Saturday 17 March 2018

Novel missing on Junior Cert English paper, but the apostrophe returns

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

It was the first of the new Junior Cycle English papers and while the novel was missing the grammar police will be happy that the apostrophe has made reappearance in the State exams.

Liz Farrell of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), a teacher at Colaiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow, reckoned it was about 30 years since Junior Cert candidates were tested on their knowledge of apostrophes.

Overall, Ms Farrell liked the new-style papers, which she said  gave students an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge they have gained in the classroom.

The reformed  Junior Cycle English syllabus aims to  develop critical thinking skills in students and to end the days of regurgitating rote-learned material in a written exam

The  new June written exam is worth 90pc of the marks, with the other 10pc gained for classroom-based work.

Under the new regime, students have been told that there is no guarantee that the June exam will include questions on Shakespeare, a novel and poetry, even though they all have to be covered.

Speaking about the higher level paper, Ms Farrell said: “We had a Shakespearean text, we had poetry but the novel didn’t appear.”

She added that  the Shakespeare question was much  different from the style of previous years. The question was about a film version of a Shakespearean play and students were asked what they would include on a poster advertising the film to represent what they thought was important in the play and to create a sense of anticipation for its upcoming release.

“That encompasses an awful low of skills they would have learned. It was getting them to adapt their knowledge to fit the question. It covered visual literacy, film terminology, knowledge of the text and how a plot is driven in term of anticipation,” she said.

Read More: Leaving Cert ordinary English paper 'most student friendly in years', teacher claims

Ms Farrell  said there was also a departure in the comprehension section, and the work the students would have done in preparing for classroom -based assessments  came through in questions.

And there was a grammar question, on the apostrophe, worth five marks. “We were told that grammar and convention would be important. I haven’t seen a question about the apostrophe for at least 30 years.  Maybe next year it will be the Oxford comma.”

Another big change was that students had to write in the space given, rather than on other sheets, which she said was a “big challenge”,   but all in all, a “fair paper.”

Ms Farrell said the focus of the ordinary level paper was also very much on testing skills. Here, students got a question on graphic novel, which, she said, some may have found difficult if they had not covered that genre.

“We were told we need to look at texts in evert different format, we will look at them more deeply as we go forward,” she said.

Read More: Student Diary: The suspense is so bad I even tried (and failed) to make my own fidget spinner as a distraction

A question asking candidates to write an email may also have stumped some, she thought as “from my perspective 15 years-olds don’t write emails, it is all Facebook. They need an email to sign up, but I don’t think they use them; they regard it as old-fashioned.”

Ms Farrell described the section on poetry as “lovely.”

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