Introductory Statement

Ms. Joan O’ Shea, holds the Post of Responsibility for English in the school. Since early 2000 the English plan has been regularly monitored and reviewed. Literacy has been prioritised by staff for the 2012 - 2014 school years as part of the School Self Evaluation process. Advice with regard to 'best practice' including best teaching approaches and methods has been sought from the Inspector, PDST (Professional Development Support for Teachers), NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) and the Department of Education (DES). In 2012 – 2013 following a thorough review of practice in the school, the staff decided to focus on ‘sharing the learning outcomes/objectives’ with the children, when appropriate, developing team-teaching through increasing in-class support and ensuring more of a balance between teacher led assessment and pupil led assessment, with an emphasis on AFL (Assessment for Learning). A decision was made by staff to look in depth at comprehension strategies, writing genres and oral language in the 2013 - 2014 school year.

In teaching English we aim:

  • To promote positive attitudes and develop an appreciation of the value of language- spoken, read and written
  • To develop confidence and competence in listening, speaking, reading and writing
  • To develop cognitive ability and the capacity to clarify thinking through oral language, writing and reading
  • To enable the child to read and write independently.
  • To enhance emotional, imaginative and aesthetic development through oral, reading and writing experiences.


The English curriculum is structured according to the strands and strand units. To aid clarity the staff has chosen to plan through the strand units:

  • Oral Language
  • Reading
  • Writing

Teachers use the curriculum objectives in planning their work. The skills they are trying to teach the children are also at the core of their planning. They refer to them regularly, use them for assessment purposes, and ensure there is a balance between the strands as listed below:

  • Receptiveness to language
  • Competence and confidence in using language
  • Developing cognitive abilities through language
  • Emotional and imaginative development through language

For an overview of the components of Oral Language, Reading and Writing click here. 


DISCRETE ORAL LANGUAGE: In 2013 eleven staff formed a CLI (Collaborative Learning Initiative) group under the direction of Dr. Fiona King and Professor Howard Stevenson. Following a thorough review which is documented and available in the office, a decision was made to focus on Oral Language. As a first step a Discrete Oral Language lesson was defined as: A specific oral language development lesson/lessons of thirty minutes per week, focusing on the five components of effective oral language instruction: promoting auditory memory, developing speaking and listening skills, teaching and extending vocabulary and conceptual knowledge, creating a language learning environment and teaching a variety of spoken texts. Form, structure, use of language and grammar are addressed during Discrete Oral Language time. Children are encouraged and taught to use correct pronunciation, grammar, tone/pitch etc. when speaking. On occasions this may need to be done discreetly by the teacher. Teaching strategies are carefully selected with the ultimate aim to develop children’s confidence in speaking in small group/large group situations.


1.Promote Auditory Memory: Teachers read poetry/stories to the children. The children are taught to retell stories, recount events, play memory games and engage in oral activities.

2.Develop Listening and Speaking Skills: Children are taught the rules for social interaction; turn taking, politeness and non-verbal skills (body language). They are made aware of listening and speaking opportunities in all areas.

3.Teach a Variety of Spoken Texts: The children are taught to effectively make oral reports, debate, tell stories and verbalise procedures.

4.Create a Language Environment: Teachers ensure their classroom is ‘print rich’; that the classroom library is well stocked with appropriate books; that the environment stimulates and motivates the children to broaden their vocabulary and develop a love of reading.

5.Teach and Extend Vocabulary and Conceptual Knowledge: Teachers teach individual words, word strategies, and foster an awareness and love of words and language


In October 2013, teachers identified the following language skills from the curriculum. These skills will be taught to the children, time-tabled, and referred to in teachers’ short-term planning. In 2014 lessons will be devised at each class level for developing listening and speaking skills. These skills will be linked with the writing genres (see section below on WRITING).

ORAL LANGUAGE SKILLS: Infants to 6th classes
Listening (specific lessons agreed at each class level are taught by teachers and skills retaught and reinforced on an ongoing basis. )

  • Recognise and observe simple commands
  • Establish rules for good listening – no fidgeting, sit nicely with feet on the floor, concentrate, have good eye contact
  • Recognise and display non-verbal behaviours

Speaking (specific lessons agreed at each class level are taught by teachers and skills retaught and reinfoced on an ongoing basis)

  • Use formal and informal language appropriately
  • Engage in conversation
  • Use pragmatics of social language – use appropriate responses
  • Have awareness of voice projection and show voice projection
  • Show eye contact
  • Awareness of proximity
  • Awareness of audience
  • Awareness of pitch and tone
  • Ability to give oral reports
  • Ability to tell stories and anecdotes
  • To work in partners or small groups
  • To give instructions
  • To argue a point
  • To debate

Key objective: to give students experience in selecting and organising information for specific purposes i.e. that the children (taking into consideration their audience) will be able to describe orally people, places, times, processes and events, including the ability to provide elaborate detail to what he/she describes or narrates. 

