Wednesday 28 September 2016

English papers tackle blogging and emojis in nod to the future

Katherine Donnelly rounds up the talking points, as space meets social media in exams designed to stand test of time

Published 09/06/2016 | 02:30

Leaving Cert student Astrid Tidey (19) from Newpark Comprehensive school in Dublin Photo: Caroline Quinn
Leaving Cert student Astrid Tidey (19) from Newpark Comprehensive school in Dublin Photo: Caroline Quinn

LC English Ordinary P1: State exam candidates were expecting 1916 to feature this year, and there it was, on day one, in the Leaving Certificate English Ordinary Level comprehension and composition paper.

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The theme of the paper was Dear Diary, and among the texts presented were eyewitness accounts of an Irish volunteer and a British officer caught up in the events of Easter Week 100 years ago.

Liz Farrell, of Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow and the TUI, saw no difficulties with the paper and felt students should have been well prepared for it.

Jim Lusby, of the Institute of Education, Dublin, said it offered an "interesting choice, confining the texts offered for comprehension to a single genre of writing, the diary. Since the diary is personal and can take many forms, such as the blog and the video, the genre has particular relevance to contemporary students," he said. Other text options were a travel blog and an extract from an article by veteran traveller Michael Palin about keeping a diary.

Barry Hazel, of Drimnagh Castle secondary school, Dublin and the ASTI, agreed that overall it was a "very accessible paper".

JC English Higher/Ordinary

It was the end of an era in Junior Cert English exams yesterday, with new style and shorter written papers next year as part of the junior cycle changes.

But, if the papers were traditional, examiners showed themselves to be right on the button with a text on the higher level reading, writing and media studies paper on emojis, a most modern form of communication.

It was a topic in which students would have a really good understanding and interest, according to Liz Farrell of the TUI and Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow.

Barry Hazel of the ASTI, a teacher at Drimnagh Castle secondary school, Dublin, thought the higher level question on media consumption habits "was a bit old" for students of this age and he preferred the equivalent media studies question on the ordinary level paper about a family film festival. Neither teacher had any quibble with the ordinary level paper.

Higher level candidates sat a separate poetry, drama and fiction paper in the afternoon, which, Ms Farrell said, offered a good choice of specific questions and more generic ones that would allow more able students to flourish.

LC English Higher P1

In a first for the Leaving Certificate English Higher Level Paper 1, candidates were given the option of writing a post for a blog criticising the amount of public money used for space exploration.

Teacher Liz Farrell, from Coláiste Eoin in Hacketstown, Co Carlow, picked up on the nod to social media and reckoned the examiners were "trying to ingratiate themselves with the youth of today".

Ms Farrell, a TUI subject representative, felt the composition and comprehension paper, whose theme was 'Journeys', had something for everyone.

She thought the comprehension Question As were a real skills test, while there was "plenty of choice" in the Question Bs, which included a judge's speech in a poster competition, the blog, and an abstract for an entry to a film-making competition.

Barry Hazel, of Drimnagh Castle secondary in Dublin, and the ASTI, liked the Question As, but thought the Question Bs were not as accessible.

Jim Lusby of the Institute of Education, Dublin, said there was "all you could ask for" in a "lively and imaginative paper".

Students were invited to reach beyond their prepared material into creative expression and exploration, consistent with the paper's general theme of 'Journeys', he said. In a year that marked the centenary of 1916 and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, he said the paper was expected to have some historical character and these expectations were "creatively managed by making 'Journeys' not only historical, but also geographical, intellectual and aeronautical, the general theme".

Mr Lusby liked the Question Bs, which he described as "more imaginative than in recent years, and also more helpfully detailed in the descriptions of the tasks".

LC Home Economics

There was plenty of praise from teachers for the Leaving Certificate Home Economics papers, which covered topics including housing, poverty, marriage, gender and lipids.

Margaret Kinsella of the ASTI and St Raphael's secondary school, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, said the higher level paper was "very approachable" with a very contemporary aspect.

She described the short questions as "very doable, with no curve balls and would have settled students completely".

A spokesperson for the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) said that, overall, students were very happy with the wide range of topics, although they were writing to the end.

The TUI spokesperson said Long Question 1 (e) would have challenged students to think outside the box on how to achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle and good dietary practices for people who have irregular work schedules.

Sandra Cleary, of the Institute of Education, Dublin, said for such a content heavy course, the paper was very fair.

She thought the ordinary level paper was 'fair and accessible'.

Irish Independent

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