This week, I are … preparing a young writer for the Leaving Cert

Last week, I received an unexpected message. It was from a parent, asking me if I was offering creative writing classes for a student doing the Leaving Cert (final secondary school exam in Ireland). I hadn’t ever promoted myself as a resource for exam students. I imagined they would be too busy ingesting vast tracts of information for their exams to indulge in such fripperies as creative writing.

However, this parent was willing to consider one on one classes, so I decided to follow up on the query, in case I might be of use. I wanted to be sure the parent understood that I was not a qualified English teacher, but I am a creative writing tutor, so I could help them sharpen their creative writing skills and give them the confidence to tackle the Leaving Cert English essay.

The parent felt that this would be useful and I agreed to give the girl six one-hour sessions. And the parent network being what it is, I soon got another booking to deliver the same service to a boy. In each session, the students will learn a different language or storytelling skill, and these will act as a toolkit that will help them tackle the essay, which they won’t have seen prior to the exam.

The Elements of Story

My sessions will focus on three core skills. I’ll work on language usage, to encourage them away from clichés and to use either fewer or more words, depending on their writing style. We’ll also work on different storytelling techniques, such as character development, plotting, setting and viewpoint.

This will help them structure their ideas. Finally, I’ll help them generate ideas by showing them how to tap into their sentences. This will help them unlock memories that they can turn into stories. Having looked at the essay titles from the 2018 English exam, I’m confident that my approach will help them build up a bank of ideas that they can draw on when they’re in the exam hall. Rather than learn off an essay and hope it comes up, they’ll have the flexibility to adapt their ideas to the essay titles that come up.

Overall, I’ll show them how to make the essay titles interesting and relevant for them, so that even if English isn’t their passion, they’ll find a way to make the English essay their own. At the very last, it’ll take the fear factor out of being confronted with a series of essay titles and a blank page.

I also offer one to one consultancy for adults who have ideas for writing projects but are not quite sure how to move them forward. You’ll find out more about them here.

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