First Dates Ireland

This is my first blog in a couple of months and my first attempt to maintain blogs for resources. Possibly I aim to do one a least one a week and I wanted to write this one as soon as possible as the idea only came to me on the 10th September.

I was attending mass and today’s gospel was the Parable of the Prodigal son from the book of Luke. The priest followed with the homily commenting that the Prodigal Son is one of the most difficult parables to appreciate as it shows the father praising the return of the son who appeared greedy and irresponsible whiles the hard working son was not accredited for his hard work. The moral of the story is that God loves us no matter what we do in the past. This story does not appear to all for that reason and there can be many examples that can be found in modern day to day lives.

The priest in the homily acknowledged how the story also focuses on the persons redemption and to turn away from our bad past is worth a celebration and worthy of recognition, as in in the words of Oscar Wilde; every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

The priest also related the story to an episode of First Dates Ireland that he recently watched ( a very trendy and up to date priest altogether). Anyway he discussed an episode where two people meet and click fairly well on their date. However it is noted by the girl that the man is not drinking, when the girl questions him on this, he admits he is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. They discussed the matter for a while and even though they got along very well the woman decided not to meet the man again because of his past. This simply raises an ethical questions was the woman right? Her reasons were certainly justified. However her choice certainly places the man in a difficult position in that he is being reminded of his past and not feeling rewarded for overcoming his problems.

The episode, if can be found, is a great resource for the topic of social development and ethical choices. Teenagers may easily encounter similar problems, but it raises social and political questions.

Above is the link illustrating what happened on the date and the twitter reactions. The resource is effective for a mature discussion methodology lesson.


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Age of Exploration

This is a series of definitions for the navigation for the Age of Exploration section.

Mr. Courtney                                                                                                                                                   4/9/2014

Age of Exploration

Advances in Travel

  • Maps
  • At the beginning of the fifteenth century, cartographers (people who drew maps) produced more detailed maps of Europe and the known world.
  • The Portuguese used maps called portolan (which means harbour finding) maps which were very detailed about the coastline.
  • Navigation
  • Sailors used compasses to show the direction in which they were sailing.
  • Sailors began to work out their latitude (their distance north or south of the equator) using instruments called quadrants and astrolabes. Both instruments measured the height of the sun or the north star above the horizon.
  • The speed of a ship was measured using the log and line. A sailor threw a piece of wood (log) into the sea from the back of the boat. This was attached to a reel of knotted rope (line). The amount of rope that was pulled by the wood in one minute was then measured.
  • Life on the ship
  • Life at sea was tough. Ships could end up hundreds of miles off course, especially in seas that had never been mapped. Shipwrecks due to storms or crashing into rocks were common. Biscuits called hardtack were commonly eaten. Other food sailors ate included cheese, onions, dried beans, and salted fish or recently caught fish.
  • This poor diet meant that the crews regularly suffered from diseases such as typhoid (from bad water) and scurvy (from a lack of vitamin C).
  • Sailors often found themselves attacked by hostile natives.

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Drugs and Alcohol. SPHE / RE topics

A very important aspect to education is warning signs for the variety of drugs available to the genera public and allow them to understand the key distinctions between the different types and overall understand that a drug is simply any substance other than food which changes the way the body or mind functions.

Recently I started the module with my third years about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol irresponsibly. So far the students have co-operated well with the module and have asked a lot of questions contributed greatly to the lessons. I found that there was a colossal amount of resources on this topic so it made lesson planning very easy in comparison to some other social topics.

One Power point I  found was on the various drugs types and the category each one falls under. However, as I always say, a PowerPoint is only as good as the teacher who is using it. To begin the series of lesson,s start with the lesson of what is a drug?


Secondly, inform them of what qualifies as a drug, e.g. caffeine, and what it is categorized under;

Carry on the lesson appropriately that suits you class understanding and ability. Have the pupils read from slides and incorporate higher and lower order questions and using a variety of methodologies that permits students participation and discussion.

