Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 5 Summer Institute - the last day.

Day 5  Summer Institute - the last day of the Institute.

On Friday Mary and Ann provided the demos.

Mary began, as all our Fellows had, with an overview of her teacher journey and some comments about what is at the core of her work as an educator.  She noted that she loves teenagers ... 'and that really helps!'  She emphasised how important it is for her to provide a learning environment which is underpinned with a focus on self-esteem, confidence, dignity and respect.

In Mary's demo we considered poetry and talked about 'post it' poems.  We were treated to Randoms, reminded about William Carlos Williams and Raymond Carver, and we experienced Mary in 'teacher mode' giving us WWs - working wells - and reminding us not to drink in class!

We stood up, we watched, we listened, we wrote, we left the room, we returned.

We were engaged in learner-centred, active, values-driven approaches to writing.

In the second demo Ann declared herself a writer, which she said she had never done before.  It was a fabulous moment for Ann and for the group as we felt we had all travelled with Ann on the last leg to the point where she could make this statement.  Ann talked about her work, what had brought her into teaching and how at one point she had got lost as a teacher.  She noted that she had to change her pace - she is famously energetic - and to allow time for feedback and reflection.   She highlighted that her work is influenced by Barrie Bennett.

Ann emphasised the importance of happiness and that, in her experience, as stress reduces, confidence grown.  Given that her first passion is drama she drew on  influences from that world specifically, from Stanislavsky: method acting, emotional memory and the magic IF.

Ann's demo connected us again with imagination bringing us full circle to Monday's sessions and the ideas about imagination that surfaced then.  In her demo we warmed up physically and connected with the range of senses.

Ann remarked that working with colleagues over the week reminded her that she could (should?) write when her students write.  In addition, being at the Institute helped Ann to remember who she wanted to be as a teacher.

Friday, the last day of the Institute, also included author's chair over lunchtime.  During author's chair we listened to pieces that our Fellows had started on Day 1 and that they had worked on at different times throughout the week.  There were five authors who read to us on Friday: Chris, Mary, Eileen, Christina and Patricia.  The works were diverse and engaging - the variety intriguing and the worlds finely drawn.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to listen to these Fellows' writing: a most enriching and enjoyable way to spend lunchtime.

Lunch was followed by an invited contribution from Carmel Lillis, herself a very experienced teacher at many levels including on Toriaocht a leadership programme run by the NUI Maynooth Education Department.  Carmel encouraged all of us to see ourselves as potential leaders and she talked about the necessity to have professional conversations within our education settings.  Carmel urged us to think about how we can affect change and she drew on Alan C Jones' work which notes, amongst other important factors, the need for moral purpose, courage to act, situational awareness, sustainability through empowerment and modelling.  We were left wondering how we could build on what we had learned and experienced during the week once we return to our own settings.

The day finished with more writing and talking and a focus on the need for reflection.

We also began to think about 'what next?'

Friday, 1 August 2014

Poetry prompt - This Is Just To Say

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

I have eaten
the plums 
that were in
the icebox

and which 
you were
probably saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

Mary told us how she uses this poem when working with Transition year students, helping them to write poetry.

Day 4 of the Summer Institute

Today Claire provided us with a demo that had been inspired by her work with a writing group in her school.  She noted that she draws on Donald Graves work and his four essentials -  All Children Can Write.  She noted those essentials for us:

1. time 

2. child choice 

3. response to child meaning 

4. establishment of a community of learners.

Claire emphasised the importance of play and how at one point she had forgotten that play is important for all our students - for all of us.

She noted how much we need to remember that writers ask themselves questions about the world - not just about big global issues but also about the apparent trivia.  She talked about seeing the world afresh.  It triggered for me that line from Kavanagh which resurfaced now years after hearing it first but which has often echoed: 'And the newness that was in every stale thing.'  

As a group we played an A-Z story making game which led to a lot of laughter from the various contributions.  We followed this with choosing a picture from a newspaper, cutting it out, building a character and putting them in to a story.

Today we also had writing time with our groups in part preparation for the Author's Chair today.

The day finished with a contribution from Lawrence Cleary, from the Regional Writing Centre in University of Limerick who urged us to consider writing processes.  He used some of their wonderful 'How I write Ireland' footage to demonstrate the sort of questions we could ask of ourselves as writers and of our students.  He also provided practical advice about how to make similar videos to what UL has produced.
Tomorrow is our last day  ... 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Day Three of the Summer Institute

Day Three of the Summer Institute 

Today was a blend of poetry, description and play.

