emotional literacy

Emotional Literacy Displays 2

Today’s guest post comes from Debbie who has a new site about Emotional Literacy Support. I am always on the look out for good resources to support Emotional Literacy displays (it was a Facebook conversation with Debbie that sparked the Warm Fuzzies post the other week!) and Debbie’s new site promises to have some excellent ones!

Our emotional literacy displays & learning environment

Emotional literacy display - Busy bees

Emotional literacy display – Busy bees

We are very lucky to have our own classroom to carry out our emotional literacy activities. It is in the process of being changed from an old intervention/guided reading room to ‘The Hive’ our new name for the room. As our groups are called ‘Busy Bees’ we decided to carry that theme throughout the room. All our displays are backed in bright yellow with black borders. It is very eye catching.

We also purchased some Bee cushions which the children sit on for circle time activities. I have a cooling down area which consists of a table with aManaging Feelings Resources,  and a (yellow)timer and have plans for a covered ‘hive’ where children can read books etc. When the room is finished I will happily send in some photos for you to see.

The photo I have included in this post is of the Busy Bees display in the corridor leading up from Reception. All visitors must go past the display when they come into our school. We used our yellow and black theme here too. Everyone knows this is Busy Bees. The display is very eye catching and eyes are drawn to it when walking down the corridor. We decided to put the bright yellow sunflowers to enhance the display. Yellow makes me think of happy things; of the sun, warmth and friendship. That is what we wanted to achieve.

The display consists of photographs of the children taking part in different activities, feelings fans, lots of speech bubbles which the children wrote saying what they had learnt in their Busy Bee group. We also cut out bees and flowers out of clipart to dot around. We included some friendship quotes which I made on the computer. I love positive quotes and sometimes we discuss them in circle time.  I also wanted something that visitors could look at and also most importantly the children. We made our ‘Look at what we do in Busy Bees’ book. This is updated regularly with photographs of our sessions. We often see parents looking through the book as well as children.
A little more about our ELSA work
Many people may wonder what an ELSA is so I will explain. An ELSA is an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant, a teaching assistant or in my case an HLTA who has undergone training by Educational Psychologists. It is quite a new initiative which aims to address the problem of children’s social and emotional needs enabling them to access the curriculum.

I have been trained for a year now and the value of the ELSA role has been recognised in our school to such an extent that the Head has invested in training for three more ELSAs. I am now the Lead ELSA and line manage the three other ELSAs. We work both reactively and proactively with behaviour, social and emotional needs.

Every day is different and the children actually self refer themselves to us now. It might be that their dog has died or they had a conflict in the playground or they feel angry about something. I knew I had made a difference when one little boy in year 2 asked his teacher if he could come and see me because he felt so angry. This little boy would, in the past have lashed out at others but now he recognises his anger, walks away and seeks adult help. I was so proud of him that day when he knocked on my door. We also work closely with parents to foster good relationships and to help the parent to help their child.
Proactive work
Our proactive work involves running our ‘Busy Bee’ groups. These are hand-picked children who have problems managing their feelings, self esteem problems, friendship problems or just need a little nurturing. We always include ‘LAC’ (looked after children). This is a 12 week intervention where we work on lots of things including feelings, team work, friendship, social skills, calming down and relaxation strategies. The biggest strength of Busy Bees is the fact that children feel they belong to a group. Belonging is very powerful! We also work on a one to one basis with children where we can teach ways to manage their feelings, change their negative behaviour or perhaps support them after bereavement.
Reactive work
Our reactive work involves sorting out problems which occur on a daily basis. For example if a teacher is struggling with a child’s behaviour and has gone through all the sanctions then she/he will call for us and we will remove the child, calm them and have the ‘talk’ about expectations in class. They usually go back in a much better mood and get on with their work. We also sort out playtime issues using a restorative approach to conflict.
ELSA Support website
Earlier on in the year I realised that there was no central area on the internet for emotional literacy resources and resources are difficult for some people to make. In my past life before having my children I was an ICT technician with a very large multinational company so had the skills to make resources for my work and I thought it would be good to share with others. I started ELSA support. There are many resources on there and links to resources I have found. Also some people have started to send in resources they have made which is fantastic and just what I want to happen. I have also started a Facebook page where people can ‘like’ the page and they will get regular updates to the website. It is growing slowly but surely. Although the original intention was to support ELSAs, everyone who works with children is very welcome.  Children’s emotional literacy is a key element of their success in life so we are all equally responsible; whether a parent, Head teacher, teacher, teaching assistant, volunteer or ELSA.
Visit www.elsa-support.co.uk

Thank you Linda for allowing me to write this article

Thank you Debbie for guest posting!

BTW If you’d like to write a guest post for Classroom Displays do get in touch!

