Our Mater Dei Masters Experience

Last week, we received the results of our Masters and I think it is fair to say we are all shocked and overwhelmed (in a good way!). The year itself flew by and none of us can believe the Masters is over or that we are graduating in a few weeks’ time!

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We decided to compile this final blog post to give our own feedback and opinions of the Masters in Post Primary Education and Religion at Mater Dei Institute of Education for any student doing it this year or for anyone who may be considering it for next year 🙂


The Masters has made me aware of current issues in education that need to be addressed and helped me improve skills in presenting and speaking in front of groups. The programme has given me confidence when applying for jobs, feel it has equipped me so much more and complemented my undergraduate degree really well. Overall, my favourite part was learning how to implement different technologies in the classroom and being able to experience how the student will feel when we set up our own blogs and Google classroom. ~ Rachel

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The Masters has helped me greatly in my own classroom practice and I have learned so many new approaches to teaching and learning. It has not only helped me in my professional life but my personal life. I did things in the Masters I never thought possible like establishing a blog and I also overcame small struggles that I have always faced with my own confidence. There have been so many highlights for me in the Masters including setting up my own educational blog, designing my own Faith Development programme for adolescents, learning about curriculum and assessment at post-primary level, creating a Mentoring programme for young adults, reflecting on various aspects of the Holocaust each week and understanding the new virtual learning environments available for post primary education. I felt our Masters group gelled so well and there was always so much support from lecturers throughout the process. One highlight for me would be having articles from my blog featured on the Religious Teachers Association of Ireland website, Facebook and Twitter pages. I feel like the Masters has greatly helped me in my own teaching and learning and has motivated me greatly  ~ Amy


Overall I thought the Masters was a great mix of practical and theoretical learning on school life. Going forward I know I am more confident and competent in every aspect of being a teacher. Also from a job perspective, it gives you an advantage which can really make the difference. It was a great experience.~ Morgan

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I decided to look into this Masters about 3 years ago and after much thought, I decided to pursue the digital side to teaching and MDI offered the perfect course that would allow me to work whilst completing my first year as a teacher. My favourite modules were undoubtedly Web 2.0, virtual learning and curriculum assessment as I was able to take what I learned in these modules and helped me to approach my lessons from different angles. I really felt I gained so much from this masters and as though as the year was I loved almost every minute. It was also great to be apart of the final year of Mater Dei. It was a great 5 years and now it’s full speed ahead into my career thanks to MDI ~ Brian


The main thing I gained from this Masters was a renewed sense of passion for Religious Education. It can be difficult to teach a subject that is often looked down upon or challenged by others and yet our small MA group, through the digital platforms we created, became defenders of RE. I used what I was learning and discussing in the MA to defend my subject choice both inside and outside of school. Aside from all the content and knowledge, I left this MA equipped to defend RE and its place in our society and for me, that is a real triumph ~ Isobel

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The Masters in Education has not been what I expected. It has been better! I have learned so much and it has really helped me to grow as a teacher. I have learned a lot of new skills and resources. All the lecturers are commendable. They are keen to help anytime which really helps. It was such a fantastic year and I am really sad it is all over! ~ Lisa


The Masters in education was a whirlwind experience. The year flew by. It was not without its ups and downs, along with plenty of presentations and assignments but it was a brilliant experience. I would highly recommend anyone thinking of doing it. It gives you an opportunity to further your studies along with the opportunity to get to know people you may not have known before or may not have known well in Undergraduate. It was truly a great year with a group of amazing people. – Ciara


The Masters was without question a brilliant experience. Our year were so lucky in that we had many familiar faces doing it together which only added to the experience. We all felt comfortable with one anther which made the lectures fun and enjoyable. The modules themselves will really be beneficial in providing and preparing us with important information and perspectives that may not have necessarily been covered at Undergrad. The lecturers were so friendly, helpful and accommodating as ever and made the whole course a breeze. It is hard to believe how quickly the year flew but I would thoroughly recommend doing this course to anyone wishing to further their professional development in education. ~ Davey


I have taken so much from the MA mainly I have learned to challenge and question, I am not afraid to ask ‘why is that?’ I have come into contact with so many helpful and influential people through Twitter I realise teaching is not a singular job but a communal one. Every teacher should be on Twitter! Most importantly I feel more confident teaching Religion and telling people I am a Religion teacher. Before I hated bringing up the subject of my career but now I feel stronger in standing my ground and arguing Religion’s place in our schools. ~ Liza


We really hope we have helped students this past year with our resources, information, and tips on the blog. We cannot wait to see what Masters students 2016 onwards do and we will keep in touch! Once again, thank you for the positive feedback about our resources and we wish all students on future programmes and the new amalgamation with DCU and St. Pats the very best of luck!images-6


You can also follow us on Twitter by simply searching #5j16 . You can find links to our individual educational blogs in our Biography under our profile pictures on Twitter. Our usernames are:

















For more information on Postgraduate programmes offered in DCU Institute of Education, please click here.


