Establishing ground rules…
Ground rules help to minimise inappropriate and unintended disclosures and comments of a negative nature made towards other pupils; whether intentional or not. They are also fundamental to safely manage discussions that might elicit strong opinions from pupils. No single set of ground rules will be perfect for every learning environment, and so to be effective, pupils and teachers should develop ground rules together and then implement them in discussion and group activities, adjusting where necessary. Teachers may find it easy to display ground rules in the classroom as an easy point of reference. Examples of ground rules include:
- Treating each-other with respect by listening to whoever is talking at any given time.
- Only using language which is appropriate.
- Demonstrating mindfulness for the feelings, beliefs and needs of others.
- Turning off mobile phones and putting them away before the start of each session.
- Completing all tasks to the very best of our ability.
- Ensuring any experiences which are discussed throughout the session remain do not become the subject of gossip.
- Understanding that first aid equipment can be very expensive and treating it with the respect which it deserves.
- Working together to achieve.
Guidance for role-play…
- Characters and situations used for role-play scenarios should be entirely fictional and not a recreation of real events that pupils may have experienced.
- Share criteria for achieving success where role-play is being used as an assessment tool.
- Allow pupils to retain the right to opt-out at any stage from participation in role-play activity should they feel uncomfortable.
- At the end of any role-play “episode” allow time for pupils to de-brief and come out of the role they have been performing.
Techniques such as stories, scenarios, TV or film clips from TV programmes or case studies provide fictional characters and storylines that provoke discussion whilst allowing objectivity. This allows pupils to engage with the lesson content in a de-personalised manner.
Below are examples of questions which can be used to support distanced discussion:
- What is happening to them?
- Why might this be happening?
- How might they be feeling?
- Who might be able to help them?
- What would you say or do?
Handling tricky questions
It is important that pupils feel able to ask questions but this requires the teacher to feel confident to handle them appropriately. The following guidelines might help to manage this safely:
- Use an anonymous question box, which is available before, during and after all lessons, allowing pupils to ask questions anonymously at any time. If you are concerned about a question, ask anyone whose question has not been answered to come and see you privately.
- Be conscious of the message you give the rest of the group when responding to a question. A dismissive answer to what seems a ‘silly question’ could prevent others from asking genuine questions.
When faced with a tricky question:
- Thank the person who has asked the question and check you have understood what they are asking. Find out what they think the answer is.
- Give a factual, age-appropriate answer when you can. If you are unsure how to answer, that is okay. Explain that you may need time to think about ot find out the answer.
- Be prepared with a response such as ‘That’s a very interesting question and I would like to answer it properly. Let me have a think about it and come back to you.
- Consider whether you need to consult senior colleagues. What is the school policy? Is there a potential safeguarding issue?