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Empowering Yourself and the Children in oyur Role as a TA:  
For ALL TAs

This module has been designed to support all Teaching Assistants, whether you are new to the role or more experienced.

The module contains a range of activities for you to engage with over the course of Terms 2 to 5, focussing on the following themes:

  • Behaviour for Learning

  • Developing Resilience in Ourselves and Our Pupils

  • Active Listening for Active Learning

 

All the materials can be accessed here.  Work through the activities at your own pace, but follow the chronological order presented.  Take note, new TAs, of the live sessions and book these in your calendars.

The materials are the property of, and copyrighted by, Bowden Education and must not be reproduced.

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Term 2:  Managing Behaviour

In terms 2 and 3, we will explore behaviour management and resilience and introduce key approaches to apply to your own practice.

WEEK 1 - w/c 20 Nov 2023

Reflecting on your role in terms of behaviour and resilience

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Take a few moments to reflect on your role and the challenges this presents to you as well as your areas of strength within it.

Note down your reflections and bring these to the face to face session.

Questions to frame your reflection:

  • What areas of my role do I find most fulfilling, and why?

  • What areas of my role do I find most challenging, and why?

  • How do I manage behaviour?  What are my strengths?  What areas do I need to/want to develop?

  • Do I consider myself resilient?  What does resilience mean to me?

  • How could I become more resilient?

WEEK 2 - w/c 27 Nov 2023

Managing Behaviour and TA Resilience

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We will join together for a Group Coaching Session.

During this session, we will consider your reflections from activity 1 and discuss both approaches to behaviour, sharing ideas and practice and also consider what is meant by resilience and how you can develop yours.

We will use the CLEAR model to support our mentoring:

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Your Group Coaching Session will take place on 27th November 2023 at 14.00-15.00

Please bring along your reflection notes (activity 1).

Also, take a look at the session plan here.

WEEK 3 - w/c 4th Dec 2023

Establishing a positive learning environment

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Read the chapter, What is Teaching? by Carden, C. and Bower, V. (2022)  P20-23 Building Effective Learning Environments.

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Watch the short video below that looks at the relationship between learning environments, behaviour and pupils' learning.

Take a few moments to think about what was introduced in the video.  

What elements of the learning environments within which you work will you change or adapt?

WEEK 4 - w/c 11th Dec 2023

Establishing a positive learning environment

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A key element that supports behaviour for learning and behaviour management is knowing your pupils.  

Knowing your pupils informs your planning and approaches to learning and teaching as well as support.

The diagram below, highlights the benefits of knowing your pupils well:

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There are various ways that you can get to know your pupils.

These can be used at any stage of the year.

Take a look at the 4 suggestions, by clicking on the image  and then access the templates/examples that you can adapt for your own use.

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Templates/examples

Postcard

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Video

Bingo

Courtesy of Newingate School

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Social Story

Courtesy of Newingate School

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Choose one of the 4 suggestions, and have a go with a group of children.

Term 3:  Managing Behaviour (contd) and Developing Resilience 

WEEK 1- w/c 2nd Jan 2024

Establishing Rituals and Routines

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Creatures of habit...

We are creatures of habit and with that comes a comfort in routine.  We all have routines in our lives, and often when those routines are broken or interrupted we become a little lost and 'out of sorts'; sometimes it even causes us anxiety or stress.

What our routines do is bring us predictability and security.  They make us feel confident, safe and in control.

The same applies to our classrooms.

When we create routines that happen on a regular, even daily basis, our pupils feel that same sense of security, predictability and confidence we do.  As you will be fully aware, establishing routines for pupils with autism and other diverse needs is vital and can make a considerable difference to classroom life for all children.

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Watch this short video that explores teaching routines and procedures.

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Establishing routines

Routines can be used for most common classroom activities, such as:

  • entering the classroom

  • starts and ends of lessons

  • starting and finishing work

  • transitions between activities or places in the learning environment

  • taking out and putting away resources

  • whole-class teaching and discussion

  • handing out equipment

 

Making your pupils feel safe and secure is an important part of teaching and also improves pupil wellbeing.

 

Classrooms should be predictable environments with clear rules, routines and expectations about behaviour as well as learning, which offer all pupils opportunities for success (Kern & Clemens, 2007; Rosenshine, 2012).

 

Teachers should set high standards for behaviour as well as for learning and believe that their pupils can meet these standards (Willingham, 2009).

 

When you establish a calm, purposeful learning environment, pupils will:

  • Be more likely to behave well

  • Be able to concentrate and therefore learn

  • Be motivated to learn

  • Have increased wellbeing

  • Feel secure enough to take risks and show you their thinking.