Positive behaviour strategies -Warm Fuzzies 2

‘Warm fuzzies’ are used as part of a range of positive behaviour strategies and to help teach emotional literacy.[1] They are usually small wooly pompoms which can either be decorated or plain. A ‘warm fuzzy’ in the classroom can be used as a physical representation of the warm, happy feeling that any act of being kind brings to both the giver and the receiver. Think of them as being like little, tactile, random acts of kindness. They are not given out in payment or as a reward. This is not  a positive reinforcement behaviour strategy, like using stickers or marbles for good behaviour.   Children should have free access to the supply and be able to give as many as they like, as often as they like, once they have grasped the concept. It can be used in conjunction with a Bucket Fillers scheme (more on that next week!) or as a stand alone strategy.

A Warm Fuzzy for your positive behaviour strategy

Making Warm Fuzzies as one of your positive behaviour strategies

You can buy ‘warm fuzzies’ for your classroom. They are little balls of fluff, often with feet and googly eyes, usually sold in bulk. However the whole point about warm fuzzies is that they never run out and that makes buying them a very expensive option. I found that the best way to have an almost limitless supply was to get the children to make them. This has numerous advantages. It gives the children a sense of ownership of the scheme and helps them to invest in it. I prefer to separate the making from the giving and work with small groups or individuals to make our communal collection of warm fuzzies. These can then be stored somewhere so that the whole class has access to them.

All you need is some wool, funky foam or cardboard for feet and a jar of googley eyes. I used to keep my jar with wool and some plastic forks ready for children to make their own. It is a good, quick, ‘busy hands’ activity, and, while hands are busy is an excellent time for quiet conversations. Five minutes at the end of a guided reading session or another group activity can be spent discussing and reflecting on the activity whilst hands are busy making warm fuzzies. Once children get the knack it is amazing how quickly they can be made by using the following method:

You Will Need

If you are making warm fuzzies with the children you will need

  • Wool, real wool rather than acrylic is nicer to the touch, warmer & fuzzier
  • Plastic or wooden forks, must have a gap in the middle.
  • Sharp scissors (with adult supervision!)
  • Funky foam or coloured card for the feet
  • Googley eyes or card for eyes (optional)
  • Glue, or if possible, double sided sticky tape.

The Method

I cannot say this too often – Do this with the children! Not at home, not in your own time, unless you happen to enjoy it of course!  Be kind to yourself too 🙂

  1. Cut a length of wool and fold it in half
  2. Thread it through the middle of the tines of the fork
  3. Wrap wool round the outside of the fork, not too tight or it will be hard to remove
  4. Spreading the wool along the whole length of the fork makes a rounder shape.
  5. Keeping mainly to the middle gives a tall thin shape and a flat base.
  6. Either of these styles work and look fun afterwards!
  7. Cut out some feet from foam or cardboard
  8. Use a dab of PVA glue or (better) double sided sticky tape to attach the pom-pom to the feet
  9. Do the same with the eyes.
  10. Eyes and feet are fun but optional. They do tend to fall off so you might choose to avoid them.
  11. Make far more than you think you will ever need!

It is fun to have a special container for your warm fuzzies and many teachers use a decorated sweetie jar or similar. The main thing I would say about this is that it must be freely available to the children. It is not something that should be under the teacher’s, or the TA’s control. Children need free access to the supply of warm fuzzies or the point is lost. A big, open, unbreakable, bowl or a box, placed somewhere  that it won’t easily be tipped over works well.

The Story of the Warm Fuzzies

positive behaviour strategies book

Buy it on Amazon

The idea comes originally from psychology and  Transaction Analysis[2]and I first came across it via a children’s book called TA for Kids. There is an older book, which has dated quite badly now, which tells the story of the warm fuzzies and their counterpart the ‘cold pricklies’ in more depth. I wouldn’t use that book directly with children. I preferred to tell a simpler oral version of the story. You can find the basic story here: A Warm Fuzzy Tale. I suggest you learn it and then tell your own shorter version to the children. It is meant to be like a fairy tale so keep the witch but alter the rest of the language to help your children connect with it.

Find books about positive behaviour strategies and emotional literacy in the Classroom Displays bookshop

Possible problems with these positive behaviour strategies and how to deal with them

It is worth saying that there can be issues with using warm fuzzies, especially with troubled children.

Not all children (or adults!) are comfortable with this idea. Sometimes it can bring difficult feelings to the surface and cause unexpected reactions, including sadness, anger and hostility. Tact and gentle support can be very helpful.

Another management issue can arise when the fuzzies become a kind of classroom currency. Any experienced teacher or TA  will recognise this phenomenon.Hoarding, collecting and trading are natural activities for primary aged children and the warm fuzzies can easily become part of that, if you are not careful.

I found that we had to be very explict in the setting up of the scheme so that children understood there was no need to hoard or even steal ‘warm fuzzies’ as the supply was unlimited. Even then some children, perhaps because of their emotional background, found it hard to grasp this and much tact and understanding was needed to help them work through it.

Some children crave the physical stimulation that holding and fiddling with a warm fuzzy can give. You’ll quickly identify them, if you don’t know who they are already. Make sure they have an acceptable alternative to fiddle with. Keep the warm fuzzies for their intended purpose .

As an adult in the class it can be hard to keep hold of the idea that we are not in charge of the warm fuzzies. Beware of removing someone’s stock of warm fuzzies, how ever badly they behaved or you will quickly be identified as the witch with her bag of cold pricklies, and no one wants that!