The various PowerPoint and worksheets on resources websites like, are so effective and once examined properly they can be incorporated into the lesson effectively. Drugs and alcohol is of course an important and arguably difficult topic to teach especially since the frequent things that adolescents are exposed to in modern society. So like many social topics, you have to teach it from an outside perspective, not judging those who have or have not taken any form of drug that effect their body whether it is for medical or recreational purposes and of course making no presumptions or putting any pressure on students in the class. A ‘Say no to drugs’ rant maybe very irrational, but instead ensure it is an illustration of their effects and how the consequences can be dangerous. Know the difference between informing and lecturing.

In addition to the PowerPoint, there is a documentary you can show parts of at the end of each lesson that is perfectly divided to allow you to show different parts on different lessons. The documentary : What drugs do in your body,  illustrates what several different drugs effects drugs have on the body and the mind. The documentary is just over 40 minutes but shows how intoxicated people react to the different everyday and emergency situations under the influence of narcotics. If you divide the video to 3 lessons based on the 3 scenarios that take place in the video.The documentary is engaging in many ways as it shows how people react to under the influence and while they are sober. The idea is not to put a shock value for the pupils but to provide them with the heads up as to what is out there and whats ahead of them.

Assessment can be tricky with this section. The topic is an important but not a mandatory lesson for the Junior or Leaving certificate. This is ideal, as the lessons should not require a need for examination. However, if in an exam subject it still has its benefits, for religious education it can be used to illustrate the choices in morality and ideally can used as an example of respecting yourself and moral codes. For S.P.H.E. its very relevant for obvious reasons, drugs are very relative to peer pressure, a common issue for teens. It is also appropriate for seniors under social ed or non-exam RE as maturity is important. Avoid the topic with first years and second years as instead the maturity of the topic requires the pupils to be more aware about the world and themselves.

The topic can cross over with science and P.E. for effects of drugs on the body and even C.S.P.E. with importance of raising awareness of the dangerous impact abusing drugs can have on both the users and those around them. It is an important topic to inform the pupils on this area and although not a polite area to teach, holds a lot of necessity for their social and mental development throughout their school days. Most importantly from, it appropriately incorporates the key skills of the NCCA. Communication through class discussion, managing information through breaking down the types of drugs, critical thinking for the striking factors that are raised, working with others for pair discussion etc.

Its an important and mature topic, Don’t be afraid to answer controversial questions or listen to students inputs. However, for any inappropriate comments from students you may have, promote a disclaimer prior to beginning the lessons. Inform the pupils that their opinions can be respected as long as they are appropriate and do not offend any other pupil in the classroom. If pupils do not co-operate maybe disallow them from contributing in discussions. You do not know what issues students sitting in front have that may relate to drink or drugs. Again don’t let this put you off, but ensure respect is maintained from your part too. Remind the students that if they feel uncomfortable in any shape or form about the class they are welcome to address it privately afterwards, and in case you are worried the students are too shy to say talk about their concern, the post it method for class reflection works wonders. It can provide yourself with a decent reflection on how the lesson went and realize if there is any concerns from the students.


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Teaching Reflection tasks

Encouraging students to reflect on their experiences throughout second level. this is important for a variety of reasons. Reflecting on work they have done ( with a checklist) allows them to realise how much content they have covered since beginning.

the checklist can be done at the end of each term and is a good way to show students they have finished another chapter in their school.

Reflecting through meditation. Bringing the students to a retreat location such as an oratory or even just swapping chairs around in the classroom. Give a spoken meditation  after settling the students and getting their ‘zen’ on, have them think about how far they have come since they began in education and even how far they have come socially. Reminding them about new and old friends and the new relationships they have or haven’t started had in their current lives. Meditation is a great and relaxing lesson for the class.

Journal work. Having the students keep their own reflecting journal is not an easy task to encourage the pupils to do. There is a necessity that we appreciate their privacy here but if we were to provide the pupils with a series of questions about what they have achieved and have them keep it on a word document so it it is electronically saved for them (possibly a great blog if your class are involved with some of the great blogging websites).

