St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 5 – Friday 23rd February 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

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This week we started off by looking at the gallery of storyboards from the last session. The children had finished their drawn versions of the Red Riding Hood story – either from the point of view of Red Riding Hood or from that of the Wolf. Here is an example of each.

Red Riding Hood Story 1

Wolf Story 2

And here are more of the storyboards as part of the classroom door gallery where we all took turns having a good look at all the different versions.

Red & Wolf Storyboard Gallery

In many of the pictures we could imagine a scene happening and characters speaking to each other or to themselves. Several children agreed that one scene that seemed very dramatic was when Red Riding Hood first meets the Wolf. We decided to try and write that scene and the whole class got involved in creating the dialogue, which I wrote up on the board.

Scene - Red meets the Wolf.JPG

This was very dynamic and we changed some of the lines as we went along, to try and reflect the naive personality of Red Riding Hood and the cunning personality of the wolf. Once we had our dialogue, then lots of the children volunteered to get up in front of the class and play the parts. This was great. We had lots of different versions of the same scene then, played by different actors, which was great fun and really interesting.

So the story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf is a very well known folk tale and it has in fact been made into films and plays by different people over the years, often with the writer changing something in the story to make it slightly different – perhaps setting it in a more modern time, or focusing on a different character – as we did when we told the wolf’s version. This is called adaptation – where an existing story is adapted for stage or film – like with Matilda.

But what about creating a new story? How do writers go about making something up out of their heads? I asked the children which they thought might come first when creating a new story – the characters or the plot? The people in the story or what happens to those people? There was mixed opinion – some children thought the character might come first, but lots of the children thought that the story would come first.

I said that actually it could be either – that sometimes writers get characters in their head and then they have to figure out what happens to those characters. And sometimes for some writers, those characters just keep popping up in their head, until the writer begins to see what the story is.

And then some writers do create the story first – they think up all things that might happen – and then they have to decide who the story happens to!

But often it’s a bit of both. A character starts to appear in a writer’s mind and then a bit of what might happen to them and then perhaps another character pops up and the imagination shifts between the story and the characters, back and forth, until the whole thing appears.

I explained that something that helps me to figure things out when I’m writing is to ask a lot of questions.  To demonstrate this I introduced five containers holding different pieces of key information to help create a story and characters. The containers are labelled CHARACTERS, LOCATIONS, ACTIONS, DILEMMAS & PROBLEMS, PERSONALITY TRAITS.

You can use them in any order in theory, but personally, I do like to start with the characters when I’m writing a play, so I started with the character container and pulled out the name – LILY. I added some personality traits and we found out Lily was BRAVE, SHY and CLEVER, then the children asked lots of questions about Lily, but we didn’t answer any of them, we just let those questions exist as potential – How old was Lily? Where was she from? What hobbies did she have? Did she work? Was she rich or poor?….  We then added a location – which turned out to be a HOTEL, and an action, which was RUNNING.  These additions generated loads more questions. What was Lily doing in the hotel? Did her family own it? Was she hiding there? Was she a servant? When in history was this? What is she running from? Is she an athlete?…  We didn’t even get to add a dilemma or problem because there was so much information, (although we did have a great discussion about what exactly is a dilemma). From all the questions and their potential answers there was lots of story material floating around the room. The children worked in pairs then to figure out what Lily’s story might be and were very animated. They all came up with amazing variations!

Miss O’Connell added…

It was interesting to hear the children compare and contrast their interpretations of story in their storyboards. The children then engaged in a discussion on how the writer can use pictures to inspire dialogue. This idea will be reintroduced during book week when the children will explore how authors generate ideas. It is great to observe from week to week how the children are connecting visual art with writing and acting.

The children participated in a shared writing lesson where they wrote a script with Michelle on the board. Five boxes labelled dilemmas, actions, locations, personality traits and characters’ were placed on the desk, and each box was filled with ideas. This was excellent because it enabled the children to generate their own ideas but gave them a structure to do so which allowed them to think about their characters in great detail. The children began to realise that the location can affect the personality traits of the characters which in turn has an influence on the dilemmas and problems they face. They then reflected on how environments had affected and formed the characters in their novels ‘Matilda’ and ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’.