Poetry & Creative Writing

Poetry can be a tricky deal to teach especially from a students’ engagement point of view. I’ve heard many a groans and moans from students when I said the cursed word ‘Poetry’. I always try to put some creative writing exercise along with it. It’s useful as it allows the student to engage with a poem and form their own opinions on it. Which helps against 25 identical essays ‘I liked X because of Y’. One poem I really enjoy teaching is W.B Yeats’ ‘The Lake Isle of Inisfree’. It is an excellent when teaching Imagery as the poem is littered with images of Yeats’ favorite place. An idea all students can relate to.

I introduce the poem with a think, pair, share exercise. I ask students to take a minute and think about their favorite place in the world. (this can be anything from a holiday place, somewhere in their hometown, even their own room!) In pairs I ask students to write down words they associate with their favorite place (nice, peaceful, sentimental value etc..). Then I ask how do they feel when they are not in this place (sad, nostalgic, longing to return to the place). And then hear some answers from the group. The idea is to get a basic understanding of a place that is very special to them. It will help them grasp this poem and relate to Yeats.

Now the hard part, reading the poem. I firstly introduce the poet and a little bit of information about Inisfree and that Yeats wrote this poem from London.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
After reading the poem discuss as a class what is the message Yeats is trying to deliver in the poem. I relate back to the questions I asked at the beginning and ask students to write down why Innisfree is Yeats’ favourite and the descriptive words Yeats uses. I read the poem again with the class and let them answer that question.
Then I introduce imagery and discuss it’s importance as it helps us understand the poem and visualise it in our minds. For homework I ask students to write down 3 images/mental images they get from this poem and how they would make Innisfree seem like a nice place to go.
In the next class I listen to some images the students wrote about for their homework. This class will be used for a creative writing exercise. I write the task on the board
Failte Ireland are offering boat trips to Innisfree as part of ‘Yeats Country Tours’. You have been asked to design a travel brochure for the Lake Isle of Innisfree. Firstly we brainstorm what information goes into a travel brochure (information about the place, interesting facts and things to see/do). Every student will get a travel brochure template. Below is one taken from Google Images but you can design your own to suit your students!
For the brochure students most include:
Details of the tour
Information about Innisfree (mention Yeats)
Mention two activities people could do (students can get creative here, forest walking, lunch in the cabin etc.)
Describe some of the scenery.
Students must pick their favourite image from the poem, draw it into the space on the brochure and describe it.
Students can work in pairs for this exercise. When all is complete they make lovely wall decorations and when it comes to exam time hand them back and students have a handy revision aid for the imagery in the poem!
I hope that is some aid and the idea is applicable across various poems.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter and find more of my blogs!
Happy Teaching and enjoy the rest of your well earned break.

Poetic and Literary Devices


There have been several occasions when family members or friends have approached me to ask what advice I would give them before sitting their Junior Cert or Leaving Cert English exam and my answer has always remained the same:

                                                      LEARN SOME LITERARY DEVICES.

When preparing your students for an English exam, whether at Junior or Senior level, it is extremely important that they are aware of the various different poetic and literary devices that are used in all forms of literature and writing. Having a good knowledge of these devices ensures that the students are able to answer a style question in their comprehension and, from my experience, any unseen poetry question that comes up in the state examinations. They can also reference literary devices when writing about studied poetry, drama, fiction and even use them in the personal writing section. For any of this to happen, however, not only must the students be able to name the devices, they must be able to explain what they mean and, most importantly, recognise them in a piece of writing. It is only when students are able to name, explain and recognise that they can actually use their knowledge of poetic and literary devices effectively in an exam or in a piece of their own writing.

Teaching about literary devices can be a very difficult task as even the words themselves can be quite intimidating for students: I think it took me two months to learn how to even spell onomatopoeia correctly when I was in school. And so, how do we approach such an important topic in a way that is engaging for our students but still informative? Below, I’ve attempted to answer this question under three headings.