Overall reflection is a vital aspect of social and personal development that can help them overcome stress and understand how to amend their previous mistakes.

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Tips for correcting exams

This weekend I began correcting students mock exams. Although CSPE and RE are not extensive exams as leaving cert English, they require time and effort like any other subject.
Here are my first few tips for marking exams.

First up: Be fresh. Don’t mark exams tired because you need to ensure you give your full attention to detail. So after good brekkie and warm coffee ensure you go into it eyes wide opened.

Second: leave the best to last. Always mark the best class or students last so you finish marking on a good note and somewhat satisfied that the students listened to you

Thirdly: mark the same section all at once. Don’t go through every paper restarting marking at every student. Instead, mark the first section of all students, then the second of all students, that way the marking scheme is still fresh in your head and it’s easier to keep your perspective on the marking scheme at the same level. I was advised to do this by one of my old teachers and it works wonders. Made Every thing, from my focus and speed at which I corrected all the better and if anything is the best method for producing results.

Motte and Bailey Lesson Layout

Why did William build Castles?


Task 1:


Label your Motte and Bailey Castle:


  • Drawbridge
  • Tower
  • Motte
  • Bailey
  • Palisade Wall
  • Moat
















Features of the motte and bailey castles Function of the motte and bailey castles

Describe the key features and how you think each of the features would be good for defence














Task 3:


How effective was the motte and bailey castle?


Think about the strengths and weakness of the motte and bailey castle:


  • The defensive strengths of the motte and bailey were…


  • The defensive weaknesses of the motte and bailey were…


  • The motte and bailey castle helped William to control England because…





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Key figures for teaching a question of Faith

The following men are extremely benefical case studies when studying the importance of the relationship between science and religion.

Conor Cunningham’s award winning Documentary on this very topic established why both Ultra Darwinist and Creationists have hijacked the debate regarding whether Evolution means Atheism. Cunningham claimed in his documentary that like many atheists, our knowledge and concept of God goes beyond the theory of evolution, but that is not the case for Dawkins or Ham, ‘Both Ultra-Darwinians and creationists believe that any existent deity is a designer ‘God.”’[1] Throughout his documentary Cunningham examines the reasoning behind much of this animosity toward the theory of evolution. He encounters many different philosophers, scientists and theologians discussing with them their response to evolution. Michael Ruse and Francis Collins are the two most notable scientists who refute the belief the Evolution implies atheism.

Michael Ruse is well known for balancing the benefits and negatives of religion and science. Ruse, a lecturer at Florida State University, is a philosopher of science who specialises in philosophy of biology. He is well known for his work for the relationship between science and religion, the creation evolution controversy and the demarcation problem in science. Ruse emphasises that although he himself is an atheist, he claims there is no reason why Darwinism should imply Ultra Darwinism. Francis Collins discusses how to illustrate a flaw in Dawkins theory of the Theory of Memes, ‘Science is committing a category error to claim dominion over the existence of God.’[2] Collins dedicated over fifteen years studying the role of DNA in organisms and it has only come to recent light that all living things link to each other in some shape or form through our DNA.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Roman Catholic priest and a scientist. He was highly respected for his work in physics, geology, palaeontology and theology. Teilhard de Chardin spent a great deal of his life in scientific research. Teilhard de Chardin believed scientific work gave him greater understanding of God as moral compass. The more he discovered about the world of nature the more he saw the creative hand of God at work. For this man, science and scientific research were ways of getting closer to God. He wrote his insights in his two books The Phenomenon of Man and The Hymn of the Universe. I think that Teilhard is a key example and role model with regard to our outlook on God. Instead of ignoring any scientific data previously presented by the likes of Darwin or Galileo, he instead embraced these theories and went on to discover the truth for self him and came to his own conclusions.

[1] Cunningham Conor, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong (William B. Erdmans, London; 2010) p.151.

[2] Did Darwin kill God  YouTube. Last Received 19/9/14

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