From week to week, their story telling is slowly becoming coherent and sequenced without infringing on their imagination.

Session Five: ‘Linking to the Curriculum’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

 Central to my practice is the exploration of the curriculum to discover how and why we learn. I am a kinaesthetic learner and I use my preferred methodology in my work in the classroom. It is important for me to identify current learning tools and achievement within the classroom to support the creative process. I do not use the curriculum as my starting point and I do not believe that the artist’s role in the classroom is an aid to supporting the curriculum. The opportunity for the children to work side by side with a professional artist is a unique platform for growth on many different levels.

In session five I wanted to take elements of what was achieved in the previous two session through more detailed exploration on an individual basis. It seemed that the children thrived on challenges, play and words. In my experience with working with junior infants the learning and forming of words both orally and on the page is a distinct marker in the child’s first year at school. Whilst I am still trying to figure out how we can bring the words with us I know where the direction of 3D constructions is going. The children are fast learners and dexterous with the hands. In session five I want to challenge their visual dexterity and set out a series of tasks that are based on observation, portraits, construction and drawing.

I introduced the session by looking at sphere/circle/oval/ovoid. I used different samples to show the children. We looked at the difference between the shape of a child’s head and an adult’s head. Using a balloon I demonstrated the proportions of the face. We further explored this by inviting them to work with a partner and draw each other. I had to encourage them to draw on a large scale. The children tried this a few times before they were will invited to draw each other without looking at the page.

After the break I gave the children some magnetic shapes and ask then to build 3D shapes. We also used pasta and play dough to further explore building 3D shapes. I left the magnetic shapes with the children to use for the next week. When using playdough it is good to note the amount of the stuff that gets all over the floor and the bottom of shoes!!!!

Whilst the children explored building in 3D at their desks I took a few children at a time to draw each other through transparent sticky contact paper. I had attached the contact to upturned table legs. The children worked in pairs one child drawing whilst the other sat and then swap over. When the portraits were complete we stuck them directly onto the windows.

I set the children a task to draw the people at home or who they spend time with, to get more practice. I also asked them to practice drawing themselves.




Session Four: Building Knots, Words & 3D Shapes’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent 

Our fourth session is the second part of session three. In session three we had built the walls of our installation using colour, shapes and patterns. During the week Bríd got the girls to re-stick some of the patterns onto the yellow cellophane. Pritt stick is not always the strongest choice. Bríd had also demonstrated 3D shapes with the girls. Whilst the children were at assembly I upturned 4 tables and popped the cardboard tubing and cellophane walls back in place.

Initially the children reattached a few straggling shapes back into place. We were going to be tying wool linking the cardboard tubing together creating a roof like piece over the four cellophane walls. Before tying the wool I needed to make sure the children could tie knots. This proved an interesting challenge but we got there surprisingly quickly. Bríd was probably more skilled at teaching the children at how to tie knots that I was. We practiced on yellow wool which the children suggested that we all made bracelets from and have a sort of club, naturally we did this.

Once our knot tying was up to speed the children worked in twos to string the different coloured wool across the top of the space we had created. As our space/installation began to take shape I asked the children to look at the roof and find different shapes the wool had outlined. There were probably hundreds of different shapes for us to find.

After the break I invited the children to choose a word that they liked the sound of, ideally a new word. Bríd helped the children with the spelling as some of the words were quite tricky and not words that they would at this stage be spelling in the classroom. I was surprised at some of the words the children choose and struggled with spelling them correctly myself. The children re-wrote their word on a coloured piece of card which I tied to the wool roof of our installation.

When we had completed all of out task we sat in a circle in the installation and spoke a little about why we had chosen each word. I think the children were extremely proud of what they created and I definitely was. It was really beautiful and demanded a lot of hard work and attention from the whole class.

Here are a selection of the words chosen by the children.



