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)<>

5. Department of Education and Skills, A Framework for Junior Cycle 2015 (accessed 18-11-15) <;

6. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Being Creative (accessed 20-11-15) <;

7. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Managing Information and Thinking (accessed 26-11-15) <;

8. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Managing Myself (accessed 1-12-15) <;

9. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle:Working with Others  (accessed 2-12-15) <>

10. NCCA, Key Skills of Junior Cycle: Staying Well (accessed 29-11-15) <;









































































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.

Open Educational Resources



So what are open education  resources? 






‘Open education is changing lives’.

   ‘Equal access to knowledge means equal opportunities in life’.



Famous global examples of OER


Using OER (Open Educational Resources) in the classroom:

žOpen educational resources (OER) are growing in breadth and quality, as is the use of these materials in classrooms, networks, and school communities.

žžThe use and adoption of OER materials is increasingly a matter of policy in schools, especially in the many disciplines in which high quality educational content is more abundant than ever.

A big mistake about OER.

žOften mistaken to simply mean “free of charge” .

žAdvocates of OER have worked towards a common vision that defines it more broadly — not just free in economic terms, but also in terms of ownership and usage rights.


The goal of OER is:

žThe goal is that OER materials are:

ž 1. Freely copiable

ž2. Freely remixable

ž3. Culturally sensitive – ÂžFree of barriers to access, sharing, and educational use.

open goal


In 2013

žIn 2013, the EU identified the development of OER as:

žOne of three actions of the “Opening Up Education”.

žIt was an initiative proposed to bring the digital revolution to schools and universities.

žAs part of this initiative, a web portal called “Open Education Europa” was launched.


The focus now today is:

žThe focus is increasingly moving to the process of learning than on the body of information conveyed.

What is the appeal?

žPart of the appeal of OER is that they are a response to:

ž1. The rising costs of traditionally published resources.

ž2. The related lack of educational resources in some regions.

Benefits of OER

žA major consideration of OER initiatives lies in resolving intellectual property issues to ensure that the resources:

žShared for free

žAdaptable for anyone

žFor any purpose.


How is OER verified?

žThere are three ways in which OER quality is commonly verified:

ž1. The users and/or community.

ž2. By a peer review process.

ž3. By adherence to an established quality assurance criterion.



What is available to aid teachers?

žTo aid teachers with integrating OER into their classroom practices, the “OER Commons” is an online hub for:

ž1. Content curation

ž2. Training that was developed by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.

žThe “OER Commons” provides teacher education on the use and creation of learning materials with:

ž1. Open Author, a three-step online publisher that licences and shares the content with the “OER Commons” community.

ž2. In addition to offering face-to-face training

ž3. Sessions with the “Teachers as Makers Academy”.

žThe project also provides a year-long mentorship programme and webinar trainings as part of the “OER Fellowship Programme.”


An example: Klascement in Germany

žStarted in 1998 as a resource website for primary and secondary teachers in Belgium to share teacher generated content.

žAs of 2014, it is part of the Ministry of Education. The site now includes OER suitable forcrossborder usage and examples of best practices.

To evaluate OER

žOER Commons is a model for teacher education that transcends national boundaries and provides a variety of training options to teachers everywhere.

It is an amazing educational resource that all teachers should utilise!





50 Things You Can Say To Encourage A Child

What is encouragement? Encouragement is non-judgment. Encouraging statements point out specific facts but do not evaluate them. Phrases such as ‘You worked really hard today’ or ‘You should be proud of yourself’ are examples of non-judgmental encouragement. Students who are encouraged tend to develop a stronger self-motivation and pride in their work because the encouragement focuses on what they are doing well, not what the teacher thinks about their work. By encouraging your students, you will give them more confidence and you will also give them motivation to work hard. You will also help the students to learn more and develop pride in their achievements!

Why is encouragement better than praise?

  1. The students will learn how to evaluate themselves without comparing themselves to others! What they think about themselves is more important than what others think about them!