Routines, by definition, need to happen in the same way every time, making your classroom a predictable and safe place; pupils will know where they stand and what you expect from them.

Think about the following...

  • What routines do you have established with the groups/children with whom you work?

  • Are there any routines that you think will be useful to introduce?

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With a colleague, discuss one of your routines and invite them to share one of their routines with you.

If you have time, you may want to go and observe this in practice.

WEEK 2- w/c 8th Jan 2024

Setting and Maintaining High Expectations for Behaviour

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Part of creating an effective learning environment entails managing pupil behaviour.

Effective behaviour management happens best when teachers anticipate challenging pupil behaviours and modify the classroom environment to prevent or mitigate them (IES, 2008).

 

Behaviour management strategies typically fall into one of three categories:

·       Proactive: Approaches for pre-empting and preventing problem behaviours before they occur. For example, using seating plans.

·       Reactive: Strategies to deal effectively with classroom behaviours as they arise. For example, using rewards or sanctions.

·       Escalation: Where proactive and reactive strategies are failing to work after a time, or where behaviour is extremely disruptive or dangerous, teachers should follow the school behaviour policy and/or discuss with their mentor what further support can be put in place. For example, calling parents, setting detentions or sending pupils out of the class after a certain number of sanctions. 

 

Part of effective behaviour management involves setting clear rules and consistently reinforcing them (Coe et al., 2014; IES, 2008). 

The goal of these rules should be to create an environment where pupils are routinely successful (Coe et al., 2014). (Ambition Institute, no date)

There are three stages to setting and establishing expectations for behaviour:

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Establishing, explaining and teaching behaviour expectations.

When establishing, explaining and teaching pupils about the behaviour expectations in your classroom, the following approaches are useful:

Develop the expectations alongside your pupils - involving your pupils in establishing the expectations around behaviour gives them a sense of ownership over the process and as a result leads to greater motivation to maintain and adhere to the expectations (DeFlitch, n.d).

Do not identify too many expectations - listing too many expectations may result in pupils failing to consistently meet the expectations.  Instead limit the expectations to no more than 5, but revisit these throughout the year as you may wish to amend them.  You may decide to have specific expectations established for particular activities e.g. practical activities.

Use positive language - When developing the expectations consider the language that is used.  Avoid negative language such as "Do not..." but instead re-frame the language to be positive informing pupils what they should do rather than what they should not do.  

Keep the expectations simple and specific - do not over-complicate the expectations, keep these as simple as possible and avoid combining several expectations into one by using "and".  Ensure the expectations are very specific and avoid generic statements such as 'maintain a respectful environment'.

Remember that these expectations apply to everyone - these are not solely expectations for your pupils but also for all adults. Therefore be careful to use "we" and "our" instead of "you" and "my".  For example always talk about 'our classroom' and 'we need to...'.

Provide mechanisms and space to allow pupils (and staff) to be successful in achieving and maintaining these expectations - by taking the time to explain them clearly to all members of the class community (including staff) giving examples as you do so. 

 

You then need to ensure you lead by example and model these expectations.  It is important to allow the pupils opportunity to practice their behaviour, appreciating that, just as with academic learning, mistakes will be made and this is part of the learning process.  When this happens it is important to work with the pupil in order to support their learning just as you would do when teaching them an academic subject.

Once the expectations are set, ensure that you offer pupils behaviour-specific praise when you catch them meeting these expectations!

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Reflect upon the reading above.

What key messages will you take into your practice?

How will you amend your practice as a result of this reading?

There is no such thing as naughty!

Watch the video below:

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Discuss this video with a colleague/colleagues.

Share what you have taken from this and how this has changed or developed your thinking.

WEEK 3- w/c 15th Jan 2024

Defining and Assessing Resilience

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Resilience is a term that is mentioned regularly in relation to wellbeing and mental health, but what is resilience?

The American Psychological Association define resilience as:

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Some refer to resilience as the ability to 'bounce back', after diversity.  

Rather than seeing resilience as the ability to bounce back akin to a bouncing ball, think of it more like a 'slinky spring'!

Resilience is developed not through the ability to bounce back but the ability to learn from the challenge and to move forwards with this new learning.  Such periods of diversity or challenge and learning supports the development of resilience.

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Now, let's take a moment to reflect on a time when you showed resilience and a time when you did not show resilience.

Click on the image below to open the document entitled 'Resilient; me?'

Think of a time when you showed resilience and a time when you did not show resilience. Note these on the sheet.

