Welcome Back

As our new S5 and S6 pupils get ready to return to school following Study Leave, the English Department says ‘Welcome Back’; but also ‘Get Ready’.

It may be June and the sun may be shining (I said ‘may’!) but, whichever English course you are about to start, there is significant work to be done before the end of term. Whether it’s preparing for an Advanced Higher Dissertation or researching for a Higher or National 5 Folio essay, work done now will directly impact on your final award next year. Let’s see you get stuck in for the next three weeks!

Good Luck

Good luck to all of our candidates sitting the English Higher or Advanced Higher examination tomorrow and to National 5 candidates who have their examination on Friday. No fancy pep talks at this stage, just the wise words of Nelson Mandela: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’

You can do it!

You can do it!

Coursework Folio Deadlines

DeadlineAll senior English classes are now working to finalise Folio pieces for submission to the SQA. Each pupil must have two pieces of the appropriate genre submitted to their English teacher by the following deadline:

National 5 – Friday 17th March

Higher – Friday 24th March

Advanced Higher – Friday 28th April

Folios will be despatched to the SQA shortly after each of these dates.

Exam Targets Set

targetAll senior pupils have now gone through a target-setting exercise where they have focused on their Prelim performance and identified key areas for revision and improvement in the final examination. Each pupil has taken home a sheet with these targets which can be shared with parents/carers.

Creative Writing Workshop – Kirsty Logan

kirsty loganKirsty Logan, an award-winning Scottish writer, recently visited Bearsden Academy to help develop our creative thoughts, especially in relation to magical-realism.

As pupils who have already studied her short story, ‘Una and Coll are Not Friends,’ her unique methods of creative writing brought a new perspective to most Advanced Higher English pupils. Her knowledge and history of magical-realism helped us develop ideas which we will later use for creative pieces. According to one pupil she, “brought new ideas to the challenging topic of creative writing.”

Her main technique was to take an object or abstract idea and picture a world where there was either an abundance of this said item, or a lack of it. From there, we wrote short stories or introductions about worlds where this happened, which resulted in obscure and interesting ideas.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience which most pupils benefited from. Many thanks to Mr Corbett and the rest of the English Department for arranging this creative writing workshop.

Lara Loh, Advanced Higher English

Summer Reading

Here it is, then: the pile from this summer which, whilst higher than last year’s, was still not good enough to surpass that of an English teacher from a rival school. Curses. Anyway, I particularly enjoyed The Vegetarian (not just because I am one), Submission (which is shocking, at times, but hugely engaging if you have any interest in politics and Europe) and both The Past and Look at Me (novels which effortlessly make you care about the characters within them). Praise, too, for The Lie Tree, a fantastic historical adventure which should appeal to any young teen.

It’s a shame that work sometimes gets in the way of more reading for pleasure…

 

Mr C

Summer Reading 2016

Book Review – ‘Stoner’ by John Williams

stonerI managed to get in quite a bit of reading between festivities over the holidays and this was the stand-out book. The first remarkable thing about it is that the book is only being noticed and talked about now: it was first published in 1965 but turned up on many best-of-2013 book lists. The second remarkable thing helps to explain the first: the subject of this novel is a fairly ordinary man leading a pretty unremarkable life so it is no surprise that some people have ignored it, until now; however, the description of that life and how the writer gets you to care deeply about the protagonist, William Stoner, is fantastic. From the excruciating meeting with potential in-laws, through the petty academic squabbles of working life to the heart-breaking conclusion, Williams’ writes sparely but beautifully. I highly recommend it.

HEALTH WARNING: this book is not about drugs!

Book Review: ‘A Life Too Short’ by Ronald Reng

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I realise that I’m a little late to the party here. This won the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and I bought it for my brother that Christmas. He’s only just read it and passed it on to me (he says he’s busy… or something). No matter. This is a biography about a professional footballer. Not just any professional footballer, but Robert Enke, the man who played many times as Germany’s No.1 goalkeeper and who was tipped to be their first choice in that position at the 2010 World Cup… until he committed suicide. It is tragic. It will make you cry. But, most importantly, as well as giving a fascinating insight into what it is like to play professional football in the modern world of pressure, agents and country-hopping, it also offers an unvarnished portrait of what it is like to live with the illness of clinical depression. For all of you out there who wonder what we mean when we say that a football book needs to be about more than football to be any good… this is the answer.

Summer Reading Reviews

‘Daniel Deronda’ by George Eliot

Challenge number one:and at 899 pages it was a challenge. But was it worth it? Well, yes, daniel deronda picthough it could do with a trim. Clearly, plenty of space and time is needed to develop the central character of Gwendolene as a selfish twit for whom the reader, very gradually, in tiny steps, begins to feel some sympathy. Also admirable is the bold structural choice of barely mentioning the title character of Deronda in the first 100 pages, as is the thorough exploration of gender and religious prejudice in late 19th Century Britain. However, whilst important to the story, there is simply too much of the minutiae of Judaism explored to appeal to the average reader. This has plenty, though, for an Advanced Higher candidate to investigate in a Dissertation.

‘Tapestry’ by Philip Terry

Challenge number two of the summer, from a writer who employs ‘Oulipian Techniques’: for a start, I had to look up Oulipian (‘the tapestrytechniques used by a self-ordained group of poets, novelists, story writers and mathemeticians, most of them living and working in France, writing within invented constraints in an attempt to discover ‘potential’ ways of making literature’ – clearer now?). Anyway, this mixes fact, fiction and fantasy and is presented as a ‘Canterbury Tales’ of how the unknown parts of the Bayeaux Tapestry came to fruition. It is tough going, at times, but I thought it was brilliant. Apart from anything else, it reminds us that the Bayeaux Tapestry was not produced in Bayeaux and is not a tapestry. I think it’s time for my debut appearance on QI.

‘This Is Not About Me’ by Janice Galloway

I have long been a fan of Janice Galloway’s fiction: having read this volume of her this is not about meauto-biography, which covers her childhood, I am even more impressed. She unsentimentally captures working-class life in a Scottish seaside town with great skill and, given some of what she has to endure, enormous self-control. More amazing still, she manages to find humour amid the grimness. Pupils should be obliged to read this to get a sense of how the majority of Scots used to live and everyone should be encouraged to read it simply to be exposed to a writer at the top of her game.

‘A Perfectly Good Man’ by Patrick Gale

I read, and loved, ‘Notes from an Exhibition’ and, whilst this is not quite as good, that is a perfectly good manfaint praise because it remains a hugely impressive book. The opening chapter is breath-taking: it is hard to believe that the writer has done what he has actually done. You are immediately drawn into this close-knit Cornish world and, as ever, Gale makes the setting effortlessly real and ensures that you care about his key characters. “The final chapter left me with a lump in my throat.” The Guardian – I don’t know that I agree specifically with that but it did make me cry at one point – what more of a recommendation can there be?