Thematic Approach: By September 2014, a list of themes for teaching vocabulary will be used from Junior Infants to 6th classes using a spiralled approach. The Aistear themes from the JI programme and the Deich Téamaí from the Irish curriculum were used to identify themes (to download a copy click here). A core vocabulary for each class level was identified by staff using Twenty Steps Towards Language Development (Teachers' Centre Drumcondra): Junior Infants (5 words); Sen. Infants (5 revise + 10 new =15); 1st (15 revise+10 new = 25), 2nd (25+10new =35); 3rd (35+10); 4th (45+10); 5th (55+10); 6th (65 revise+10 new=75 words). To download a list of the vocabulary taught at each class level click the relevant class level below:

Junior/Senior Infants  1st/2nd        3rd/4th         5th           6th 

Oral Language is used as a basis for reading and writing. All lessons are introduced with an Oral Language activity. The development of Oral Language takes place across all subjects and throughout the whole school day. Sometimes oral language is used as an alternative to written exercises in developing children’s comprehension skills. In an effort to develop higher order thinking skills the teachers use questions:

  • To gain maximum information
  • To seek and to give explanations
  • To discuss different possible solutions to problems
  • To argue a point of view
  • To persuade others
  • To examine fact and fiction, bias and objectivity etc.
  • To develop critical thinking skills (To download some information on Critical Thinking click here )

Teachers help children to develop their oral language through the following five contexts:

  • Talk and Discussion
  • Play and Games
  • Poetry
  • Story
  • Improvisational Drama

Organisational setting
Teachers use a range of organisational settings for development of Oral Language such as pair work, group work, whole class discussion, formal and informal debates and circle work.

Children are encouraged to present their oral work to a range of audiences such as classmates, other teachers, and school visitors. Presenting programmes for the local radio station, using the school intercom, the Christmas Concert, Cor Fhéile and other performances also give the children opportunities to present their work to a range of audiences.

Assessment of Oral Language: For 2014 the Drumcondra Profiles will be used by staff for assessing Oral Language and informing learning objectives. Three children representing different ability groups will be chosen by class teachers and the Drumcondra Profiles used to assess their Oral Language skills (see pg. 80 – 81 of the Drumconcra Profiles). This strategy will be reviewed at the end of 2014. To download a copy of the Drumcondra Oral Language indicators – objectives and checklists click here.



The Five Components of Effective Oral Language Instruction (PDST) to download a copy click here.

Magic Emerald posters and Oral Language cards, Chatterbox, Alive-O material, Prim-Ed exercises in listening and oral comprehension, class readers, Magic Emerald Oral Language box, Posters used in SPHE and SESE etc.


Teacher’s resource: The Reading Process (PDST) to download a copy click here.

Reading skills developed in Scoil Mhuire from Junior Infants to 6th classes please click here.

In every class there are children with different reading abilities. The teacher caters for these different abilities in a sensitive manner and strives to develop confidence in the child as they learn to read. It is imperative that children taste success while reading. This is done by ensuring that the material they read is appropriate to their ability.

Emergent Reading  (C 18, TG 50; Drumcondra English Profiles 91 – 93, 96 – 97:Learning Support Guidelines 80 – 81). The English Teacher Guidelines (pg.54)  state that

“ … the child will not be expected to engage with a structured reading scheme until his/her language competence is strong enough to support reading development. Children by and large, can begin a structured reading programme some time during the senior infant class.”

The emphasis in junior infant classes is on pre-reading skills. Asking children to read a book before they are ready is exposing them to failure. A positive experience of emergent reading in junior infants that is characterised by informal activities provides children with the necessary skills and confidence to progress to the challenges presented by a structured reading programme.

Big Books, Picture Books etc. are used so that children are given many opportunities to hear reading, talk about reading, appreciate the usefulness and pleasures of reading, to help them understand the conventions of text and the terminology of books (letter, word, sentence, page number, reading from left to right) etc. There is strong evidence to show that reading aloud a range of text genres on a daily basis (at least two or three times a day) is a key component of an effective early literacy instructional programme.

Basic sight vocabulary and the Jolly Phoinics tricky words (1-30 in JI and 1-60 in SI) will be taught in Junior and Senior Infants based on the themes in Aistear. However, if children are able to read when coming to Scoil Mhuire they will be encouraged to continue reading at their level and suitable reading material will be available for them in their classrooms.

Junior Infants: Focus is on developing pre-reading skills. The formal class reader is not introduced at this stage. Appropriate library/ancillary books are read in school and at home depending on the child’s ability as follows:

  • Picture books – no script
  • Alphabet books e.g. Everything in book beginning with c
  • Books with one or two words
  • Books with one sentence or more depending on the child’s ability.

Senior Infants: At this stage the formal individual class reader is not introduced to the child. Library/Ancillary books continue to be used. Big Books with little readers based on them are read. The teacher first reads the Big Book, modelling good reading and then the teacher distributes the little readers.  