 

As you do, think of the potential reasons why you were able to show resilience in one situation (enabler) and not in the other (barrier).

You may want to save this on your GoogleDrive.

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Share your experiences with a colleague.

Are there any similarities with regards to the enablers of resilience and the barriers to demonstrating resilience?

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Now, let's take a moment to reflect on how you are are feeling at the moment.

Click on the 'Blob Tree' below and download/print this off.

The Blob Tree has a number of different 'blobs' on it - each representing differing emotions and states of wellbeing.

Take some time to look at each of these.  

Colour in the one that you feel best represents your resilience at the moment.

At the foot of the sheet explain why you feel this best represents your resilience at the moment.

We will re-visit this at the end of the term.  You may want to save this in your GoogleDrive.

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Compare your Blob Tree with a colleague's.

Talk to them about your choice and reason for this.

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If you have time/wish to, this blog by David Gumbrell is an interesting perspective on what resilience is and the importance of developing resilience.

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WEEK 4- w/c 22nd Jan 2024

Developing Resilience

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Within the workplace there are various factors that support our resilience and others that make our resilience vulnerable.  Again, you could see these as resilience enablers (supportive factors) and barriers to the development of resilience (vulnerable factors).

The table below, adapted from the NHS Leadership Academy highlights some key enables and barriers to developing and building resilience at work. 

 

Take a moment to read through these factors.

As you do consider which you experience.

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We will now undertake a more precise assessment of workplace resilience, using a set of 13 specific questions devised by Carole Pemberton (2015).

Firstly, download and print the blank chart below:

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Start from the left.

Plot a response for each of the following questions for the relevant statement (X axis)

Question 1 corresponds to the first statement - optimism and question 2 to flexibility and so on.

The Y axis represents whether this is true or untrue.  E.g. if  question 1 is very true place an X high on the optimism column.

Here are the questions:

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Once you have completed your 'Resilience Profile' consider which aspects you need to develop further in order to enhance your resilience at work.

Consider the support or resources you might need in order to develop this area/s.

You may want to discuss this with your line manager as part of a 1:1 discussion.

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Resilience has 4 key dimensions:

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In order to develop your own resilience, it can be helpful to explore each of these dimensions alongside your resilience profile to develop a plan of action for resilience development.

Take a moment to think about these dimensions, where you feel you are strong and where you feel you need to develop.

Finally, watch this short 5-4-5 (5 ideas in 5 minutes) on how to develop resilience by David Gumbrell.

WEEK 5- w/c 29th Jan 2024

Narrated Observations

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This week you will engage in a half an hour narrated observation with Catherine Carden.

A narrated observation offers the opportunity to observe classroom practice alongside an expert who will narrate key elements of practice to you in real time.

These narrated observations will focus on approaches to behaviour and signs of teacher/TA resilience.

You may wish to bring a notebook and pen with you.

The observations will take place on 29th January between 09.30-13.00

The narrated observation schedule is below:

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Having completed your narrated observation, you may benefit from discussing what you saw and what you have learnt with your colleagues.

Perhaps think about what elements of your observation you wish to focus on in terms of developing your own practice.  This is something you may find useful discussing with your line manager.

WEEK 6- w/c 5th Feb 2024

Catch Up

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Use this week to catch up on any learning that you have fallen behind with.

If you are up to date with all the learning activities, you might want to use this time to revisit some areas of learning to consider your progress or to refresh your memory.

Before doing this - take a moment to complete another Blob Tree.

How are you feeling now?

How does this compare with your Blob Tree from a few weeks ago?

Why are they different or why might they not be?

How might you want to change things?  How will you do this?

Term 4:  Developing Resilience in Children & Active Listening for Active Learning

Developing Children's Resilience

There are 2 activities focusing on this theme and they explore:

 

  1. Developing a tribal mentality and a sense of belonging

  2. Building a resilient classroom

WEEK 1- w/c 19th Feb 2024

Developing a Tribal Mentality and a Sense of Belonging

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Adrian Bethune is an award-winning expert in the area of wellbeing and happiness.  He is also a primary school teacher and practises what he preaches!  Although his areas of interest are wellbeing and happiness, we feel that these link significantly to resilience and therefore we are using some of his ideas in this section of your activities.

 

In a webinar Adrian led for Bowden Education in 2022, he talked about some of these ideas and we invite you to watch all/sections of the recording as part of this term’s activities.