2. Encouragement focuses on EFFORT. This builds up a students self-esteem.

3. It sets up students for success. It makes them believe in themselves!

encouragment 2

how you make others feel

  1. You’re on the right track now.
    2. You’ve worked so hard on that.
    3. That’s great.
    4. That turned out very well.
    5. That’s coming along nicely.
    6. I’m proud of the way you worked today.
    7. You’ve just about got it.
    8. That’s the best you’ve ever done.
    9. I am so proud of you!
    10. That’s it!
    11. Now you’ve figured it out!
    12. That’s quite an improvement.
    13. I knew you could do it!!
    14. Congratulations!
    15. I love when you work hard.
    16. Believe in yourself!.
    17. You’ve solved the problem. Well done!
    18. Keep working on it, you’re almost there!
    19. Now you have it!
    20. Your are working hard, you figured that out quickly.
    21. I bet you’re proud of yourself.
    22. One more time and you’ll have it.
    23. Great idea!
    24. That was brilliant!
    25. Terrific teamwork!
    26. Nothing can stop you now.
    27. You have such creative ideas.
    28. That’s the way to do it.
    29. Sensational!
    30. You must have been practicing.
    31. You handled that so well.
    32. I like how you think.
    33. Good remembering.
    34. You know just what to do!
    35. You really are persisting with this.
    36. You expressed yourself so well.
    37. You did it!
    38. I knew ye could figure it out together.
    39. Excellent effort!
    40. I know it’s hard, but you’re almost there.
    41. Fantastic problem-solving!
    42. I love hearing your ideas.


43. You made an excellent point there!
44. I know that was hard for you, but you stayed so calm.
45. I am so proud of you!
46. Look how you help each other.
47. You finished faster because you worked together.
48. You kept trying!

49. You made an excellent point!

50. I believe in you!

my wordsencouragment 3

Habit of the week





This is a follow up blog from my reward systems blog. This is my own personal creation that I created just before I started my first teaching placement. Before I started my first placement, I thought about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. And I also thought about what I expected off the students. I remembered my own school days and teachers telling my peers and I that we need to get in the ‘habit’ of this and that. The word ‘habit’ wrecked my head so much during school that it has stuck with me. I now understand what my teachers were saying.

I wanted my own pupils to get into certain habits such as:

  • Being motivated
  • Being organised (Having all copies, books, pencil cases and other classroom materials that are needed).
  • Working hard
  • Coming to class on time
  • Being passionate about the subject
  • Encouraging others
  • Achieving targets 


There are so many different habits that we want the students to get into. These are just some examples.

I set a different ‘Habit’ each week. I stick a poster of the ‘Habit of the Week’ on my notice board. I stick it here so my students are constantly reminded and motivated for the week. At the end of the week, I then pick one student that I think really worked hard at achieving the ‘Habit of the Week. I give that student a certificate that I made myself using Power point and a prize such as sweets.

‘Habit of the Week’ has really worked well for me throughout my four teaching practices and now in my first job as a teacher.

It actually motivates the disruptive students and it gives the quiet students confidence. It motivates ALL students and the students get quite competitive with each other. They ALL want to win it. Many parents have given me fantastic feedback about using this reward system. I plan to keep using this reward system throughout my career.

Here is my Habit of the Week Certificate. You can edit it yourself to add in your name and your Habit of the Week. Habit of the week.

Reward systems

Reward systems are a great resource for classroom management. They can be a fun way of managing behaviour. The rewards help students remember the classroom rules and common sense manners. They also motivate the students to behave well! The use of rewards within the classroom are a form of extrinsic motivation for students, encouraging them to participate cooperatively in academic and social learning experiences (Hoffman, Huff, Patterson & Nietfield 2009).

motivation wordle

Even the student’s who misbehave love to achieve a reward. Imagine how good you feel when you feel a sense of achievement when you do something good. A sense of achievement gives us purpose. This never fades no matter how old we are. The only thing that changes is the variety of rewards. For example a reward system for first year will not work for Leaving Certs. No matter what age the student is, reinforcement is of the utmost importance in teaching. Reward systems actually work with students with severe behaviour problems at school, or students who simply act out because they are so mad at the world. I know this because I have experienced this first hand! By offering rewards, we are trying to show these students that we care and that by attending school and getting an education, they will be rewarded. There are the immediate rewards, such as rewards and sweets, and long-term rewards, such as a job and college. All students want a better life, some just struggle with how they can achieve this. Some students do not realize that applying them while they are young it will make it easier for them to reach their goals. The rewards help them get over that barrier. Students are given motivation to apply themselves in schools. Students start to see the association between completing tasks/ work, behaving, and getting good grades.

