Un recuerdo personal de la crisis de rehenes en Sydney, por Robyn H. (Curso 6)

unnamed-54_2With a selection of different tasks, my Form 6 groups and I are feeling our way towards the kind of powerful and meaningful essays that move beyond command of the Spanish language towards really engaging with a topic on a personal and emotional level. While doing a unit on terrorism linked to the the 15th anniversary of 9/11, my students wrote about their first memory of such acts which were once few and far between.

Here, Robyn H. from one of my Form 6 groups, writes about the hostage crisis in Sydney. 

Recuerdo en 2014 la crisis de rehénes en Sydney cuando un solo hombre tomaba como rehénes a diez clientes y ocho empleados en el café de Lindt Chocolate.

Es algo que marcó mi vida porque fue la primera vez que fui bastante mayor para comprender lo que estaba sucediendo. Antes de ese ataque no veía las noticias y tampoco me preocupaba lo que sucedía en en el mundo.

Además por primera vez el ataque estaba en un país donde tenía familia. Mi tía vive en Sydney. Estaba muy nerviosa y aterrorizada por la gente en el café. Veía las noticias y leía artículos en internet.unnamed-55

Por desgracia el secuestrador mató a un rehén. No comprendí cómo una persona podía
matar a otra persona en el nombre de religión.

Cuando escuché esa noticia me quedé muy triste. Había esperado que la policía pudiera rescatar a toda la gente antes de que alguien muriera o resultara herido. Cuando la policía entró en el café otra rehén murió y tres personas fueron heridas. El secuestador murió también. El secuestro entero duró dieciséis horas.

En un corto periodo de tiempo sucedieron muchas desgracias y no lo olvidaré, nunca en mi vida.

Day-before thoughts (a random selection)

I’ve loaded this up with links to previous posts that I hope will be helpful. It is a random selection of last minute thoughts and includes (point 4) my suggestions for timing for Higher Level.

100km left

  1. Read the entire exam before putting pen to paper! I don’t for one second mean read the comprehensions through, I mean:
  • scan each comprehension so you know what each topic is.
  • check out the essay title and while doing that perhaps write down your standard opening/closing or your lovely phrase that you’re going to use.
  • skim through the dialogue – pen in hand – and make quick notes over words when you see a verb form you know, a word you need to remember, a word you remember right then.
  • check what’s coming up in the diary entry and note.
  • now go back to the start and get stuck in.

(I don’t mention the formal letter as I don’t tend to recommend it to my students, though of course it can be a good option for some).

2. Do the exam in the order in which you come to it ie long comprehension, two short comprehensions, long comprehension. Now you have lots of Spanish in your head and you’re ready to wow them in the essay/opinion piece/link question (different name, same thing), then after the essay you can relax now into the dialogue and then the diary entry/note.

Within the long comprehensions, my personal preference is to do the synonyms first. It means you have to skim the piece looking for the words specified, so while you’re doing that task, you’re starting to soak up what the text is about.

For long comprehension B (the one with the essay title), my personal preference is to answer questions in this order:

1, 3 (synonyms), 2 (translation), 4 (comprehension).

Why? Well, I’ve explained the synonyms. Very often there’s overlap between 2 and 4. And by the time you get to 4, you’ve already worked quite closely with the text, so you might have some idea of where the answers to questions are (remember, in that second long comprehension, they don’t tell you where the answers are). Usually (usually – this is not a golden rule) the answers are first third, second third, third third of the text. If that doesn’t hold, the second one will usually (again, with that caveat) start after where you found the answer to the first question etc. There is often some overlap of one point, but the main body of the answers will work like that.

3. You have to answer these questions in detail!! But don’t give too much detail! It’s such a fine line. Think very carefully – this goes for the Listening especially – both about what is being asked AND what is NOT being asked. A little time today with a comprehension (either reading or listening) and the marking scheme could help you think about that.

4. Timing. Don’t go over it! And don’t leave early! Take your time, read the questions carefully, leave yourself time to go back and fill in gaps, and it is essential that you do a re-read of your written work to engage in plenty of auto-correction. Here are my tips for Exam timing LC HL  (Leaving Cert Higher Level).