A combination of real big books and schemed books are used to focus on high frequency words and difficult words from the Jolly Phonics programme. Teachers use Big Nursery Rhyme Books and other Rhyming books to help teach on-set and rime and phonemic awareness.

Ancillary Readers

Jolly Phoics readers; Storyworld (Sets 1 - 6); Story Street; Go Books; Ginn 360 (Sets 1 and 2); Oxford Reading Tree; Mrs Frances Mitchell has a list of all the ancillary readers used in infant classes.

1st/2nd classes: (Reviewed in 2012)

Class readers are used in conjunction with ancillary/supplementary readers.  Children are grouped  according to their ability for reading. Grandparents/parents listen to children in 1st class reading once a week. Teachers on the Learning Support team also hear the children reading. Reading groups (where children are divided according to ability) are not used for station teaching. In 1st/2nd classes,children are in mixed-ability groups for station teaching. The class reader is used for Oral Language, Comprehension, Word attack strategies, Grammar/Phonics, writing activities and reinforcement of key words, using an integrated reading approach and teh modelling of good reading.

3rd – 6th classes: (Reviewed in 2012)

Reading skills, word attack skills and dictionary skills will be taught using the class reader (see integrated reading approach below). Teachers will use a variety of approaches sometimes grouping children according to ability (station teaching), sometimes using mixed ability groups depending on the needs of the children and the focus of the reading lesson. The Special Needs team will work with class teachers and assist them when working with reading groups (station teaching).


Fluency is the ability to read aloud with expression to demonstrate an understanding of the author’s message (Department of Education and Training in Western Australia, 2004:30).

The three components of reading fluency are:

Accurate word recognition: In order to improve reading fluency pupils should be reading at their instructional reading level i.e. 90% - 95% accuracy).

Automaticity: This is the ability to read words without conscious decoding. Here your reading allows you to read words fluently so that you can concentrate on comprehending text.

Rhythm and intonation: concerns the ability to read with some sort of inflection. This is helped through exposure to modelled fluent reading patterns; provision of opportunities to practise the fluent reading behaviours; opportunities to focus on and practice reading with expression.


Teachers use a variety of organisational settings when teaching reading including whole class reading (using readers graded throughout the school); buddy/shared reading (older child shares reading a book with a younger child); paired reading (use of group, graded readers in class and at home – adult and child); station teaching (focus on phonics, vocabulary development, sight vocabulary); power hour (focus on phonics, sight vocabulary, fluency and word attack skills); peer tutoring; DEAR; group reading; parent/grandparent reading groups; reading roles in reading groups; independent reading; individualized reading; teacher reading aloud; silent reading etc. Round Robin Reading where individual children are asked to read unprepared text one after the other in front of the whole class group is cautiously used in Scoil Mhuire for a number of reasons namely:

  • Readers give their worst performance
  • Provides listeners with several examples of poor reading. Children may provide poor models for each other in this model.
  • Good readers are reduced to the speed of the slowest reader. The amount of material covered is also artificially restricted.
  • Poor readers publicly demonstrate their inability
  • Children dread doing it and are bored listening to it
  • No planning is involved. Designated readers deal with limited portions of text.

Alternative strategies such as ‘Reader’s Theatre’ where children have pre- prepared the section they will be reading in front of their peers (taking on a particular character, narrator etc. using highlighted text) is encouraged for the following reasons namely:

  • Because practice precedes performance, the quality is improved
  • Children provide their best performance for each other
  • Speed increases with practice
  • Rehearsal enables poor readers to give their best
  • Children enjoy participating and listening
  • Planning and rehearsal around the whole text promote sensitive and thoughtful responses and increased understanding and appreciation.

Choral reading: Children chorally read a portion of text altogether.

Echo reading: The teacher may work with a small group (station teaching/ individual). The teacher models fluent reading and the children repeat the reading back to the teacher. They echo the teachers’ expression and intonation etc.

Buddy/Shared reading: Older children are paired with younger children. If children are too close in age, some readers might feel uncomfortable when reading aloud. There are benefits for older and younger children here. Fifth/Sixth class do Shared Reading with children from 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th classes. The children from 1st – 4th classes are chosen by the class teachers. They are children who would benefit from extra reading oppoprtunities an dconfidence building. Shared Reading is from 09.15a.m. – 09.30 a.m. and runs 2 x 6-7 week blocks from Halloween to Easter. Staff may decide to continue it after Easter but paired/shared reading will be held for a 4 month period annually.

Paired reading: This approach follows a set of routines involving modelling and practice. The teacher/adult first models ‘fluent reading’ for the child. The child follows the text while the teacher/adult reads; the child is then encouraged to read and/or re-read the text ‘out loud’ with the teacher/adult (repeated reading and assisted reading). When the child is ready he/she is encouraged to attempt to read independently. Assistance and prompting is provided by the teacher/adult when required. The teacher may decide to rotate between the modelling, repeating and assisted reading stages. For more information on "Paired Reading" for teachers and parents clilck here.

