How do I start this programme in my own school?

To apply to take part in Gaelbhratach you simply complete this waiting list form

I have been on the waiting list for a long time when will we get the opportunity to start the programme?

We regret that we cannot allow all interested schools to get started immediately. Due to limited staff and resources, we are restricted to working with a certain number of schools each year. We are constantly working to attain further funding to allow us to expand our capacity. We appreciate your understanding and patience while you wait for a place to become available.

Not another flag! Will this involve a lot of extra work?

Teachers tell us that they would like help and support to encourage children to use the Irish they have learnt in every day conversation. This scheme provides that help and support.
The approach for the Gaelbhratach is based on the themes and language functions in the Conversation Course for the Irish language of the Primary School Curriculum. It should not involve extra work or time, but should enhance the use of the Irish language already taught/learnt.
Games and fun will help use the Irish they have learnt (See for example Spreag an Ghaeilge le Spraoi. The classes will be enjoyable. Progress will be very satisfying for both pupils and teachers.
Teaching will be successful – the first step in the learning cycle: Teach/Learn Use Satisfaction Teach/Learn.
The Gaelbhratach displayed prominently at the school will proudly and publicly declare that Irish is used in this school.

A lot of the staff in my school are not confident in terms of Irish, I’m not sure we would be able for this programme.

There is no minimum standard of Irish required to participate. We understand that each school is different and cannot be compared. Any school, irrespective of the level of Irish is welcome to participate and take steps to improve attitudes and confidence in Irish. The goals are tailored to each school to ensure they are realistic and achievable.

What will be different?

“The Language Awareness Programme involving pupils as well as teachers will support a new way forward with emphasis on:
Phrases, sayings and sentences being chosen for the spoken Irish lesson to enable the pupils to say, in Irish, what they want/need to say.
Planning so that any Irish learned is used, new phrases are incorporated into what is already learned and work progresses in a way that ensures knowledge and use of Irish is cumulative. Each new phrase/word is added to what is known rather than replacing it.
Pupils will be encouraged to use the Irish learnt throughout the day.
Teachers will be encouraged to lead by example using new phrases and sayings themselves as well as simple phrases such as: “Más é do thoil é /le do thoil; go raibh maith agat; tá sé sin go deas; gabh mo leithscéal; Cá bhfuil…?” etc.
This is advised for teaching languages in general. (See for example Pilot Project on Modern Languages in Primary School, NCCA 2000).
Some of the daily routine tasks will be carried out through Irish, e.g.
“Is gearr go mbeidh sé in am dul abhaile. Caithfimid an seomra a ghlanadh.”
“Is gearr go mbeidh sé in am don rang corpoideachais. Caithfimid críoch/deireadh a chur leis an obair sin anois agus seasamh sa líne.”
“Fáilte romhaibh ag an Tionól ar maidin”
The assembly could then continue in English until opportunities arise again to use Irish phrases/ songs… The assembly should be concluded in Irish, with the amount of Irish used increasing as new phrases are learned.
During the music lesson for example, “Canfaimid Déirín Dé / Beidh Aonach Amárach… anois.” “Caithfimid éisteacht go cúramach chun an nóta/ an veidhlín/ pianó a chloisteáil.” “Éistigí leis an gceol agus comhairigí na buillí – a haon, a dó…”
Give a good example to the pupils by speaking Irish yourself with colleagues, with the Principal and with parents as appropriate. (See examples in Tacábhar based on material from Céimeanna Beaga. FNT 2006).
Perhaps some regular announcements on the PA could be in Irish, e.g. “Tá sé ag cur báistí inniu agus ní féidir dul amach sa chlós ag am lóin.”
In some schools pupils are given a ticket/sticker when they are heard speaking Irish. These tickets may then be used in a raffle for example.
See sample conversation Tacábhar pg 13

Why teach Irish through Irish? Isn’t it easier to just explain things in English?

(a) On the whole it is more effective to use the target language no matter what language is being taught.
(b) Learning is faster in the long run.
(c) We have to help the learner to think in the target language. The more we translate for them the harder it is for them to achieve this.
(d) If you make a habit of translating material the pupils will ignore what you say in the target language first and wait for the translation.
(e) They will make no effort to understand the material and without effort there will be no learning.
It is necessary for the pupils to hear you speaking Irish as much as possible during the Irish lesson – initially around 40% of the time, gradually increasing to say 70% and eventually reaching 100%.

But they won't understand.