  1. Naming Devices

It is important that the students are able to name and spell each device. This can be slightly daunting at first but there are various different ways to make them more familiar with the words. Visuals are vital in a classroom and they are a subtle way to ensure that the pupils see things or are reminded of things on a daily basis. Try hanging up the names of literary devices and their meanings around the classroom. You can have them on one large poster as so:





Or you can hang individual posters around the room. You can access some great posters here which you can laminate and hang in your classroom.



Sometimes it is hard for students to learn a lot of new words at once and if you think your class would benefit from learning one device a week then incorporate the literary devices into a “Word of the Week” activity. “Word of the Week” is a great way to help enrich the vocabulary of your students and by including some literary devices you are giving them a full week to learn more about the word. You can check that the students know the word at the end of the week by giving them a quick “Word of the Week” test every Friday.

The eight devices I would recommend students learning about are: metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia and rhyme.


  1. Explain Devices

During the “Word of the Week” activity you should go into detail about each device. You can use videos like this one: http://study.com/academy/lesson/poetic-devices-definition-types-examples.html and examples to help explain each word until the students have a greater understanding of the word and its meaning. Once the students are familiar with the eight main literary devices it is important that they are able to explain what each device means. A simple and effective way to do this is by using flashcards.  You can make your own flashcards by writing the name of the poetic or literary device on the front and its meaning on the back. (Yes, it can be a lot of work but once you have the flashcards you will always be able to use them again.)

flash card


You then simply divide the class into pairs and give each pair one set of eight flashcards. The first person holds up the name of the poetic device and asks their partner to explain what it means. When the first person is finished answering they then swap roles and the second student is given the chance to explain each device.  You can access online flashcards here to get an idea of how this activity works and students can use this site to practice and revise the poetic devices and their meanings.




  1. Recognise Devices

The most important part of this process is ensuring that students can recognise the devices in a piece of writing. NOTE TO SELF: Students remember better when they do. My initial instinct was to give students an unseen poem or short piece of writing to see if they were able to recognise any devices and while many were able to complete the exercise they seemed quite unenthusiastic. I wanted to make sure that the students really engaged with the words and went online to try and find a more interesting way to approach the activity. I was lucky enough to come across this: FIREWORK. To say that it has made this topic relatable is an understatement. I had not even considered the fact that music lyrics are poetry and works of literature in themselves and that students can identify poetic or literary devices in pieces of music that they are already familiar with. This resource shows how you can use Katy Perry’s song Firework to show literary devices in action and the students loved it.


Unfortunately Firework is slightly out of date now but that does not mean that you cannot go and find a more modern song and use it. For homework, you can even ask your class to find other songs that use literary devices and you can use their examples in future.



There are so many resources available out there for this topic that we should be able to make learning about poetic and literary devices an exciting experience. Honestly, all you have to do is type Figurative Language into a YouTube search and you are presented with such a great collection of videos that explain literary devices by referencing modern culture. They are all so great that I would advise you to check them out yourself and choose a video that suits your particular class group but here is a short one just to get the ball rolling.



I hope that this blog post helps you in some way. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @5J16RETeacher.


I. Jones



Photo Credits





Religion – Pilgrimage

One of the aims of Section E in the Junior Cert Religious Education Syllabus is to show how ritual and worship have always been part of the human response to life and to the mystery of God. (NCCA) Pilgrimage has a long and respected history in many faiths. Followers of several of the world’s great religions have included pilgrimage as part of their religious rituals. Teaching a class on the topic of pilgrimage can get very boring, very quickly because of all the information students are expected to take in and yet it is extremely important for the students to remember the information given. I try to vary the resources I use when approaching such a broad topic and alongside the typical power-points and worksheets I try to make time for the students to watch The Way.



The Way is a film about an American eye doctor who travelled to France to bring home the remains of his son who had died while walking the Camino. The father, played by Martin Sheen, was unaware that his son had been walking the Camino and decided to take the route himself. He carried his son’s ashes with him on the journey so that his son could complete the Camino. The father’s journey turned out to be quite different from what he had expected. It had a profound impact on his outlook on life and instead of walking the Camino for his son he began to walk it for himself. Tom, the father and main character, discovered however, that he was not alone on the journey. He met many other travellers from around the world along the way and sometimes even felt the presence of his son. Each traveller he met had their own issues and reasons for making the journey.

