Monday, 12 October 2015

Referencing Style Guide

Last academic year the Maynooth University Writing Centre worked with colleagues from several departments on campus to create the second edition of the Maynooth University Guide to Harvard Referencing.  Colleagues Fionnuala Ní Mhórdha and Adrienne Hobbs authored this Guide.  

The guide is available here

Monday, 28 September 2015

Setting up a Writing Centre

Over past year, with the help of colleagues across the sector, we have put together a guide to How to Set up a Writing Centre.  The link is here

We would be very interested in feedback from any colleagues who access and use the guide.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Writing Centre reopens on 5th October

The Writing Centre will reopen on the week beginning the 5th October.  We are really looking forward to working with you this year as part of your efforts to become a better writer.

Our resources are available here, in Moodle

You will also find our timetable there.

Don't be a stranger!  Email us and arrange to meet with a tutor on

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Reflections on Day 5 - last day of SWIFT

Friday 24th was the last day of Maynooth University SWIFT 2015.  It's an odd feeling getting to the end of the week.  There is certainly some relief around getting to this point relatively unscathed but there is some sadness that the magic is ending, at least for the moment.  Because this is our second summer institute I know that the Day 5 also marks the beginning of this group continuing to connect and collaborate.  I am confident that it also marks the next stage in the development of this idea (movement?) in Ireland.  We can say that we have now completed our second summer institute.  We can say that there is every likelihood that we will run a summer institute again next year - 2016.  We can be relatively sure that we will expand the work to a second site on the island of Ireland, maybe even a third.  So, on the last day it's a blend of endings and beginnings.

On this last day we had two demos - one from Sarah and one from Claire.  My life spilled over into the day and I had to miss the best part of Sarah's demo and all of Claire's so I cannot comment on them.  All I can say is that I heard they were wonderful and model examples of what we are hoping for from demos.  I urge my co-director Deirdre to reply to this blog post to fill in the gaps.

Following the demos we had author's chair which was wonderful.  Last year I was anxious about how author's chair would work - I think that was more about how I would feel sitting up there reading my work than about how it would work conceptually!  This year, as last year, it was a great success.  The diversity of the work, the honesty, the variety of voice and the range of emotions was breathtaking.  We had such a talented group of writers in the room that I am sorry we didn't hear more of their writing during the week (note to self to try to factor more of this in next year!)

Following author's chair we had two contributions from past fellows, Eileen and Clair.  Eileen explored, in the limited time available, memoir and challenged us to consider the difference between memoir and autobiography.  We wrote to two prompts: 'I remember when ...' and 'I don't remember when ... ' We were urged not to stop in an attempt to silence the internal editor.  After the exercise we chatted about how it was and what we wrote.  Clair ended the day by inspiring us to consider getting published and showing us the nitty gritty of what might be involved.  It was very useful to see the different stages and players that make up the publishing world.  Hopefully we weren't  put off!

The day finished pretty much on time.  Deirdre and I thanked the group.  It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with everyone all week.  I have learned and laughed so much.  I look forward to the next steps on the journey ...

Monday, 27 July 2015

Reflections on Day 4

Day 4 began with a journal entry provided by Emmet which captured the events of the previous day and served to prompt us all to write.  This urging was continued in the only demo of the day which was from Ellen.  Ellen works in FE and she sketched her journey to becoming a teacher in that sector noting along the way the startling fact that when she returned to learning in Maynooth University a good few years ago there were only 12 mature students enrolled - what a trailblazer!  Ellen provided us with a great overview of her work and emphasised how she wants her students to engage with English and to enjoy it.  She also wants them to succeed.  As part of the demo we all wrote a piece inspired by a number of objects that Ellen had brought.  We weren't restricted by genre so there was a a range of reactions.  We all spoke about what we had chosen and how it had influenced what we wrote.