5. Be calm! I know – so much easier said than done. The other day my mother attended a talk by Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity who’s a lecturer on Psychology in Trinity College Dublin. He has a new book out called The Stress Test. She was sharing something he had shared about the symptoms of stress being very close to the signs of excitement. So – he went on – a way of getting past/through/over the stressful moment you’re facing, is to clench your right fist and and mentally view the stressful event as something exciting ie something positive. I don’t know the science behind it (the book is on my list to read!) but here are a few scenarios where I think it would work: unnamed-37

  • Not AAAGH I’m going to fail this exam, but rather, fist clench this exam is a chance for me to show off what I know!
  • Not OMG I’m so nervous about this interview, but rather, fist clench this is an opportunity for me to show these people that I’m the perfect person for this job/college course!
  • Not What the hell, I’ll never win this race, but rather, fist clench this is going to be fantastic – I’m racing because I love it, and now’s my chance to shine!

It might sound trite, but I’ve been thinking about it and I really feel it could help me, so why not you, tomorrow?

So mañana se acerca – go out there, enjoy it, do it, show off! Put everything you have into it! For lots of you – I know, not all – it’s your last exam! Be the best you can be – en español!


Un día en la vida de Cristobal Colón, por Eve – Curso 2

What seems like way back in September, my students and I worked on the  really interesting competition organised by Léargas last year connecting language and history through a project on A Day in the Life of …. Students had to choose a historical figure and write a diary entry in the language the figure would have spoken. It was an excellent idea for a school project and my students prepared some wonderful entries for the competition. We didn’t win, but it was a great experience.

One of my students, Eve, in Form 2, turned in this entry on a day in the life of Christopher Columbus. Unfortunately, she handed it in late, so we couldn’t submit it, but I decided to publish it here as I was so impressed by the standard of the work done by a student at the start of Form 2.

     El Diario De Cristóbal Colón

Image from: http://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/styles/cd_large/public/views-article/beautiful-christopher-columbus-ships-images-1.jpg?itok=smu-ok4Y

26 de septiembre 1492

Cada mañana, me despierto con el sonido del océano y las olas a las seis en punto de la madrugada. Me levanto rápido porque no quiero perder tiempo. Me lavo la boca y la cara. Me pongo mi camisa, mi sombrero, mis pantalónes y mis botas.

En general, hablo con mi tripulación a las siete menos cuarto. Hablamos sobre el tiempo y los mapas. Entonces desayunamos juntos. Después del desayuno vamos a trabajar. Me siento en mi pupitre y ahora a las siete y media estudio mis mapas.

Todavía no podemos ver tierra. Estoy muy delgado y estoy muy agotado y hambriento. Me gustaría qua mi madre me hiciera una comida para mi con paella y crema catalana para el postre. Echo muchísimo de menos  a mi familia.

Cenamos en la mesa a las ocho en punto. Para la cena tomamos muchas galletas secas; yo odio las galletas . Para el postre tomo una cucharada de jalea. Antes de ir a la cama rezo para mi tripulación y mis barcos, Santa Maria, Nina y Pinta.



Image from: http://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/styles/cd_large/public/views-article/beautiful-christopher-columbus-ships-images-1.jpg?itok=smu-ok4Y


The Modern Language Leaving Cert Oral: tips (1)

I’m never one to do a countdown, but let’s just put it this way:

I’m writing this on the last Tuesday in March.

On the second Monday in April half the country will be facing into their Modern Language Oral Examinations (the other half starts with Irish). All the examples here are in Spanish, and I refer to the Spanish role-plays, but the advice is applicable to any exam in which you have to hold a conversation with an examiner.

photo (17)

La calma que precede a la tormenta…

So let’s do this.

I’m putting together a few posts looking at (a) the Chief Examiner’s Reports, where the performance of students in the Leaving Cert Spanish examination is analysed and (b) common errors that my own students have made over the last few years (I’ve been compiling them for a number of years now but never got round to writing about them).

Screen shot 2016-03-28 at 19.49.55

So…what does that mean?

1. Your teachers are going to be trying to encourage you to speak lots of Spanish in these weeks before the Oral. Respond as best you can – shortly you’re going to be trying to have an engaging conversation with a stranger!

2. Listening to and watching Spanish is of course wonderful, and important, but – at this time – should be done alongside speaking the language.

3. The number of mistakes made when students are responding to simple questions in the present tense is sometimes a result of nervousness – make sure the basics are second nature to you. Here’s an example: Examiner¿Dónde vives? Student:  Donde en Dublín en Irlanda. Don’t be that person (It should be Vivo en Dublín, en Irlanda.)!

4. Your teacher has probably given you a list of typical oral questions. For more, check out the suggested further reading below. Know the tenses you need to use to respond to these questions and listen carefully to the verb forms the examiner uses so that you can use that tense, but in the yo (I) form. eg Examiner: ¿Qué hiciste el fin de semana pasado? Student: No hice mucho. Be careful not to echo the verb the examiner uses, by which I mean where the examiner says ¿Te gusta España? and the student responds Sí, sí, te gusta España instead of Me gusta. This holds for all verbs, but is particularly prevalent in te gusta questions when students are nervous.