(a) They do not have to understand each word. It is sufficient if they understand the general meaning initially.
(b) Remember that one cannot translate directly word for word from one language to another.
(c) Much can be expressed through voice, facial expressions and gestures.
(d) Material can also be explained through actions, or using suitable props, gestures, mime, images quickly drawn on a blackboard or whiteboard, pictures, or referring to basic words – for example, to explain barr na fuinneoige indicate and or name the window itself – an fhuinneog – and then indicate the top of the window as “barr na fuinneoige”.
(e) Sometimes it may be more effective to refer to the English term, but in such cases be sure to say the Irish term several times after using the English term. This will ensure that the Irish term is heard last and will remain with them.
(f) Use the new phrase/saying/sentence in context to help the pupil’s understanding of the meaning and use of the language.

What kinds of schools take part in this programme?

At primary level, the Gaelbhratach scheme is open to English medium schools (T2). At secondary level, all schools are welcome to participate, both English (T2) and Irish medium (T1)

The teacher who was in charge of Gaelbhratach is no longer on the staff. I am in charge now but am not sure where to start.

We provide continous support and resources to the schools taking part in Gaelbhratach – this can be in the form of a phone/video call or a visit to get a clear picture of the school’s circumstances. These conversations are very relaxed and will give you some ideas, focus and plans to help you get going.

How long does it take to achieve the flag?

At primary level, the flag is awarded after 2 years upon satisfactory implementation of the structures. At secondary level a flag is awarded each year once certain criteria have been fulfilled.

What happens when you come to visit?

We always try to be flexible and work around your schedule. We will never visit unannounced and we will never assess your teaching in any way. We come to get a sense of the culture of the school, the staff and students and the things they like most. We work collaboratively with you to find goals that will feed in to what you are already doing and suggest ways to increase the level of Irish.

Is it compulsory to speak in Irish only with you?

No, we do not expect any particular level of fluency. We will take the conversation at your pace and use whatever level of Irish you feel comfortable with.

How can I improve my Irish?

Try to use the Irish you have more often. Use our resources to naturally weave more Irish into your school day. There is much more available online, on television and on the radio compared to years ago. Have a look on social media and you will be pleasantly surprised by the vast array of content being created everyday by people of all ages and backgrounds. We can, of course, recommend Irish classes/courses. Labhair í agus mairfidh sí!

How can I help my child with Irish?

With an open mind, you can achieve anything. Even if you had a negative experience of learning Irish yourself, you have an opportunity to make sure that your child has a different experience. Use whatever Irish you have. Check out our resource “Is Féidir Linn” to see and hear practical examples of informal Irish that you would need around the home. Try to use Irish during daily routines at home – there is lots of repetition involved and opportunities to practice. If you are consistent with it, before long both you and the child(ren) will be much more comfortable and everyone will feel more confident.

How to use more informal Irish in my class?

The key is in the term ‘informal’. Think about the differences in tone between giving instructions vs having a chat. Where possible during the day try to ask questions and prompt conversations around what is happening in the moment. For example, during art class talk to the children about what they are making, ‘What colours are you using?’ ‘What is your favourite colour? Who is that in the picture? And what is beside/under/above them?’

I have pupils in my class with special needs.

As with all pupils, each child’s needs are different. However it may not be necessary to exclude pupils with special needs from Irish classes. It is a great pity to exclude them from an important element of their culture when very many could enjoy some at least of the work in an oral Irish lesson.
(a) Usually pupils with special needs can sing, learn and enjoy Irish songs and rhymes.
(b) The regularity and certainty of routines, language formulae and functions helps them.
(c) In this scheme we are dealing with conversational Irish and many pupils with special needs can learn to speak Irish.
(d) When using board/reading games they should be appropriate and compatible with the pupil’s level of ability in the language.
(e) There would also be a place in sketches/drama for all pupils in a class.

I have many immigrant pupils in my class.

It is necessary to recognize the home-language of the pupils (Language Matters). On the whole they will not experience difficulties learning Irish if the home is supportive of the idea. It is necessary to take account of the class level, the age and the linguistic experience of the pupils.

What will the parents say?

(a) Parents should be informed of the Gaelbhratach Scheme from the start (see Language Awareness).
(b) Send material home – phrases, stories on CDs, rhymes, poems, songs (teach a song that the parents would know).
(c) Perhaps the parents could participate in the work – reading a story in Irish to the pupils in the library corner for example, or sitting and listening to an Irish story on a CD with the pupils.
(d) Explain the important role the parents play in supporting the children in any way they can. Parents will wish the best for their children and they will be happy when they hear the results – as long as the children are not stressed.