Identifying pupils

Group Size

Liaise with classteachers and the SENCO to identify 4-6 pupils whose emotional difficulties are getting in the way of their learning. A group of 4-6 children works well as it is small enough to allow time for each child to share but is also big enough to require that they take turns and develop an ability to listen to others.

Pupils on SEN register

The intervention is particularly suitable for pupils on the SEN register for social, emotional of mental health difficulties (SEMHD) as outlined in the SEND Code of Practice (2014). Pupils who are not on the SEN register but whose emotional difficulties are getting in the way of their learning may also benefit from the intervention.

Balance pupils with acting-out and acting-in behaviour

In selecting the group of children it is important to be aware of how individual children may affect the group dynamic and for the teacher to feel the group will be manageable. Often children with SEMHD will fall into one of the following two categories:-

  • Withdrawn and need encouragement to join in group discussion
  • Acting-out, attention seeking and have difficulty listening to others

The inclusion of children from both categories will create a broader dynamic within the group. It is very easy for withdrawn children to get overlooked until they reach adolescence when depression and self-harming may then become evident. These children tend to be quiet but not engaged with either their work or their peers.

A group may have difficulty containing more than one or two children with high level anxiety and acting-out behaviour from the second category. These children need to have other individuals in the group who can model appropriate behaviour and containment of emotion.

Gender mix

The inclusion of at least 2 girls and 2 boys in the group can balance both social interaction and story genre. Boys’ stories often have an action adventure theme and may incorporate ideas from activities such as computer games or American wrestling, while girls’ stories often deal more explicitly with friendships and feelings.

Listening to stories of a less familiar genre can fuel the imagination. Girls’ characters may benefit from more adventure/challenge and those in boys’ stories from more character detail. It is important that we do not make too many judgements about these different tendencies but value both and provide the opportunity through group sharing for the children to engage with different styles of writing.

Normalising the group

As any child’s emotional and academic literacy can benefit from this work, it is important to include one or two children with good social skills in order to provide positive role models for other group members. This can also help to normalise the group and avoid any possible stigmatising in the minds of other children.
While Therapeutic Storywriting is particularly effective in engaging reluctant writers there may be other children who are on the SEN register for SEMHD but whose literacy levels are on a par with their peers. A range of writing ability within a group is beneficial as the children do not then perceive the session as being just for the academically less able.

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Therapeutic Story Writing book coverTherapeutic Storywriting – A Practical Guide to Developing Emotional Literacy.

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