5. Don’t recite learned-off material! But be well prepared! It’s the eternal conundrum. How do you deliver prepared material in a way that sounds natural? By knowing it really, really well, and by being so comfortable with it that you can recognise when a question is asking for something you know, and then adapt your answer to the question that’s been asked, not the one you wish you’d been asked!


Breathe, think, use a rest word like pues or bueno, then answer.

eg Examiner: ¿Qué haces en tu tiempo libre? OR ¿Tienes muchos pasatiempos? OR ¿Qué haces para relajarte? StudentBueno, no tengo mucho tiempo libre, pero me encanta salir a dar un paseo porque estar en el aire libre me relaja muchísimo. (That last one will start you off answering all three questions but could just as easily be manipulated into shorter sentences – always a good idea – which you could then take in whichever direction you wish).

6. It’s essential to develop your answers. Imagine having a conversation with someone in English where the other person just grunted, or said yes, or no, or shook their head if they didn’t understand the question! Obviously, between now and then do as much preparation as possible, but once in there, your aim is to communicate as much as you can. I always say to my students to think of all the details that they might be able to share about a topic and to prepare them all. The examiner will interrupt when s/he hears something about which s/he wants to find out more, but you have to give him/her something to work with!

7. I know it may seem strange to try to be “spontaneous and natural” or as if you’re having a “normal conversation,” but this is key to having a successful Oral examination. Treat the examiner as a new friend (while of course addressing him/her as Usted) who wants to find out all about you and give (as I say above) lots and lots to work with so that the examiner can feel that they know something about you when you leave the room.

8. The Role-Plays…does it really need to be said? Murphy’s Law says that the Situación (role-play) that you least like and want will come up. So know them all. End of story.

9. This is a no-brainer. Particularly for Ordinary Level, but at Higher Level too, everything you do now is setting you up for success in June. 25% for HL, 20% for OL – it’s worth putting every effort into it now!


Further reading:

Things to make sure you know for your Leaving Cert Oral

The Orals: the Compilation Post

Some activities for Curso 1 español

Curso 1

Selección de actividades: 
Objetos de la clase classroom objects
Bomberos - Buenos Aires

Bomberos – Buenos Aires

Palabras para describir a la gente words to describe people

Los trabajos jobs
View the words on the flashcards before, then do the Speller activity, then go onto either Scatter or Space Race.
Palabras sobre la casa words to do with your house
Repaso de vocabulario – vocabulary revision:
Go to http://www.espanol-extra.co.uk/ and click on Free Resources in the bottom right hand corner. NB this site has changed recently and may not work on all computers.
Irregular verbs – scroll down and highlight the verbs you want to test yourself on – in the irregular verbs, I suggest ser, tener, estar, ir.
There’s a handy verb chart for irregular verbs here, in case you get stuck.
Regular verbs – I suggest that you scroll down and just pick out a few -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs to start, rather than doing all of them.
Leave a comment to say which activity is the best one and why!

Yo mismo, escrito por James R. Curso 1

I’m delighted to share this student work as the first post on Pancomido in 2016. James R. (Form 1) prepared this piece as part of his Form 1 Assessment in November. Along with the whole class, he prepared a first draft, which I corrected, and then a second draft incorporating corrections. His work required very few corrections and I was very impressed with his writing, which drew on not only what the class had studied together, but also on language we had only touched on in class and on his own initiative in looking for words & structures to get his message across. It received a mark of 9.5/10. 


Yo Mismo

¡Hola! Soy James y vengo de Irlanda. Tengo el pelo moreno y los ojos de color avellano. Tengo trece años, cumplí trece años en agosto. Mis amigos dicen que soy inteligente y simpático. Soy delgado y deportista. Soy activo y relajado. Juego al tenis, rugby y hockey.

Somos cinco en mi familia: mi padre, Paul, mi madre, Muireann, mis dos hermanas, Aoibhinn y Caoilfhionn, y yo. Tengo dos perros. Mis perros son pequeños y bonitos. Son blancos, marrones y negros. Tengo un gato también. Es negro y blanco, y muy suave.