The second half of the day was devoted to writers' group and to a contribution from two returning fellows Mary and Claire. Mary and Claire spoke about how they teach poetry and how they combine written texts with performance.  Mary has several examples of student work which helped us to see the results of her and her students efforts.  It was great to be reminded by Mary about how much she likes teenagers (I recalled her saying that at her demo last year but had forgotten).

Tomorrow is the last day of SWIFT 2015 :-)(

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Reflections on Day 3

On Day 3, for a change of scene, we headed to the Library (many thanks to our Library colleagues for welcoming us and looking after us so well).  The day began with a contribution from Matthew Martin who works in St Mary's Belfast.  Matthew pitched a research idea that St Mary's, SWIFT and the Writing Centre in Maynooth University are curious about.  The idea is at scoping phase at the moment and the hour we spent with Matthew was designed to give us some space to consider our research question and to begin to craft it more concisely.  There was really useful feedback even in this short time and additional responses were captured on paper for Matthew to take away.

The day continued with two demos both from teachers who work in Educate Together schools.  The theme of English as an Additional Language (EAL) ran through both of these demos.  The demos in and of themselves were very engaging but equally interesting for me was the concern around English as a second or other language and what this means in the classroom.  In all of last year's demos, as a topic, this issue did not feature that significantly; this year however, there is a great deal of interest and this seems like a clear reflection of the changing nature of Irish society as reflected in our schools.  Both demos (from Rozz and from Orlagh) reinforced the use of technology and provided us with a range of ideas into and in support of writing.  The theme of fairy tales also featured in both demos; in one demo we created our own fairy tale like story and in the other we revisited a fairy tale and turned it on its head.

At lunchtime we sat with our writers' group and informally chatted about the scheduled meeting the next day.

We finished the day, as we have every other day this week, with a contribution from colleagues from SWIFT 2014, today Jo and Chris.  Chris and Jo spoke of scientific writing and writing observations.  This sort of writing has not been explored to any great extent this week so it was good to look at a different register and different form.

For Day 4 we will be back in the Phoenix Building.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

SWIFT 2015 - Writers' Group Guidelines

Guidelines for Writers’ Groups  - SWIFT 2015

·      The group should be a safe space underpinned with respect
·      Gatherings should be structured and the time available shared fairly across all contributions
·      Everyone contributes and should arrive prepared for the group
·      The groups should be no more than 5 or 6 participants
·      Ideally there should be some diversity in the group
·      Everyone listens attentively
·      Author identifies where the work is in terms of stage of writing
·      ‘Fresh’ work is treated as delicate and only specific positive feedback is allowed
·      Author could identify if they want specific feedback on a certain aspect of the work
·      Feedback provided most frequently as suggestions or questions about the work e.g. ‘I’m wondering about …’
·      Feedback provided as reader response
·      Acknowledge that the author might have some questions about the work that could be addressed
·      No apologies from writer
·      Two stars and a wish
·      Those responding to writing should consider their comments in terms of ‘would I want to hear that feedback’
·      Critiquing technical aspects of the writing may be appropriate at certain stages of the work
·      Writer should accept feedback graciously and may only need to say ‘Thank you’ to certain comments (as opposed to engaging with them)
·      The group is not a place to come for therapy
·      At times, members of the group might read each other’s work aloud to the group
·      Written feedback might be provided by the group on occasion.

Reflection on Day 2

Day 2 of SWIFT began with a journal from Mairead which recalled the activity of Day 1.

On Day 2 Ann and Finin contributed two very different demos.

Ann showed us a short movie - The White Dress - and we discussed the work along a continuum which ranged from bias and trying to interpret the director's motives to examining the piece from a purely technical perspective.  Ann urged us to consider the film in terms of sound, setting, lighting, number and type of scenes, camera angles etc.  In the course of discussing the film we explored the discourse of film; we also read the screenplay for the work which linked nicely with Ferdia and Christina's contribution on Day 1.  Ann finished her lesson by asking us to devise and create tableaux for another scene, a new one that we created in small groups.

