Summer classes a welcome distraction from rain

“When the rain keeps coming down, it’s so boring.”

It’s the complaint that thousands of parents must be tired of hearing. After a summer like the one we’ve just had, even the kids are glad to be back at school.

But for the 36 girls who were in classrooms at Scoil Aiséirí Chríost in Farranree, Cork, over the past week, it was more about fun and games than the labours of learning at a summer camp with a difference.

The voice with the weather complaint was one of a dozen in camp co-ordinator Maria Crowley’s class of soon-to-be third and fourth-class pupils.

“We’re teaching them lots of new words and fun things about maths, but it’s all mixed into games and activities that you can do best with such small groups.”

The girls at the northside school were among more than 1,500 children to have attended literacy and numeracy camps at 42 schools ahead of the return of classes.

As the rain continued to fall last Friday morning, the girls were busy entertaining Lord Mayor John Buttimer and their parents in a “show-and-tell” performance.

Their rehearsal in the school hall on Thursday saw the girls line up in pairs as teacher Carol Hayes pressed play to start the video to teen pop idols One Direction’s video for ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. As the lyrics bounced up on the whiteboard screen, the girls bounced with it as they sang along, waving their fingers and clapping like their lives depended on it.

The lyrics were intended as an aid and the activity was just another of the exercises that made reading and learning fun throughout the week.

Two girls going into senior infants spelled out what they enjoyed the most.

“We went to the library yesterday and picked different books,” said Danielle. “And later, we’re going to have a treasure hunt, our teachers are going to hide our bunnies and we have to find them.”

Her friend Mairéad said they played bingo and another game using cards.

“You get a board and there’s loads of pictures and if you have the same one when they’re turned around, you go ‘snap’.”

For Mairéad’s mother Sandra, who helped out with the girls’ board games at lunch breaks, the initiative has been welcome.

“It’s fantastic, she’s normally quite shy. But with the small groups and all the drama and singing, she’s loving it and it’s great for her confidence.

“Mairéad had some difficulties with her reading during the year, but she got a few weeks of one-to-one teaching. Now her teacher says she’s flying at it. She’s even correcting us at home when we’re reading, she tells us to pause when there’s commas and everything.”

Back in the school hall, soon-to-be third-class pupil Chloe showed some of those just finished infant classes how to play one of the board games.

In a safety-conscious version of Snakes and Ladders, dice are replaced by a pointer attached to the board. Tiny hands twist it and five pairs of eyes wait to see what number it stops at.

“Okay, you got nine. Move your counter along the board,” Chloe tells Rihanna, who makes the big step up to senior infants next week. “No, don’t count that one, that’s the stairs, you just go up them.”

Earlier, Chloe and the other 11 girls in Nora Ryan’s week-long class were preparing the invitations for Friday’s show-and-tell. Words such as “buffet” led to discussions about finger-food and another favourite activity during the week, baking, which had a dual benefit.

“They’re learning about reading the instructions, but also dealing with numbers and counting out or weighing the different ingredients,” said Ms Ryan.

Between showers of rain, Ms Crowley’s class was running off some energy in a game called Cats and Pigeons, where the “pigeon” is chased by another girl playing a cat. The other girls stand in pairs, in the role of pigeons safe in their nests, and the girl being chased must nudge one of them and knock the other out of their nest to escape, while the fallen “pigeon” becomes the prey.

“The teacher gave us the instructions and we had to figure it all out ourselves. It was fairly easy really,” explained one participant.

Other fun included lots of painting, including many of the items the pupils made themselves, like the shelf of tambourines made from paper plates, rice, and peas.

Some of Ms Ryan’s class were keen to reveal how they learned the difference between real stories and made-up ones on a visit to the nearby city library branch in Blackpool.

“Some are fiction and the rest are non-fiction,” explained Taylor, one of Ms Ryan’s enthusiastic readers.

While some pupils are members of the library, they also enjoy borrowing books from the school’s extensive collection.

And after their week of fun reading and learning, the plan is that more books will be going out in the months and years ahead.


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