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Ireland in Schools

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Irish giants
Stories about Irish giants are proving firm favourites in primary schools in Britain.
This is not only because of the quality of the writing and illustrations, but also the wide variety of Irish giants on offer.

Indeed, according to a group of British and Irish parliamentarians, learning about Irish giants is to learn about tolerance and mutual understanding.

‘Through using simple themes to discover that not all giants in British & Irish fairy tales were violent and threatening and that not all of them had beards and dark hair, children were introduced at an early age [Yr 3] to stereotypes and encouraged to appreciate how different countries had their own traditional tales, some of which shared similar themes to stories with which the children were already familiar.
Teachers realised the potential of such comparisons for promoting themes of mutual understanding.’

Most cherished giant: the sleeping giant

Should the giant stay awake or go back to sleep?

That was the question which exercised Year 3 at St Hugh’s Catholic Primary School, after reading Marie-Louis Fitzpatrick’s The Sleeping Giant (Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-643-1).

It is a lovely tale of an amiable giant who awoke from his slumber, in the form of an island off the coast of Kerry, to wreak unintended havoc on and around Coumeenole beach. Perhaps everyone would feel safer if he went back to sleep?

Most disliked giant: the giant in the King of Ireland's Son

Brendan Behan’s The King of Ireland’s Son (Andersen Press, 0-86264-693-6) is the exciting tale of a young prince rescuing a beautiful maiden from the clutches of an evil giant with the help of a magical stallion.

The pictures by P. J. Lynch do indeed make the giant look evil and menacing.

Click here for the original stories by Padraic Colum (1916).

Most popular giant: Finn MacCool

The overall favourite Irish giant is Finn MacCool.

Tales of him abound in many lavishly illustrated books, such as
Malachy Doyle’s Tales from Old Ireland  (Barefoot Press,1-90228-385-6),
Soinbhe Lally’s Favourite Irish Tales (Poolbeg Press, 1-85371-777-0) and
Una Leavy's Irish Fairy Tales & Legends (O’Brien Press, 0-86278-482-4).

Finn has filled many a happy Literacy Hour and inspired teachers to verse and dramatic performance.


Literacy Hour:

Irish Giants (Y3); Giants’ Week (Y5 & 6 SEN); Finn M’Coul (Y5 & 6): Planning; Responses

Physical drama - Finn & the Fawn:

Narrative poem and scheme of work; Children's drama diaries; PowerPoint

Pronunciation guide.