All posts by Miss Ryan

King Lear Challenge November 2014

Wednesday 5th November

Fifth years, the time is here for you to show your talents and your love for Shakespeare. Over the next four weeks start preparing a dramatisation of a key moment in ‘King Lear’. You may work alone or in pairs or small groups. Excellence is the standard. There will be an award for the best soliloquy performance and an award for the best drama performance. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Soliloquy (alone 18 – 22 lines)


Drama (2 – 4 characters about 40 – 50 lines)

You have complete freedom to choose from anywhere in ‘King Lear’ but here are some suggestions:

Suggested soliloquies or speeches:

Act 1.1 Lear – ‘Peace Kent’ speech

Act 1.2 Edmund – ‘Thou, Nature, art my goddess’ speech

Act 1.2 Edmund – ‘This is the excellent foppery of the world’ speech

Act 1.4 Lear’s three tirades against Goneril – choose 22 lines (incorporate natural pauses/breaks)

Act 2.3 Edgar’s soliloquy

Act 2.4 Lear ‘O reason not the need’

And more…

Suggested dramas:

Act 1.1 The love test – Lear, Cordelia, Regan, Goneril ‘Meantime….my sometime daughter’

Act 1.4 Goneril reduces Lear’s train – Lear, Goneril, Fool ‘Enter Goneril….Enter Albany’

(Two long speeches by Goneril – one of them can be read)

Act 1.5 – All – the Fool and Lear

Act 2.1 Edmund and Gloucester ‘Persuade me to the murder of…I’ll work the means to make thee capable.’

Act 2.2 Kent is stocked – Cornwall, Kent, Regan, Gloucester ‘Fetch forth the stocks…A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels.’

Act 2.4 Lear is angry because R and C refuse to see him – Lear, Gloucester (Fool) ‘Deny to speak to me…buttered his hay.’

Act 2.4 R and C finally meet Lear – Regan, Lear ‘I am glad to see your Highness…you taking airs with lameness.’

Act 3.2 Storm – Lear and Fool ‘Blow winds…enter Kent’

Act 3.7 Gloucester’s blindness – Regan, Gloucester, Cornwall, (Servant) ‘Enter Gloucester…Exit one with Gloucester’

And more…

Choose your scene. The ones in bold are particularly dramatic. Start preparing now! Get props and suitable costumes if you can. Work on tone of voice, movement, sound effects. Practice, practice, practice!! Have fun and be experts. Invite your parents to attend if they wish! There will be prizes galore!

Vocabulary Vault: More Treasure

Read, read, read. There is no better way to improve your store of vocabulary. You can also improve by checking out what is revealed on the blog here.

This week there is a different challenge. Below is a list of three sentences, each with a word or two missing. A selection of words is provided for you to choose from and fill in the gaps correctly.The questions are taken from an SAT preparation website. In the comments, all you have to do is write the number of the sentence and beside each number write the letter of what you think is the correct choice. Good luck and use a dictionary or thesaurus if you need to!

As always, the challenge must be completed by Sunday noon. 🙂

1. Today Wegener’s theory is ____; however, he died an outsider treated with ____ by the scientific establishment.

A. unsupported – approval
B. dismissed – contempt
C. accepted – approbation
D. unchallenged – disdain
E. unrivalled – reverence

2. The revolution in art has not lost its steam; it ____ on as fiercely as ever.

A. trudges
B. meanders
C. edges
D. ambles
E. rages

3. Each occupation has its own ____ ; bankers, lawyers and computer professionals, for example, all use among themselves language which outsiders have difficulty following.

A. merits
B. disadvantages
C. rewards
D. jargon
E. problems

Vocabulary Vault: Gem 1

The VaultIt’s the first day when gems and treasures will be released right here (on the Blog) from the boundless Vocabulary Vault. Keep reading all around you to raise your standard and to facilitate your access to and interaction with words.