We began in the gorgeous NUI Maynooth Library where we spoke, listened, read and wrote.  Patricia worked with us on narrative, computer games, film and especially poetry.   Today we were all poets - a shift (and a chance to transfer) from being screenwriters yesterday.  We explored where teachers and learners meet and how imagination contributes to that encounter - echoing John Mac Kenna's emphasis on imagination on Day 1. Patricia spoke about text books as the 'hard shoulder' and how they can be both a help and a hinderance.  What kept re-emerging was the need for courage - the Irish word misneach lingered in my mind - and the need to be brave as educators (and for educators to be brave).  

After noon Josephine spoke about the empowering force that education can be.  Controversially (?) Josephine banned imagination!  We were shocked ... but we tried our best to be co-operative :-)  In this session we were looking at descriptive writing and trying to write what we saw - what we actually saw - rather than our story of what we saw: our interpretation of what we saw.  We realised how hard it is to watch carefully, to see details and to record those accurately - Deirdre noted the 'rising panic' she felt in completing the activity.  Mary remarked that even with very limited practice she could see that she was moving from interpretation to description.  Josephine reminded us that we should keep trialling observation - at home, at work, in cafes - where we try to see first without interpretation.  Linking with the literature, Greta urged that Donald Murray says 'Writing is seeing'.  

After lunch we returned to play where Niamh Fortune (and her onboard small fortune) evidenced the powerful link between play and writing - including impromptu writing.  Niamh, in an wonderfully enthusiastic presentation, drew out some key points about writing in primary school which we could see could have applicability across a range of education levels.  They included, the ideas of audience and purpose,  language development, the connections between speaking and writing, the usefulness of  scaffolding and modelling, how tools can inspire us to write, how we can move from images/picture to writing.  So much of what Niamh mentioned summarised the ideas that have been floating around the Institute since Monday.  As such, Niamh's contribution was a timely recap on where we have got to so far.   

Back to the Phoenix tomorrow and some time for writing groups.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Day Two of the Summer Institute

Second day of the Summer Institute brought two demos from our colleagues Louise and Ferdia.  

Louise used a great Roddy Doyle story to explore voice.  She guided the class with some principles around how she supports writing in her setting which included the ideas of: process and craft; modelling; scaffolding; engagement; reading; and that small things matter.

Ferdia set us up first as cinema-goers (virtual popcorn only!) watching a clip from As Good As It Gets and subsequently as screenplay writers.  The visual - pictures as stories - was foregrounded as was the need to for every word to matter.

We move venue to the Library tomorrow for Day 3.

Participant expectations for the week - summary doc

Summer Writing Institute 2014

Day 1 - Expectations – some themes

Feeling/Acting/Connecting differently - seeking:

  • ·      Inspiration
  • ·      To become more ‘open’ and to wonder
  • ·      To enjoy the week – to find/rediscover the joy in writing
  • ·      To become more confident
  • ·      To make new connections with people and ideas
  • ·      To meet, talk and share with others – to contribute
  • ·      To contribute
  • ·      To be enthused/To enthuse!
  • ·      To explore my voice and releasing it
  • ·      To break the rules of creative practice with more daring
  • ·      To rekindle my ‘unkempt’ side – to let loose

Greater awareness and exploration of:

  • ·      How to teach writing in a way that is creative, engaging and supportive
  • ·      Other contexts including how the National Writing Project might translate in another context
  • ·      The challenges that we and students face in writing

Participant writing:

  • ·      Exploring how my experience as a writer can inform my teaching
  • ·      Experience being part of a community of writers
  • ·      To become more confident as a writer

Practical expectations:

  • ·      New techniques and new ideas
  • ·      Time to prepare
  • ·      To help others where I can.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Day One of the Summer Institute

We have just completed Day 1 of our first summer institute.  It was wonderful to finally meet everyone that we have been emailing over and back for the past few weeks and to spend a day writing and talking about writing.

Today we used, amongst other devices, memories of food, our names, and a box of buttons as prompts for writing.  The variety in processes and writing was intriguing and the room was humming with reactions and frequently resounding with laughter.

John MacKenna worked with us at the last session of the day and led debate around some assumptions about what contributes to good writing.  He also emphasized the need for perseverance, courage and imagination.

Looking forward to meeting up as a group again tomorrow!  

Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer Writing Institute

Our First Summer Writing Institute will begin on Monday 28th July.  

Watch here for posts from the week and follow us on Twitter on @NUIMWriting #maywi2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Home again, home again ...

Happy to be be back in sunny Maynooth after a wonderful conference in Germany where we connected with fantastic colleagues and conversed about our work.  We even got to nip in to Poland.

Looking forward to the first NUI Maynooth Summer Institute next.  We will be posted comments here everyday so do tip in and see what is happening.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

NUI Maynooth Writing Centre in Germany

NUI Maynooth Writing Centre in Germany

We are delighted to be presenting research from our work in the Writing Centre at the European Writing Centres Association (EWCA 2014).  This afternoon we will talk about the Centre as a learning centre and how examining transfer can help us to enhance how we work with students.