English: Class blogging and Future Me letter writing

I am teaching TY English since the middle of November. In my school, TY is an academic year. Even if it was not, I hate when people say ‘Oh teaching TY is easy,  I do not have to do anything for them’. Why do these students deserve less of your time and attention than other years? I have a lovely group of students and we do a lot of work but yet we still have fun! 🙂

So far  I have taught the students poetry, short stories, debating, blogging, biography and book reviews. On Wednesdays we go to the computer room to blog. At the start of the year, I got all of my students to each set up their own blog on WordPress. Some of the students were apprehensive at first. However, they now all LOVE blogging!! Huge success! Blogging is terrific as it encourages the students to write, to enjoy writing and it improves their digital literacy skills.

Each week the students have two blogging assignments to complete.

I give all of the students a set blogging topic each week and then they must also come up with a blog topic themselves and write about it. The girls have really excelled at this. I love reading their unique topics every week! I give the students past Leaving Cert HL English exam paper Qs and also Qs I have made myself that are based on the Leaving Cert course. This is important as it will prepare them for next year. However, sometimes the students have random tasks such as ‘Why should people blog?’ and ‘Look up one Web 2.0 tool that you would like to see used in your school’.

Today I introduced the students to Future me.

Future Me is a website where you can write a message to your future self. How cool is that?! It is free and all you need is an email address. You simply type your message and then you pick a date to deliver the email. You can set it for tomorrow if you are not very daring or go all out and set it for 50 years time.You can set it for private or else public. If you select public then your letter will appear on their website.  You can add a photo of yourself if you wish. It is so simple to use.

I got the girls to brainstorm ideas first. Then we read some of the letters on the website for inspiration. All of the girls wrote a letter to themselves. For homework, I asked the girls to go home and pick one letter from the website that they found inspirational. The girls also had to write down three reasons why they found  inspirational. 


Inspirational quote: Teaching using technology 

  Technology is a fantastic opportunity for education that every teacher should utilise. It is not a simple task. Like everything worthwhile, it takes time and hard luck. However, the benefits are tremendous. Techology should should not just be used as a “fun task” to ease boredom. It should be implemented to improve the quality of your lesson. I have learnt the significance of technology this year and I really encourage my fellow teachers to keep trying it and learning and sharing! We will all learn from each other! 😊

How to implement the Key skills in the Junior Cycle whilst using digital technology. 

There are 6 key skills. In this blog post, I will discuss  how to utilise the key skills of the Junior  Cycle and use technology in the classroom.

Key skill 1. Communication.

COMMUNICATING is a skill that helps learners develop good communication skills in all aspects of life, using a variety of media. As well as developing literacy skills it also develops a student’s confidence in:


Expressing opinions


Making oral presentations


The NCCA describes Communication as:

Listening and expressing myself • Using language • Using numbers and data • Performing and presenting • Discussing and debating • Using digital technology to communicate.

Some people are natural good communicators and some people find communication very difficult. You must help all your students to improve their communication skills regardless of whether the are good communicators or not.

Students need to know how to communicate in school and in life. It is a vital key skill. With an oral presentation becoming a part of the new English Junior Cycle course, communication is of the utmost importantance. 

Last semester for my masters, I studied a module on Mentoring and Leadership. One of the main things I learnt from this module is the importance of being a good communicator and listening emphatically to others.

Students must be encouraged to listen to their teacher and also their peers.There must be a mutual feeling of respect throughout the classroom. The teacher must embody these traits in order for the pupils to follow.

Signposts is a great resource that really helps a teacher to create a ‘safe place’. As schools are now more diverse than ever, this is of the utmost importance. Students must respect each other’s diversity. The teacher should have their opinions and beliefs but they should be impartial.

It is really important to have set rules in your classroom while using web 2.0 tools in order to prevent bullying.

Web 2.0 is also known as the New Web. These tools ‘can provide new methods for teaching and address a variety of learning styles’.[1] Our students today are a different breed as they are ‘digital natives’.[2]  Web 2.0 tools encourage students to think critically and to not simply rote learn. ‘Web 2.0 tools provide instructors with technologies that facilitate learning in the ways that work best for students’. [3] Web 2.0 tools offer great substance as they work for all types of learners. Web 2.0 is using wikis, blogs, social networking and photo and video sharing tools.  However, what does web 2.0 mean for education? Web 2.0 is bringing education into the twenty first century. Web 2.0 tools offer real change as they make collaboration faster and easier as there are no downloads needed. The internet was created to foster communication therefore increasing student engagement.

