Overview: Course

The specification for Junior Cycle English focuses on the development of language and literacy in and through the three strands: Oral Language, Reading, and Writing. The elements of each of these strands place a focus on communicating, on active engagement with and exploration of a range of texts, and on acquiring and developing an implicit and explicit knowledge of the shape and structures of language.  There is a strong focus on the oral dimension of language, including the vital importance of learning through oral language. This makes the English classroom an active space, a place of ‘classroom talk’ where learners explore language and ideas as much through thinking and talking as through listening and writing. While the learning outcomes associated with each strand are set out separately here, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation. The student’s language learning is marked by a fully integrated experience of oral language, reading and writing.

To give further emphasis to the integrated nature of language learning the outcomes for each strand are grouped by reference to three elements:

  • Communicating as a listener, speaker, reader, writer
  • Exploring and using language
  • Understanding the content and structure of language

In its strands, elements and outcomes, the specification for Junior Cycle English mirrors the specification for the integrated language curriculum for primary schools. This affords a significant continuity of experience for language learners when they make the transition from primary to post-primary school. This is supported by the development of a sub-set of learning outcomes for First Year to take account of and to provide for continuity with learning in primary education.

Significantly, too, there is strong continuity with English in senior cycle. This is especially evident in the learning outcomes which emphasise the students’ growing sense of the writing process, their awareness of audience and purpose, their development of genre awareness, and their growing ability to make links, however informal, between texts they study. 

Figure 1: The elements of English showing the components as interactive and interdependent

The elements describe a three-fold focus for language learning as a systematic development of communication skills, learning language by exploring and doing, and building up an understanding and awareness of how language works across a wide range of contexts.

Engagement with text/s is central to the development of language and literacy and it is important to recognise that the term text applies to more than communication in written formats.  All products of language use—oral, written, visual, or multimodal—can be described as texts. Multimodal texts combine language with other systems for communication, such as print text, visual images, soundtrack and the spoken word. It is essential that over the three years of junior cycle students have a wide and varied experience of texts that stimulate, engage, inspire and challenge them.

Junior Cycle English has been designed for a minimum of 240 hours of engagement across the three years of junior cycle. In planning a course the teacher will take account of the need to provide a wide range of opportunities for students to have meaningful and stimulating language experiences across a broad range of contexts. For example, a year’s work might be organised around themes and/or central texts with other texts studied in broad contextual relation to them. A course would be expected to include many opportunities for students to create their own texts in response to those studied and as part of their general language and literacy development.

It should be remembered that the language skills being developed by students in junior cycle English are for the most part unconstrained skills that need to be frequently revisited and reinforced. Therefore, care will be needed to find a balance between choosing a sufficiently broad range of texts and providing learners with a variety of language experiences and opportunities to develop the range of skills envisioned in the learning outcomes. In support of this aim two lists of texts will be provided:

  • as a guide for first year an indicative list of texts from which teachers and students may choose or substitute text/s of their own choosing
  • for second and third year there is a prescribed body of texts from which teachers must select, although they may add to these lists if they wish.

The following guidelines should be used to inform choice of texts.

First Year

A studied novel, with on-going, sustained reading of novels throughout the year

A variety of drama extracts to suit appropriate learning outcomes

A variety of non-literary texts including texts in oral format

A number of short stories

At least 10 poems


Second and Third Year

From the list of prescribed texts students must study two novels and two drama texts. (An extract from a play or extracts from one or more plays may be used as one of the drama texts. The extracts may be chosen from outside of the list of prescribed texts. The extract or extracts selected by schools should provide students with a broad experience of the dramatic form.)

Students intending to take the Final Assessment at Higher Level should study the full text of the prescribed Shakespearean drama during second and/or third year.

A variety of non-literary texts including texts in oral format

A film chosen from the prescribed list of texts or a biography or travel text or documentary

A selection of poetry (a minimum of 16 poems over the two years)

A number of short stories

The list for second and third year refers to specific texts in the case of novel, drama and film. In categories where specific texts are not prescribed, texts are referred to by genre or type only and teachers will have freedom to choose specific examples. In addition, a further list of indicative texts, including suggestions made by teachers, is available to support teachers in their selection of suitable material at the link below.

List of indicative and prescribed texts