Resident Bird

Mc Cambridges











Session Three: ‘Turning the Classroom Upside Down’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

 ‘The One’ and I had had a conversation following our last session and felt that we would like to continue building and constructing on a large scale with the children. And as not to embarrass anyone I shall refer to the teacher as Bríd and not as ‘The One’ in the blog. Building on a large scale usually takes a little time to set up and as the children are so young we decided to have our sessions on Friday mornings. The children have assembly at 9am and this gives me time to rearrange the classroom if it is necessary. Starting at 9am also gives us the option to allow the sessions to run for the full morning if the activity and attention of the children demand this.

For a large scale build it is usually is necessary for a stable base and what could be more stable than the tables, turned up side down. I am aware that this can cause a little unease in the teacher. Desks are for sitting at and generally when they are the right way up. I quickly prepped the classroom turning four tables upside down and placing 2 metre cardboard tubes on each upturned leg. From each two table legs I attached a sheet of yellow cellophane. This would be the children’s canvas. Their task was to create patterns from different coloured paper. The children are looking at 2D shapes at the moment and I would like to be able to use what is happening in the classroom within the theme of what I shall do with them. Prior to creating patterns I invited small groups of children to stand in the centre of the classroom as I moved the tables about creating different 3D shapes and building a potential installation.

It was really lovely to see the children focus their ideas and dexterity in cutting out and placing their shapes in a number of different formations. The children wandered about a little but the productivity was high and some children really enjoyed the experience of not sitting at the desk. A few different heads appeared through he door to see what we were up to. The teachers who appeared were taken aback at the ‘mess’ and the children were astonished at the desks being turning upside down. Our junior infants thoroughly enjoyed themselves. What they created was really beautiful and hopefully allowed them to explore 2D shapes and the beginning of 3D shapes.

Just before we finished the session I asked the children to choose a word that they had recently learnt and that they liked the sound of. We will need words as part of our installation that we will build in the next session. The word could be in English or Irish.

The link below will take you to Bríd classroom blog hosted on the schools website.




Dalkey School Project Educate Together Session 12 Celebrate!

As this was our last session together we invited our parents and some siblings to join us for a reflection on all we have done together and to enjoy a puppet show.

We used images on the blog and the children’s memories to share what we enjoyed best. Then the children chose to work in groups behind the puppet screen. When the puppets took over it became very lively.

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It was great to see the puppet characters emerging through their play and improvised performances.IMG_0072

“This is Humpty Dumpty’s cousin and his name is Matt”

IMG_0081 2

Lily the puppet on the left: “I like eating pancakes all the time, so I can get fat. I like to spend time with my sister, Isabel”

Isabel, puppet on right: “My favourite thing is going into Fairy Doors and wandering off and I love rainbows and I am 7”IMG_0075 2

IMG_0071IMG_0070 2

The children were delighted to bring their puppets and books home and after the excitement of the show and visit from the parents, they settled down and continued working in them.


St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 3 – Friday 2nd February 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

Today it was a bright cold morning and there was lots of energy in the class so we started off by sending a clap around the room and back as fast as we could – which was quite exciting. Then we sent our names around the room in the same way, loud and fast, which was great fun.

Next we had some story volunteers who stood up and tried to keep a made up story going for 2 whole minutes. I was adding in story suggestions and we noticed it was hard to keep going for that long, but that it was good fun and quite funny. We’ll do it again next week for those who didn’t get a go this week.

So once we were all warmed up I asked the children to take out their scenes from last week based on characters from Matilda. We had a little bit of time to finish writing and to rehearse and then the scenes were presented to the class. The co-writers of each scene had the option to read it out themselves or to ask myself and Miss O’Connell to read for them. We talked a little bit about how nice it can be to perform your own writing, but sometimes if you’re a writer, you just want to watch your work performed by someone else (a lot of writers can be quite shy in fact).

All the scenes were very well written and found something new and different to make the characters say, which was really interesting (and there were also some sad bits, some disgusting bits and some funny bits!) Some of the scenes are attached here as audio files!

