continue with points not used in MB 1.

Contrast this poem’s treatment of nature with its treatment in ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

MB 3: To Autumn

Abstract ideas – beauty of nature v the harsh reality of death (transience, mortality)

Style – rich imagery – tactile, visual, aural; personification of Autumn, contrast, onomatopoeia + alliteration

MB 4: Ode on a Grecian Urn

Abstract ideas – immortality through art, permanence, transience, imagination, love (brief ref to LBDSM’s contrasting treatment of love)

Style – paradoxes + antithesis + ambiguities, contrast, assonance + sibilance

MB 5: To one who has been long in city pent

Abstract ideas – beauty of nature + its restorative powers, appreciation of literature (brief ref to ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer), transience

Style: Changing tone, personification, allusion, alliteration + onomatopoeia

Conc – a crucial paragraph – shorter than main bodies – sum up – recap the main thrust of your essay and if possible leave the reader with a final thought-provoking comment on Keats and your opinion of his work in relation to this question.

  1. Theme by theme outline:

WARNING: Be careful not to repeat aspects of (or the same quotes from) the same poem in different paragraphs.

As always have a think about putting your paragraphs in a logical order that will create a flow to your thinking – and try to create smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Intro: (similar to above)

MB 1: Imagination; style – clear and direct or not

Think about which poems will help you with this – you can use one poem in this par and one poem in the next paragraph but comment on whether they have a similar or different approach.

Ode to a Nightingale

MB 2: Imagination; style – clear and direct or not

A second poem on this theme – Ode on a Grecian Urn

MB 3: Nature; style – clear and direct or not

To Autumn + To one who has been long in city pent + brief link to LBDSM as poem which treats nature differently

MB 4: Immortality / Death + Transience; style – clear and direct or not

Ode to a Nightingale + Ode on a Grecian Urn and To Autumn

MB 5: Love; style – clear and direct or not

LBDSM + Ode on a Grecian Urn

Conc – a crucial paragraph – shorter than main bodies – sum up – recap the main thrust of your essay and if possible leave the reader with a final thought-provoking comment on Keats and your opinion of his work in relation to this question.

More flesh will be added to these over the next day or two – but these pointers should be a good guideline in how to start looking at a Keats question. Happy studying!

King Lear Performance

Cillian, Nick, Michael with Eamonn Owens
Cillian, Nick, Michael with Eamonn Owens

The ‘King Lear’ performance by Sackville Theatre Company today was brilliant. A selection of scenes was acted featuring Lear’s relationship with his daughters and the Fool. The choices and actions of Lear were carefully tracked culminating in his descent into madness. The performers engaged the students with solid performances and thought-provoking interpretations of their characters. One of the highlights of the show was the modern setting of some key elements of the play which featured a family divided over inheritance. This modern family creatively reworded Lear’s ‘Blow winds’ soliloquy into a rap that comically captured many aspects of the tragedy of Lear’s downfall. A thoughtful discussion ensued as the students engaged in a question and answer session with the actors and director. Not only was the morning highly entertaining, but it also served as a way to highlight a reflective analysis of key issues in the tragedy of  ‘King Lear’.

Jack, Cillian, Nick, Michael with the cast and director
Jack, Cillian, Nick, Michael with the cast and director

King Lear Challenge November 2014

Well done to all 5th Year students who took part in the King Lear Challenge on Wednesday 5th November. It was a most enjoyable occasion and the participants performed to an excellent standard. The fifth and third year audience members were highly impressed by the expression and dramatic skills of the ‘actors’. All participants were winners. There were two extremely engaging groups performances: Aaliyah and Britney with their interpretation of Goneril and Regan’s plotting against Lear, and Stephen, Michael, Luke, Jack and Nick’s re-enactment of the mock trial scene. Both groups were excellent. The soliloquies were very ably performed, with two presentations of Edmund’s bastard speech by Aoife and by Junior; two performances of Edgar’s transformation into Tom by Drew and by Simon; and a powerful recital of the Lear’s storm speech by Gavin. This kind of memorisation and personal dramatisation of a moment allows students to become experts in understanding the many facets of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Congratulations to all.

Some of the King Lear Challenge Participants
Some of the King Lear Challenge Participants

King Lear Act 4 Quotes

Have a look at the quotes for Act 4 attached below. Choose one of them or any other important quote from the act and comment on it below.

1. Re-write the quote

2. Put it in context – speaker, what’s going on at that moment

3. Explain the quote

4. Outline its significance in the scene and in the entire play – imagery, theme, character, plot development etc.

5. Give your own personal response to the significance of the quote – the impact it has made on you.

Don’t forget to read the comments of your classmates. Good luck and enjoy.

Act 4 Quotes

King Lear Act 3 Quotes

Many thanks to Aoife and Drew for the great work they did on Act 3 quotes. It is much appreciated.

So it is time now to start commenting on one quote from each of the three acts detailed today. I will extend the deadline to Saturday 8pm. Choose a quote, write it in the comment box and outline the impact it has had on you. As always give some background details and significance too.

Act 3 Quotes

King Lear Act 2 Quotes

Great work done by Saula and Gabriele. Thank you for putting the Act 2 quotes together.

Again 5th years, now you must read the quotes and choose one or part of one that has made an impact on you. rewrite the quote in the comment section, give details of the context and significance and add your own thoughts, opinion, reflections. Act 3 should be up before the end of the day.

