Homeless Ireland

Last week marked the one year anniversary since a homeless man was found dead on the steps of Dail Eireann in Dublin. According to the Peter McVerry Trust in October of this year over 150 people were sleeping rough in Dublin every night. The minimum number of people homeless at the end of September in the whole of Ireland was over 5,000. This year alone homelessness has risen by 76% in eight months. This includes 1500 homeless people who are under the age of 18, children. (RTE: Sept 15)

The reason I have included this topic in my education blog is because I believe Education is key to helping fight against social injustice and helping bring about positive social change. As teachers and students we may not be able to house 5,000 people but by awakening students attention to the problem and highlighting ways in which they can help we may have a chance at helping even one family find a safe place to sleep.

The internet is an amazing place to find resources on almost any topic. The resources made available on Homelessness are some of the best I have used in a classroom. There are a number of charities that are set up to tackle homelessness and help those affected including:

All of these websites are filled with information, events and resources that can be adapted for the classroom. Some, such as Focus Ireland, even have a section dedicated to school resources. There are people available to come to your school to talk to students. There are plenty of fundraising activities and links to other helpful websites and resources. Below are resources I have used in the classroom. Some are slightly adapted. All taken from TES.co.uk. TES is the place to go for topics such as homelessness. You never know what you will find.

The first resource I found interesting and useful is a list of 100 facts about homelessness. I out students into groups and ask them to choose the most and least surprising. 100factshomeless

This is a power-point of statistics regarding teenage homeless. These teenagers are close to age to some of our students. This will highlight the importance of trying to help but teacher should also be sensitive if a student may be in a similar position. Runaway Children

This is a six part documentary on homeless children in the UK. EVICTED

All of these resources are free to use and completely adaptable to suit age and ability. The number of homeless people in Ireland is rising daily. We need to do our part to highlight these issues and help the charities to tackle homelessness. Our aim should be together to decrease these figures by December 2016.


How do you Study?

As the Christmas season creeps up most schools are preparing for the dreaded Christmas exams. This week students have been asking the question – How do we study for exams? This is not an easy question to answer because it is a different answer for everyone. I have been advising students to experiment with different methods and see what works best for them.

There are loads of different methods people use to study. Some of which include:

  • Reading and Rereading – memorising information by reading
  • Read, underline and take notes – summarising
  • Rewrite the information into your own words
  • Rewrite in your own words and rewrite this again in a shorter version
  • Draw pictures/graphs that relate to the information
  • Associate key words or terms with images/songs/quotes etc.
  • Flashcards with key words
  • Write out questions on the content and ask friend/family to quiz you
  • Spider Diagrams/ Brainstorms/ bubble graph

To be able to study efficiently you need to be in the right environment. I would suggest the following:

  • Ensure the room is not too warm and not too cold
  • Don’t use a place that you use to relax or watch TV, your mind will find it easier to switch off
  • Not where you sleep because when you go to bed it will be hard to switch off, if you have a desk in your bedroom this is fine
    • Try work at a desk – will not work for everyone
  • Music works for some people
  • Dead silence works for others
  • Chewing gum, sucky sweets and lollies can help focus
  • Take breaks every 45 minutes or sooner if you find yourself loosing concentration
  • Keep hydrated – lots of water
  • Don’t stay up all night – sleep is very important

The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and it often takes time to figure out what works for you. Do not give up As my favourite quote says:

NCCA Junior Cert Key Skills

The NCCA outlines six key skills that all subjects should develop in the Junior Certificate programme. These include managing myself, staying well, communicating, being creative, working with others and managing information and thinking. All of these skills incorporate the use ofdigital media in the classroom. Using technology in the classroom is a trend that is rapidly increasing in education. For this blog post I want to examine the last key skill and look at ways that we can develop this skill by using different technologies and digital applications in class. ncca


This key skill helps learners gradually improve their capacity to search for information from different sources. They also develop their skills in judging and discriminating between information types and sources and they develop strategies for organising information so that they can understand it and use it later. This skill also develops learners’ thinking skills so that they can become more skilled in higher order reasoning and problem-solving. (Juniorcycle, 2014)

The first thing that came to my mind when thinking of ways to incorporate this skill into the classroom was blogging. This skill is meant to enable students to engage with information and share it by use of digital media. What better way than starting a blog. There are numerous blogging platforms for schools and teachers including, word press, kid blog, 21 classes and many more. These platforms allow teachers to set their classes up on a blog where they can monitor the posts and feedback. Students can be given a task such as researching a key historical figure they use the internet and search engines to find information and then write a blog about the person to share with the class. This simple exercise improves a range of
skills students need to develop including research, critical thinking, analysis, managing information, presenting information and literacy.

Google Docs in another great resource that enables students to organise information. This is a  free Web-based application where documents and power-points can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection which means students can start work in school and finish at home without worrying about USB sticks or forgetting books/copies. Google docs also allows students to work together on the one document or project. Students can invite each other with an email address and they have permission to add to or edit a document/presentation. This introduces a whole knew approach to group work. The teacher if also invited can check who has done what work on the document to ensure all students are actively involved.

As a history teacher I have come across some amazing resources this year for the 1916 Commemoration that incorporate this key skill very well. they include a blog designed by the National Library. This blog looks at key personalities and perspectives during the time. Students can research the blog and find new information to engage with. To encourage students to compare sources there is a website that publishers rare photographs from the rising here . This website also has a dedicated section for schools to carry out online research.

