Jackie Mullen leads the teachers in dramatic song as part of the Go! Gaelic resource training
SEVEN primary teachers from the Outer Hebrides are about to complete a pilot training course that will enable them to train colleagues in how to teach Gaelic to children in their class.
The programme has been specially constructed by training experts working for Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig as part of the company’s strategic approach to boost the teaching of Gaelic in English Medium Education.
The training demonstrates how to make best use of the Go! Gaelic programme of resources, created by a team of language experts, designers and IT professionals at Stòrlann.
Go! Gaelic has been designed to equip classroom practitioners with the tools to teach Gaelic in learner streams and is an online package of sequenced resources.
As well as having created the resources, the Stòrlann team also work in partnership with local authorities to ensure that training is provided to practitioners who want to learn some Gaelic themselves in order to teach it with confidence.
In Stornoway, seven teachers from the Western Isles began a bespoke training course on May 31 and June 1 and will be completing it this week, on Wednesday and Thursday (June 14 and 15).
This total of four training days on Go! Gaelic is a condensed form of the 18-day Gaelic Language Learning programme, which is usually held in Stirling and open to teachers from local authorities across Scotland.
The Stornoway course, held in the Education Development Centre, is a pilot which recognises that some Western Isles teachers will already be familiar with the language. It was also established to overcome the geographical barriers to accessing training.
The training programme was delivered by Jackie Mullen and planned in conjunction with Yvonne Forrest. They are both Go! Gaelic consultant trainers.
The practitioners who attended the pilot training course came from Stornoway Primary, Sgoil an Rubha, Laxdale Primary, Sgoil nan Loch, Tolsta Primary, Balivanich Primary and Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath. Everyone agreed it had been “really useful” and “inspirational”.
Stòrlann chief executive Donald W Morrison paid tribute to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for its commitment to Gaelic in all primary schools in the Western Isles.
He said: “Stòrlann congratulates Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on its aim to introduce Gaelic as the second language in all its non-GME schools.
“According to the findings of Scotland’s Census 2011 the Western Isles, despite a decrease in speakers, is the last local authority area on Earth where over half the population (52.3%) possess Gaelic speaking skills.
“Stòrlann’s Go! Gaelic in schools initiative is directly linked to maintaining Gaelic in the area as it mitigates against further attrition of the existing Gaelic speaker base whilst raising awareness of the important place of Gaelic and culture to the multilingual island society in which our young people live, learn and grow.
“Stòrlann is delighted to have the opportunity to work with future trainers and teachers on this exciting Go! Gaelic initiative that will undoubtedly benefit Gaelic in the Western Isles.”
The Go! Gaelic programme can be found online at www.go-gaelic.scot, and there is also a Go! Gaelic App available to complement it.
There are 20 topics within the programme — including introductions, colours, weather and feelings — and the complexity of the language and grammar is sequenced, to build on prior learning.
Delegates at the training course were shown how to navigate the Go! Gaelic website and given practical ideas on how to use the resources, as well as advice on how to pass on this information to colleagues — likely to be during ‘twilight’ after-school sessions or in-service days, although that is yet to be finalised.
One teacher, Katherine Mackinnon from Tolsta Primary, said: “I’ve grown in confidence doing this. It’s really, really useful for people who are feeling slightly less confident in teaching Gaelic.
“I’m looking forward to going out and showing it to other people as well. Jackie’s brilliant, too, and she’s a shining example of how it can be done.
“There is a specific way of going through it systematically. For example, before I was picking out colours from Go! Gaelic but I wasn’t asking myself if the kids had the skills to do that unit. I will have to go and look at it all now.”
Sharon MacKillop, from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath in Paible, agreed: “There’s a very methodological approach to working through this course.
“I’m a Gaelic learner and I’ve never really got beyond talking about the weather and the date. I feel that, if I follow this myself, I might get over that hump.”
She added: “Jackie is inspirational. Her delivery is fantastic and she’s an example of someone who didn’t have a word of Gaelic herself when she started out. She’s living proof that it can be done, which has probably given me a bit of a push, and if you follow this properly then it should work.”
Speaking afterwards, Jackie said: “When we deliver the course normally, half of it is language acquisition and half is methodology.
“With this group in Stornoway, they are not needing the language so much. They’re needing us to explain how the teachers who don't have Gaelic will need things broken down for them — because something that seems very simple to them is really complicated to a new learner.”
She added: “The teachers are all very enthusiastic and this really helps. Over the first two days I took them step by step through the first four units and emphasised exactly how to support colleagues who are completely new to the language. I shared with them lots of little tips that have worked for me over and the past few years and they took copious notes throughout.
“We did lots of practical things like games, songs and actions. Their feedback so far has been very positive with all of them saying that they feel they've learned loads. Some of them have spoken Gaelic from childhood and I'd wondered how they'd be with an adult learner delivering the course but it's been fantastic.”