 

In the introduction to his webinar, where Adrian talks a little about his own background and work, he mentions 3 key ideas which form the foundation for his approaches in the classroom:

 

  1. Small things, consistently done

  2. A happy life is an emotionally rich life

  3. Happier children learn better

 

Note these down and, as you watch the recording, add to these notes in terms of ideas  you might adopt with the children you work with, to support them with developing resilience.

 

Now, if you wish, do watch the whole recording (link below), which is 58 minutes.  It is extremely uplifting listening to Adrian, and it might be something you could watch in bed before going to sleep!  However, you may not have time to watch it all and if this is the case, we would like you to focus, for this activity, on the section entitled Creating Tribal Classrooms (17:58-37:17 minutes).

 

Look out for the following and think about how they might help to build resilience:

  • Class values e.g. hard work, perseverance

  • Class flag - symbol of unity and a positive reinforcement

  • Values as a work in progress

  • Sense of belonging - continually refreshed and reinforced

  • Safe, connected, share a future

 

We have put these points into a document which you can access here.  You will see that we have added ideas for the first point - class values - relating to how this aspect of classroom life might support the building of resilience.  We have left space for you to add ideas for each of the other examples.

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Now consider how you might foster a sense of tribe and belonging among the children you work with. 

 

Make a note of 3 possibilities and try them out in the classroom. 

 

Record the results and bring your 3 ideas and the results to the group coaching session on the 15th April.

WEEK 2- w/c 26th Feb 2024

Building a Resilient Classroom

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Creating a tribal classroom is just one way to build resilience and positivity. 

 

We would like you now to return to Adrian Bethune’s talk on wellbeing and happiness which was the focus of last week’s activity.

 

In the final section of this talk, Adrian discusses ‘negativity bias’ - a fascinating idea, rooted in ideas relating to the hardwiring of  human brains since time began.  

 

We would consider negativity bias to be a considerable threat to resilience - for us and the children we teach - and something that needs to be tackled in positive ways.

 

Watch Adrian’s talk from 49:33 to 56:24 and pause to make notes when you hear the following discussed:

 

  • Positive moments disappear: negative moments stay with us

  • Velcro for the bad: Teflon for the good

  • Notice good things, savour them in the moment

  • Retrospective positivity - what went well:

  • Reflect on successes and things we’ve enjoyed

  • Share and celebrate

  • End on a positive note - peak-end theory

 

Your notes can be brief - just reminders so that you remember what each aspect means.

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Now design an activity which allows time for children to reflect on successes, share and celebrate, and end the session/day/week on a positive note. 

 

Share this with a colleague, take a look at their ideas and bring your thoughts to our session on 15th April.

Active Listening for Active Learning

In this world of many distractions, it is challenging for all of us to listen in a focused way that allows us to build on what we have heard to move our learning forward.  Distractions include the television, mobile phones, advertisements, the sounds of everyday life, attending to family life and so on.  If we get distracted, it is understandable that children do too!

 

In the activities over the next 4 weeks, we would like you to think about what is involved with active listening, and the challenges with this for the children we work with.  We will put forward some strategies you might like to try, to promote active listening for active learning.

 

The following themes will be covered

 

  • What is active listening?

  • How can we promote active listening and what are the barriers?

  • What is active learning?

  • How can active listening lead to active learning?

WEEK 3- w/c 4th Mar 2024

What is active listening?

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We are going to use this definition of active listening, taken from a research paper published in 2021:

"Active listening is the ability to accurately and precisely perceive what the other person (interlocutor) is experiencing and to offer feedback on what one has noticed, perceived. Encouraging and developing a culture of active listening is especially important in school because it influences the creation of a positive and motivating classroom atmosphere, the development of social competencies, the building of quality relationships and the promotion of understanding".

 

(Maras,  Pongračić & Marinac, 2021)

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Let’s put this into a context to make it more accessible. 

 

Imagine you are reading a story to a group of children and you want them to be able to discuss and write about the story setting after the reading. 

 

Active listening will mean that the children are hearing and understanding the words spoken, absorbing the information, perhaps relating this to their own lives or other experiences they have had (TV, video games, cartoons etc.), and potentially waiting to respond to what they have heard.  In other words, they are actively listening.  

 

Now it would be your turn!  You would need to actively listen to THEM - hear and respond to their ideas, as they respond to the story.

 

We’ll come back to this example next week, when we examine how to promote active listening and what might be the barriers.


 

Let’s think a little more about what we mean by active listening

 

In a book I (Virginia) wrote which was published in 2022 - Poetry and the 3-11 Curriculum - I refer to ‘real’ listening and responding which relates very well to the idea of active listening. 