As our students these days are ‘digital natives’. Web 2.0 should be utilised while we are teaching them. Web 2.0  tools offer exciting opportunities for communication in the classroom.

The web 2.0 tool that I have chosen for communication is Edmodo. Edmodo is an amazing tool which teaches the students the importance of collaboration as the students must communicate with each other while using Edmodo.


Edmodo  is a free social learning network for  students and teachers.

It connects more than twelve million teachers and students globally. Edmodo provides a secure network for teachers and students to interact and collaborate online. It combines the elements of a blog, Twitter and Facebook into one platform for learning. Edmodo is available for free on the web and the app is also available for free in the app store.

Edmodo allows teachers to differentiate learning, create a learning environment that cultivates modern learning, receive student performance data and see pupils work and what pupils are not working. Edmodo promotes collaboration, communication, creativity and autonomy as the student is given control of their own learning.  Teachers can give instructions, post pictures, videos, assignments, links and create polls and quizzes through their Edmodo class network.

Teachers can create as many groups as they like. Each group requires a different code. If student shares their class code with others then the teacher can simply just change the code.

My class groups


Students can share digital media such as blogs, pictures, videos, notes, documents, presentations and links. Students can also participate in online discussions. Teachers can connect with other teachers around the world who share their passion and interest. Edmodo provides a professional library. If another teacher adds a great resource, you can click ‘library’ and add it to your own library.

Students are able to log on and collaborate with each other. They do not just collaborate on assignments. The students can also share resources and opinions about topics. They can also offer homework advice if one of their peers is confused.

Edmodo has high educational value as it makes the student an active learner thus increasing student engagement.

Edmodo increases a student’s critical thinking skills as the students write comments to each other. Edmodo allows all students involved to contribute. It is of the utmost importance that the students write more to each other than ‘Great job’. Edmodo is not a chat room through posts.  Students need to be taught the difference between a chat room and a social learning tool.


2. Managing myself

This key skill requires the students to know themselves, making considered decisions, setting and achieving personal goals, being able to reflect on their learning and using digital technology to manage themselves.


Penzu is an online diary and a personal journal that is focused on privacy. With a unique and compelling user experience, it makes writing online as easy and intuitive as writing on a pad of paper. By managing a diary and a personal journal the student is managing their thoughts and feelings thus managing themselves.

Why isn’t there an easy and secure way to record your thoughts online? Well now there is. Penzu makes this possible.  All of the current online solutions are not not suitable for private writing. Some young people are writing their personal feeling son Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. This is not safe! The alternatives to keeping private information on a desktop computer in a Word Document or in a notepad while effective, aren’t entirely safe either. Anyone could access it!

Penzu offers a safe and secure place to store your thoughts and ideas in the cloud.

Not only are entries password protected in an online account, but individual entries can be locked with military-grade encryption.

With our powerful security also comes extreme ease of use. The core component of the interface is the Pad which is a metaphor for a pad of paper. This universal design element has allowed Penzu to transcend language and cultural barriers as people from 170 countries continue to use the service. We have always made the user experience a top priority and it is one of our main differentiation’s from complicated and confusing competitors.

The name, Penzu, comes from many influences, but mainly it is a derivative of the Latin “pensare” which means to think or be full of thought.

Benefits of Penzu:

Privacy– Designed to focus on privacy, your entries are totally private by default!

Availability- Enjoy Penzu on the move. Available for iOS and Android and totally free! Young people love apps!

Reminders-Custom email reminders help you make sure you never forget to write. This is genius!

Background– Make each journal your own with custom covers, backgrounds, and fonts. How cute! Why would anyone want a paper diary after this? How boring!

Search-Quickly and easily search through your journals, entries, and tags.

Password protected– Also you can further protect your diary with military-grade 256-bit AES encryption.

Penzu also have a range of different journals and diaries! They also have school diaries! They are all completely free!!