Rewards fall into two categories.

  • Individual rewards
  • Group rewards



Establishing Class rules at the start of the school year

I used this every year on teaching practice and it worked really well. Now as a teacher I still use this technique. At the start of the school year I brainstorm with each class what makes a good teacher and a good student. This gives the students’ the opportunity to think about what they need to do and what you need to do for a positive relationship to work. You should do this in the first class of the school year so the students know their boundaries straight away! I then write out the agreed rules or put the students into groups and get them to write out the rules. I then stick the rules on the wall so the students have a constant reminder of the class rules. Now my rules are made, I then think about using reward systems. You should try and implement a continual reward system that is based on upholding the classroom rules, rights and responsibilities (Hoffman, et. al., 2009; Mansor, et. al., 2012).

General rewards can be to watch one music video, listen to one song, sweets, less homework, a good note or a certificate! I have learnt that secondary school students really love a positive message home. Parents also love to hear a positive message from school.

good work.png

Top tips!

Be fair and reasonable

  • You will lose all respect if you are an autocratic leader/ dictator – the children will not listen to anything you say as they will not respect you.
  • Be consistent
  • If there is a rule then that rule should apply to all students equally. (However, sometimes you need to make slight adjustments!) It is important to recognise that these rewards systems should be consistent and fair, providing students with motivation and encouragement (Mansor, et. al., 2012).

Be disappointed not angry

STAY CALM!!!! Do not SHOUT or lose your cool! It will not help, it will only make the situation worse. If a student/students’ misbehave – let them know how they have let you down and how you had expected more from them. Remember when you were younger and your parents told you they were disappointed in you. That had a stronger affect on us than shouting ever did!

Be private

  • This is a really important one! If there is an issue with a student/group of children. Do not embarrass them in front of their peers as they will not respond well and their behaviour will get worse. Tell the student/students that you will talk to them after class.

Be positive and caring

  • Throughout our teaching careers we will have certain students or certain classes that will really test us. They will test our patience! It is important to positive as this conveys to the students that you care. In order to be a good teacher, you need to CARE about your pupils! Show your pupils that you CARE! They will respond positively to this. The classroom should be a positive learning environment. It should be a safe space for the students.



In this blog post, I have described different types of reward systems that may help you in your teaching.

1. The Traffic Light

traffic lights twotraffic lights


You can use this reward system in a number of ways.

You can use a light that looks like a set of traffic lights and works in the same way. The light starts on green and the student’s objective is for it not to change from that for the whole lesson. If the noise level or behaviour degrades then you can turn on the amber light. When the students’ see this happen it encourages them to behave more appropriately. The light can go back to green.

If they do not improve the red light goes on as well and you can issue one of your consequences.

Using this method you have not had to raise your voice and if the students have a sequence of all green lessons then a reward can be given.

The only problem I have with this method is that the whole class gets punished!

An alternative is to:

You can have the traffic light colours on the wall with all the student’s names stuck on with bluetac. They all start on green and individually move down to amber then red if they are misbehaving. That way you are not punishing the whole class if individuals are in the wrong.

Another alternative is to:

Use paper plates. Cut out a red, yellow and green circle. Write the students names on clothes pins and put them around the rim of the green “light”. If behaviour is not acceptable, move the individual clothes pin to yellow and then red. Yellow is a warning, Red means punishment.


2. The Angel/Star reward

sticker reward


I teach a first year Down syndrome student one – on –one six times a week. I bought an angel reward poster and stickers for her in Easons. The angel reward system works like the star reward system. You stick the reward poster on the wall. Each day for a month should be marked in for you if it is not mark in each day or each class yourself. When your student behaves, then you can reward her/him with an angel/star. You can stick the sticker on the poster yourself or you can allow the student to do it themselves. I allow my student to do it herself as it allows her to get really involved and excited about her reward! If your student is not behaving, then you can warn him/her that they will not receive a sticker if they do not behave. If the student does not behave then they do not get a sticker. I find this reward system really works well for her.