We were very much in the flow of creativity, so the children got back into their pairs and groups and had a look at an unfinished scene. The task was to read through the scene and then to write their own new ending. This was a scene between a shark and a unicorn (and sometimes also an Octopus) and it wasn’t clear what way the scene might go… would the characters all get what they wanted? Would nobody get what they wanted? Or would there be a betrayal?! Certainly in one case the unicorn helped the shark, only to be eaten in return! Sharks, huh? What are you gonna do?!

Miss O’Connell added…

This week the children continued writing their scripts. Overall, they collaborated well together, and it was encouraging to see them make amendments and discuss the script with each other.

The children were very excited to see their script performed for the class. They were given the option to perform the scene themselves or to have the teachers perform it for them. I found that they were quite specific about whom they cast as different characters and they were willing to give direction to the actors. It was interesting to observe them learning to be independent and watch them establish creative control over their own work.

I feel that they learned a lot about editing during this session. This was a new experience as their writing is often critiqued by the teacher before the final product is displayed. However, during this session, the children went directly from writing to performance. Many of them realised when they attempted to perform their scene that the script wasn’t very clear and as a result the actors were either unable to follow the script or were not playing the characters in theway they had intended them to be played. The children then regrouped, edited and amended their scripts independently.

I learned a lot about my class while observing them during this lesson. Many of the children who are usually quite shy and timid were eager to perform, they put on accents and performed as actors in several of the mini-dramas.Other children who would normally be quite loud and articulate were reluctant to participate. Then there were children who were not shy but who wanted others to act out their scenes, so they could give direction and see their work performed. This activity certainly allowed the children to express themselves indifferent ways and it was amazing to see different parts of their personality manifest.

St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 2 – Friday 26th January 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

In this week’s session we warmed up by telling some stories in pairs like last week, but this time we added some new rules that seemed to help. I asked the children to stick with the characters they created in their stories and not transform them into other things. I also said that the storyteller could ask for up to three suggestions from their partner to move the story on. Myself and Eriu were having great fun with a story about an elderly unicorn who lived at the top of a tower block. And there were more hands up this week for enjoying the story. This may have been to do with the new rules, or that everyone was more familiar with the idea.

Next we remembered the work we did last week with the characters from Matilda, and the children began to adapt some ideas from the book into scenes. Lots of the pairs chose a scene between Miss Trunchball and Cook. Others worked on a scene between Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood and a few chose a scene between Matilda and Lavender. This was quite hard work as everyone was trying to work with their partner, imagine what the characters would say and write it all down. It was tricky sometimes to stay in the world of Matilda and not just invent new stuff! I realised I’d asked a lot of the children all in one go, but each pair had nearly finished their scene by the end of the session.

Script 3 Matilda

Script 2 Matilda

Script 1 Matilda

Next week we’ll see what everyone came up with!


Miss O’Connell added…

In this session the children explored how a writer might approach writing a script. They discussed the use of stage directions and examining the characters in the book carefully to enable them to accurately imagine what that character is likely to say and how they are likely to say it.

The children were put in pairs and asked to write a scene based on a conversation between two characters, a scene that had not occurred in the book. Most of the children set straight to work and used the adjectives they had complied the week before for help and inspiration. However, for some pairs this task wasn’t structured enough and for others it was too structured.

Some of the children found it very difficult to use their imagination. They were fixated on the fact that the conversation had not occurred in the book and so they could not write a script as they had nothing to base the script on. They needed support from Michelle to explore what the characters might say and to use their adjectives as an aid.

Other pairs found that their imagination was restricted. They created scripts that were completely original; so original in fact that they bared little resemblance if any to the characters, plot or setting of the book. They had to be reminded that changes could be made but that the script had to remain within the world of Matilda. This was an excellent opportunity for the children to learn about the difference between adapting a story and completely changing a story.

I would love to continue with exercises like this in my classroom throughout the year because it challenged the children in a variety of ways. They were both thinking outside the box and using their imagination but remaining within a set structure. Children were rewarded for both their imagination and their sense of order. It was wonderful to listen to the children engage with each other and collaborate.