The Junior and Senior Infant Curriculum
As a national school, we follow the Primary School Curriculum that is used in all national schools throughout the country. In the infant classes, our focus has been on providing a strong foundation for the children of the school in all the subject areas, as described below.
Much of the focus of the infant curriculum is on developing good oral language skills. This focus pervades the entire day as children interact with their teachers and peers to develop strong communication skills. A very important part of this development is Aistear time, which is explained in more detail below. Each day the class begins with a morning meeting where all language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) are practised as a group. Nursery rhymes, songs and poems help develop oral language skills. Early reading and writing development is supported through the use of the Jolly Phonics programme. From an early stage, letters sounds are explored in context and used to both form and decode words. As the emerging literacy skills strengthen, we use the Oxford Reading Tree and other graded books to develop early reading skills. Children will begin to write simple, short texts in a variety of genres. A range of fine-motor activities are used to develop hand strength and pencil grip. Children are exposed to a wide range of books, and they begin to practice comprehension strategies such as predicting, connecting to previous experiences and visualising as the teachers read a variety of texts aloud to the children.
An Ghaeilge (Irish)
Múintear an Ghaeilge gach aon lá agus tá an teanga lárnach sa scoil seo. Ní gaelscoil í ach tá an scoil suite i ngár leis an nGaeltacht agus cuirtear an-bhéim ar an teanga. Leantear an scéim Séideán Sí chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh, an scéim seo a scríobhadh le haghaidh gaelscoileanna agus scoileanna Ghaeltachta. Imríonn na páistí cluichí teanga go rialta agus canann siad amhráin Gaeilge go minic. Foghlaimíonn na páistí agus baineann siad úsáid as frasaí cabhracha tríd an lae scoile. Labhraíonn na páistí agus na múinteoirí an Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga chumarsáideach i rith an lae.
Irish is taught each day and the language is central in the school. Though it is not an Irish-medium school, the school is located near the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) and a lot of emphasis is placed on the language. The scheme Séideán Sí is followed to teach Irish, which was written for Irish-medium schools as well as schools in the Gaeltacht. Children play language games and sing many songs in Irish. Children learn and use many helpful phrases throughout the day. Children and teachers speak Irish naturally during the school day outside of the formal Irish lessons.
The infant maths curriculum helps develop higher-order thinking skills through a variety of hands-on activities related to sorting, matching and pattern-building. In addition, numbers are introduced, using activities to practise counting, forming number bonds and writing numerals. Shape is explored, and concepts such as capacity, weight and money are introduced through hands-on practical exploration.
History, Geography and Science
These subjects are explored using a thematic approach. Some of the themes explored include food, homes, space, clothes and toys. The focus is on the child’s experience and developing links between these experiences and the world around them. Language development is linked to every theme. Though our current temporary location has limited outdoor space, we are working on developing this as a vehicle for delivering these subjects. In addition, regular visits to local natural habitats help teach key concepts.
Visual Arts, Music and Drama
The creative arts are integrated throughout the curriculum and often tied to the themes the classes are currently exploring. The emphasis is on the process rather than the product in all cases. A variety of media are used to develop visual art techniques. Singing is an essential part of the music curriculum. We also use instruments of all kinds to explore rhythm and compose. In addition, listening to a variety of music is a regular activity. Drama, closely linked with oral language and literacy development, is intertwined throughout the day. It is a regular feature of Aistear time each day through imaginative play.
Children develop gross motor skills through a variety of activities including dance, basketball and hurling skills, playground games and gymnastics. This curriculum is supported by the after-school optional extension classes currently offered in basketball, movement and Capoeria.
Social, Personal and Health Education
Lessons in this area work to establish healthy habits regarding eating, exercise and hygiene. In addition, children learn about themselves and each other, exploring their interests, families and relationships with their classmates and friends. These themes are integrated throughout the day as well as addressed in discrete lessons.
As we are an Educate Together school, the time normally devoted to religious instruction in national schools is used to teach the Learn Together Curriculum. Further information about this important aspect of our ethos can be found here.
Aistear is the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. It introduces structured play to meet curriculum objectives from all areas of the Primary Curriculum. Children in infant classes in our school have at least 45 minutes of structured play each day. Imaginative play is at the heart of the Aistear time where children and teachers interact together using props and costumes to create an environment such as a home, a toy shop, a space station, the hairdresser or a restaurant. In addition, children participate in a variety of other structured play in the following categories: games with rules (i.e. board games, Memory, hopscotch), small world (i.e. trains, dolls, cars, Playmobil), creative (i.e. painting, junk art, playdough) and construction (i.e. magna tiles, jigsaws, lego, blocks).