Act 2 Quotes

King Lear Act 1 Quotes

Here are the some important quotes from Act 1. Many thanks to Simon and Lydia for their hard work putting these quotes together. Now each student has a task. You must choose one of these quotes, or a portion of one and write the quote into the comments section below, comment on the context – speaker, when, why and to whom s/he speaks and significance of the quote. Please also make sure to add your own personal response to the quote. (Apologies, but it might take me a little longer than planned to compile Acts 2 and 3 from the students who submitted on those acts – but hopefully before the end of the day.) Just click on the link below to access the quotes. Good luck!

Act 1 Quotes

The Speech

An exciting opportunity has been presented to the students of Gormanston. All students are being encouraged to enter ‘The Speech’ Competition. All you have to do is choose a speech from history, literature, TV or movies and record yourself performing it. Post it on Youtube and send the link to the competition organisers. A consent form will need to be signed by your parents before you can enter the competition. Here are more details about the competition:

“The Speech”


“The Speech” was a massive success last year and was reported on both locally and nationally. This year we want to make it bigger and better!

This year we are inviting secondary school students (First to Sixth Years) to submit a video of them delivering their favourite speech– historic, cinematic, from literature – and post it on YouTube and send the link to the organisers. A judging panel of film and oratorical experts will adjudicate the top videos (as decided by Likes on our Facebook page). The winner will receive an incredible state of the art netbook and Matheson “The Speech” Trophy, to be presented to the winner at the Junior Debating National Mace Final.

“What Should My Speech Include?”

Based on the feedback we got from adjudicators over the past two years we have decided to set down a number of requirements:

1. At the start of your speech you should explain why you choose it and why it is an important speech.

2. The Finalists will be judged on the following criteria.

  • The significance of the speech and the reasons given for choosing it.
  • Their delivery of the speech- did you make it your own? Did you engage your audience?
  • Production and presentation of the speech.

Who can enter?

Secondary school students – From first to sixth year.

There will be a Junior and a Senior Category.

How to Enter

Create a video – up to ten minutes in length – of a famous speech. You can use whatever tools you have at your disposal – props, editing software, sound techniques etc.

Upload the video to YouTube including “The Speech” in the title and “Junior Debating National Mace” in the tags.

Once the video is ‘live’ on YouTube, send the link to the organisers so we can put them all up on the facebook page on the same day. You should include your name, school and year.

More Importantly – How to Win!

The top videos chosen from ‘likes’ and the panel’s choice will be shortlisted. These videos will then be judged by film and oratorical experts who will choose the overall winner of a State of the Art NETBOOK!!

There will be a Junior, Senior and overall Winner- all receiving amazing prizes and trophies.


The deadline extends all the way to Friday the 30th of January and all videos will be put up on “The Speech” Facebook page on the same day Sunday the 1st of February.

Then you need to get your friends and family to start liking! Voting closes on Thursday the 12th of February with the shortlist on Friday the 13th of February. Then you have until Friday the 27th of February to re-shoot.


Like all the Junior Debating National Mace Competitions photos will be taken of the finalists and their videos will be available on both social and national media. Photographs and videos will be distributed to local and national media. Photographs and videos will be used for the promotion of the competition on our website, facebook page and by our sponsors Matheson Solicitors. Press releases will be issued and journalists will be invited to attend the grand final. Speeches may be recorded and all finals will be recorded and these will be used for promotion of the competition in the media, the website and social networking sites eg youtube, facebook.

Please note that it is the responsibility of each school to secure permission from parents for student’s participation in all of the above. Where parental permission has not been granted it is the responsibility of the teacher/school (and not the Junior Debating National Mace) to ensure that student does not take part in the above. The Junior Debating National Mace accepts no liability in respect of any claims which may result from the participation of children for whom consent has not been obtained from their respective parents.

Best of luck to all the Gormo students are thinking of entering. Here is a link to the finalists of last year’s competition. For more information see Ms Meighan, Ms Ryan or your English teacher.

Another Challenge from the Vault

Keep reading, enjoy words, make connections, figure out meanings through context, make language your priority.

Here are three more sentences with words missing. As with a previous challenge, simply enter three letters in the comment box, each letter corresponding to the your answer choice for each sentence. The first letter you write is in response to the first sentence and so on. As mentioned before these sentences are taken from this SAT prep website. Don’t forget you can use a dictionary or thesaurus for help. Good luck with this challenge. 🙂 

1. ____ by nature, Jones spoke very little even to his own family members.

A. garrulous
B. equivocal
C. taciturn
D. arrogant
E. gregarious

2. Biological clocks are of such ____ adaptive value to living organisms, that we would expect most organisms to ____ them.

A. clear – avoid
B. meager – evolve
C. significant – eschew
D. obvious – possess
E. ambivalent – develop

3. The peasants were the least ____ of all people, bound by tradition and ____ by superstitions.

A. free – fettered
B. enfranchised – rejected
C. enthralled – tied
D. pinioned – limited
E. conventional – encumbered

Back to the Vault

Let’s have another challenge from the vocabulary vault. This time it’s back to word roots. See how many words you can form from the root ‘voc’. In the comments below do three things – write the meaning of the root, say what language it originates from and then list all the words you can find with this root. You will have to be able to explain the meaning of every word you write. As always, please complete the task before noon on Sunday. Enjoy! Remember: ‘VOC’.