Mi padre es contable. Mi madre es ama de casa. Mi padre es simpático, muy inteligente, delgado, relajado y activo. Mi madre es muy simpática, amorosa, activa, relajada, delgada e inteligente. Mi hermana Aoibhinn tiene dieciocho años y está en el sexto curso. Es deportista, inteligente, activa, divertida, delgada y linda. Mi otra hermana Caoilfhionn tiene veintiún anos. Es muy inteligente, relajada, simpática, delgada y activa. Mi familia es muy deportista, activa, inteligente y cariñosa. Quiero ser Director Ejecutivo de mi propia empresa. Lo que más me importa es mi familia y también mis animales.


Puppy, Guggenheim Bilbao


Making the most of the Christmas Holidays (when you’re a Leaving Cert Student)

10670270_10152382841976222_3969569840835489859_nIn most schools, the holidays run from December 22nd to January 6th (it’s a little different in my school and may be in yours too). The key to successful study (I think) at this time is to set aside days when you are just NOT doing any work. If you set aside these days for lazing around etc and set aside other days for work, you will be more willing to work on the ‘work’ days instead of resenting having to work and feeling you’re not having a holiday.

So, what’s a reasonable amount of work to do? Have a little look at the simple calendar below. M21 is Monday 21st. The dates in brackets are days when I think you’ll be attending class. Looked at like this, there are many days, with lots of available time, but then again, it’s not really that long when you think of all your different commitments. So underneath it, I’ve made some suggestions. I usually work through this with my students in class, so if you’ve any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. As always, remember, these are just my suggestions. What works in my head mightn’t work for you, so adapt at will! 



















Personally, with such a late finish, I’d embrace a well-earned lie-in on the 23rd but I’d suggest giving yourself an hour during the day (even better: be really organised and do this today or tomorrow evening after school) to sit down with the family calendar and your own diary and draw up a schedule of study, specific enough that you know what you’re doing when you sit down to work and aren’t casting around for what subject it’ll be and then wondering what chapter you’ll do within that subject.

With the study schedule drawn up, I’d completely take off the 23rd, 24th and (obviously for those of you celebrating Christmas!) the 25th.  Embrace the  rest, festivities, enjoyment, going out, shopping etc and be fully present during this special family time. Think about setting aside a number of hours on the 26th (not the full day, but definitely a few hours) when you’ll do work. Then work steadily until the 31st – maybe take it and & the 1st off totally. You just need to get up ready again on the 2nd to work again. Look at the days. Work it out yourself! There is a lot of available time there. 

Now look at it again. Look at it. Though it looks long, it’s not that many days. You want to make each one count. Think of your days and when you have to do stuff with your families. Maybe you need to move around some of your days off. But do take full days off in a row – I’ve given you 5, you might want to take another – to get a proper rest and refresh your head.

IMG_1873Now, timing during the day. Well, really, you should be doing a 6-7 hour day. Sound horrific? Of course it does, but remember, every hour you do now gets you ahead for later in the year.

So, say you get up at 10. You work from 10.30 to 13.30, you eat from 13.30 to 14.30, you work again from 14.30 to 18.00, you take another break and you work from 18.30 to 20.30. That’s eight hours. That’s a very full day. But you can still then go to the cinema and have a lie-in. Or get up earlier and break up the day more. Now, obviously, within those eight hours you have breaks, you get up and walk around, you text your friends, you get a cup of tea etc. That’ll probably bring it down to seven hours, possibly even six.

Suppose you start work at 9. You could be out on the town by 8pm and you can still have a lie-in the next day before starting a bit later. Be disciplined! Don’t come back in January saying, I wish I’d studied. You will regret it. And don’t listen to the people who say ‘I’ve done nothing’ – they’ve done something – probably quite a lot.

Do pleasant things, like watching Spanish/French/German/Irish movies, but be realistic – a two hour movie counts as an hour of work. And watch it with Spanish subtitles once in a while instead of always choosing the English ones. Do listenings, write out verb lists, prepare for the mock oral – it’s just around the corner, test yourself, listen to Spanish songs on Youtube, look for Spanish programmes on Youtube – there’s loads of stuff out there, good websites like españolextra.com which give you grammar exercises in a different format. And obviously don’t forget this blog – it’s everything I say in class and more (so if you’re not in my class, I hope it helps!).

IMG_2988Think about how happy your parents are going to be when you go home and approach your study in an organised manner. They’ll be falling over themselves to prepare your food and snacks if they see that you are genuinely doing work without them having to hound you. Be mature about it! They are worried about you and how you are going to do – give them a break and just get down to work yourself.

I know some of you may be thinking about the institute and grinds and that kind of thing – fair enough, for some people, for some subjects, that is the way to go, but we have five months left. You are on the home straight! You just have to sit down to do the work.