Today we’ll start with a word root. You will see a word root here and your task is to state the meaning of the root, the language of origin (if you know it) and most importantly as many words that contain that root in some shape or form. You can make your contribution by posting a comment below. You have until noon on Sunday to add your contribution. All comments will be published before class on Monday and we will look at everyone’s contributions in class. So put your verbal skills to the test and add as many words as you can that contain the root ‘rupt’. Good luck!rupt2

Poetry Aloud 2014

It’s time to start memorising and practising the effective recital of poetry. Here are the details of what’s required if you wish to enter this worthy and rewarding competition:

Two poems to be spoken by each student – one chosen by student from the prescribed anthologies and one poem prescribed for their category.


The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney & Ted Hughes (Faber & Faber, 1982)

Lifelines: Letters from Famous People About Their Favourite Poem edited by Niall McGonagle (any edition)

Something Beginning with P edited by Seamus Cashman (O’Brien Press) 


Junior: 1st and 2nd Years

Your chosen poem – not less than 14 lines (not more than 35-40)

Prescribed poem – TBC

Intermediate: 3rd and 4th Years

Your chosen poem – not less than 18 lines (not more than 35-40)

Prescribed poem – TBC

Senior: 5th and 6th Years

Your chosen poem – not less than 23 lines (not more than 35-40)

Prescribed poem – TBC


Regional Heats: End Oct (Venue to be confirmed – probably NLI)

Semi Finals: End November in NLI

Final: Early December in NLI


Winner from each category receives €300 and books for school library

Overall Winner receives a further €200 and the Seamus Heaney Perpetual Trophy

Runner up in each category will receive a book token


For more information and the latest 2014 competition details keep an eye on

Or see your English teacher 🙂

The Vocabulary Vault

Welcome to the vault

Words, words, words!! The more of them we know, the more we can make sense of the world and the more easily we can be understood. Our ability to engage and interact with the many wonders and mysteries of the world, (be they laws of science, works of art, areas of natural beauty or our fellow walkers of the earth), will be immeasurably enhanced if we add to our bank of words.

Welcome to the Vocabulary Vault. This is the place where you will find ways to access new and exciting vocabulary. There are many treasures and delights waiting as you enter the vault on a regular basis. You will be mesmerised by the jewels that you will find if you look hard enough. One thing is guaranteed – every time you leave the vault you will have increased your wealth manifold. You will also be burning with the desire to re-enter the vault.

Where will you find this powerful Vocabulary Vault? You already know the answer to that!! It is everywhere. We are surrounded by the written and spoken word. We cannot escape it. You choose how deep inside you want to go. You choose if you want to a passenger or pilot in your journey through life. You choose if you want to be able to connect with the marvels of this world. You choose if you want to improve your tools of self-expression. You choose if you want to understand more fully the experiences and insights of  both friends and philosophers. The Vault helps you to do this. 

Red_and_blue_pillPick up a book, a newspaper, go to an online article, write a poem, a story, a letter. Immerse yourself in the magical world of words through all available means. You will be captivated. You will never look back. You must decide whether you will choose the red pill or the blue pill. Will you choose to embrace the fullest experience of the world or will you settle for the illusion of bliss through ignorance? Take the plunge and surround yourself with all the exciting opportunities that an ever-extending bank of words can provide. Read, read, read!

Once a week, the Vocabulary Vault will reveal a gem here that will add to your treasure store. Every Friday a challenge will be presented. It may be a sentence with a word missing and a choice to be made. It may be a word root looking for as many words that can be created from it. You may then respond to the challenge by contributing a comment. You may agree or disagree with someone else’s response.words have power

Good luck out there in your efforts to understand and be understood, to listen and be heard, to know and be known. The tools of your empowerment are simply waiting to be used. 

General Vision and Viewpoint – an Introduction

(Based on by E. O’Connor – ideas used with permission)

There are three main aspects to consider when approaching the GVV of texts.

Aspect 1

The writer’s/playwright’s/director’s view of the world and the human beings who live in it:

  • if their stories always have a happy ending
  • if the characters triumph over adversity
  • if true love conquers all
  • if good is rewarded and evil punished

Then the vision of the world they offer is positive and their viewpoint is optimistic.