“From the unexpected and, oftentimes, amusing experiences along “The Way,” this unlikely quartet of misfits creates an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again. Through Tom’s unresolved relationship with his son, he discovers the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.” – The Way

The film is utterly inspiring and a classroom must. It is informative and honours the Camino de Santiago while promoting the traditional pilgrimage. It is easier for the students to remember the information from a visual resource and because it is specific to one pilgrimage, the students are generally able to reference this pilgrimage in their exam.

The film is genuinely a good watch and even got 7.4 on the IMBD film rating.

You can watch the Trailer here:


It is important, however, that you do not jump straight in and show this film to your class without first giving them a general introduction to The Way of St. James. In general I find the most effective way to teach my classes about The Camino is through a detailed and interactive power-point. This power-point, which you can access here -> The Camino, includes a brief summary of the main information about The Camino. You can use a handout and a reflection sheet with this power-point to ensure that the students understand the information you have presented to them. If you prefer, you can also ask the students verbal questions on the topic:

  • The Camino is the way of St. __________
  • Which countries do you visit during the Camino?
  • What year was the Cathedral destroyed?
  • Where do most people end their pilgrimage?
  • What is the most fascinating part of the services at the Cathedral?

It is impossible to talk about Santiago de Compostella without mentioning the Botafumeiro. Yes, the Botafumeiro. The Botafumeiro is a large thurible and is one of the most characteristic elements of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It looks like this:


The picture, however, does not do it justice and it is necessary to show your class a video of this oversized thurible in action:


To finish off the lesson I came across this very informative video on YouTube. It is an Irish pilgrim’s experience of The Camino and students are generally more interested in it because they feel they can relate more to the speaker. In some cases it even helps students to realise that they too could go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

Section E is probably the most practical section on the Junior Cert Religious Education course but that does not mean that our lessons have to be less interesting.

I hope that this blog post helps you in some way. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @5J16RETeacher.


I. Jones



Photo Credits

http://seligfilmnews.com/the_way_quad_3_lr-450×33                                                                                 –






Junior Cert History Diary Resource.

When I was first asked to teach Ancient Egypt as the Junior cert’s ancient civilization I was quite surprised because most schools would opt to do Ancient Rome or even Ancient Greece. Despite this I was very excited , Ancient Egypt stuck me as a goldmine for amazing resources either to find or to make, and so I was forced to make some resources. I’m using the example of Ancient Egypt here because this topic was the first one that I used this resource with but you could easily use this for nearly any topic for the Junior Cert course, it’s a great way to recap on a topic.

Continue reading

Debating- Speeches-Oral presentations


I love teaching  debating, speeches and oral presentations. It really prepares the students for the oral presentations and to write speeches for the functional writing section on paper 1 of the English Junior Cert. It helps the students to foster their creativity, confidence, vocabulary, grammar, communication skills, organisational skills and to think critically.

As my school is ASTI, I have not been able to go to any of the English Junior Cycle induction days.  However, I have been self-taught myself using a range of websites. English in the Junior Cycle aims to expand a students’ knowledge of language and literature, deepen their literacy skills and make them more self-aware as learners, creativity and teach them to think critically. Debating, speeches and oral presentations help students to foster ‘control over English using it and responding to it with purpose and effect through the interconnected literacy skills of oral language, reading and writing’.

The eight Key Skills of the Junior Cycle are evident in debating, speeches and oral presentations. You must be creative as debating demands you to think on your feet. Debating develops literacy as you are practicing oral presentations and you are using a solid vocabulary. You are being numerate as you are keeping track of time. You are communicating with others and also working with others as you must communicate with your team members to prepare a good argument and then debate against members of the opposition or by delivering a speech/oral presentation in front of your peers. ‘The English classroom is a place of talk and discussion. Students enjoy frequent opportunities to debate, to adopt a point of view and defend it. They learn to communicate by writing in a range of forms and for many purposes.’ [1] You are managing information and thinking as you must structure your argument.  You are staying well as you are communicating with others and by participating in an oral presentation, you are growing in confidence.

There are many activities you can do for these topics!

  1. Walking debate

Students no matter what age love this activity. Write ‘Strongly agree’, ‘Agree’, ‘Strongly disagree’ and ‘Disagree’ on different sheets of paper. Stick the sheets of paper on different sides of the room.  Get all the students to stand up. Now call out statements and tell the students to go and stand beside the poster that portrays their view.  Give the students a minute to decide where they are going. Once the students are in front of their chosen statement. Ask a number of students why they have picked that statement.

  1. Traffic light debate

This works the same as the walking debate above except you must put the colours red, green and orange on different walls in the classroom.  You must explain to the students that green means agree, orange means neutral and red means disagree. Like the walking debate, you call out statements and the students stand beside the colour which matches their opinion.

