Big Brother Big Sister
In conjunction with Clodagh of Foróige and the Caitríona of Phibblestown Community Centre and the First Year year head, a Big Brother Big Sister group was established in the college. Foróige, one of Irelands leading youth organisation engaged in the development and education of young people, began this community based project in 2000 in Dublin. They recently extended the programme to
schools in the Dublin area. Initially, application forms were distributed to First Years and to senior students and formal interviews were held by Clodagh and Caitríona in the school. The ten big brother/sisters and the ten little brother/sisters participated in training sessions in which the purpose of the programme was explained to the younger group and the responsibilities of being a partner to a little brother/sister were
emphasised to the older group. The group met every Tuesday, facilitated by one of the organisers in turn, and they participated in activities such as rounders, milkshake making, board games, quizzes and various team building exercises. For our First Years, it was an opportunity to meet with a positive role model and to have fun in a supportive, casual setting where they could ask for advice or support if needed. Our seniors got to hone their leadership skills and get a real sense of wellbeing from having contributed to making a younger child’s school life easier and more relaxed.
SNIP (Precision Reading Programme)
SNIP is precision reading programme aimed at increasing the speed and fluency of readers. SNIP has been run in our college since 2009 and its success depends on the volunteerism of teachers. The programme runs over a twelve week period and students are tested for their reading ages both before and after the programme to measure improvement. This year 31 teachers volunteered to work on the programme and give up five minutes every day before school to meet with a student who struggles with reading. Apart from the improvement in reading ages, another benefit of SNIP is that is creates a bond between teacher and student and ensured that these 31 students began each day with a warm welcome and lots
of praise and encouragement. The mantra recited by each student before beginning each session says, “I am getting better at reading every day”. Research done in a Waterford study by Mary Nugent (2008) indicates that there is a strong link between improvement in reading and positive psychological encouragement. SNIP ensured that positive associations were made with reading. The one on one interactions built up the students’ confidence in their abilities, allowing them to improve each day. This year the students’ reading ages improved collectively by 19 years and two months over the course of the 12 week programme, which amounts to a difference of 11 years and five months improvement.
First Year Study Booklet
This year the six First Year tutors and year head compiled a booklet containing detailed checklists for every topic in every subject. It is college practice to set the same exam across each year group in every subject department. Therefore, each tutor or year head could liaise with one subject teacher to draw up the same checklist for each subject. Students were asked to bring in a ring binder in which to store the 62 double-sided page document and the booklets were distributed five weeks prior to the Semester 3 exams. The students were able to work on small tick able tasks in advance of their tests. It also meant that parents could help with study planning. These booklets will be very valuable for revision work for the Junior Certificate Examinations in 2015.
This year supervised Homework Club was held for First Years every Monday and Thursday from 3.30 to 5pm. One First Year tutor acted as supervisor every evening and two students from Transition Year monitored homework and helped the younger students with difficulties. This work was part of their Gaisce Award Programme and provided them with the opportunity to build on their leaderships skills. It also gave confidence to the older students, especially those less able academically. For the First Years, it allowed them to develop good study habits from the beginning of post primary school and provided a quiet environment where they could get help if needed with their work. The TY students also were positive role models for the First Year students as they gave time to and helped with homework assignments.
Examinations students were able to avail of supervised study from 3.30 to 6pm Monday to Thursday for a nominal fee. This proved a very valuable support for our Junior and Leaving Certificate students.
These plans are modified to suit the individual student by the tutor, year head or Learning Support teacher. Students who struggle with organisational issues carry the plan with him/her to every class. The teacher notes whether materials had been brought to class, whether the correct homework has been produced and learning work done and whatever other issues may need to be monitored. A Reward System is generally in place where students succeed in improving their organisational skills significantly.
These are forms which were initially experimented with by the Learning Support Department for students who struggled with homework issues. It is a record that is filled out by each teacher after each class and is stapled to the journal page or Organisational Plan. It details the exact homework, the time required to do it, the due date and requires that parents initial it when completed and teachers comment on it when produced. This year it was rolled out by class tutors of all year groups for any students for whom homework was becoming an issue. It serves to involve parents more in the
homework process and also prioritises learning work.
These are small slips of laminated paper given to students who struggle with time management while doing homework. It asks the student to fill in the slip using a marker. The slips requires students to write in the piece of work they are about to do, how long it should take, what copy or materials they need, the time they are going to begin and finish it and finally whether they succeeded in completing the task on time.