Peer tutoring: Peer tutoring is a model of developing reading where children are paired together to read for meaning. Children of differing abilities work together where they both read the same text, with the better reader modelling good reading first. They ask each other questions on what they have read which helps them to focus on the meaning of the text. The children scan the text for new vocabulary, use their dictionaries to find their definitions,  and then make a flashcard. New vocabulary is checked until both have a mastery of pronunciation and both are able to use the word correctly in sentences. Each day children have the opportunity to gain a reward stamp for following the correct procedures - 10 of which can be traded for a homework pass, so motivation is high. Peer tutoring is used every day for  eight consecutive weeks in class. 

The class reader, using an integrated reading approach (for discussion Jan./Feb. 2014). The Reading Zone Reading Scheme is used in 3rd – 6th classes. The class reader is gauged towards the average child. In 3rd – 6th classes the skills of reading are taught in an integrated fashion using picture cues, word attack skills, phonics, dictionary work, comprehension, information retrieval skills, automaticity, rhythm and intonation etc. and using a variety of strategies from those listed above. To read more about The Integrated Approach to reading please click here. Teachers cater for the different needs in the classroom by asking questions gauged at different levels of ability.

A typical reading lesson:

1. Book introduction Prior knowledge; Context of the book; Predict using cover; Title; Author; Difficult words; Picture walk
2. Strategy check Consolidating various strategies e.g connecting or word attack skills/phonics e.g. chunking
3. Independent reading Remind children of skills they will be using; Reading aloud or Silent reading (pace, rate, intonation, expression, fluency, volume); Here the teacher supports the child in specific areas to drive improvement.
4. Returning to the text Comprehension; Effective quetioning (literal, inferential and evaluative - a ménage of all)
5. Response to the text Critical thinking and discussion; Giving opinions; Asking questions; Follow up activity.
6. Re-reading guided text Where? When? Why? (KWH)

Class novels (Curriculum Statement 39, 51, Teacher Guidelines 66 – 68)                                                       

The novel is used from 1st  class up to give children the experience of using real books. Competent readers are introduced to novels in 1st class, when appropriate. Novels can be read independently or used in a group or class setting. Carefully selected class novels help to encourage children to read and draw the child’s attention to descriptive text, development of characters, plot etc. It is expected that class teachers have read and are very familiar with novels before using them for class discussion. Real books are also used from Junior Infants, with Big Books being used in the early years.

Outside the set novels listed teachers use their own discretion in using novels in the classroom to develop skills in English.  

Name of Novel Class level Sept. ’06, ’08, ’10, ’12, ‘14 … Year 2: Sept. ’07,’09, ’11, ’13, ‘15…
The Sheep Pig 3rd/4th  
The Yuckey Prince 3rd/ 4th  
Holes 5th/6th  
Carrie's War 5th/ 6th  

Supplementary/ancillary/parallel readers are used to give children the opportunity to read at their level. At an early age children become aware of their different abilities. In Scoil Mhuire teachers make every effort to instil confidence in children, and help them to identify and use their talents. It is very important that children with difficulties in reading are affirmed, encouraged and supported in taking the next step. Every child needs to taste success regularly in some area of school life. Parents have a very important role in encouraging their children to read. Time the children spend reading together with parents should be a pleasurable experience where the parent and child use an age appropriate book set at the child’s level of ability.  Parents are given advice in November at parent/teacher meetings as to how they can best support their children with reading (paired reading) and how they can reinforce what is done in the classroom.

Print rich environment (C. 18, 27, 39, 42, 51, 54)

In our classrooms and school children are surrounded by print. Everything in the classroom is labelled at a level appropriate to the age of the children in the class. Teachers use posters, charts, dictionaries, newspapers etc. to provide an appropriate print rich environment for the children. From Infants children are able to use the labels and posters in their classrooms as cues for writing. Word banks are kept ‘within easy reach’ of the children and are easily accessed by them.


An un-used cloakroom area was identified in 2013 as a suitable ‘school library space’. Shelves were installed and the school DATABIZ library system was used for recording the subject and level of all school books (over 6,000 books). By the end of 2014 all books will be stamped and marked. It will be possible to track all school books and their lenders. The DATABIZ system will be used to track popular titles, reluctant readers, and lending history of individual children. Teachers will continue to have a stock of 150 suitable library books/ancillary readers in their classrooms (average of 5 books per child). This stock of classroom books can be exchanged for books from the school library stock, by teachers any time they deem fit and this exchange will be recorded/scanned on the school DATABIZ system. €8,000 was spent on Supplementary Readers in 2005. Since then books are purchased using discount from the school Book Fair, in local second-hand book shops and donations from parents.  It has been noted in a recent school review that children are now reading at their level and really enjoying the library books.


