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Ireland in Schools

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Dance through the Second World War
One of the most gratifying aspects of working with Ireland in Schools is the way teachers imaginatively build upon the work of others and generously share their resources.
An imaginative scheme of work for Year 6 by Yvonne Diaz of Waterloo Primary School, Sefton, explores, through Dance, the experiences of evacuees in the Second World War.
A series of dance phrases developed in the first six lessons build up to a longer dance performance in the seventh and final lesson.
1. Off to war

3. Journey to Ireland

5. Grandfather's false leg

2. The London Blitz

4. Loneliness

6. The rescue

7. Performance


The scheme appeals across the ability range and can be downloaded here.

It is a pity that copyright considerations do not allow IiS to provide downloads of the music suggested by Yvonne, including ‘American Patrol’, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘Tripping up the Stairs’. However, the siren used to great effect in Lesson 2 is available at

More cross-curricular possibilities


 Yvonne's scheme draws inspiration from episodes in Marita Conlon-McKenna’s historical novel Safe Harbour(O'Brien Press, 0-86278-422-0).

When their home is destroyed and their mother critically injured during the London Blitz, Sophie and Hugh are evacuated to the house of their unsympathetic paternal grandfather in Co. Wicklow in neutral Éire.


It also complements and extends an earlier IiS study unit which uses Safe Harbour and another historical novel, Faraway Home, to explore how helpful, or otherwise, historical fiction is in understanding the experience of children as evacuees and refugees.


Yvonne’s scheme can be thus be used on its own or in conjunction the earlier unit.



Irish dancing
An introduction to Irish dancing encourages a sense of participation in a common project as well as introducing children to the distinctiveness of Irish culture.

Visiting troupes of Irish dancers inspire the children who then learn the rudiments of Irish dancing from visiting experts, including parents.
For younger children enjoyment is increased by the availability of two illustrated books:
Valentine O'Byrne. Irish Dancer by Declan Carville & Brenda Ellis (Discovery Publications, 0-95382-221-4, in which Valentine overcomes obstacles to achieve her dream of becoming an Irish dancer; and

Flying Feet. A Story of Irish Dance by Anna Burgard (Chronicle Books, 0-81184-431-5) - the competition between two Irish champion dancers to become a village's dance master, based on a true event.

Video clips:

Riverdance: European Song Contest 1994, Dublin

The Shelley Irish Dance Company, Utah

Yvonne has also devised an equally enjoyable and dramatic dance programme, inspired by Maria Conlon-McKenna's Under the Hawthorn Tree (O'Brien Press, 0-86278-206-6), a story about children during the Irish Famine.
1. Traditional Irish folk dance – Jig

2. Support work/death of Baby Bridget /human crosses
3. Wealthy landowners/peasant relationships – action/reaction
4. Journey in search of relatives – unison/canon
5. Create overall dance framework
6. Performance/video/assess/