St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 4 – Friday 9th February 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

Today we started to explore in more depth how a story works. Noah suggested that a story should have a main character who is doing something,  and Evelyn added that a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. I told the children that in some countries in different parts of the world stories work differently from in Ireland and sometimes they don’t have an ending in the same way we think about it.

I asked if the children could think of any types of stories that they knew that don’t seem to have an end. There were some suggestions of films with lots of sequels, like Star Wars and Transformers, and then I mentioned Eastenders and everyone shouted out “Soaps!” I talked a little bit about the history of soap operas, where they got their name from (being sponsored by soap companies on the radio in the 1950s!) and the fact that, yes, the story never ends and there’s always a “hook” at the end of each episode to get you to come back and watch the next one.

We wondered then if a play could work like that, but Chris said that you would just starve and Mathew pointed out you would get dehydrated and probably quite bored if you sat in a theatre forever watching a non-stop play. I wondered whether life itself could count as a non-stop play, because it has people in it and it happens live like theatre, but we realised that real life has real people in it, not actors playing characters, and that’s it’s really happening, not made up by a writer, and also because real life just keeps going and going, it’s more like a Soap than a play because it doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end.

With this discussion under our belts, I gave the children a quiz about the folk story Red Riding Hood. I asked if they could remember the story and describe what the characters were like, where the story took place and what events happened to make up the beginning, the middle and the end. We soon realised there were some quite different versions of the same story. We also discovered that there was a version in South Africa and in Poland, but perhaps not in Columbia, which was really interesting. After we had explored the story from Red Riding Hood’s point of view as the main character, we also turned it around and I told the story from the point of view of an old and hungry wolf. This was a quite different story and we all said we felt quite sorry for the wolf in this version.

Next, I asked the children to make a storyboard and to draw the story in eight pictures. They could decide which version they wanted to do – the wolf’s or Red Riding Hood’s. Some children drew their version of a wolf on the board as a guide for others, which was very helpful and extremely varied. I asked the children to avoid using any words in their picture version. Noah asked why that was and we talked a bit about working with different parts of the brain to come up with different creative ideas. Because words and pictures use different parts of our brains, I explained that drawing the characters and the places can give a writer some new ideas about the characters and about how they might get on in the world they live in. The emerging Storyboards were looking really interesting with lots of character and story detail coming out of the drawings. I asked the children and Miss O’Connell if they could finish the pictures for the next session (after half-term), so we could have a gallery display and everyone could get to see each other’s work. A really interesting and productive session!

Miss O’Connell added…

This week the children focused on reimagining the story of Little Red Riding Hood through the perspective of the wolf. The children began by retelling and sequencing the original story of Little Red Riding Hood. They explored and described the characters identifying their different traits based on the story. The characters were predictably categorised as either good or evil.

They listened to Michelle tell the story from the wolf’s perspective. The session became very interesting as the children had to learn to empathise with the wolf. They subsequently discussed his character again and he was no longer labelled the evil villain. The children were called to the board to draw pictures of the wolf. They compared each other’s depictions of the wolf.

The children created individual story boards where they drew the characters and retold the their own version of the familiar fairytale with images.

Session 11 Dalkey School Project Senior Infants. Finished Puppets LIVE!

I began by using my puppet to introduce some ways of making hair. This resulted in it being awarded purple hair by the children, completely changing its character in a very interesting way.  Then the children set to, to finish their own puppets. Again, they were very excited and it was a very busy session.

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As they finished, they used their notebooks to think up some biographical information about their puppet – having been asked to make 3 “I am…” sentences that their puppet might say to explain about their self when they meet another puppet. 

After their break we made a simple puppet booth and the children, in pairs or threes, had a chance to practice saying some of this to the audience of the rest of the children. 

The children really enjoyed this. I noticed, that, as usual, puppets can be quite bold and rude. My puppet and I gave them some performance tips where necessary.


We also tried to connect via Skype with another Educate Together Senior Infant Class in Dublin 11 who were working with puppets, but unfortunately we had a technical hitch and this was not possible.

For my next, last, visit the parents are coming to help us celebrate all we have done together and to see an improvised puppet show. Then, at last, the children will be able to take their books and puppets home.

Session 10, Dalkey School Project. Painting and Dressing our Puppets

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First we met our rod puppet again, who with help from the children talked us through what we needed to do next to our puppets. These had dried very nicely, very few needed repairs. Those children who had been absent the previous week were able to catch up quickly with heads from polyballs with Lolly sticks glued into a slit in them. They were able to quickly make the hands from cardboard kitchen rolls as their classmates had.