Children’s ability to apply the alphabetical principle in the process of word recognition is greatly enhanced by effective systematic instruction in phonological awareness training, phonic knowledge and engaging in meaningful emergent writing and reading activities in the infant classrooms (2013, Gleeson, Supporting Children’s Literacy Development in Primary School). Phonological Awareness is an umbrella term which includes Phonemic Awareness (focused on sounds of letters and letter blends), Syllabification (focused on breaking words into syllables) and Onset and Rime (focused on rhyme). The Jolly Phonics programme is used in the school infants - 4th classes.

The "Jolly Phonics" programme was introduced into Junior and Senior infant classes in September 2007. "Jolly Grammar" was introduced into 1st in 2010 (Jolly Grammar 1) and 2nd (Jolly Grammar 2) in 2011. "Jolly Grammar 3" will be introduced to 3rd/4th in September 2014. 

For information for parents on Jolly Phonics programme click here.

Children in Junior Infants learn the following:

  • Letters A-Z: recognise letter sounds
  • Recognise ai, oa, ee, ou, ue, er, ar, or, sh, ch, th, oo, ie, ng, qu, oi, er and their sounds.

Children in Junior and Senior Infant classes learn the following :

  • Sounds: children revise the sounds learned in Junior Infants.
  • Children learn to blend consonant and short vowel sounds (cv)
  • Children are taught to blend 3 letter words (cvc)

5th and 6th classes utilise the Newell Phonics Programme which essentially focuses on prefixes and suffixes using the principle of onset and rhyme. It is used on a two-year cycle basis. The 5th class scheme will be used in Sept. '15, '17, '19 etc. while the 6th class scheme will be used in Sept. '14, '16, '18 etc.

Word identification strategies (C 18, 25 TG 57)

From Junior Infants children are encouraged to look at letters in words, to look at the shape of words, to look for letters they recognise, to sound out letters that they know, to look for little words in big words etc. The following jingle is introduced in first class:

Look at the front

Look at the end

Find the root

And then blend

Other strategies used with the children every day are encouraging the children to look at the shape of the word, look for small words, breaking the word into syllables etc. Children are also encouraged to use syllabification and contextual clues.

Basic Sight Vocabularly ( C18, TG 57) From 1st - 3rd classes an agreed basic sight vocabulary including the Dolch list with a combination of sight words from the reading scheme, is used regularly with all children.

Assessment of basic sight vocabulary will take place before the end of June for 1st – 6th classes. From 4th class upwards this checklist is used only with the below average readers. All teachers have a copy of these checklists (available from Ms. Morris) The class teachers and Special Needs teams will use the results of these tests, along with other informal/ formal tests and teacher observation to identify the needs of individual children.

Language Experience Charts (TG 55) Flip charts/ interactive boards/ mini-whiteboards are used to record basic words children use in their everyday experiences. These words are used to help develop basic sight vocabulary. In junior classes teachers compose sentences using these words and subsequently model the reading process. 

Comprehension Strategies

Teacher Reference Book: Guiding for Comprehension: Teaching for Meaning (PDST) To download a copy click here.

A decision was made at a staff meeting in November 2013 that from September 2014, the repertoire of comprehension strategies, as listed by PDST, will be formally taught in the different class levels, to children in Scoil Mhuire as follows:

Junior Infants

Senior Infants

First Class

Second Class









Creating Images

Creating Images

Creating Images

Creating Images


Self Questioning

         Self Questioning

Self Questioning







Third Class

Fourth Class

Fifth Class

Sixth Class









Creating Images

Creating Images

Creating Images

Creating Images

Self Questioning

Self Questioning

Self Questioning

Self Questioning









Determine Importance

Determine Importance

Determine Importance

Determine Importance






Summarising and Paraphrasing

Summarising and Paraphrasing

Summarising and Paraphrasing









Monitoring Comprehension

The book marks in the PDST resource Guiding for Comprehension: Teaching for Meaning will be used as a tool for helping children to differentiate between the different comprehension strategies.

Gradual Release of Responsibility (to download a visual guide of this model click here)

Comprehension strategies will be taught using the Gradual Release of Responsibility model as follows:

First, the teacher explicitly describes the comprehension strategy about to be taught and states why good readers use this strategy when reading.

The teacher explicitly models the strategy by demonstrating and thinking aloud while the children observe the strategy in action. 

Following this, the teacher continues to model the strategy and invites the children to contribute their ideas. 

Next, the children engage in collaborative use of the strategy through guided practice where the teacher gradually releases responsibility for the strategy to the children through scaffolding instruction and facilitation. 

Finally, the children engage in independent use of the strategy in subsequent lessons.

For developing comprehension skills teachers encourage children to use the following strategies: 

  • SQ3R: Scan, Question, Read, Recite, Review
  • KWL:   What is it you Know? What is it you Want to know? What have you Learned?

