Friday 28 July 2017

Stone Age question sees students tasked with reinventing the wheel

CUS students Noel Fitzsimons, left, from Blackrock, and Graham O’Neill, from Portmarnock, after the Leaving Cert exam English paper 1 in Dublin’s City Centre. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
CUS students Noel Fitzsimons, left, from Blackrock, and Graham O’Neill, from Portmarnock, after the Leaving Cert exam English paper 1 in Dublin’s City Centre. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A very good paper that would definitely reward students who are literate and well read, was how teacher Fintan O'Mahony described the Leaving Certificate higher level English paper 1, which covers writing and comprehension.

One of the interesting things he noted about it was how, for the second time in recent years, there was a question that represented a mix of paper 1 and paper 2, which deals with poetry and prose.

It happened the year Seamus Heaney died, when the late poet turned up on the comprehension paper, which is not where students were expecting to find him.

Mr O'Mahony, a subject representative with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, drew parallels with a question yesterday asking candidates how they would present poems they have studied in a language context.

A teacher at Scoil Mhuire, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, Mr O'Mahony said students were treated to three very good texts: American writer Paul Auster, the Scottish poet Robert Montgomery, and the English historian Timothy Garton Ash.

He said students "would have had no issue with them, if they are literate and well read English students, as they should be, they should have had no problems".

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Liz Farrell, a subject representative for the Teachers' Union of Ireland agreed it was a nice paper.

Among the essay choices was a "lovely" short story in which a tattoo plays an "important part of the narrative", she said. Another option in that section that caught the imagination of teachers was the one asking students to write a dialogue between two Stone Age people about the invention of the wheel and whether it would catch on.

Ms Farrell, who teaches at Colaiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow, said some candidates would have found that difficult, while Mr O'Mahony said "it would be up the alley of anyone who has a good sense about how to write dialogue".

Overall, said Ms Farrell, there was something for everyone in this section. Mr O'Mahony said students could not really prepare for an essay about a tattoo or the Stone Age, "but if you are prepared as a good writer, then you will be fine".

At ordinary level, Ms Farrell thought "kids would have had a ball" writing about how teachers will be replaced by robots, but said the letter to the editor question was tricky enough because "they wouldn't be used to that".

Jim Lusby, a teacher at the Institute of Education, Dublin, described the higher level paper as "wonderful", while he said the ordinary level paper was a "delight".

Irish Independent

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