The puppet helped us with a quick recap on paint mixing – I advised that we would focus on skin colours first, on the face and hands, and we talked about how to make darker or lighter skin colours. When the puppets were painted, we then glued on their eyes, being careful to leave them lying down and resist the desire to play with them. It was such a busy session that afterwards they had the quietest lunch break ever!


After yard I showed the children how to fold and cut a rectangle of fabric or socks to make the clothes for the puppet. We glued the head and hands into the centre and middle corners of the fabric to make the body. We used pipe cleaners also to help hold them in place while the glue dried, and make nice collars. The children had brought in lots of lovely things to make with, it was like Christmas for a while as the children opened the bags, and they were good at sharing with each other where necessary. 

We used

Brown gummed roll (for quick repairs and strengthening)

Paint, palettes, brushes

Small beads, sequins, buttons etc for eyes,

Fabric, socks etc

PVA, 15 small pots , 30 lolly sticks to apply it.

Pipe cleaners

Wools feathers etc


I brought

Rod Puppet

Spare socks

Their notebooks, Hole punches for additional pages.

Session 9 Senior Infants Dalkey School Project. Puppet making begins!

After a quick recap on our Lexicon visit to see if they had stories /memories of images that might prove inspiration for today’s work, we began a process of puppet making.

They first met a rod puppet who showed them how he was made and asked them to make some friends for him. We discussed a little what they might like to make, and their teacher found some images of animals for them on the interactive whiteboard as there was a lot of interest in making animals.

We then examined the shape of our heads, using our fingers with our eyes closed, and looking at each other’s profiles with our eyes open.

Then we covered the tables, and rolled up our sleeves. The children tore newspaper into small pieces until each had a pot full. Deborah noted how this was good for their manual dexterity. I noted that it takes this age group much longer to complete this than a group even a year older. When they were done they tipped out their newspaper and each got an inch or so of glue in the bottom of their pot. They then stirred the newspaper pieces back in gradually, with a lolly stick, until they were all mulched into the glue. When they were ready I showed them how they might model a head out of the glue onto their lolly stick, looking at the difference in shape of head of an animal, say a horse, or a dog, to a human. We discussed various placement of eyes etc.

After the break we looked at the shape of our hands and discussed how to draw them, the children described the shape of the fingers closed as a hill, and we decided the thumb coming out the bottom was a bridge. We looked also at how hands are opposed to each other. We also discussed paw and hoof shapes for the animals. I showed them how to draw a hand / hoof onto kitchen roll cardboard after each child had cut their half roll in half again. The children then drew their hand  / paws / hooves and we taped one to a second lolly stick, all was labelled and set out on trays to dry for next week.

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St. Mary’s, Sandyford – Fourth Class – Session 1 – Friday 19th January 2018 Teacher: Áine O’Connell Artist: Michelle Read – Playwriting

In our first session we got to know each other by saying our names out loud and making a big physical gesture. We noted that some of us found it easier to think of something in advance, while some of us like to think of what we would do on the spot.

I mentioned that being spontaneous – thinking or doing something on the spot, or off the top of your head – was a big part of writing for theatre, but that it did also include  taking time with a decision and being reflective – and that both ways of being were equally important.

Next we focused on a spontaneous way of working by making up a story on the spot with everyone adding in different bits. The story was great fun, but became a little bit crazy. We talked about this and why that might have happened, and then the class got into pairs and tried it out for themselves, taking turns to lead the story or add in the new ideas. Some pairs said they enjoyed their story and some pairs said they didn’t enjoy their story, so we discussed what was enjoyable (things that worked perhaps), and what wasn’t enjoyable (maybe things that didn’t work so well). I also let everyone know at this point that this exercise is actually quite hard, so everyone had done very well whether they liked their story or not.

We then turned our attention to an existing story that the class knows well – Matilda by Roald Dahl – and I asked everyone to tell me the events of the story. Here we looked at how the story unfolded – what the action was – what happened – and I noted that whilst being very funny and very wild with some very bad characters, the story still made sense all the way through. The class had a really good memory for the story and were very animated when they were telling it.

After the break, we then had a great discussion about the difference between a story in a book, and a live-action story in a play. Everyone came up with lots of differences including…

With a book…  ‘You can stop, take a break and re-read it again.’ Jack… ‘There’s no music in a book.’ Daniel F… ‘You can read it whenever you want.’ Freya… ‘There’s more in a book than in a play.’ Maya… ‘You can buy a book whenever you want, but you can only see a play in a limited time.’ Christopher… ‘In the book you need to imagine it, but in the play you can see the people.’ Sergio. 