The web is an amazing resource for any subject. Allowing students time to explore and discover not only encourages independent learning but gives students an opportunity to see opinions and ideas that before where restricted to a text book. This skill is not only something students need to learn to achieve good grades but it is something they can take out into the world. The world is becoming a technological place and if students cannot fit into this world when they leave school they will face difficulty. We have the resources to help develop this skill in schools it time we start using them.


Quad blogging

global-friends-2Quad blogging is a relatively new initiative which allows four schools to blog in a loop. The way this works is once a class signs up they get entered into a “quad”. Classes will start blogging from a school while others view and comment.  The following week another class will then blog and others will read/comment and the cycle goes on until all 4 schools have blogged. (EdTechReview) This can also be done within a class so students can work together and review each others work. The idea behind it is to combat the feeling of isolation the internet could create. Often blogs get lost in cyber space and when we do not receive feedback we get fed up and allow the blog to die.

As part of an assignment in our web 2.0 module we were assigned to quad blogs. Four students take one week each, write a blog and then the other three students comment, like, share etc. to give the blogger some feedback.

The benefits of quad blogging include:

  • creates a sense of working together and teamwork
  • Feedback on work that may otherwise feel ignored
  • Reach wider audience
  • Gives opportunity to read other work that you may not have other wise

During this assignment I had a mostly positive experience of Quad blogging but I did notice some issues that could cause difficulties. These include:

  • Comments and feedback could be forced and feel fake – Only done because they have to me
  • It can be hard to follow blogs and know when a blog has been updated if not in regular contact with the person or access to the web
  • Over a long period time it can be easy to forget
  • Students may feel pressured to write an amazing blog
  • Some people do not want comments and feedback on their work – they are happy enough just to write and let people read at their ease

If I was using quad blogging in my classroom I would follow these simple guidelines to try make the most out of the experience.

  • If working within one class use shorter periods of time – 2 weeks
  • Rotate groups regularly
  • Before starting give class feedback so students are prepared
  • Give students a guide on how to comment or give feedback e.g 2 stars and a wish
  • Ensure students stay respectful and only give positive feedback
  • Give students support and guidance for all blog posts

Quad blogging is extremely useful in the classroom and I would highly recommend trying it out but teacher guidance and support is vital.


















Last Day of Term

Well following on from my last blog the last two days of term went down well. Everyone was in good spirits at the thoughts of a week off and most joined in with dressing up and having fun. We had a large range of Halloween costumes including Marty Mcfly, Michael Jackson before and after, Iphones, Monsters, robots, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, geeks, ET, zombies, The Village People, The Joker, Where’s Wally and so many more. The Halloween themed lessons I had planned went down well and students were happy with a change of direction after the first eight weeks of term. My two favourite lessons had to be the Halloween quiz and the Horror Story Session. The students were very engaged and we all left feeling in the spooky spirit.

Yesterday afternoon the school took part in a whole school table quiz. Students were in their form classes and questions were read aloud over the intercom. In groups students answered the questions and answer sheets were collected and brought to the office at the end to establish a winner. I have never experienced this before but I thought it was an excellent idea. Students were engaged and there was a sense of healthy competition around the corridors. For the last two periods it was movie time as a celebratory treat for surviving the first quarter of the year. Teachers had a list of movies they would be showing on the notice board and students got to choose which room they would go to for the afternoon. This meant classes were mixed together and there was a relaxed fun filled vibe around the whole school.

Overall I think the first quarter of the year ended on a high note. There have been highs and lows over the eight weeks but I think for my first full term in a school as a qualified teacher I have had a positive learning experience. As a substitute teacher I have had the chance to connect with almost every class in the school and I now know the students and staff extremely well. Although I have enjoyed the experience I cannot deny I will enjoy the week off and the chance to catch up on some well needed sleep. Once I am rested again I will be looking forward to the second quarter of the year and the experiences that will bring. So for now I am off to watch some Halloween movies and enjoy the break. Hope everyone reading my blog has a Happy Midterm and a Spooky Halloween.

Spooktacular Classroom ideas

ThPumpkin_Head_clothing_icon_ID_1095is week most schools are preparing for the Halloween midterm break. Most of the students in my school are hyper already at the thought of a week of freedom and today I found it quite hard to get full concentration if any at all. This has left me drained and I was beginning to dread tomorrow but instead I have decided to embrace the crazy. Since it is the last two days of term I am going to have two Spooktacular days.

Tomorrow I plan on setting the Halloween mood with spook filled lessons. I do not want to go over board with games and quizzes before Friday or the students will be completely nuts with excitement  so I will use comprehensions, group work and project work to create a fun filled learning zone. Education.com have an amazing selection of Halloween themed comprehensions and handouts. Two I will definitely have in my bag of tricks tomorrow will include the History of Zombies and The Story of Big Foot.

On Friday our school is having a fancy dress competition so students should definitely be in the spirit. As it is my first year teaching in a school for Halloween I will obviously be embracing my inner child and dressing up too 🙂 I will have pictures on twitter I promise.

In regards to classroom content for Friday I plan on using group games and quizzes to allow students enjoy the last day of term as much as possible. I will call on my old friend Kahoot for come classes but I will also play games such as Pictionarie – Halloween themed of course and History of Halloween quizzes. The Teacher’s corner has a great selection of ideas including a list of Halloween riddles which could be fun. For the senior students I have downloaded documentaries on the history of Halloween from The History Channel (all available on you tube). I am excited already and I will post a blog to let you know how the students react. So for now I will leave you with a spooky riddle see if you can work it out 🙂

What is a ghosts favourite direction?