What can you do? I’ve shared these ideas with my own students, and I hope they might give you some direction too. The advice about a study timetable is for the full year, not just for Christmas😉

You should have a list, by topic, of everything you need to cover in each subject – identified and prepared by you. The day should be broken down into units of 40-45 minutes of study, blocking in times for breaks and sport. This study timetable should include weekends. The earlier you start, the more manageable the workload is. Fit the topics into the week, making sure to cover each subject at least once a week. This timetable should be filled in every week, usually on a Sunday evening, thus accommodating any unexpected events. Time lost or topics not covered during the week should be made up at the weekend. 

Study a range of subjects during the day, it’s a killer to have a ‘history day’ or a ‘Spanish day’. Try and keep yourself somewhat entertained when you are working by varying the subject & topic you are studying.

With regard to Spanish, it is essential to remember that no language can be crammed. You are better advised to spend twenty minutes a night on a language than one hour a week. Ideas:

  • making, learning & revising vocab lists by topic
  • completing & revising oral topics, using the oral book for self-study
  • Writing out oral topics and practising them
  • listening to one listening section from the exam every one/two nights & marking it with close attention to the marking scheme, then listening to it again for vocab & to see why the answers are what they are
  • speaking to a fellow student for 10-15 minutes a night in Spanish
  • speaking to yourself (seriously!) for 10-15 minutes a night in Spanish
  • watching Spanish DVDs, the news on the internet etc
  • Making fair copies of any corrected work and revising from these
  • Beginning auto-correction i.e. checking homework before handing it up to get rid of careless mistakes. Make lists of errors from previous homeworks that you have back.
  • Making vocab lists from any comprehensions done and revising these
  • Make notes from your notes, onto record cards.
  • Do practice exam questions, planning out essays etc, even if you don’t do them.
  • Do comprehensions, timed – like an exam – and untimed, using the dictionary.
  • Do lots of listenings.
  • Check out the Leaving Cert section on the blog, as well as the games and resources section. 

Remember! You can do it. Every other group of sixth years before you has. Use your time wisely – for fun and for work – and you will get the most out of it. When we come back in January you will have FIVE months till your first written exam on June 8th 2016. You will have just over THREE till your orals & practicals. Make the decision now to do the work and then just do it.

Merry Christmas! SL

Airport, weather & revisiting the preterite


First up, a review of the airport vocab we started with in the book.

Rags to Riches for the airport – note this was designed by someone teaching Latin-American Spanish, so we’ll see abordar instead of embarcar and boleto instead of billete. Just important to keep in mind, and useful to notice the difference between there and the peninsular Spanish that we learn.

And here’s a memory game for the airport vocabulary. Check the list of terms used first – here’s a link to click on for that. 

Next, it’s the weather, which can often be mentioned in the airport section in the listening, and often comes up in its own right as a section in the Junior Cert listening.

These two links are to Quizlet, so use the flashcards to review the vocab, then do speller, a game, or test yourself.

Basic weather words.

Slight extension to the weather words.

Here’s a link to a previous post on the weather, with lots more activities. 

And here’s a link to a post on the Preterite, with lots of revision activities, and an activity on the countries too.

Looking at the Present Perfect

Autumn is here

Autumn is here

Explanations of the Present Perfect

An extremely clear explanation which examines how the Present Perfect works in English & Spanish. (the video runs for about 5 minutes before you have to pay, and that is enough to get the main understanding of this tense).

See it written down and do the quizzes listed in the menu on the left-hand side.

Our good friend Señor Jordan introducing the Present Perfect.


Practice the verbs in the context of sentences.

Rags to riches – mixture of looking at verbs and phrases

Rags to riches – focus on sentences



La hora – telling the time in Spanish

As always, here’s a few options for reviewing how you tell the time en español. Do at least one of these before moving on to the activities.


Telling the time, very clearly expressed on this page.

Expand your knowledge. Take it one step further by looking at these phrases.

Do you want to see it all in one place? Very clearly laid-out list of lots of time-related phrases.

If you’re stuck and want to find out how exactly you say a particular time, use this interactive clock which will also give you am/pm. 


Notes on how to say the time (in clear, simple Spanish)Don’t miss the two review activities at the very bottom of the page before moving on.

The central panel here tells you how to tell the time. On the left, under the Telling the Time section, there’s a variety of quizzes and even some oral prompts to work with. 

Practise telling the time by changing the hands on a clock. 

Work with listening skills to recognise the time (get your ear in for the JC!).

Who wants to be a millionaire?-style game.