I, Gráinne McCool, M.A., have been delivering English Revision workshops to Leaving Cert and Junior Cert students for a number of years now. This is NOT a ‘teaching’ facility but simply and additional resource when it comes to English. Having returned to study as a mature student over ten years ago, I began to fuel my passion for literature and completed my M.A. in 2010. Prior to this course of study I had always been a reading and literature enthusiast. Shakespeare was, and continues to be my passion. I was continually drawn to the classics and would try and encourage others to read similar.  So my course of study on a BA English degree in 2006 was no surprise. It was only when I completed my MA in 2010 that I knew I wanted to encourage others to appreciate works of literature. Hence my tutoring English students. Teaching however,  was not something I wanted to pursue. That’s a whole other vocation. Tutoring was much more suited to my goals and I saw it as an additional, or an extra resource for students. An English teacher said to me recently that she encourages her students to go to ‘revision workshops’ like mine as they offer the student other ideas, and enhance their critical thinking skills.

Encouraging the student’s critical thinking is paramount to what I offer in the workshops. There is no wrong answer in English, provided you are able to support and back-up your opinions with reference to the texts you are discussing. In fact, what I find from hosting such workshops is that students actually begin to enjoy making decisions about texts for themselves. When they fully understand the story/world/life of the text, then they can begin to interpret why the author/playwright wrote the said text. Discussion follows and a better understanding becomes clear for all.

There’s something very apt about sitting together and talking about a text. Last year at the end of a Hamlet workshop a young girl said to me, “I never imagined sitting talking about Ophelia, Hamlet, Laertes and all like this. It just allows for a much clearer understanding of the play.” That’s exactly what these workshops are for. Helping students become more familiar with the English texts.

Just last week a young Junior Cert student said to me, “Jee this is actually really interesting”, in relation to a poem. That is a result for me. These workshops are NOT teaching the students but allowing them to gain a little more insight and understanding of the texts they are studying. 

As there is a lot of writing involved in the English exams, we try and do a little exercise to help with this also. I try and incorporate some ‘speed writing’ exercises which helps build self-confidence in students and in their ability to write and think for themselves.

As a freelance writer with Irish Music Magazine and Mummy pages, blogger at North West Culture Gal and Tutor at The WRITE STUFF, I like to give students an all round insight into English, and encourage them as to why it’s so important to get it right. English is all about arguing a point of view – and boy, every teenager should be perfect English students!! But alas, they forget the creative fun that it really can be. These laid back, relaxed workshops help to refuel that imagination of theirs and they really do build that self-confidence.

For further information on forthcoming workshops with The WRITE STUFF, check our facebook The WRITE STUFF.