Finin's demo reminded us of the strong theoretical framework that can underpin our work and helped us to understand what it is we are trying to achieve.  His emphasis on the work of Vygotsky, the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and the More Knowledgeable Other reinforced the social nature of our learning and how teachers and fellow students can stretch and bolster us.  The theory was made practical in part in a collaborative writing exercise in which we built a story (across two flip charts!) with a range of characters, different setting and an outlandish plot line :-)  The prompt for the story was anything that had caught our attention on they way in that morning. These ideas, listed together, these facts, formed the basis for our fiction.

The rest of the day was given over to agreeing guidelines for writers' groups at SWIFT (noted as a separate post) and hearing from two of last year's fellow, Trish and Donna.  Trish and Donna brought us through 'new ways to new worlds' demoing a range of technologies that they employ in their teaching.  For a self-confessed Luddite, it was hard for me to grasp just how much technology exists out there that could be usefully employed to bring more life to the classroom.  Equally, it was reassuring to hear from Trish and Donna that they had successfully negotiated their ways into these world and that on several occasions their students had helped them come to grips with new media.

We finished the day urging folks to complete 15-20 mins of writing that they will present at writers' group on Thursday.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Reflections on Day 1

Monday 20th July marked the first day of SWIFT 2015.  It was wonderful to welcome our colleagues from across the sector and across the country.  We began with some icebreakers and some opportunities to find out who was in the room.  This was followed by an input inspired by our absent friends from the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP) - Berkeley -  Kristen and Greta.  The exercise is called 'Foods from my childhood' and the co-director of SWIFT 2015, Deirdre, very gentled urged the group to list foods they remembered, to talk about them with a partner, to steal good ideas, to develop a couple of items from the list and finally to write about one of the foods that mattered most.  We read these to our partners and some brave participants (Orlagh and Neil) shared their ideas with the group.

The morning continued with the first of our demos, this one from Martina.  Martina spoke of the great work which she has done in St Aidan's in Tallaght on the Make a Book project and she set us all up to write a picture book about a pet.  The results were collaborative efforts which amused all.

After lunch, two of last year's Fellows (Ferdia and Christina) returned to Maynooth to work with us on screenplay writing.  These presenters challenged us with the form of screenplay writing and prompted us to consider how we might integrate either the method or the essence of this type of writing into our own curricula.

We finished the day with Mairead volunteering to provide the daily log which she presented this morning - Tuesday.  She told us that she found yesterday helped her to feel inspired and confident; that she enjoyed the 'pure and distilled form of writing' of screen play.  She finished by boldly articulating that 'Maybe I am a writer'!  

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

SWIFT 2015 - participants

In this, our second year of the summer institute, we were again spoiled in terms of the very high calibre of the applications.  We are so fortunate that the Institute attracts such wonderful teachers who are dedicated and innovative in equal measure.

After a very difficult process we have now made offers to our 20 participants for SWIFT 2015.

We look forward to sharing the Institute with you through this blog.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Announcing SWIFT 2015

Maynooth University Summer Writing Institute For Teachers (SWIFT)

In July 2015 Maynooth University will host its second week-long writing institute on campus.  The institute was originally designed in consultation with a range of teaching and learning networks, including Maynooth University Early Childhood, the Further Education Support Service, the Reading Association of Ireland and the Irish Network for the Enhancement of Writing.  The institute draws from the US National Writing Project model and is designed to provide an opportunity for teachers, from all education levels, to meet, share good practice, and learn more about writing and the teaching of writing.

At the institute you will look closely at your own writing and student writing, explore issues and ideas in the teaching of writing, work toward becoming teacher leaders and share classroom practices or activities. 

The institute will take place daily from 10.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. from Monday 20th July until Friday 24th July inclusive. 

The institute will be free to all participants but places will be strictly limited and allocated across the education levels.

If you are interested in attending this event please contact us for an application form.  The completed form should be submitted to us before Wednesday 20th May 2015.  All applications must be made by email to All shortlisted applicants will be contacted by Wednesday 27th May 2015. 

All queries about the project should be directed to the