Very few texts will be this straightforward however. Often bad things happen to good people in texts and the vision never stays the same the whole way through.

Aspect 2

This is something the writer cannot control – the way the reader/viewer responds to the vision they have created.

For example, a reader/viewer may not like romantic comedies. He may think they are formulaic, predictable, simplistic and sickly sweet. So even though the person who created it might want the reader to respond positively to the vision they are offering, the reader probably won’t.

Aspect 3

HOW the vision is communicated & HOW the mood and atmosphere is created: done through:

  • close-ups of facial expressions, camera angles
  • music, symbolism, imagery
  • flashbacks (to create nostalgia or to add back-story)
  • the hopes and dreams of the characters
  • the relationships between characters & how they treat each other
  • the success or failure of a character
  • the way the society is presented to us in a positive or negative light
  • the opening, closing scenes
  • the value placed on human life
  • a positive or negative vision of daily life
  • the moral vision presented in the text
  • the darkest/most uplifting moment in the text


The g v & v changes during the course of any text. One exercise with a class could be to draw up a graph (As done by Ms E. O’Connor here.) The vertical axis went from tragic at the bottom to blissfully happy at the top. The horizontal axis went from the beginning (on the left) to the end (on the right) of the text. Then pick eight key moments and plot them on the graph. This gives a clearer sense of how the g v & v changed, ebbed and flowed over the course of the text from beginning to end. However it is a little simplistic – you need to offer a more complex discussion than “happy/sad” (nostalgia, longing, frustration, injustice, tragedy, triumph, humour are all more specific words). AND you need to think about whether the author offers you a positive, warm and uplifting view of human beings or a deeply pessimistic indictment of human beings’ flaws and foibles. Think about the writer/director’s vision of the society the characters inhabit. What decisions has the writer/director made as to how the text begins and ends. Does the story begin and end at the same point (as in Babylon)? Have the characters achieved anything in the intervening period? Is the text a gradual journey towards enlightenment and self-fulfilment? Or does everything end badly, despite the characters best efforts to achieve happiness?


Because the concept is quite multi-faceted, try to simplify your overall essay structure.

  • Compare the beginning g v & v of each text.
  • Use 4 or 5 points from aspect three to form 4 or 5 main paragraphs for comparing the texts
  • Finally compare the g v & v of the endings.


Jumper-stripesAnd of course the most important thing is to tie them together just like a stripy jumper would be knitted. (One jumper represents one paragraph – this analogy is thanks to Ms E. O’Connor. More on that can be found here.)

Hot Press: ‘The Write Touch’

Well done to Luke O’Neill 5th Year who has been shortlisted in the Hot Press ‘Write Touch’ Competition. Thousands of 5th and 6th year students from around the country entered and the entries were narrowed down to 10 in each of the four categories! Luke, we are so proud of you! If Luke is to be in with a chance of being the overall winner in his category, we need YOU to vote for Luke, please. You can do so here.

At the Clann Feis 2013
At the Clann Feis 2013

Past Exam Questions on ‘Macbeth’ – Update


‘Macbeth’s relationships with other characters can be seen primarily as power struggles which prove crucial to the outcome of the play.’ Discuss the above statement in relation to at least two of Macbeth’s relationships with other characters. Support your answer with suitable reference to the play, ‘Macbeth’.


‘Throughout the play, ‘Macbeth’, Shakespeare makes effective use of a variety of dramatic techniques that evoke a wide range of responses from the audience.’ Discuss this view with reference to at least two dramatic techniques used by Shakespeare in the play. Support your answer with suitable reference to the text.


‘The variety of significant insights that we gain into Macbeth’s mind proves critical in shaping our understanding of his complex character’. Discuss this view, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the play, ‘Macbeth’.


Shakespeare makes effective use of disturbing imagery in the play, ‘Macbeth’. Discuss this statement with suitable reference to the text.


‘Macbeth’s murder of Duncan has horrible consequences both for Macbeth himself and for Scotland.’ Write a response to this statement. You should refer to the play in your answer.


