At Mahoonagh NS we work on various curricular initiatives to enhance your childs education.


In Mahoonagh NS we have been using ‘Building Bridges’ to enhance comprehension strategies. Building Bridges of Understanding is a whole school approach to the teaching of reading. Its primary focus is the teaching of comprehension, with the ultimate aim of enabling children to become self-regulated strategic readers. This comprehension programme is currently implemented in our school from Junior Infants right through to Sixth Class.

The nine key strategies of the programme are:

  • Prediction
  • Visualisation
  • Making Connections
  • Questioning
  • Clarifying *
  • Declunking*
  • Determining Importance*
  • Inferring*
  • Synthesising*

By learning about these strategies, children can become more involved in the text they are reading and deepen their understanding of the text. Each strategy is explicitly modelled through a think aloud process using high quality fiction and non-fiction picture books which were purchased with the programme in mind. The strategies with an asterix involve higher order thinking and consequently are only taught in the senior classes.

The children are taught a specific hand signal to accompany each strategy; these are known as comprehension processing motions (CPMs). These hand signals are in use in some classes depending on the age group in question. As children develop confidence and competence in strategy use they will be eager to share during read aloud sessions. CPMs alert the teacher that your child is engaged in using a strategy and the teacher may then ask your child to share with the class.

CPMs also ensure that all children are actively involved in the lesson and are constantly aware of their own and other children’s strategic thinking.


Literacy Lift-off also known as LLO is a six week block station teaching approach to literacy and has proved to be a huge success. It is carried out each year from junior infants to second class. All pupils are pretested to find their baseline reading age and PM reading level and post tested to see what improvements have been made. The pupils are assigned to one of five or six groups within their class based on their PM reading level this ensures all pupils can achieve success at their level and that the reading material is appropriate to their ability. LLO consists of each group rotating between five or six literacy stations every ten minutes. The stations are led by the class teacher, SETs (Special education teachers) and SNAs (Special needs assistants). Some of the different stations are new reading, familiar reading, writing, phonics, new words, ipads and free writing. Every day, the children get the opportunity to read two books from the Flying Start series. Once the book has been read twice during LLO it is brought home to be read with their parents. Pupils really enjoy the different books and the variety of learning at each station.


Literacy power hour is a six week block station teaching approach to literacy, very similar to LLO, which takes place two days a week for the six weeks. It is carried out each year from 3rd to 6th class. Similar to LLO, Literacy power hour consists of each group rotating between different literacy stations every ten to fifteen minutes. The stations are led by the class teacher and school personnel. Some of the different stations are reading, Comprehension, grammar and free writing. Every week, the children get the opportunity to read a new book from the Springboard into comprehension series. Pupils really enjoy the different books and the variety of learning at each station.


A number of our teachers are trained in “First Steps” in reading and writing and these techniques are being explored in our English lessons daily. The First Steps Programme is a literacy resource developed in Western Australia, with the purpose of helping to improve student literacy. The approach underpinning First Steps is that of gradually moving the child from a supportive context with a significant degree of teacher scaffolding to a more independent context where the child has greater control and autonomy. The programme helps teachers to identify stages of development within literacy and thus teach to the specific needs of the student.

As a school we have divided the formal teaching of the six writing genres over two years. Junior infants, first class, third class and fifth class focus on recount, explanation and report writing and senior infants, second class, fourth class and sixth class focus on narrative, procedural and persuasive writing. After a period of two years, all classes should be familiar with all writing genres. Within the specific genre, the amount of detail taught and expected of the children depends on the differentiation relating to the developmental phase with which the child has been identified.


Paired reading is an initiative established by the school to promote fluency and literacy levels the Infant classroom. The third or fourth class are paired with the Junior Infants.

For fifteen minutes each week, the senior classes visit the infant classroom. They are paired with a particular infant and the journey of paired reading begins. Both classrooms are used to ensure that the children have enough rooms and are comfortable in their surroundings.

The junior infants read to their partners from a varied amount of literature like jolly phonics readers, dandelion readers etc. When they complete a book, they ask questions to each other, do a picture walk through and explain to the teacher what they have read.

Above anything, this is a hugely enjoyable experience for both the Infants and Senior classes. Senior pupils learn to work independently and to facilitate learning. The Infants, without realising, are learning to read and develop their fluency and oral language through question and discussion.


World book day is celebrated in March each year and allows children to dress as a fictional character from some of their favourite books and celebrate their love of reading, both fictional and non-fiction.

Every year the children are encouraged to dress up as their favourite book character. Every class gather in the hall in the morning with their favourite book for a reading picnic where pupils read in silence huddled in their class groups before being paraded to the top to allow everyone to see their wonderful costumes. During the day the senior classes are paired with the junior classes for some paired reading time and pupils from 3rd to 6th take part in a book themed table quiz. Teachers across all the classrooms put an extra emphasis on promoting reading through story, DEAR time, book surveys, book reports and bookmark creations among many more activities.


Ready, Set, Go Maths and Mata sa Rang are just two of the programmes used in Mahoonagh NS incorporating practical hands on learning activities and interactive games in our maths lessons. Our main aim is to have children engaged in active learning. Children work in pairs and small groups and where possible two teachers are in the class working with the smaller groups. The activities are generally working with concrete materials and playing games. The focus is on discovery learning, and developing language for children to describe the process used. We strive to ensure Maths is fun in Mahoonagh NS.


We have a particular focus on developing problem solving skills and use team teaching to support this in our classes. To assist pupils in solving problems we use acronyms. RUDES – read the problem twice, underline the important information, draw it out or decide what operation is needed, estimate and solve. RUCSAC – read the problem twice, understand the question (what did you find out), choose the correct operation, solve the problem, have you fully answered the question and check your answer. A hand on problem solving approach is carried out in each classroom weekly from junior infants to sixth class.


Junior and Senior infant pupils partake in Aistear as part of their daily learning. Aistear, the Irish word for journey is the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework which celebrates early childhood as a time of being and of enjoying and learning from experiences as they unfold. Because early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys, this framework is called Aistear, the Irish word for journey. It provides information to help infant teachers, to plan for and provide enjoyable and appropriately challenging learning experiences that will allow all children grow and develop as competent and confident learners. This early learning lays important foundations for later learning through play and imagination. Pupils are learning in a play based environment.

In Mahoonagh NS, we pick a theme per month such as Homes or Hospital, and allow the children to explore it through various activities such as role-play, story, play, construction and creative arts. The children get a chance to participate in each activity as the month progresses.

Aistear is often described as the best part of the day and is a firm favourite with the pupils.


It's great to see Seachtain na Gaeilge go from strength to strength every year. This actually runs for the fortnight before St. Patrick’s Day. We promote the Irish language continuously in the school but we really try to emphasise the use of Irish during this fortnight. Pupils learn Irish poems, songs and Irish dances, which are then performed at assembly for the whole school, before St. Patrick’s Day. The children make artwork to promote the fortnight and we have an Irish table quiz among other initiatives.

See for details of various initiatives and events taking place around the country.


Mahoonagh N.S. is a Roman Catholic Primary School in the village of Castlemahon, situated 5 minutes from the busy town of Newcastle West.

(069) 72332
Castlemahon, Co. Limerick    


Mahoonagh NS participates in the following national school programmes.

National Behaviour Support Service

Active School

The Incredible Years

Cumann na mBunscol

Green School

Discover Primary Science and Maths