In a whole class situation during an oral language lesson teachers cater for all abilities through clever use of well thought out questions. Teachers use a variety of organisational settings when striving to develop the pupils’ comprehension skills: sometimes children working individually, in pairs, in groups or with the whole class.  Comprehension skills are developed through oral and written work with an emphasis on discussion. Workbooks and class readers are used selectively and judiciously by teachers as a tool to develop the pupils’ comprehension skills. Comprehension skills are developed across the curriculum in all subject areas. For information on using group work to develop comprehension skills click here

Power Hour was introduced in April 2011. It is currently used with children in Senior Infants and 1st classes. Power Hour is an intensive literacy programme lasting 45 minutes daily for 6-7 weeks. Depending on their literacy needs, 16 pupils are chosen from a class level to attend Power Hour. Pupils rotate from station to station where 4 teachers from the special education team work on a different aspect of literacy for the 45 minutes including: phonological awareness, oral language, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling and/or creative writing. Each Power Hour programme is tailored to the individual needs of pupils. 

Silent Reading

DEAR time – Drop Everything and Read.

Silent Reading was introduced in September 2005 and teachers have noted its success. First – sixth classes drop everything and read at a regular time chosen by the teacher. Teachers ensure that all children have a book they can read in advance of DEAR time. Teachers of 1st and 2nd classes use their discretion in deciding the amount of time children spend reading silently.

Parental involvement

Teachers recognise that the parent’s support is crucial and parents support teachers primarily by showing an interest in their child’s learning: listening/talking with their children, talking about pictures in books, listening to their children reading, asking them questions on what they have read, checking spellings, encouraging them to become members of the local library etc. Parents are asked to sign their children’s homework diaries. Some class teachers may ask parents to sign reading logs. If parents are concerned about their child’s progress they should discuss this with the class teacher at the earliest opportunity.

Role of the Learning Support team of teachers:

See school policy on Special Needs.

Book related events

Book Fair: A Book Fair is held every year for one week. It is run by a book company. Responsibility for its organisation lies with Ms. Caitríona Duignan (Special Duty Teacher). Parents are notified in advance of the Fair in a school letter. Infants may purchase books after 2.00p.m.with their parents. Other classes are timetabled to visit the fair during school time and may also visit it after 3.00p.m. with their parents. At the end of the week a percentage of money spent during the fair is given to the school to choose books for the school. The company voucher is divided equally between all teachers to select books for their classes.

  • Book week: Children are sometimes encouraged to dress up as their favourite character.
  • Authors/Poets/Journalists are occasionally invited to read and speak to the children
  • The children visit the local library on occasions to hear books read.


To download a copy of ‘writing skills’ developed in Scoil Mhuire from infants – 6th please click here.

To download a copy of the PDST booklet Writing Genre - A Structured Approach, please click here.

Five components of writing:

  • Handwriting
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Genres
  • Vocabulary

Emergent Writing

For children to successfully learn the vital skill of writing, they first need to develop essential pre-writing skills, and to practice these skills with “pretend” writing, which is more accurately termed emergent writing. Pre-writing skills include the strength and dexterity required to use and manipulate a pencil, as well as sensory awareness and good hand-eye coordination. Fine muscle development and dexterity develop as children paint, draw and scribble, thread beads, play with puzzles and Play-Doh and sing action songs.

At first young children playing with writing materials will produce random scribbling. This develops into mock handwriting which does not contain any identifiable letters. Then before producing conventional letters, they will go through a stage of writing mock letters. Once they are able to write their letters, they will proceed from invented spelling through guessed or phonetic spelling before they learn conventional spelling. There are three distinct phases in the emergent writing phase – pre-communicative, pre-phonetic and phonetic.

The writing process is modelled by the teacher. “Children learn to walk by walking, talk by talking and write by writing”. D. Graves. To encourage free writing children in Scoil Mhuire are given opportunities to write freely on a regular basis. Common writing behaviours of a class are and can inform planning for future teaching and learning activities (Assessment Of Learning and Assessment For Learning).

Supports we use to develop emergent writing: Jolly phonics; blank copies – draw and write; accepting children’s writing from infants and praising pupils’ early attempts at writing; station teaching; Aistear; Power hour; Whiteboards; word banks; display spaces for writing.

FREE Writing: Free writing should be just that 10 - 15 minutes of free writing each day, when the children can write freely. It should be in a special copy. It should be dated. Children should be told beforehand that it will not be marked, corrected or criticised. Children may be given the opportunity to read what they have written to the teacher. There should be no pressure on children to "produce" an amount of writing. The reluctant writer may use pictures to convey a message.

Free writing allows the teacher to assess and moitor where the learner is at. It indicates what the common writing behaviours in my class are and provides me with a starting point for my teaching. I can use the children's common writing errors as focus/teaching emphases when modelling writing.

PARENTS PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FREE WRITING COPY WILL NOT BE MARKED OR CORRECTED, BUT WILL BE READ BY THE TEACHER.  Children learn to walk by walking; children learn to talk by talking and children learn to write by writing. We hope you enjoy their writing. 