 

Real listening to me, is where we absorb somebody’s response to a stimulus, and respond in a way that encourages them to expand on this and share their thinking.  This is in contrast to listening and then responding in a way that merely reflects one’s own related experiences. 

 

Let me give you an example to show my thinking.

 

Here is a fun poem you can share with children, called ‘I eat my peas with honey’:

I eat my peas with honey;

I've done it all my life.

It makes the peas taste funny,

But it keeps them on the knife.

Anon

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Now, imagine using this short text in a group work session, where children are discussing the poem. 

 

One child might say, ‘I really do not like honey because I had a horrible experience when I was young’. 

 

A typical response (from both children and adults) is to immediately respond with one’s own experience: ‘Me too!  We had a pot of honey on the table outside in the summer and all the flies kept landing on it!’ 

 

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this and indeed, this would be a useful anecdote to encourage discussion. 

 

However, active listening (leading to active learning) calls for a different response, which would encourage Speaker 1 to divulge more information.  For example:

 

‘Oh!  What happened to you then, to make you feel like that?’  

 

This is likely to lead to an authentic, detailed recount, possibly with gestures and some element of role play, leading to collaborative discussion with responses and anecdotes from other members of the group (active learning).  

 

Speaker 1 feels that they have been listened to and they have brought about an interesting and socially rewarding discussion. 

 

They are now happy to pass on the ‘baton’ of anecdote, because they have had the opportunity to expand and elaborate their own story and are now ready to listen to others. 

 

It is through these small insights into life histories that we learn more about our fellow humans and ourselves. 

 

Jerome Bruner (a famous theorist), wrote about the importance of giving children opportunities to ‘create meanings from school experience that they can relate to their lives’ and suggested that narratives (in the form of stories and poems) can help us develop our thinking and make meaning of our lives. 

 

It is so important, therefore, that children learn how to listen and respond in such a way that others will share their narratives and then listen in turn to their peers. 

 

Time taken to model this, is time well-invested.

 

When you next get a spare 10 minutes with a group of children, share ‘I eat my peas with honey’ with them and see what their reactions are. 

 

Have a go at promoting and encouraging active listening and the sharing of ideas. 

 

Add questions of your own to check if children are listening to you and each other.

WEEK 4- w/c 11th Mar 2024

How can we promote active listening and what are the barriers?

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Active listening can be taught and we can use strategies to promote this. 

 

However, it must be remembered that we can’t listen effectively all the time - we just don’t have the capacity and certainly should not expect children to! 

 

Avoiding situations where children are having to sit passively and listen to us for long periods of time, ensures that, when you really need them to listen, they are ready and able.

 

Unfortunately, as adults, we do not necessarily model good listening. 

 

For example, a parent may ask a child something - ‘How did your day go at school?’ - and then, whilst the child is answering, they might scroll through their phone/turn the TV on/start cooking the dinner. 

 

Similarly, in the classroom, we might ask a child what they think about a story whilst, at the same time, start looking for papers and pens for the next activity.  This is NOT good practice!  We need to be role models for active listening and we need to actively listen!!

 

If we ask children something, they deserve to have our full attention when they form a response. 

 

In the same way, in conversations with others or when listening to instructions, children need to focus their listening and be able to respond in meaningful and thoughtful ways. 

 

They need to:

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Let’s return to the scenario from last week - where you are reading the children a story and you want them to focus on story settings. 

 

Whilst reading the story, how might you promote active listening? 

 

List 3 ways that you might do this and then click on the boxes below to see our ideas.

Have images to support the story e.g. using a picture book or props e.g. puppets.

Use a range of voices when you ‘become’ the different characters in the story

Change the pitch, tone and volume of your voice to suit the story.  If we read in a monotone, children will soon stop listening.

Ask questions - literal and rhetorical e.g. ‘What makes this setting so magical?’  Or, ‘I wonder what we are going to see on the next page?’

Check for and react to body language e.g. ‘Well done Joe, I can see that you are really studying the setting on this page’

Ask for volunteers to read some of the story or play parts of some of the characters

Using some of these strategies can help children to actively listen and overcome barriers to this. 

 

Barriers we anticipate are:

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When you next read a story or a poem, try out some of the ideas presented in the boxes and see if the children seem to be listening. 

 

Do they help to overcome some barriers?

Access the document here, entitled ‘Active Listening’. 

 

You may want to read the whole pamphlet (9 pages), but if you do not have time, just go to the final page and make a note of some of the ideas suggested. 

 

Try them out over the next term.

Term 5:  Reflecting on your Progress and Identifying Next Steps

Term 6:  

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