It is so easy to sign up. All you need is your name, your email address and a password. It takes one minute!The you click the colour of your diary. Then you get to choose the font. You can then give your mobile number so they can send you a mobile pin code to protect your diary. (You can skip this part). You are now ready to write your first entry!


School Diary Template

If you’re new to the school diary world, you may want to know how they look or what you can put in them. A standard template for a school diary post will usually include:

  • Date of entry
  • Term or semester number
  • A place for your school name and your name
  • Post title or topic
  • Plenty of writing space
  • Tasks to take care of in the future

Unlike printed diaries, electronic school diaries are much more customizable and some have multiple categories pre-set for you. You can also upload photographs from your computer, smartphone or tablet directly to your entries. You can choose your own colours and font.

School Diary Samples

A few examples for school diary posts are:

  • Today Ms. O Reilly is totally springing that quiz on us!  I guess I better study tonight. Note to self: Study poetry techniques tonight. Ace the test tomorrow!
  • I was sitting beside John today and Ellen cracked the dumbest joke at lunch.  Before I could start laughing, John split his food all over the table. Note: Never tell John a joke when he is eating (Insert picture food). It was funnier than the joke!

With Penzu, you can type out your daily thoughts and journal your most unforgettable moments at school.

Remember when your friend said that really funny thing and you just couldn’t wait to get home to Facebook it, but then by the time you got home you forgot how it was said? Well, no more of those wasted jokes or secret thoughts. Penzu lets you log in with your password and start typing away whenever you want!

The best part about Penzu is that you can keep track of your homework, essays, projects, exam dates and ideas, so no more forgetful moments.

If you like to keep things in more than one place, you can sync your entries from your app to the web as well! You’ll have privacy, room to express your thoughts and lots of funny things to read back over when you’re bored.


Here is a great video clip about how to use Penzu.


3. A web 2.0 tool that you can use for managing information and thinking is Livebinders.

This key skill requires the student to be curious ( They can do this by looking up information to put into their tabs), gathering, recording, organising and evaluating information. (They can do this by deciding what putting information into their tabs and organising the content into sub tabs and then evaluating the content then). The students must think critically and creatively. (What fun things can I add to my tabs? Os this suitable for my tab?). Using digital technology to manage information and thinking. Livebinders ticks them all!

Livebinders is a digital 3 ring binder that you can put virtually anything into; webpage, PDF, document, image, or video. Everything is organized by tab and you can even have subtabs within those tabs. It is free and it is really easy to set up.

Students and teachers can use Livebinders! It is a simply way to share knowledge.



Once in, you set up a binder. You name it and you can use tags, categories and you can make it public or private. You do not have to use tags and if you choose private then you simply just use a password to protect it. In your Livebinder, there will be different tabs for your different subjects. For example, English, Irish, Maths. Click on the tabs to name them. You can put any website address into your binder by adding in the URL address into the tab bar and it will allow you to access that site. Pretty cool huh! In each of your tabs, you can add subtabs. This allows you to become even more organised! Genius! Click on add content to add images and documents. You can add files form your computer and you can even add files from Dropbox. Lifesaver! Unfortunately unless it is PDF format, you will have to download the file to view it. If it is in PDF format, you can just scroll through it! You can customize the layout of your Livebinder. It is really simply yo use!

4. Being creative

For this key skill, students must use their imagination, implement ideas and take action, learn creatively whilst using digital technology. 

The web 2.0 tool I have chosen is Zimmer Twins. It is a creative storytelling site that I love to use in my English lessons. I have used this tool with my first years, 2nd years and 4th years to write stories. Instead of sitting in the classroom and getting the students to write a story, I brought them to the computer room and each student made their own story. It was a great success! The students absolutely love making their own stories. They were happy, hard working and full of creativity! That is what every English classroom should be like!

Students create and share their own animated stories. Pretty cool! I clicked on the educators and school tab. There is also a family version available. Both the teacher and the students have their own profiles. You can edit your account and the students will see this information. Your students can not edit their accounts, only their online profiles. The teacher can subscribe to the regular newsletter with information about Zimmer Twins. Using the my class tab, you can manage and delete your students passwords and information. If you delete a student then you delete all of their class work. To add a student, just click on add student. You can add up to 3 students at a time. You can see when and how many times your students have logged in. You can see all of your students passwords.