Writing GENRES:

In November 2013 a decision was made by staff to cover the writing genres over a two-year period as follows:

Year 1: Formal

’13, ’15, ’17, ’19, ‘21


’13, ’15, ’17, ’19, ‘21

Year 2: Formal

’12, ’14, ’16, ’18, ‘20


’12, ’14, ’16, ’18, ‘20






Persuasive (exposition)



Persuasive (exposition)




… and Free Writing

 The formal teaching of one individual genre will take place over 6-8 weeks during each term, while the genres taught in the previous year will be revised.  To downnload the structure for teaching a new genre, please click here.

Handwriting: To see the formation of lower case and upper case letters in the Junior and Senior sections of the school click on the links below. Cursive script is encouraged and an example of the cursive script can be accessed using the link below. Children are taught from the beginning of Junior Infants how to hold a pen, crayon properly, using the ‘tripod grip’. Stickers on the pencil are used to indicate where children should place their fingers and thumb when gripping a pencil. Children are also taught how to form their letters properly.  A consistent approach is used throughout the school.

Example of letter formation in Junior section of school (updated 2012 in line with Jolly Phonics scheme). Children in Junior Infants write between 2 lines. Some Senior Infant children write on one line.

Example of cursive script in Senior section of school

Penmanship Resource Book
The Modern Handwriting books by Folens are used by 2nd - 6th classes. 1st class use Just Write. Infant classes use Folens All Write Now. 

First Class

Children continue letter formation as in Junior and Senior infants. Children move to writing on just one line, skipping a line between sentences. Children will practise their handwriting daily.

Second Class

Correct script will be reinforced at the beginning of the school year. Children no longer skip lines between sentences. For handwriting practice children use B2 handwriting copies and the focus is on neat, tidy handwriting with correct formation. A red pen is introduced in 2nd class for headings, dates and margins. Children begin to join letters in cursive form.

Third Class

Handwriting is practised formally twice a week for 3rd classes and once a week formally for 4th classes. Pens are introduced in 3rd class during the 2nd term in handwriting copies.

Fourth Class

Children will continue writing in cursive form and should be proficient by the end of fourth class. Children will at times during the year write in pen using a handwriting pen. A B4 handwriting copy will be used for practice.

Teachers manuals on the STEPS writing programme were purchased in May 2007, following advice from Lorraine Connaughton (class teacher). Some teachers attended a summer course on STEPS in Summer 2013. Seventeen teachers on staff attended a follow-up session on STEPS in the 1st term 2013, facilitated by Caoimhe Mc Laughlin. Teachers use these manuals for advice and guidance on teaching writing.

Editing/ Correction key

An agreed Editing/Correction Key was developed by the teachers and all 3rd – 6th class teachers use this checklist when correcting children’s work. Teachers agreed to display a chart showing these symbols in their classrooms.

P.            Punctuation …  ,   “  “    ?   !

C.            Capital letter
Gr.          Grammar: Tenses

Sp.          Spelling  

S.S.    Sentence structure
[  ]      New paragraph
R.       Repetition: Using the same word again and again e.g. Then …………… and then.

Editing Checklist for pupils


1st - 4th classes : Jolly Grammar 1 - 3 programmes are followed by the relevant classes. 

Children learn: Capital letters, unscrambling sentences, proper nouns, common nouns, plurals, personal pronouns, verbs, conjugating verbs, adjectives, possessive adjectives, comparatives and superlatives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, a/an, the, sentences, punctuation, exclamation marks, commas, apostrophes, paragraphs, alphabetical order, dictionary work, tenses, antonymns.

Grammar 5th/6th class programme

The Drumcondra Spelling Test was tried with 1st – 6th classes in September 2005. Staff decided to discontinue this after evaluation. The focus of planning is on the child’s acquisition of spelling skills and his/her progress with spelling. Teachers are aware of current thinking and research regarding the teaching and learning of spellings and have been given copies of extracts from Brendan Culligan’s book on spelling. All classes from 1st – 6th use the following approach Look, Cover, Say, Write and Check. It is felt by teachers that if this is consistently taught and used by children from 1st – 5th classes the process should be automatic by the time children reach 6th class.

The school’s structured phonics programme will help children learn spelling. However teachers are aware that phonics alone cannot be used to teach spelling and a consistent multi-dimensional approach is used in order to ensure that children do not become over reliant on phonics when spelling. Teachers encourage children to use a combination of��Look, Cover, Say, Write and Check, Phonics and Word Attack skills when teaching spelling.

A decision was made by staff in October 2005 to use the Prim-Ed spelling books to teach and develop spelling skills but not necessarily to use the spelling lists for testing purposes. In May 2007, having implemented the Prim Ed programme staff decided that teachers would decide to use/not use the Prime-Ed/ Spellbound programme depending on the individual class’s ability.

