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.


  1. This is my 3rd attempt to comment, 2nd today.Today I got the value of play in learning, the payoff from using technology and - again - games as aids to teaching narrative and poetry. Most striking was Josephine's presentation, which challenged us to consider if our opinions, points of views, the stories we believe etc etc, act as filters that distort rather than enhance what we THINK we see.

  2. This is a terrific course. It's mind boggling at times, provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable!

  3. Hi everyone! Have been trying to link all week with you. From your comments I can see that you all got the Writing Institute Bug. Do savour every moment. It is a truly memorable experience in our professional life and more. Wish I was there with you..:)) Hope we can link more in the near future.
    Jane (Malta Writing Programme)

    1. Hi Jane, lovely to hear from you and we wish you were here too! Next time for sure. Yes - the bug has bitten ... we have had a great week. Do let's keep in touch and we can see how we islanders can work together in the future. Al.