Use these clever activities to help children manage their relationships
Every day, in almost every primary classroom across the UK, children are extracted from main lessons to top up their knowledge and plug gaps that have appeared or grown. These interventions are essential for getting children who have fallen behind back in line with their peers, but are often hurried, snatched moments of microteaching, carried out with less planning than the main lesson. The following ideas are based around social skills and helping children with friendships, teamwork and managing emotions. Some ideas are tailored for individuals, while others are perfect for group work.
Use friendship rings to help children establish how they operate with their friends. Create a simple template of a circle with three or four outer rings and copy enough for everyone in your group, plus one for the adult (I have a batch of these on standby). Ask the children to write their name or draw themselves in the middle. On the next ring out, ask them to write in up to five names of the children they are closest to. Talk to them about how they have chosen them and why.
Fill up the rings, working outward. Now choose one person from the innermost ring and ask about a time that they have fallen out. Where would they be put then? Explain that friendship is ever-changing and ever-moving, and although they have written the names down here now, this might change. It doesn’t matter that friendships change; the child is still at the centre and controls who they are closest to on that page.
In a circle, give each child a square of origami paper (or A4 paper cut into a square). Explain that you will make an origami shape together, but there are two clear rules: firstly, there is to be no speaking. Secondly, you can only do what the person on the left does.
Now make an origami model (you’ll need to make one beforehand a few times so that you feel confident enough to lead the activity). Take your time, ensuring that each stage is perfectly replicated by the person on your left, their left, and so on. This may seem bizarre, but it actually works more effectively than you carrying out a stage of folding, and then everyone repeating it at the same time. Encourage silence and careful visual following instead.
At the end, you should end up with the same shape (with an acceptable variance in quality). What did everyone learn from the process? Ask them to explain this as fully as possible. This activity demonstrates very clearly both the need to follow instructions from others carefully and how we can learn from each other.
Collect together several groups of photographs. Your base set should be a series of faces showing a range of emotions. Collect another set of images that could relate to feelings. Weather types are perfect for this, such as a stormy night, a sunny day, rain on a window.
You can now opt for one of several activities: match the emotion to the weather type, describe the weather type as an emotion or rate the emotions from happy to sad. The key with all the activities is the dialogue that is generated by the discussions. This is often very rich and enabling for children who struggle to explain how they are feeling. This activity will bring a whole new dimension to children’s visual literacy, as well as linking to other topics with ease.
This is an ongoing intervention for children who find it hard to explain their feelings. Search online for a child-friendly theme park map with pictures of the rides. Show the map to the children and talk about the rollercoaster of a day you’ve had so far (got locked out, found a treat in your pigeonhole, forgot to mark last night’s books). Explain that if your day was a ride on that map, you feel that it would be most like the rollercoaster, because of all the highs and lows you’ve had so far.
Have the children study the map and explain how they are like one of the rides, and why. The explanation is the key point here – this activity should help to unpick exactly how they are feeling, if not how they got there at the start. Finally, explain that although sometimes they have to go on certain rides, there is a lot of level time in between – life isn’t all highs and lows.
This activity was used to help one child who had sudden outbursts but was unable to pinpoint exactly why they had exploded in such a fashion after something so seemingly trivial. Hold a can of carbonated drink and ask the child what would happen if you opened it. They should be able to explain that the can would fizz a little and be pourable straight away. Now explain that you might have had a bad journey into work (shake the can a little), that you slipped over in the toilets (shake), dropped your bag (shake), and then had a maths lesson that made you nervous because it was a new topic to teach (put the can on your nervous, shaking leg).
Ask the child what might happen if you opened the can now. Highlight that it looks no different from the outside. Is that how they feel sometimes? Develop a way for the child to indicate when their can has been shaken up and explain that it is okay to feel shaken, but that they mustn’t open the can until the contents have settled. At the end of the day, open the can with them, showing that it has settled once more.
This is an extract from Stephen Lockyer’s new book 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions (£14.99, Bloomsbury Education).