Writing Prompt


This image has repeatedly elicited brilliant writing from students. Suggested instructions for an in-class writing exercise go like this: ‘Write either in the first person or the third person omniscient. Your character is the child in one of the windows. Look closely.’


Down with Procrastination


This is one of a number of illustrations by Cap Cheah on the Behance Network that encourages just ‘getting on with it’! They’re good for: a slideshow when pupils are entering the room and getting settled; classroom posters; getting pupils to write about which image they find most effective (good for toning that vital comparative writing muscle); and spotting typos (there’s one with the third image).

And they work as a gentle reminder to teachers to get on with that marking. Two birds, one stone.

Have a look at them here: X out Procrastination

Macbeth, Cambridge Edition for iPad


Big Blank Page highly recommends this app version of Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Tragedy’. The app contains the full text with audio, visual, a comprehensive glossary, and notes. The text scrolls automatically as the lines are delivered in audio, so it’s a dream to use projected onto the board in class. Mock marking is also made easier as all words are searchable and the quote you’re looking for appears in a split second. It’s a bit more than the average app (€12) but less than the paper version and well worth the €uros. Also available in the series are: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s dream and Twelfth Night. More are in the works. Have a look here.

Grammar and Punctuation


The Guardian has published this online grammar and punctuation test. It’s worth a try and is also useful for Junior Certificate (soon to be Junior Cycle) students. When the new Cycle is introduced it seems there will be a Literacy element on which students will be tested in their second year.

The New Junior Cycle English background paper for review, published in Autumn 2012, focuses on Literacy and three main components: Psycho-linguistic perspective; cognitive-psychological perspective and a critical literacy perspective.
The cognitive–psychological perspective is the ‘nuts and bolts’ approach and as the review says, “is often set in opposition to the whole-language approach referred to above (psycho-linguistic). The focus is on the micro-processes of language through the teaching of phonics and drilled approaches to literacy acquisition. This approach begins with the smallest phonemes and graphemes of language and builds them up into words and parts of words. This is the bottom-up approach to literacy development. Viewing these perpectives as incompatible polar opposites is unhelpful.” Here’s the full brief for the review.

It might be useful to look at punctuation with students as the flavours of food; food without its taste is bland and harder to identify, but with flavour and seasoning it’s a full sensory experience. The quiz is a straightforward exercise; Big Blank Page got 13/14. Shameful! See how you fair.



Storymap is the brainchild of two Dublin filmmakers, Andy Flaherty and Tom Rowley. Just back from working abroad, unemployed and in between film projects, they became frustrated with the negative press the city was receiving. The bleak tales of recession, the gloomy accounts of unemployment and the notion that Ireland’s best and brightest had emigrated was completely at odds with what they were experiencing being back in their hometown. They came up with Storymap, a web based multimedia project that revives Ireland’s age-old tradition of storytelling and aims to capture the personality of Dublin city through its stories and storytellers. These stories are filmed being told where they happened and integrated into a live map to create a charming and layered collective vision of Dublin city made by the people of the city.

The website, Storymap, is easy to use and links to videos of the stories. This could be a useful exercise with classes, especially those in school in or near Dublin. Designed to be used on-the-go, there’s an app version too.

Moleskine Love


Moleskine journals have long been held in deep affection by those who like to write, draw and doodle. What can be created in only a few minutes on a blank page is impressive. This is the first ‘Moleskine’ post – the image above is of two ballpoint (yes, just a handful of humble pens) portraits by the fiercely talented Iphigen from Düsseldorf, Germany. Moleskine

Dotter of her Father’s Eyes


The popularity of the graphic book continues to grow. This graphic autobiography-meets-biography is excellent, and recently won the Costa Book Biography section. Hodges Figgis on Dublin’s Dawson Street have moved their graphic book section to a prominent ground floor location while its sci-fi section was ‘beamed down’ to the basement – a clear indication of its customers’ interest in the graphic genre. Mary and Bryan Talbot (a married writer and illustrator) co-penned Dotter of her Father’s Eyes. It merges the autobiography of its author Mary Talbot, whose father was a Joycean scholar, with a biography of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s daughter. It’s both funny and poignant – highly recommended. Available in bookshops and on iBooks.

A Perfect Paradox

imageThank you Leaving Certificate English papers for this perfect paradox. Empty pages in in the exam booklet are labelled ‘BLANK PAGE’, presenting a useful example of a paradox. It’s a more tangible explanation for students than the Oxford Dictionary’s:
paradoxnoun – a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true