‘”Macbeth” has all the ingredients of compelling drama.’ Write a response to this statement, commenting on one or more of the ingredients, which in your opinion, make ‘Macbeth’ a compelling drama.


‘The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth undergoes significant change during the course of the play.’ Discuss this statement, supporting your answer by suitable reference to the text.


‘Essentially the play ‘Macbeth’ is about power, its uses and abuses.’ Discuss this view of the play, supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.



‘Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ invites us to look into the world of a man driven on by ruthless ambition and tortured by regret.’ Write a response to this view of the play ‘Macbeth’, supporting the points you make by reference to the text.


‘The play ‘Macbeth’ has many scenes of compelling drama.’ Choose one scene that you found compelling and say why you found it to be so. Support your answer by reference to the play.



‘We feel very little pity for the central characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.’ To what extent would you agree with the above view? Support your answer by reference to the play.


‘In Macbeth, Shakespeare presents us with a powerful vision of evil.’ Write your response to the above statement. Textual support may include reference to a particular performance of the play you have seen.



Discuss the course and nature of the resistance to Macbeth’s rule in the play. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference to the play.


‘Kingship, with all its potential for good or evil, is a major theme of the play ‘Macbeth’.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer with quotation from or reference to the play.



‘The eternal struggle between good and evil – a struggle in which evil comes very close to victory – is the central them of the play ‘Macbeth’.’ Discuss this view and show how the struggle is illustrated in the imagery of the play. Support your answer by reference or quotation.


‘While there are redeeming features in the character of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a ruthless opportunist whose ambition for her husband supersedes all moral considerations.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer by reference or quotation.



‘The Banquo Macbeth has killed is not the innocent soldier who met the witches and scorned their prophecies, nor the man who prayed to be delivered from temptation. He is a man whose principles have been deeply compromised.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation or reference.


Discuss the way in which the language of the play ‘Macbeth’ contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of evil and violence which pervades the play. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference.



‘The witches in ‘Macbeth’ are malevolent creatures, who originate deeds of blood and have power over the soul.’ Discuss the role of the witches in the play in the light of this statement. Support your answer with appropriate reference or quotation.


Discuss the way in which light/darkness, violent imagery and unnatural happenings are used in ‘Macbeth’ to create atmosphere. Support your answer with appropriate quotation or reference.



‘Their partnership in guilt, which at the beginning of the play is a strong bond between them, gradually drives Macbeth and his wife apart, until they go down to their separate dooms, isolated and alone.’ Discuss this view, with the aid of suitable quotation or reference.


‘Lady Macbeth is no monster. She is a loyal (though misguided) wife, not without tenderness and not without conscience.’ What do you think of this estimation of Lady Macbeth? Support your answer with relevant quotation or reference.



‘In ‘Macbeth’ Shakespeare does not present Macbeth as a mere villain, but succeeds in arousing some measure of sympathy for him.’ Discuss the character of Macbeth in the light of this statement, supporting your answer by relevant quotation or reference.


‘In ‘Macbeth’ the inner self is conveyed, not through the ideas expressed, nor through the actions performed, but by means of an elaborate pattern of imagery and symbolism.’ Test the truth of this statement by considering any two of the play’s central characters and the images and symbols associated with them. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference.



‘In the play ‘Macbeth’, Shakespeare had heightened our experience of wickedness and disorder by setting them against a background of goodness and order.’ Discuss this view with the aid of appropriate reference or quotation.


Discuss the view that Lady Macbeth has more in common with the Witches than with Lady Macduff. Support your answer with suitable reference or quotation.

Essay Writing: Speeches

Good writing consists of three stages:

  1. Pre-writing
  2. Writing
  3. Post-writing and proofreading
  1. Pre-writing: Brainstorm, cluster, organise ideas, think about expression and vocab, produce an outline (paragraph by paragraph detailed plan) – know the ending before you begin.
  2. Writing: Write the essay (new/better ideas and forms of expression emerge as you write – incorporate them). Focus on ideas, expression and structure.
  3. Post-writing and proofreading: Always revise your essay – for homework assignments, make time to edit your first draft and produce a second draft. Add, omit, change ideas. Change the order of ideas. Improve expression and sentence structure. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. In exam conditions – re-read and improve where possible.

