Friday, 13 July 2018

Day 4 - SWIFT 2018 - Written by Deirdre Mc Clay

Day 4 SWIFT 2018 blog posting – 12th July 2018
It’s day 4 and we’re more than halfway through SWIFT 2018. How SWIFT flies by – it’s well named! Today involved a post primary teacher demo from Patrick, some writing group time and a visit to the fabulous Russell Library on the south campus at Maynooth University   
As usual, we started the day with the daily log. This had been completed, after much thought, by Michelle. She explained first how she’d stressed over writing it – the blank page syndrome from yesterday. She had put the white page aside until early morning, when the deadline loomed, and somehow she got it written just on time.  She reminded us of the fun, learning and food from yesterday. A key resource she highlighted was the paragraph matrix from our visiting Royal Literary Fund (FLF) fellow Katie  Grant who had yesterday described the RLF Bridge scheme running in collaboration with RLF and Scottish schools  Thank you Michelle.
After our log, we had some time for reflective journaling on our thoughts from the previous day’s learning. Then Patrick started his post primary demo on use of book clubs and a flipped classroom approach to a junior cycle novel. He has used and developed this idea over time. The novel he  demonstrated was ‘The Outsider’ by S.E. Hinton. Patrick advised that some novels were more suitable for this approach than others, as it relies on students reading chapters from the book as homework rather than reading texts in class. Class time is used for small group and whole class discussion and note making.
Patrick spends a number of lessons setting up the book club, explaining rationale, rules and expectations, the importance of the independent learning approach, and how this will develop numerous key skills at junior cycle. The book club then works across 12 lessons where homework reading is given prior to class, and pupils discuss the readings in structured groups based on question prompts. Each group member takes on one of four roles: chairperson, secretary, spokesperson or investigator. I had encountered and used the first three, but not the last. The investigator is asked to be mindful of evidence being used from the text to back up claims, and also, to question other groups on their assertions once the class discussion begins. Each group negotiates roles and then works on a question for 15 minutes. The spokesperson then relates the findings of the group during the whole class discussion which follows. Pupils are encouraged to take notes during this process and to develop their own set of notes based on the text and class discussion and findings.      
The approach is collaborative, active, peer-driven, and helps to develop critical thinking (pupils must address ‘why?’ and justify their assertions). It can also be developed to incorporate writing tasks for the junior cycle portfolio assessment. Thank you, Patrick, for an interesting and insightful demo and for asking us to trial working in small groups using the roles above and an excerpt from the text. It was fun and informative.
After the morning break, it was time for our SWIFT pop-up writing groups. Alison had re-drafted a set of writing group guidelines based on a participant discussion on day 2 – these would form the ground rules for each group. All participants were allocated to a group of four or five to spend an hour reading aloud one piece of work and giving and receiving feedback. The groups dispersed around the building to find a quiet spot to read and listen.  Tomorrow, at least two from each group will read their work at authors’ chair. That’s another SWIFT highlight.
And finally, a special treat to end the afternoon. This year, again, Alison had arranged a visit to the Russell Library on the south campus which is housed in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. By appointment for an hour, we had a presentation on key artefacts held in the library collection and their significance. Thank you to the library staff, and particularly, Barbara McCormack, who presented to us on the cuneiform tablets and cones – the Russell Library holds the second largest collection in Ireland. We also had fun writing our names in cuneiform – the oldest written language in the world. What a beautiful place indeed.  
Tomorrow is the last day. I don’t believe it.

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