3. The Ticket System

tickets two



Tickets can be handmade or printed out by the teacher. Be sure to explain to the students beforehand how tickets can be earned.

Tell the students that they will be in a reward group for a week. You can do this by putting those sitting beside each other into groups or else putting the students into random groups. Make sure you explain this fully to the students to limit confusion. Tickets will be awarded for good behaviour and quiet working and to the hardest working students. At the end of the week I will count up the tickets and the best group will receive a reward. The students will get quite competitive with other groups and “encourage” others in their group who might not be pulling their weight. This reward system portrays a positive way that peer pressure can be used.

You do not have to put the students into groups for this reward system. You can give students who behave individual tickets. The group method is just an idea!

Another suggestion for the Ticket system is:

This motivation system is used to reward individual students. Students earn tickets for targeted behaviours or for completing certain tasks. Then, at the end of the week or month, the teacher holds a raffle with the collected tickets and students whose names are drawn will be given a reward.

Another alternative is:

Ticket Economy

Rather than the teacher collecting students’ tickets and then drawing a winner, students can use the tickets to purchase rewards themselves. The teacher must set a list of choices for each reward. Bigger rewards can be worth more tickets. For example, a small bar of chocolate or a lollipop may cost 5 or 10 tickets whereas for “Free Homework Assignment” may cost 50 tickets. This system puts more responsibility on students, as they have to collect their own tickets. It teaches them responsibility which is an important life skill.


4. Target posters



At the start of each semester, get each student to set themselves a target in your subject. The student must achieve a target from start of term until Halloween. Then from the start of November until Christmas. From Christmas until February Mid-term. From February Mid-term until Easter. And from after Easter until the end of term. This allows the students to achieve many targets throughout the year. The students will be delighted with themselves when they achieve their target! This method really motivates the students to work hard each semester. By allowing them to pick their own goal, they can really relate to the target. They will really want to achieve! Make sure you help your students when they are choosing their targets as some students might not set high enough targets or maybe too high of a target. Guide your students. You are there to help them.

You can also reward your students when they achieve their target.

You can set longer time periods to achieve targets for your class if you wish.

Here is a great video clip that I found about using reward systems in a  classroom. 



All images are from Google images.

The value of post its for evaluation!

post its

This post is credited to my lecturer Elaine McDonald who taught my year about the value of using post its in our teaching!


I have been using post its since my first teaching practice and they work! You can use post its in many ways. It is a really easy and simple but yet effective teaching tip! You can see immediately if there are any gaps in your students understanding of a certain topic. You read the students questions about a certain topic. Also you can see the best ways that your students learn. I really love it.. I have been using this top for 4 years and I plan on using it throughout my teaching career!

At the start of the year, I will write on the whiteboard, ‘What can Ms O Reilly do this year to help you learn this year?’. I will give each student a a post it and I will ask the students to write their answer on their post it and stick it on the whiteboard. Th allows you to see at the start of the year what the students expect/need from you.

On example is when I am nearing the end of the lesson so  I give every student a post it. I ask them to write down on the post it one question they have about today’s topic.

Or else I write 3 questions on the whiteboard and I ask the students to respond to each question on their post it.

Some examples of questions are:

  1. What did you like about today’s lesson.
  2. Write down one thing that you learnt in today’s lesson.
  3. What did you not like about today’s lesson.
  4. What did you find hard to understand about today’s lesson.
  5. What did we do in today’s lesson that you helped you to understand the topic?

It is best to tell the students not to write their names down on their post it as you will get the best answers if it is anonymous. Students love not writing their name down as they do not have to feel anxious about asking a ‘stupid question’ and it gives them more confidence to be brutally honest!



You can get the students to fold over the post it so it is sealed. You can take the posts its up and address the questions before the lesson ends or else you can collect the  post its at the very end of the lesson.


You can use this tip in ANY subject! I hope you find this tip helpful!