Using A Warm Fuzzies Display Area

One way to counter some of these problems is to have a warm fuzzies display area. This is a display where the children can store their warm fuzzies. You can adapt a plastic shoe hanger bag giving each child a pocket. I prefer to use A4 piece of card for each child and glue on either a clear plastic pocket or a decorated brown paper bag. Children can help to make these and decorate their card. It is good to use soft textures to decorate the cards, foam, felt or textured papers.

I like this idea because you can hang them somewhere easily accessible and not too high for children to easily interact with, along the bottom of a display area for example. It is no fun if you have to ask someone to put the warm fuzzy into the bag for you.

Which ever you choose it is a good idea to have something tactile on the display and to use lots of soft, inviting textures. I like to use textured paper or even felt for the lettering. A collection of warm fuzzies can be stuck to the display as well, maybe in a heart shape and again, this really should be where it can be touched.

Don’t forget to make pockets for yourself and the rest of the classroom staff. Children will sometimes want to give you warm fuzzies and you should be gracious enough to accept and enjoy them. You are, of course, modeling the behaviour you want to see.

At an agreed point in the process, say once a week, or once a fortnight, all the warm fuzzies go back to the main container. This gives you a chance to remove any damaged or dirty ones (it does happen!)Make this clear from the start and children will just accept it.

These physical aspects of  positive behaviour strategies are not meant to go on for ever. Once the class has learned how to identify, give and receive warm fuzzies then it is time to move on to something else. Some children may take longer and in small nurture groups, SEN groups or with the learning mentor the strategy may continue for some time.



  1. [1]"the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to listen to others and empathise with their emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively." Steiner, C. with Perry, P. (1997) Achieving Emotional Literacy. London: Bloomsbury.
  2. [2] TA is a theory of personality  for personal growth and personal change. Read more on Wikipedia

Classroom Displays for Anti-Bullying Week

Sunny Day

Anti-Bullying Week (Nov 19th-23rd) classroom displays can be done very quickly and without much fuss. This one was done by Year 3 in one morning as a cross curricular activity. It combined literacy, art and PSHE with lots of emotional intelligence and project based learning along the way. (Oh, and handwriting practice) The teacher and I provided anti-bullying leaflets and literature, access to the web, and lots of support and advice.
I already had the sun and the cloud. Actually, I made them with a year 1 class as props for an assembly about 7 years ago! 🙂
Children worked with talk partners, each pair produced a tear drop with a short poem about the feeling of being bullied, an example of bullying behaviour to go on the cloud and a strategy to use if someone tries to bully you to go on the sun.
Work was added to the display as soon as it was made so it developed over the course of the morning. By 12:15 we had a fine display and a room full of contented Year 3s who were feeling very pleased with themselves. (Not to mention three tired but happy adults.)
It was a great morning’s work and the room buzzed with that happy noise that classrooms full of happy learners make.
If you are interested in displays for Anti Bullying week you may want to look at these posts too – Classroom Displays – Anti-Bullying
There are some good resources for Anti-Bullying Week on these sites:

  • Teachers TV – lots of good quality videos for teachers to watch alone and some to watch with classes
  • Build you own posters online to print off (uses lots of ink!)

  • Classroom Displays for International Human Rights Day 3

    Children’s Rights, originally uploaded by LindaH.

    Alice is blogging about Human Rights Day which is on December 10th. The focus for the last 3 years has been on education :

    .. focus on primary and secondary education, through integrating human rights issues into curricula, changing educational processes and teaching methods and, most importantly, improving the environment in which education takes place.

    In my last school we tried to help the children think beyond their own situation and to consider children’s needs, rights and responsibilities.
    Children's Rights
    It was done as a whole school initiative, integrated into PSHE, circle time and some of the geography units. This display was from Year 3 and might not be as ‘perfect’ as some. It’s backed on sugar paper, which fades and doesn’t last, it has no border and the spacing is quite random. To me it looks a bit scrappy but, and it’s an important but, this was very much the children’s display. They were deeply touched and quite shocked by some of the things we covered. This was their response and in some ways that makes it much more powerful than a ‘perfect’ display.

    Literacy Display – The BFG

    BFG, originally uploaded by LindaH.

    Multi-purpose classroom displays are often the most useful. Year 5 studied the BFG and made their own dream catchers. The glass jar contain children’s bad dreams. Each child filled a jar with things to represent their worst nightmares. The jars are named and have a list of ingredients on the front.
    This was a really powerful way of getting them to connect with the book. Everyone tried to have the most awful things in their jar and in the course of doing this there were lots of great opportunities for talking and listening, and for creative problem solving.
    The children had to work out how to represent their worst fears in a concrete form that could go inside a jar. Strong stuff, as children tried to work out what to use for war, poverty, famine and death. Of course there were a fair number of spiders and other more nameless monsters too 🙂
    This work showed a lovely integration of literacy with emotional literacy. It stayed fresh and interesting for a long time too as children read the contents of each jar and discussed issues that would not have been easily raised any other way. Classroom displays that continue being a talking point for weeks like this are worth their weight in gold!