Verbal master classes at St Columb’s

The Verbal Arts Centre has held a very enjoyable series of master classes with pupils from St Columb’s College to celebrate Reading Week at the school.

Picture for blog story Verbal master classes at St Columb’s

Staff from Verbal’s Reading Rooms programme and School of Journalism held workshops at St Columb’s where students also discussed work by the internationally renowned writer, Lemn Sissay.

Sissay was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, a major cultural programme taking place across the UK to mark the centenary of the First World War, in a project entitled ‘Blood’.

Sissay’s poem, ‘At all’, which was recently installed as a public temporary artwork around the city with the help of local young people, was discussed by St Columb’s pupils with local writer, Felicity McCall.

Budding young reporters from the College also learned all about being MoJos –  mobile journalists – with some of the pupils swapping their classrooms to attend the Verbal School of Journalism for the day, using the latest digital technology.

Andrea Doran, Verbal’s Director of Programming and Learning said: “We were delighted to be asked this year again to be part of Reading Week in St Columb’s College with Year 8, 9 and 10s. We showcased our Reading Rooms programme with the groups, enjoying short stories and poetry.

“Our Journalism department buzzed with new MoJos hard at work, and local writer Felicity McCall delivered an amazing session using writer and poet, Lemn Sissay’s poem as a stimulus for conversation around the theme of World War 1. 

“We are delighted with the feedback received from the College that the boys enjoyed the programme of activity and there was a lovely atmosphere in the school.”

Sinead Devine, Reading Rooms’ Project Manager, said: “We delivered nine reading Rooms at St Columb's College to Year 8s, based on the themes of diversity and friendship.”

Sinead, who read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon, with the students, said: “The children really liked the story and could identify totally with the needs of the young man who is the narrator of the piece.

“We had really lively discussions about communication, the importance of body language etc, how those with disabilities find life difficult and how we should support them.”

Andrea O’Donnell, Volunteer Co-ordinator with the Reading Rooms, who also read excerpts from "My Left Foot" by Christy Brown, said: “The responses were great. The groups really empathised with Christy's extreme effort to write with a chalk gripped for dear life between his toes. You could have heard a pin drop when I read this section.

“They understood that health care was expensive, and long-term care in an institution was a dreadful choice for families. They compared Christy's situation with how it would be for someone with cerebral palsy today, and several boys pointed out that every school nowadays has children and young people with various special needs.”

Rachel Duffy, Reading Rooms’ Project Officer, who read “Through the Tunnel” by Doris Lessing and the poem “The Dragonfly” by Libby Houston with two groups of Year 8, said: “The boys really identified with the character in the story and we had a really interesting discussion about the struggle of wanting to be grown up. I really enjoyed it and the boys all engaged really well with the materials chosen.”

Leona O’Neill, Head of the Verbal School of Journalism, said: "The boys had a great time in what was an engaging and interesting project. We fashioned a fictional news story and the guys had to write and record news pieces for print, audio and visual outlets.

“They interviewed eye-witnesses, the police and the Principal of the school in their search for the full story. They produced some amazing newsreels. They were fantastic. I would say that Sky News might be calling on some of these boys in a few years’ time. They are definitely the journalists of the future!"

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