Some SPHE resources

Here are some websites and resources that I have found really good for teaching SPHE. Hopefully they will be of some help to you too! You can also use the handout I made about common teenage health concerns.
 This is ‘Lil Lets’ English Youtube channel. It has a lot of video clips and there is a really good variety! For example ‘How the Monthly Cycle works, Talking Periods, Going Through Puberty Changes). It features video clips from English celebrities such as Nicola Roberts (Girls Aloud) and Vanessa White (The Saturdays), English sports stars and English bloggers.
This is ‘Lil Lets’ Irish Youtube site. It has only recently been set up. It features video clips from Stephanie Roche who plays for Ireland and So Sue Me and Melanie Murphy who are two very famous Irish bloggers. As it is a new site, they will be adding a lot of new content over the next few months!
This is ‘Lil Lets’ English website. You can download a booklet about ‘Becoming a Teen’. The advice column has some good tips. For example having your first crush and your first kiss.
This is ‘Lil Lets’ Irish website. Like the Irish Youtube site, it is new and it will be updated over the next few months.
All images used are from Google images.

Modern day Shakespeare 

shakespeare picture

William Shakespeare still today has a significance in our lives. We say things and we do not know that some of sentences originated from Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote 1/10 of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English!

The idea of tackling Shakespeare in school has sometimes sent chills down both students’ and teachers’ spines, but the truth is that studying Shakespeare does not have to be so scary/daunting. His plays and sonnets are filled with themes that are relevant still to this day. Most importantly, Shakespeare knew how to tell a good story.

shakespeare statistics

Shakespeare invented many words! 3,000 in fact!

willliam s

Even words that our students think were only invented lately like ‘twerk’ and ‘swagger’.



Young people today love using quotes to describe their daily lives! Many of them do not realise that the quotes they are using are by Shakespeare.

a fool



go slowly

love me


It is important to show the students this so they can relate to Shakespeare!


Tasks to use in the classroom

Here is a Shakespeare’s original version and a modern version from the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Original- Juliet: Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face, Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny What I have spoke: but farewell compliment! Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘Ay,’ And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st, Thou mayst prove false; at lovers’ perjuries Then say, Jove* laughs. O gentle Romeo, If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully: Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won, I’ll frown and be perverse an say thee nay, So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world. In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond.
A modern equivalent Juliet: Because it’s dark, you can’t see my face. Otherwise you’d see me blushing About what you’ve heard me say tonight. I would willingly stay polite and deny  What I have said. But forget about being polite, Do you love me? I know you will say yes.
And I will believe you. But if you promise you love me, You might actually be lying. They say God laughs  When lovers lie to each other. Oh gentle Romeo, If you do love me, say it truly. Or if you think it’s too quick and easy to get me to love you, I’ll frown and play hard to get and say no to you So you’ll try harder to win me. But otherwise, I wouldn’t act that way for anything. To tell you the truth, handsome Montague, I’m too keen on you.

As a task, you could put the students in to groups and get each group to rewrite in modern language certain parts of the play.

Another task- Shakespearean vocabulary 

Work in pairs to match the Shakespearean vocabulary (1-15) with the modern day equivalents (a-o).
Shakespearean Modern day
1. Fain
2. Farewell
3. Nay
4. Oft
5. Woo
6. Lest
7. Wherefore
8. Methinks
9. Pronounce
10. Ay
11. Swear
12. Twas
13. Perjury
14. Else
15. Prithee
a. Say
b. Yes
c. Otherwise
d. Promise
e. Telling a lie
f. For fear that, in case
g. Flirt or romance
h. Why
i. Goodbye
j. Often
k. I think
l. Willingly
m. No
n. Please
o. It was

Another task could be:

Look at these famous quotes from Shakespeare.

What are the modern-day equivalents of the underlined words?

1. ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’  As You Like It
2. ‘This above all: to thine own self be true,  And it must follow, as the night the day,  Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ Hamlet
3. ‘Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.’ Hamlet
4. ‘Many a true word hath been spoken in jest*.’ King Lear

Once the task is complete, start a discussion with the students about the quotes!

Talking like Shakespeare task.
With a partner, write a short dialogue using as many of the Shakespearean words in as you can, and Shakespearean grammar. Then read your dialogue aloud to the class.


Shakespeare Resources

Shakespeare Online
A wide range of information about Shakespeare and his works.

Images of Shakespeare’s life.

These black and white images show the house where Shakespeare was born, the writing on his tombstone, and more.

