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!

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.

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

Scottish Children’s Book Awards

Every year, the Scottish Book Trust organises the very successful Scottish Children’s Book Awards.

Three books are selected from each category and young people from across Scotland are asked to read the books and vote for their favourite.

This year, the school library’s Puffin Book Group has decided to participate in these awards by reading the titles in the ‘Older Readers’ category (ages 12-16). These are:

‘The Wall’ by William Sutcliffe

‘Dark Spell’ by Gill Arbuthnott

‘Mosi’s War’ by Cathy McPhail

All three of the above books will be read and discussed by the book group. They will have until 6th February to cast their vote for their favourite. The winning author in each category will be announced at an exciting awards ceremony in Edinburgh on Wednesday 4th March, 2015.

Reviews written by members of the group after the jump!

Continue reading

English Department Theatre Trips

The English Department and a number of senior pupils have attended a variety of different plays recently. From Dundee to Giffnock, drama loving pupils have been lucky to see ‘The Glass Menagerie’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’ over the past two months. We even managed to bump into the Drama Department at the Citizens during ‘Hamlet’…

The benefits of seeing a play pupils are studying is enormous (especially Shakespeare), as the characters are brought to life and the key themes are played out in front of them. More trips will be organised this session when theatres release their spring performances and we would recommend that all pupils get involved and expand their horizons. Keep an eye out for some pupil reviews of these plays on the English Department Blog: bearsdeneng.wordpress.com

How long would it take you to read ALL the Game of Thrones books?

Game-Of-Thrones-A-song-of-ice-and-fireHere’s a fun (but pretty unscientific) way to find out how long it would take you to read all of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series:


Although the test itself might not be completely accurate, it proves the very important point that, no matter how fast or slow a reader you are, just 10-20 minutes of reading every day will allow you to read a significant number of books over a whole year. And as everyone knows, those who regularly read for pleasure benefit in loads of different ways:

Brain function boosted days after reading a novel

Reading for pleasure puts children ahead


Literary fiction improves empathy

National Theatre Broadcasts

The National Theatre have organised a series of theatre recordings, which are currently being shown live or in encore performances in cinemas across the country. This gives you access to some amazing plays that you would never be able to see unless you were able to travel down to London and queue for tickets…thCAIK7O3U

I have been lucky to see a number of these performances at the ‘thinema” (pun borrowed from a dear friend) and would highly recommend and, in fact, urge anyone who is studying a play for National 5 or Higher to give it a go.

Recently, I have watched ‘Medea’, a Greek play with tragic consequences (not for the faint hearted) and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, a Tennessee Williams play about the harsh realities of life and the fantasy world you can construct around it. Even if you aren’t studying these texts, seeing how the director has staged such famous plays and how the characters are brought to life can give you a whole new appreciation of the form and help you with your own studies.

thCAB1EFOD         thCA0FOCAK

Next up in ‘Of Mice and Men’ from the heady lights of Broadway. If you are interested, go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/ for more details. You won’t regret it…

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!