Annnnnd we’re back

It’s taken a while (actually all Summer) but now contains student notes on all topics on the Junior Cert Science syllabus.

Each chapter contains a copy of the relevant points from the syllabus at the beginning. This gives the student an overview of what the chapter is about and also acts as a check for both student and teacher to ensure we have everything covered before we finish.

There is then the main body which contains the notes in a relatively condensed form.

Next come the questions; here we have included every relevant question which has appeared on an exam paper at higher or ordinary level. These have been arranged to follow the order of the concepts in the notes themselves.

Each question has a reference to the year when the question appeared. Some questions come up repeatedly and this is readily apparent by noting the numbering of years at the top.

Next come the solutions. These are not just the answers but where necessary fully worked out solutions.

Finally there is a bank of miscellaneous questions which rounds of the chapter.

So what next?

Because it’s my first year using this approach it will take at least the year to road-test it and fine tune as I go along. This time next year it should be closer to a polished product.

I teach second- and third-years and so far we have never needed to look at a text-book. The hope is that next year we can spare parents the expense of purchasing science text-books for Junior Science.

Of course the notes still need to be photocopied and distributed, but at least we cut down considerably on paper by using narrow margins, reducing size by printing two pages onto one A4 and photocopying back to back, with the result that most chapters are on one double-sided page. Students seem to have little trouble with this approach although they do have to invest in a plastic folder to contain the notes.

It would be nice to think that we could work in a paperless classroom, but this would require all students to have their own laptop in class so I’m not holding my breath.

The wonderful people at CESI have been helping with the presentation and I can’t see any reason why the notes can’t be published as an online book after we have road-tested it.

It can be updated every year both to improve the quality and add extra exam questions as they appear. In particular I would like to develop the questions to include a lot more ‘higher order’ thinking rather than just simple recall.

It needs to be in ‘editable’ format to allow other teachers to adapt it to their own needs.

I also need to add interactive links to the Junior Chemistry and Junior Biology pages of the website; currently I have over one hundred waiting patiently in the wings; they range from average to priceless.

It’s all freely available to download. In fact to save teachers and/or students the trouble of downloading 45 different chapters I can’t see any reason why I can’t copy them to cd and post them – at least initially.

The website already contains a guide to teaching Junior Cert Physics by topic; it would be nice if this could be expanded to include Chemistry and Biology, but this would involve a contribution from a more knowledgeable source than I.

And what I really want to do is to have evolution permeate the entire Biology section  – after all could there be anything more ridiculous than teaching Biology without reference to the underlying template upon which all life is built?

That, and the fact that it’s only the greatest story ever told.

That’ll do for now.

Junior Cert Physics      Junior Cert Biology         Junior Cert Chemistry


Junior Cert Physics Resources


I have tended to neglect the Junior Cert end of

Hopefully this has now been rectified. Or at any rate it’s a start.
The interactive links were there already but not easily accessable, and were all on one long page.
The section which took longest to prepare was the ‘Tips for Teachers’ section. Hopefully this will prove useful to Biology and Chemistry teachers, and any new teachers, particularly hdip and trainee teachers.
Being more organised may also encourage me to be a bit more adventurous with the investigative approach rather than just telling students what to do for each so-called ‘experiment’.

I had my own school in mind with our own resources, but tried to be as general as possible.
The links on top are as likely to take you  into a parallel universe as anywhere else, but that’s for another day.

I am particularly proud of the ‘Teachers’ Tips’ column; each section of the Junior Physics syllabus has been teased out seperately with comments which I hope prove useful. Having everything itemised like this means I can follow this guide as I teach them myself and alter sections as needs be. Perhaps others may even get involved and offer constructive criticism on sections which they approach differently.

As with all advice, it is more a work in progress than a finished product. I would like to include a set of equipment for each section which teachers could cross-check in advance, along with a suggested length of time for teaching each chapter and sub-topic.
Next up would be a set of higher-order questions and a variety of teaching approaches, with particular emphasis on Assessment for Learning.

Electricity in particular requires special attention. It is one of the most popular topics on the exam paper and I imagine one of the trickiest to teach for the non-specialist teacher.

But it’s a start.

Feel free to download them to your own pc and adapt them to suit your own school needs. 

Leaving Cert Physics notes updated

This blog has been fairly quiet recently; I have spent every spare minute updating the student notes on the website and feel very proud of my work. I don’t know if anyone else is going to notice mind, but then I guess that’s not the point.

For each chapter I have included all past exam questions, which can be cross-referenced with the relavant marking-scheme which is also included. Also included is  a copy of the associated extracts from the syllabus – this gives the students the responsibility of checking up on me to ensure I have everything covered before moving on to the next chapter.

There is also plenty of “extra-credit” material tucked in at the end to help address many of the conceptual difficulties which students (and teachers!)  have; these also help to set the historical and social context of many of the discoveries. Science is after all a very human activity, dispite what you might think from the text-books and syllabus.

I would hope that students outside of my own school would find these useful, particulary those who don’t have a specialised Physics teacher should find it to be a useful resourse to help them help themselves.

Some would see the decision to allow the students to see their test in advance to be somehow ‘cheating’, but for me it helps overcome one of the biggest obstacles facing many students who may not be in the top bracket; they simply don’t know what to learn. I have found with this new approach that hard-working students who are of average ability have gone from 50% to 75% since I introduced the option. It doesn’t change those at the top; the A-students still get their A’s, while at the other end those determined to do as little as possible still continue to achieve results which reflect this.

But I’m delighted with this practice. We spend at least one class and maybe two going over these questions at the end of each chapter and before I give them the test. Then I simply pick ten questions from the list, while altering the numbers in the maths questions. After seven years of leaving-cert questions (2002 – 2009) there is a pretty comprehensive bank of questions there, so I don’t believe it is giving students an inflated sense of their own worth.

But as an incentive to prepare for class tests and greater student participation it is working like a dream. I’m not too proud to say that I’m thrilled with my work!