The students can write comments to each other under their movies.You manage their comments and you can delete any comment about a movie whenever you wish. You can make a movie for all of your class to view or they can make their own movies. You can either finish a story already made or you can start from scratch and make your own story.


By clicking on gallery, you can view videos made by other schools. The site explains really well how to make video clips.  First you choose an animation clip, you can make their characters act a feeling such as anger and you can control the characters movements such as to walk/sing/dance.

You can then add in fun bits such as newspaper headlines, maps, fortune cookies or tickets.The timeline is the ruler at the bottom of the screen which shows the different sections of your movie. By clicking on the sentence, you can change the background, the characters or even the things that they are holding. To lengthen your move, keep adding on clips. Add in talk bubbles and click on the bubbles to add in speech. 

5. Staying Well

This skill requires students to be healthy, social, safe, confident and positive about learning. The students must be responsible and safe when using digital technology.

Scribblar is an online meeting room / white board.

Students can use it to collaborate on projects, teachers can tutor via the computer, and teachers can use it for collaborative meetings and projects. It is really easy to set up! The teacher is can monitor progress which makes it safe. 

Scribblar gives the users a virtual white board on the screen and writing tools to create text, lines and shapes. They can even add images.

There is also a chat window on the side bar so that users can talk to each other while working. There is even a live chat system if you have a microphone and speakers. This allows the student to be social.  

I see students using this to work on homework problems together. This makes the students feel positive about learning. Teachers could use this to help students with homework after school or on the weekends. The great thing about Scibblar is that more than one person can be working/drawing at the same time. You can change the font and colour and you can save the chat transcript. You can also add different pages. You can email it to people or paste the link to a website and someone can enter and edit your page. 

Scribblar can now support PDF files. Free users can upload PDFs with up to 5 pages. Your uploaded PDF will be turned into an editable image in Scribblar. 


6. Working with Others

This key skill requires the students to develop good relationships, respect difference co-operate, learn with others and work with others using digital technology.

For this key skill, I choose Collarborize Classroom.

This allows learning to continue beyond the classroom. Teachers can create their own groups. It is protected and private so it is safe. I love this web 2.0 tool.It is free and really easy to use. It takes 2 minutes to set up! It reminded me of Edmodo. It is also like social media especially Facebook thus meaning the students find it easy to use. It is a private and secure site complements classroom instruction and gives all students a voice in classroom discussions. Teachers can make polls/yes or no/multiple choice or just questions and the students answer. The site’s allows teachers to to embed videos, attach PDFs, MS Word documents, and images .

The teacher can also create a discussion between the pupils. This ensures the students are working with each other. At the conclusion of a discussion, teachers and students can access the results for review, reflection, and extension.  Collaborize Classroom also boasts many support features for teachers including a Topic Library, and links for an FAQ section, email contact, as well as webinars. You can see the numbers of comments and activities each student has participated in. It is excellent for keeping track of each student!


Sources used: 

[1] Terry T. Kidd, Irene Chan, Wired for Learning: An Educator’s Guide to Web 2.0 (Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, Inc, 2009), p. 298.

[2] Marc Prensky, Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning (California: A Sage Company, 2010), p. Ii.

[3] Kidd, Chan, Wired for Learning: An Educator’s Guide to Web 2.0, p. 295.7

4. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Communicating  (accessed 18-11-15)< http://www.juniorcycle.ie/ncca_juniorcycle/media/ncca/documents/key/communicatingtoolkit_sept2013.pdf>

5. Department of Education and Skills, A Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 (accessed 18-11-15) <http://www.jct.ie/perch/resources/english_pdf/framework-for-junior-cycle-2015.pdf&gt;

6. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Being Creative (accessed 20-11-15) <http://www.juniorcycle.ie/NCCA_JuniorCycle/media/NCCA/Documents/Key/BeingCreativetoolkit_Sept2013.pdf&gt;

7. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Managing Information and Thinking (accessed 26-11-15) <http://www.juniorcycle.ie/ncca_juniorcycle/media/ncca/documents/test/managing-information-and-thinking-toolkit_feb-2013.pdf&gt;

8. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Managing Myself (accessed 1-12-15) <http://www.juniorcycle.ie/NCCA_JuniorCycle/media/NCCA/Documents/test/Managing-Myself-Toolkit_Feb2013.pdf&gt;

9. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle:Working with Others  (accessed 2-12-15) < http://www.juniorcycle.ie/NCCA_JuniorCycle/media/NCCA/Documents/test/Working-with-others_Toolkit_Feb2013.pdf>

10. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Staying Well (accessed 29-11-15) <http://www.juniorcycle.ie/NCCA_JuniorCycle/media/NCCA/Documents/Key/StayingWelltoolkit_Sept2013.pdf&gt;









































































Essential ICT resources for teachers


Using Wordle, you can generate word clouds that show prominent words in any body of text. It is really simple to use.It is free too! Just enter any text that you have gathered from a website, textbook or from your students work. It basically summarises what the text is about! Wordle also allows you to change the appearance of your word cloud by the font, shape, colour and organisation.

This is a great video clip which conveys an introduction to Wordle. 


Wordle can be used as an introduction to a topic or to as a final conclusion of a topic. You can use Wordle in ANY subject!

For example for Poetry in English you can give the students a Wordle and ask them to guess what the poem is about from looking at the words on the Wordle.

Wordle can also be used as a homework task the students must put each word into a sentence.

This video clip portrays different ways to use Wordle in the classroom. 


Armoured Penguin

I love this website. It is free to use. It allows you to make your own crosswords, word searches, word scrambles, secret codes and word matches. It allows you to print your tasks straight from the website and also you can save your puzzles for future use. Armoured Penguin has a list of puzzles made by other users that you can use yourself. It is very fast and easy to use.


I never used TES while I was on teaching practice as I always made my own resources. However, now that I am working and doing a Masters I have started to use resources from TES to save time. TES is a fanastic website which allows you to share your resources with other teachers and you can use resources made by others. This website basically has resources on nearly EVERYTHING! You can use the resources straight off the bait or you can edit them yourself to suit your needs.


Sparknotes is the Holy Grail for teachers especially English teachers! Sparknotes contains a library of novels. Many which you may be using in your classroom.

For each novel  Sparknotes offers a:


Plot Overview

Character List

Analysis of Major Characters

Themes, Motifs and Symbols

A summary and analysis of each chapter

Important quotations explained

Key Facts

Study Questions and Essay Topics


It is a great resource that is free! It also contains video clips!

What would the world do without Google? What would English teachers do without Sparknotes?


You can join this website for free. Studyclix has over 5000 discussion boards which teachers can learn a lot from. You can view exam papers and marking schemes. Or you can download free Junior and Senior Cycle notes/video clips to help to deepen the students understanding of a topic. You can view the 2016 timetable for the Junior and Leaving Cert.

Class tools

This is a great resource which lets you develop fun resources for use in the classroom. You can create your games, activities, quizzes and diagrams! It is a free and you do not have to sign up to use this website. The game generator lets you design an interactive quiz. You can create a Fake Facebook page (Fakebook) for a fictional or historical character. I always use the countdown timer when I am doing group work in a class to motivate the students and to keep them aware of the time restraints. The random name picker or fruit machine is great for  when you need to pick a student or a group for a task or even when you are asking lower and higher order questions.



Quizlet is an American online learning tool created by Andrew Sutherland. You can either use the free version or a paid version. I use the free version and I think it is great!  You can sign up using your Facebook page, Google or your email. I signed up using my email and it took 1 minute! So fast and efficient! The homepage illustrates a world map and portrays a live map ofwhat each person is studying on Quizlet at any given time. The website allows you to make flashcards, tests and study games on any topic! You can organise all of your class groups. You can browse or you can create your own! Quizlet has unlimited classes! There are also discussion boards where you can get an answer to a question right away. And your students can record their own voices to remember what they are learning.



Studystack is a bit like Quizlet.  Like Quizlet you can create Free flashcards for studying.  You can create your own or use sets shared by other students and teachers. It is really easy to use and it is free to sign up! Like Quizlet, you can sign up using your Facebook page or your email.

Here is a video clip which shows you how to use Studystack.