Musings first – scroll down the page if you want to get straight to business.
As I look out at the rain pouring down after one brief dry Saturday, I am reminded of the opening lines of TS Eliot’s poem the Waste Land:
I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
For Form 6 in many schools, there are either five or six weeks of class left before your Leaving Certificate. You are cramming as much practice and learning as possible into this time, while a dull feeling of nostalgia for something you haven’t yet left behind creeps in. And this is mixed with a desire to be gone from your schools, these places that have held you, irritated you, nurtured you, frustrated you, challenged you, tested you, shaped you. These last six weeks are essential for putting the finishing touches to your six years of hard work, as well as bringing to a close your time as a child, or a young person, not yet an adult.
Half of you have finished your Modern Language Oral Examinations already. Half of you have yet to do them. Some tips if you are in the latter group are here. After a wonderful week of examining young people around the country, I am returning to my own students, and we will do what I always leave until this month in Sixth Year: the dialogue.
The dialogue in the Spanish Leaving Cert exam is a state of mind, as I said to one of my students. You have to hold all your language in readiness, and be alert to the tests and tricks both grammatical and vocabulary-related that the examiner has set. See it as a game. Recognise the challenges or dangers for what they are, and deal with them, rather than walking blindly into a quagmire.
Before you begin, ALWAYS read through the full dialogue. Read what you have to say and read what the other person in the situation has to say – you’ll very often get a little clue or helpful word from their lines.
I’ve written briefly about things to check for before in written language in your actual Spanish exam, and have copied it again here:
But this week I want to dive a little deeper.
In preparation for going back to class, I’ve been looking at the 2017 dialogue from the Spanish exam, highlighting the kind of thing I thought might catch my own students out. Then I worked backwards through a few more years. Happily, across many dialogues, there’s repetition. The same structures and items of vocabulary are tested again and again in slightly different ways. You just need to be ready for them!
When I go back into school tomorrow, my Form 6 groups and I will be doing our own marathon of dialogues, starting tomorrow with the 2017 Leaving Cert paper and gradually working our way back. When we do this in class, I expect my Form 6 to be on the ball. No more letting mistakes of agreement (el/la/un/una) slip through, or having a singular verb with a plural person, or leaving blanks. Post-Easter, we’re no longer playing Little League. The countdown is on.
I’ll post about this again later in the week, or else this would be a marathon read! In the meantime, why not take out the 2017 dialogue (even if it’s for a second time) and do the dialogue with fresh eyes. Check out these very useful resources too:
- A list of antonyms (courtesy of the excellent Spanish school ISLA in Salamanca – and no, this is not a paid post!) (an antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word)
- A list of synonyms from the very useful spanishrevision.co.uk site.
- High frequency words ie words that are used most frequently in Spanish from Steven French Languages
Check back later this week for Part II, a more detailed look at the structures that reappear year after year.