And a play is different because…  ‘It’s on a stage with performers.’Mia… ‘You get a sense of the characters in a play.’ Daniel… ‘You can hear and see a play.’ Charlene… ‘You can see the environment of a play and how the scriptwriter was picturing it when they wrote it.’ Orla… ‘You have to get tickets to go and see a play.’ Eriu…

One of the things that also came up was that in a book the people are called characters and they are written with words, whilst in a play the characters are performed by people called actors. I explained that these actors need a character description to understand how to best play their character, and so the children wrote down words that described the personalities of the main characters from Matilda. It was fascinating to discuss the different personalities and to see if the bad characters had any good qualities or whether good characters had any bad qualities!

It was a really enjoyable and stimulating first session with the group. Well done to everyone.


Miss O’Connell added…

The children in my class thoroughly enjoyed their first session with Michelle. They benefited from it in a number of ways particularly in the areas of language development, critical thinking and analysis.

During the session the children were discussing and analysing different characters in a text they knew. Quite predictably the children could easily pick out the villains and the heroes in the story. They were able to ascribe negative adjectives to Ms. Trunchbull and positive adjectives to Matilda. However it was very interesting to listen to the children talk about peripheral characters such as Matilda’s friend Lavender, Ms. Honey and Matilda’s mother. The children debated whether or not Lavender was a real friend of Matilda’s and what motivated her actions. The children discussed the possible redeemable qualities in Matilda’s parents and explored what it may have been like for them having a daughter like Matilda. The children examined the character Ms. Honey and explored why they think she allowed Ms. Trunchbull to control her and behave the way she did.

Michelle also asked the children to discuss how a play and a novel differ. I thought that this was tremendously interesting as the children often have difficultly identifying differences between genres. However their answers were very interesting. They explored how costume reduces the need to describe a character to the audience. They explored the difference between written stage directions and the script. They were quite able to discriminate between the two genres by the end of the session.

The entire session was rich with content. It was an engaging and highly stimulating session for both the pupils and the teacher.

Session 8 Visiting Arrival exhibition in The Lexicon. Senior Infants, Dalkey School Project

Today we went on the no 7 bus to visit the exhibition in the Lexicon Gallery on the theme of Arrival.

IMG_9650We worked in our table groups and looked at and chose pieces we particularly liked like Curators. We shared our favourites with our group and got a chance to talk about them together.

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Afterwards we made drawings inspired by what we had seen using chalk pastels. Then we made our own exhibition of our pictures.

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Session Two: ‘The One’

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Artist: Helen Barry

Teacher: Bríd McGovern

Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)

School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent

 I believe that I have just found ‘The One’ but not in the romantic kind of way we normally hear that term being used. As I observed Bríd attending to her class throughout the session I realized that she is ‘The One’; the attention to preparation; colour coding organizing systems that allow the children to naturally follow a routine; intermittently introducing movement exercises at key moments to help the children re-focus; clarity about aims and outcomes of the interaction with the children. I am certain that I will discover more along over the coming months as well as learning how to fine-tune my obsessive need for colour coordinated systems. Each time I embark on a new artist-in-residence with dlr Primary Arts I find the wealth of the teachers experience has a huge impact on my practice and approach to collaborating with children.

The focus of our second session was on building structures. Initially I have planned to work on a small scale in twos and threes and then move into a bigger build inviting the children to work as a class group. We had time constraints so we dived straight into the big build. We cleared the classroom of chairs and pushed the desks to the edges giving us as much room as possible.

We started with a few listening and stretching exercises. I showed the children our materials, highlighting the colour coding of each! Each child was given a 2 metre grey insulation pipe and two pieces of Velcro. We played, listened, bended, wrapped and wriggled our piping just to get the feel of it. The Velcro was used to tie the ends of the piping together around ourselves. Then to add to the challenge we linked our circular pipe to the person next to us. It was very fortunate that a few sixth class students were available to assist us. Once connected we moved about the room as if we were one single unit. The girls are junior infants and took to this extremely well even though this was quite a challenging task.

Now that we had a sense of what the pipes could do I introduced a series of cardboard boxes with pre-cut holes and all colour coded (Bríd was the first person to note the time it took to do this). The children then pushed a piece of piping into the corresponding hole in each cardboard box. The Velcro was added to strengthen our structure as it grew. The shape of the structure is an invitation to play, so naturally we responded and the children crawled in and out and explored the space a little. This became even more interesting when we added the transparent fabric on top of the piece.

As time was tight we were limited to how much time could be given to exploring and playing. I get a sense that the children would like to build on this scale again. Now that they have an understanding of what can be created with the materials it will really interesting to see where they take the idea of building and playgrounds. With minutes to spare Bríd suggested that the children assisted in deconstructing the piece as this was as equally important to the building of the structure. With almost 30 pairs of hands we had the room back to normality in good time leaving us time to plan for the festive season ahead.