  1. Statements

You write a statement on the whiteboard and then you ask the students to agree or disagree with this statement and to write down 5 reasons to back up their point. This is a really good exercise as it helps the students to develop opinions and also to develop reasons thus meaning they fully understand why they agree or why they do not agree with a given statement. It is a great starter exercise to prepare the students for debating.

  1. Class debating



Make two groups of 4 students each. Pick  a chairperson, three adjudicators and one timekeeper.  The rest of the class will be the audience. Rotate this daily so each student gets a turn. Write a statement on the whiteboard such as ‘Should all schools be single sex?’. Tell each group to decide who in their group is going to go:

1st– Introduction

2nd- Middle

3rd. Middle


Each speaker in the group will speak for 2 minutes each which means that each group will speak for 8 minutes.

The adjudicator will control the meeting. The timekeeper will time the students. They must make the students aware of the first 30 minutes and the last 30 seconds.



  1. School debating competition

You can either invite other schools to come into your school and thus have a debating competition with one school or many schools. Get the students to help you organise it, this will improve their communication and organisational skills.

6. Speeches


Tell the students that each of them must write a speech and present it in front of the class. Topics can be

  • ‘Imagine you are the new principal of your school, write your first speech welcoming everyone and outlining what your leadership will be like.
  • ‘Imagine you are the running for class president, write a speech outlining what you will implement if you win.
  • ‘Imagine you are a second year student who has been chosen to give advice to 1st year pupils about how to survive 1st Write the speech you would give the first years.
  • ‘Imagine you are setting up a new extracurricular activity in school. Write the speech you would give to the students in your school to encourage them to join’.
  • ‘You want a half day on Wednesdays at school, write the speech you would give to encourage your principal to implement this change’.
  • ‘We should be allowed wear whatever we want.’ (Caityn Jenner and the transgender community are topical news stories).

  • ‘The importance of school uniforms for equality’.



What not to do- Interrupt someone during their speech

  1. Grammar 



Split the students into groups and give each group an envelope of statements. In each envelope there will be 15 statements.  I will give each group 2 boxes. The 1st box will say ‘Debating statements’ and the second box will say ‘Grammar errors’.

The students must work together in their group and decide what box each statement goes in. This is a really good activity to test the students’ grammar. Some of the statements will feature slang as I want the students to learn that they must not use slang. The Junior Cycle aims ‘to gain an understanding of the grammar and conventions of English and how they might be used to promote clear and effective communication’.





8. Oral presentations

Do this one day a week so the students will have a routine. For example every Friday. Each week give the students a topic to research, write about and then present in front of their class. Sample topics are my favourite animal, my favourite hobby, an inspirational person, a book review, a film review, a music album review, my favourite singer, my favourite band, my favourite sports team, my favourite celebrity, a great charity, a news story from a newspaper, why it is good to live in Ireland and the benefits of using technology in education.


9. Unseen pictures

Split the students into groups. Using unseen pictures, each group will argue a point. Each group must use each picture, thinking of a way it can support their argument.

[1] file:///C:/Users/lisa-_000/Downloads/JCEnglish-Spec_Oct-4_2015-(1)_2.pdf





Debating power point Introduction- Debating power point 1

Debating power point 2Debating power point two

Agree/Disagree/Strongly Agree/Strongly Disagree statements for walking debateAgree disagree strongly agree strongly disagree statements for walls

Debating worksheet– Debating for or against template

Debating topics handoutDebating topics

Debating motions handout- Motions

Ship debate handout– Ship Debate

Speech tips handoutsSPEECHES tips

Scoring sheet for a debateDebate scoring sheet

Speech planning sheet-Planning Sheet for speeches

Persuasive speech worksheetPlanning Speech Persuasive Speeches

Biography power pointWriting a Biography power point.

Glossary handout for inspirational person oral presentation- Glossary for inspirational person oral presentation.

Differences between a autobiography and biography handout- Differences between a biography and an autobiography.

Biography sheet for inspirational person oral presentationInspirational person handout

Biography features handout for oral presentation- Features of biography.

Biography template for oral presentation- Biography template

Roald Dahl oral presentation example– A Biography of Roald Dahl

Book review oral presentationBook review

Film review for oral presentationWriting_a_Film_Review

I hope this blog will help you. They really help to develop oral literacy, confidence, clarity of thinking, research skills and performance. 

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch 🙂 

You can read more on my blog here: Ms O Reilly’s blog.