Literacy in the School by Muireann O’Sullivan
‘Literacy includes the capacity to read, understand and critically appreciate various forms of communication including spoken language, printed text, broadcast media and digital media.’ [Literacy Link Toolkit, 2013]
We have always endeavoured at Presentation Listowel to promote and encourage literacy in all its forms. It’s part of the fabric of school life; it’s cross-curricular.
The First Year classes of 2012 – 2013 were given a special ‘reading class’ in their timetable as a foretaste of what was to come in defining the undisputed importance of literacy. This gave the girls an opportunity to read any book of their choice for that forty-minute period every week. It also meant that the supervising teacher read too! Even the reluctant readers enjoyed the experience.
‘Book in a Bag’
The girls were also given ample scope, in English class especially, to critique their latest read. This proved very valuable. So successful was this initiative that these same students, now in Second Year, are still benefiting from reading time or from what has become affectionately known as ‘Book in a Bag.’
Of course it goes without saying that our current First Years are following suit and enjoying every minute of it. ‘Book in a Bag’ is something we intend building on, specifically concentrating on First and Second Years.
‘World Bank Booklet’
September 2012 saw the introduction of our ‘Word Bank Booklet’, covering many of the key words a student might encounter in the various subjects areas. This is amended as the need arises. A survey is currently taking place on the efficacy or otherwise of the ‘Word Bank Booklet’ and, based on the feedback, a decision will be taken on whether or not to give it to the incoming First Years
“Reading brings us unknown friends.” — Honoré de Balzac Literacy: Year 1 of our three-year plan Our ‘Library Initiative’ took place between September 18th and October 7th 2013. The First and Second Year students learned all there is to know about Listowel Town Library. It, of course, would not have happened without the co-operation of the library staff who were at all times courteous and welcoming. Particular thanks must be given to Patti-Anne whose enthusiasm was infectious. Her guided tours were truly inspirational. We hope to make this an annual event, introducing First Year groups in particular to the treasure trove that is our local library.
This term saw the First and Second Year English teachers get together to unleash ‘Spelling Splurge.’ All First and Second Year students sat a spelling test at the same time. The word lists used were tailored to suit the specific age groups. All data gleaned from the results is currently being used to put in place the necessary supports for the struggling speller. ‘Spelling Splurge’ is to become a permanent feature of school life. Easons have just released a new Spelling Bee App. Stemming from the popularity of the Eason Spelling Bee in schools, this App will allow both parents and kids to take part in their own spelling bee at home. Developed for 10 to 14 year olds, but fun for all ages, this new App will help students improve their spelling and literacy skills in a fun and enjoyable way.
It’s available free to download for iPhone and iPod from the iTunes store. Easons also have a ‘Get into Reading’ section. This is very suitable for First Years.
For the second year running, Fifth and Transition Year students will participate in ‘Operation Education.’ This programme was initiated by a very forward-thinking group of people from Listowel Writers’ Week. We at Presentation Listowel are delighted to be associated with such a prestigious and worthwhile event. The highlight of last year’s event was Mr. John Montague who read some of his poems and was subsequently interviewed by Mr. Kevin McDermott. The highlight of this year’s programme (May 29th) is Mr. Paul Durcan, who will woo the hearts and minds of our eager young people. Niall McMonagle, Stefanie Preissner and Stephen James Smith will also contribute. No doubt there will be a few surprises in store. ‘Operation Education’ is fast approaching and classes are busy reflecting on and responding to a selection of poems by Paul Durcan.
• Six Nuns Die in Convent Inferno
• Father’s Day, 21 June 1992
• Wife Who Smashed Television Gets Jail
Perhaps we are rising to Durcan’s challenge when he tells us ‘what poetry is about: getting out of your miserable self and opening your eyes!’ The creative juices are certainly flowing in Pres Listowel at the moment. ‘Operation Education’ was a most worthwhile event. Our girls enjoyed John Boyne who spoke so eloquently and honestly about his writing,from his childhood to the present day, and about the art of writing in general. He spoke of the difficulties that writers sometimes encounter when trying to have their work published. The secret is ‘never to give up!’ His motto is that ‘if you are good at it, you will find a home for it.’
Niall McMonagle’s interview with Irish poet, Paul Durcan, was amazing. We were honoured to have Paul Durcan, someone ‘unique and special’ in our midst. Durcan’s poetry, like all poetry, McMonagle reminds us, offers ‘a unique way of seeing and a unique way of saying.’
Durcan read several of his poems and spoke freely and wittily about poetry in his life. ‘Re- writing’ is an important part of Durcan’s work as a poet. He emphasised how important ‘re- writing’ is ‘in everyone’s case.’ Comedienne, Kathleen Lynch, made an unexpected entrance and had her young audience in fits of laughter. A local band, The Promise, helped all in attendance rock a half an hour away. The day finished with playwright, Stephanie Preissner, who took us through the ups and downs of her life and her work. What a fantastic day!
Literacy: Year 2 of our three-year plan fortunately, under the direction of our new Principal,a literacy team was put in SITU. This team comprises Gemma O’Loughlin, English Dept., Eoin Hilliard, History Dept., Claire O’Riordan, Art Dept., Anne Foley, Music Dept., Jacqueline Normile, Science Dept. and School Librarian, Muireann O’Sullivan, Literacy Link Teacher and Eileen Kennelly, Principal.
We meet at least once a term to discuss how well or otherwise our endeavors in this area are going. At our inaugural meeting we sifted through the data collected as part of the SSE (School Self Evaluation). This would help inform our SIP (School Improvement Plan). It was agreed by the team to:
• focus on keywords
• dictionaries in the classroom
• begin a reading club
• promote the library
• stress the importance of good spelling
• run a Literacy Theme Week
The beginning of the academic year brought with it some worthwhile changes – teacher based classrooms, the provision of laptops to teaching staff and ePortal. Such changes gave us the scope to be more creative, introduce new and more exciting teaching methodologies.
These have proven more pedagogically beneficial. Teacher-pupil contact time has been enhanced and the teaching-learning experience has become even more energetic.
Dedicated keyword areas were in use throughout the year. Spelling was concentrated on especially in English class. New books were purchased for the Library and some students donated previously read books. Jacqueline Normile ran a very successful “Literacy Theme Week” and the Reading Club, under the direction of Gemma O’Loughlin, has made steady progress. A bright and inviting “Reading Corner” is now an established feature of the school’s Social Area.
‘Creative Writing Workshop’
A ‘Creative Writing Workshop’ with John W. Sexton, writer in residence, was quite worthwhile. Fifth Year and TY students attended this in school.
Fifth Years and TYs also attended Mercy Mounthawk’s production of Juno and the Paycock at Siamsa Tíre in Tralee. This very fine production, directed by our former colleague, Mr. Tony Behan, enhanced the girls’ appreciation of English drama. The girls and their teachers were also encouraged to support a local production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Many did. This was heartening as it’s part of the comparative study in Fifth Year and Sixth Year this year. Laura Keane, Head Girl and current Sixth Year student, played the lead role (Nora) while Jana Finucane, Sixth Year, was cast in the role of Christine Linde.
We have supported Operation Education, a Writers’ Week initiative, since its inception. It continues to flourish and, for the first time ever, we decided to give our First Year students a taste of literary Listowel. The feedback has been 100% positive. The various initiatives thus far undertaken by the school community are certainly helping us to read, understand and critically appreciate various forms of communication including spoken language, printed text, broadcast media and digital media Literacy: Year 3 of our three-year plan
Watch this space!!