The best way to improve your writing is to keep writing. Also read a variety of material – fiction, biographies, sports journals, newspapers, etc – to gather inspiration for new ideas and good styles of writing.

When it comes to writing speeches, here are is a checklist that will help you during all three stages of the writing process:

Formalities of Speeches

  • Opening address
  • Choosing a side
  • Overall defense or attack of the motion
  • Include audience – you, we
  • Appeal to the audience
  • Final confirmation of truth of your chosen side 

Persuasive Devices

  • Repetition
  • Rhetorical Questions
  • Triadic Phrasing (The Rule of Three), Listing
  • Alliteration
  • Metaphors, Similes
  • Hyperbole, Understatement
  • Anecdote; Humour

Features of a Good Essay

  1. Attention grabbing intro
  2. Summarising, thought-provoking conc (no new ideas)
  3. Focus on the task in every paragraph
  4. Original, fresh ideas
  5. One distinct idea per paragraph (topic)
  6. Logical flow from one paragraph to the next
  7. Examples, evidence, facts, support for distinct idea (topic)
  8. First and last sentence of each paragraph – still on same topic
  9. Transitions between paragraphs where possible/appropriate
  10. Advanced level of expression and vocabulary, appropriate word choice
  11. Sentence structure – accurate and varied
  12. Punctuation – accurate
  13. Accurate spelling and grammar

Points 1 – 4 above will gain you marks under the heading of Purpose (30%); 5 – 8 under the heading of Coherence (30%); 9 – 12 under Language (30%); point 13 under Mechanics (10%).

Two Approaches to Answering Poetry: Yeats 2010

When answering a Leaving Certificate Poetry question, the key is to answer the question. That might seem obvious but not every stays on task throughout the whole answer. The question must be responded to from the outset, so engagement with the task from the introduction, through the main body and right into the conclusion. Take a look at the following approaches to answering the 2010 question on W.B. Yeats:

2010 – “Yeats’s poetry is driven by a tension between the real world in which he lives and the ideal world that he imagines.” Write a response to the poetry of W.B. Yeats in the light of this statement, supporting your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course.
Tension – struggle – conflict – dichotomy
Represented through contrast, antithesis, irony, balances, symbolism, paradox, oxymoron, repetition, etc…
Real v ideal –
Past and present
Mortality and immortal
Memory and reality
Hopes and reality
The effects of time
The fact of change
Disappointment with life
Thematic Approach
Intro: Address the task – use synonyms and the same words
Refer to overall themes that encompass the requirements of the task eg political issues, personal changes, the effects of time, disappointment with the world as we know it
What to expect in the essay
MB 1 & 2: Focus on the task
Political issues – Sept 1913 and Easter 1916
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 3: Focus on the task
The effects of time – In Memory
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 4: Focus on the task
Personal changes, the desire for immortality – Wild Swans* and Sailing to Byzantium
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 5: Focus on the task
Disappointment with the world – Wild Swans* and An Irish Airman
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
Conc: Sum up key ideas
Relate all to the task (synonyms)
Personal engagement
(*Brief reference to one poem is acceptable – five poems in great depth.)
Poem by Poem Approach (Solid intro and conc needed – similar to Thematic Approach)
1. ‘September 1913’ – Past and present – public and political
2. ‘Easter 1916’ – Ideal aspirations v real tragedy – public and political
3. ‘In Memory of…’ – Memory and reality – public and personal
4. ‘Wild Swans…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
5. ‘Sailing…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
6. ‘An Irish Airman…’ – life’s futility vs freedom through death
Whichever approach you take: in every paragraph refer to theme, aspects of style and respond personally. Stay focussed on the task from beginning to end (ie respond to the question).