Absolute Shakespeare
An essential resource for William Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets, poems, quotes, biography and the legendary Globe Theatre .

Elizabethan dress

Learn about Elizabethan dress on this website that even includes some patterns to make your own!!

Poetry magnetic tiles

This is a really cool tool works like magnetic poetry tiles. Select how many Shakespearean words you want, then receive that many random tiles that you can arrange however you like to create your own Shakespearean poetry.

Folger Shakespeare Library Online Resources for Teachers
This site has lesson plans and resources for teaching Shakespeare. You can sign up for a newsletter, find links to videos, and much more from this site that makes teaching Shakespeare easier!

Shakespeare dictionary

This is a brilliant dictionary that provides definitions for words that are no longer used or have changed in meaning  for example ‘power’ and it also offers insight into the symbolism of words that modern readers might not recognize.

Shake Speare 

This guide offers a lot! It has personal information about Shakespeare to plots of all his plays to a handy list of glossaries.

No Fear Shakespeare

This resource is from Spark Notes. It puts two pages side by side: one with Shakespeare’s language and one with modern language.

Open Source Shakespeare

You read Shakespeare’s works here, or you can use the concordance to learn about specific words and get statistics.

Understanding Shakespeare

This site offers translations of some of the most common Shakespearean words.

Phrase used by Shakespeare

This site allows us to find out what common phrases were probably first used by Shakespeare.

Teachers guide to Shakespeare

This guide tips and advice for teaching any Shakespeare drama.


You can listen to 8 of Shakespeare plays and 4 sonnets here.

Video clips

This site contains a variety of  videos clips .


How well do you know Shakespeare quizzes?

Shakespeare quotations quiz

Shakespeare general quiz












Always look around you..



We live in  a world where we are so consumed with technology. When I was a child, I played outside and made the best memories. Many children today do not enjoy playing unless it is on an ipad.

However, it is not just children who are guilty! We constantly check Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook. We obsess about others peoples lives and we constantly COMPARE ourselves to others.  We do not fully appreciate our own lives.

We have become robots!

You cannot truly bond with someone when you are glued to your phone/ipad/laptop. When something happens, we take our phones to record it. How can we fully be present in the moment if we are on our phones? Always look around you. Be mindful. Fully absorb everything around you. Make memories! The best experiences are the experiences you could not take a picture because you were enjoying life too much.

When you are your deathbed, you will not be thinking about technology but rather your favourite memories!

You can use this content in SPHE or non exam LC religion or in Section D in Junior Certificate Religion!

What is the meaning of life? Is it to be consumed by technology?


Am I addicted to my phone? Here are some signs to look out for: 

  1. You check it when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed.
  2. If it is not in your hand, you get anxious.
  3. Hours pass while you are on your phone.
  4. If your battery goes below 30 per cent, you panic!
  5. You use your phone on the toilet!
  6. You use your phone while talking to someone.
  7. You sleep with your phone on your nightstand or beside you in bed.
  8. You have a lot of apps!
  9. Turning your phone off on a flight gives you serious FOMO. (Fear of missing out)
  10. The idea of leaving your phone in a repair shop freaks you out!
  11. You think you can listen and text and talk and text but you cannot!


Now here are some tips to beat the smartphone addiction: 

Turn your phone off an hour before you go to bed.

Do not use your phone while talking to someone.

Do not use your phone as an alarm clock. Get an alarm clock!

No devices at meals.

Have family rules about technology.

The first 30 minutes of your day should be about preparing yourself for a good day. Get up! Eat breakfast! Shower! Dress yourself! Start your day with positive actions.

Create no-phones zones.

Turn your phone off in the car.


My advice to you now is to look up from your phone and really be present!

This is a really importance lesson that we must teach our students!

lifelife moves fastlook around you

This is a great video clip for an online generation.  We are slaves to technology.

‘We are a bunch of idiots with smart phones’.

I love this image! It conveys a lady who is relaxed and fully absorbing what is happening. I love how happy she looks! She is not looking down at her phone or worrying about not dropping her phone or if her phone battery is low.

She is a wonderful example of how to fully live in the moment! She shows us how to be mindful and how to be present!