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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Classroom Contract

A classroom contract is an extremely effective way in establishing rules for pupils early on in the year. I made the mistake of waiting until now to use it. So far since I have started it it has been extremely effective.

The best way to construct the contract in in the classroom. Structure it in three sections, firstly, the I will section.


Here you ask the students through a series of higher and lower order questions what they think would come under the terms of what the students will in the classroom. The answers will range from be on time, to always put our hand up to having homework. Although these are systems of basic school rules, there is no harm to throw in one or two unique to your specific learning environment. Such as for History I will leave off topic questions until the end etc.

The I WILL NOT section:

Sure what else? Here we will again ask students what they will not do in class such as talk out of turn, swing on chairs, etc. Again incorporate you’re own devices such as toilet use. I will not use the toilet more than twice a week etc. Just to establish order.


For good behaviour and following the classroom contract, ensure the students see the benefit from their good behaviour and do not see no result of effectiveness from your part. Simple rewards such as a video reward or sweets rewards good behaviour. Punishments such as lines and write outs for those who do not follow the contract.

The contract is an extremely beneficial thing especially for weaker classes. Just ensure you yourself enforce it.

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Middle Ages, Online Resources and Class Activities

There are a series of brilliant resources available for teaching the Middle Ages.

Similarly to Rome, the internet is full of different resources we can utilise. Images of different castles especially the ones located around both Ireland and England.


Without a shadow of a doubt castles are a key part of teaching the middle ages. The question on the Lord and Lady in the castle is a common Junior Certificate question and there is no better way to teach these sections than by showing as many images as a teacher can to familiarise the pupils with the structure and living arrangements. The teacher presenting the images can also lead to diagrams and plenty of videos regarding the siege of a castle. Their are plenty of films such as the Kingdom of Heaven, return of the King, Troy and even an episode of Futurama (Bender’s Game) if the rest fail.

Several video games including Medieval Total war contains virtual simulations of a medieval siege. If you do not wish to use the videos on YouTube, recording the simulation yourself is just as effective.

Why not show an Oscar award winning movie for examining medieval fantasy: warfare and lore:

Copious resources here and ideas do not even require the use of videos (although they benefit greatly). A great class idea is to have the students divide into attacking and defending a castle. With pupils making presentations on how they would defend their castle and the winning team basically a winning debate side.

A final horrible history for the humor of Castle defence and siege.


How can you fight without weapons? There is an abundant of different medieval weapons, two of my favorite to teach are the heavy and medium crossbows. An effective way to kill two birds with one bolt here is by showing the Dan Snow video on the effectiveness of the medium crossbows through arrow slits in a medieval castle defence.

There are buckets of these Dan snow videos that are more than efficient for showing to students and can be incorporated for note taking on the weapons of a medieval knight.



Teaching the different laws is a basic lesson. The main way you can get your best lessons out of this is have the pupils compare the laws of current society and see what the punishments were. The obvious comparison task encourages the pupils to interpret the data presented to them.


For these kind of lessons, why not add humor, with a bit of Monty Python. Portraying how ludicrous the medieval superstitions could be and how quick they were to judge and prosecute people.

The Village:

Showing off the different buildings present in a Medieval village is once again as easy as typing it into google. The abundance of sources where we can find good ways to show off the medieval village is intriguing to say the least. The pupils will learn the concept of how the village worked and how it was formed in from a variety of different sources.

Video games have once again been known for re-creating life like medieval villages. We could create our own version in both the Medieval and the Sims Medieval.



One of the best resources for encouraging students to enjoy the Middle Ages is teaching about their food differences and similarity. Having pupils create their own medieval menu is incredibly effective and would be a good thing to focus on for the short course.

4708171464_1cb21dd81d_o.jpg The the first year history course has a copious amount of materials we can use for making creative lessons and furthermore and positive learning environment. Ensure they know the key differences to how the people in a Medieval village ate; here is a classic Horrible history video which perfectly depicts how grueling the food was:

To conclude these are just some of the copious amounts of resources and activities you can use to teaching life in the Middle Ages. For a very broad area, the section is arguably one of the best and most interesting for first year students.

For more classroom ideas, my blog post on using a creative class idea that has worked wonders for me for lessons on students creating their own medieval knight or dress attire for ladies of a castle. Essentially it plays the same as an RPG game, you provide the students with a certain amount of money and they are to create their own knight by selecting a range of different priced weapons and armor. The pupils cannot exceed their coin purse. This is also an effective class idea for English teachers for encouraging students for themes and character description in a short story and business teachers for promoting students to use initiative in setting up small businesses.


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Mindfulness practice in the Classroom

Around two years ago I took part in a mindfulness course organised by the MDI & the Slainte Scoiety. It was an incredibly beneficial experience it is something I would recommend for anyone to use in their day to day life. It was tremendous in helping overcome both personal and college related stress and it is something I have since utilized in the classroom.

What makes this different to basic Meditation?

Mindfulness is a very old technique which is becoming increasingly popular at the present time. Although it is linked to Buddhism, most of the people who use mindfulness in the West today are not Buddhists. People use mindfulness because they find it reduces stress and gives them a greater sense of control over their lives. Mindfulness helps people to get more enjoyment out of their good times and to handle their bad times better.

You can read this document in a couple of minutes. Practising takes a little longer. The good news, though, is that you can begin to use mindfulness straightaway.

What is mindfulness?

At its simplest, mindfulness means being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. This means being aware that you are breathing, walking, driving, running making a phone call, cooking a meal and so on. When you have thoughts, notice that you have thoughts and come back to awareness of what you are actually doing. When you are emotional just notice the emotion – not trying to deepen it and not trying to push it away – and come back to awareness of what you are doing.

Is mindfulness the same as living in the now?

Yes. When you practice mindfulness, you gently bring yourself back into the present moment every time you notice that you have drifted in your mind back to the past or into the future. Also, you gently bring yourself back to the present moment whenever you realise that you have drifted off into your imagination. The word “gently” is important. Never, ever scold yourself for drifting away from awareness. Drifting is what minds do. Accept this fact and take your awareness back to the present moment.

Can I still plan and think about things I need to think about?

Yes. In fact mindfulness can be really helpful in planning because it can reduce the chances that you will get lost in a fantasy. You can plan mindfully by being aware that you are planning and by bringing your mind back to what you are doing whenever it drifts off.

How can it be used in the classroom?

I had a few trial and error lessons with this. I started off using the basic mindfulness that I was taught. It went ok but the pupils didn’t take it seriously with the lack of calming sounds in the environment.  The second time I played what scientists call the most calming tune ever apparently and it went far better. The third time I just tried basic meditation. Although the students enjoyed the third the most (as they said.) I know it was the second one which succeeded the most because it managed to secure their focus whilst sitting up straight opposed to allowing them to dose off with their heads laying on the desk.

It truly is a brilliant way to help improve your students focus. My main advice is do not do it too often, instead try it every few weeks so it doesn’t lose its value. It can be a bit of an easier lesson for you, but don’t think it will be a chance to get work done because like everything in teaching, if you want it to go well you have to ensure you dedicate yourself fully.

Here is a helpful website discussing the concept further:–CULAz4rKK6p13st1yXSZrCOhbfa33__IYaAoVb8P8HAQ

As well as that, I am attaching the YouTube video of the sound I use for the mindfulness:

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