First/Second classes

Children are tested weekly from Jolly Grammar Spelling Lists 1 and 2, which are used also for dictation and phonics. Teachers will try to ensure that all pupils will be able to spell the first 100 words from the DOLCH List.

Third/Fourth classes

Teachers will try to ensure that the children know how to spell the 300 most commonly used words from Keda Cowling’s book Stareway to Spelling. Depending on class needs supplementary spelling material will be chosen by the class teacher e.g. Prim Ed workbooks, Spellbound workbooks based on phonics and class reader (vocabulary extension) etc.

Fifth/Sixth classes

Spelling lists are drawn up from new vocabulary from the Reading Zone class readers at the beginning of the year.  These core words are looked up initially in the dictionary and are then used in sentences to ensure meaning is understood, on a weekly basis.  These words are then examined at the end of the week.  Children choose their own goal/target in consultation with the class teacher and aim to achieve this goal and progress as the year goes on.  In addition, at the end of each week, the teacher assess’ the children’s acquisition of the phonics programme lesson with dictation sentences were the emphasis is placed on correctly spelling the phonics word as opposed to correctly spelling each word.

Assessment of Spelling

Teachers in the school use a variety of approaches.

  • When spelling tests are corrected teachers give marks for attempted spelling e.g. teachers highlight correct letters used in words. Teachers use their professional judgement when correcting spellings, depending on the child’s ability.
  • Teachers teach spelling and give spelling tests regularly. However, depending on the ability of the children or the length of the week they may choose not to give a spelling test. Spelling still needs to be monitored and children with difficulties identified.
  • Teachers give children lists (taking differentiation into account) to learn and cater for different abilities by asking children to set realistic targets for themselves. If children chose to learn 5 spellings and get them all correct they get 100% the same as the child who gets 20/20. However, percentages need not be used for marking spelling tests. Children are then encouraged to set a new, more challenging target for the next week.

POETRY (C. 18,27)

Teachers and pupils have their own individual personal tastes in poetry. It is important that there is some flexibility in the selection of poetry by an individual class. However the following core set of poems will be taught during the year:

Junior Infants
Water (Magic Emerald Teacher’s Manual pg.12)
Down to the Pond
Blue Wellies Yellow Wellies (Magic Emerald Teacher’s Manual pg.15)
Me (Alive-O)
The Elephant (Magic Emerald pg. 128)

Senior Infants

Whisky Frisky
Walking Round the Zoo (Magic Emerald pg.40)
My Snowman (Magic Emerald pg. 129)
The Ice-Cream Van (Magic Emerald pg.45)
Food for Thought (Magic Emerald pg. 46)


Pancake Day

A witch goes shopping 

The Snowman 

Upside Down 

The Wrong start


Betty at the Party
The Pencil
Motorway Witch
Thirty Days has September
My teacher took my iPad


Year 2 - Sept.  2013, 2015, 2017
Rainy Nights by Irene Thompson

Please Mrs. Butler by Alan Ahlberg

The Newcomer by Brian Patten
Sunning by James Tippett
Spaghetti! Spaghetti! by Jack Prelutsky

Year 1 - Sept. 2012, 2014, 2016
The Quarrel by Eleanor Farjean
The Witch by Percy H Hott
Billy Mc Bone by Alan Ahlberg
On the Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan
Once there was a snowman (Anon.)

5th/6th (Some of the following are too long to memorise but children study and discuss in detail the following:)

Year 2 - Sept. 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015

The Stolen Child
The Song of Wandering Angus
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Tarantella by Hillare Belloc
Year 1 - Sept. 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016
The Presence of God by Joseph Mary Plunkett
Trees by Joyce Kilmur
Daffodils by William Wordsworth
To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no by Yeats
The Lake Isle of Innis Free by W.B. Yeats


Teachers foster the emotional and imaginative development of the children in the school through story, poetry and drama. The Christmas Concert, Cor Fhéile, Féile Drámaíochta, programmes for the local radio, role play, informal drama, live performances from outside experts, visits to the Roscommon Arts Centre all provide opportunities for the emotional and imaginative development of the children.

Discussion and review of Reading 2004 – 2005
Implementation of decisions made as a result of the review on Reading 2005 – 2006
Discussion and review of Writing 2005 – 2006
Review of Special Needs Policy by Special Needs Team 2005 - 2007
Implementation of decisions made as a result of the review on Writing 2006 – 2007

Reviewed 2011 - 2012.  Ratified by the Board of Management in June 2012 and for implementation by all teachers in September 2012.

Reviewed again taking on recommendations of the National Literacy strategy  2013 – 2014.



A big thank you to Ms. Deirdre Hannon who organises Shared Reading in the school and does so much to encourage children of all abilities to read.


Daniel, Conan and Adam are very proud of their achievements in reading.


Julia, Lauran and Aaron are wonderful readers.


Caoimhe loves reading and is a very good reader.