Session 1: Tá Cupla Focail Agam!

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Artist: Helen Barry
Teacher: Eoghan O’Neill
Ranga Do: 30 paiste

I did wonder whether I had bitten off a little more than I could chew! This was the first time I had embarked on an artist in residence in a Gael Scoil. The energies of a mixed group of second class children could sometimes be hard to focus without adding another language into the mix. My Irish was yet to be tested but I did know that the level of the children’s Irish was far better than mine. I had made an initial visit to meet the children in Gael Scoil Shliabh Rua pre Christmas to get a sense of what we might do together.

The Gael Scoil has yet to grow into its building hence there are many empty classroom on the first floor. I set up in one of these large empty spaces which still smells of fresh plaster and paint. The children had mentioned they would like to do some construction and this being my preferred medium I headed to the dictionary. Building – ag tógáil, Structure – Struchtúr, stable – seasmhach are a few I started with.

We began the session in the children’s classroom introducing the session with creating a musical pattern or pátrún ceol together. I had brought a ‘sound nest’ a percussion instrument that everyone can play and produce some beautiful sounds from. We used a simple rhythm, based on counting 1,2,3,4 or aon, dó, trí, ceathair. We used clapping and tapping the desks to distinguish the sounds as as we practiced and we substituted the clapping for names and words. Then the words became a task, ‘Ba mhaith limo go roghnódh sibh go leír focal amhain déas/maith/dearfach fút féin.’ /’I would like you to use a positive/nice/good word that describes you’. We explored a variety of words but the children were perhaps not used to finding the words that describe themselves in a positive way. It is something we shall return to.

We moved to the empty classroom our ‘studio space’ and tested out our ability to work as a group, follow instruction, build a large-scale structure and get to know some building terms. I have asked the children to assist me with my Irish. Their teacher Eoghan is on hand to offer any vocabulary when I am stuck and explains more deeply what I have asked the children to do. We had fun, it was surprisingly easier than I thought to communicate through Irish but I was exhausted. The children have requested to do some more construction which we shall do again next week.

I left with a great sense of achievement and with some extra words to add to my Irish vocabulary.

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