Stories help to create peace

29th September 2006 at 01:00
And Cinderella has it all, says child psychologist. Nicola Porter reports

Teachers should learn how to be good storytellers of fairy tales and Shakespeare to win over disruptive pupils, says new research.

Dr Steve Killock, a Welsh expert on emotional literacy, is investigating how reading classic tales, such as children's favourite Cinderella, can help put an end to classroom tantrums.

Welsh-born storyteller Taffy Thomas, who is regularly booked by schools, festivals and pubs, is helping him with his work.

Dr Killock, a child psychologist for Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, said:

"Cinderella has it all - sibling rivalry, mental abuse and an evil stepmother.

"Encouraging discussion and getting pupils to tell their own stories, could get problems out in the open and curb bad behaviour."

He suggested Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and King Lear for discussion in secondary schools.

Geraint Davies, Welsh secretary of teachers' union the NASUWT Cymru, claimed many teachers were already communicating with pupils through reading and games, particularly at the new foundation phase.

"In the past, teachers who played games or told stories were less stressed, less target-driven and had more time to listen," he said.

More than 50 per cent of secondary schools responding to a survey by the Welsh Secondary Schools Association (WSSA) earlier this year, reported that bad behaviour among 10 per cent of pupils had worsened, with violent incidents on the rise. But he said the race to meet targets, stress, negative thinking and punitive measures by staff all contributed to out-of-control classrooms.

"Many teachers already use emotional literacy techniques without even knowing it," he said. "But their positive attitude is hampered by other staff members, particularly in the staffroom, where negative comments about pupils are often thrown around."

Dr Killock's research comes as children's charity the NCH criticised the Assembly government for not doing enough to phase emotional intelligence into the curriculum.

David Haswell, head of NCH schools in England and Wales, said: "I'm disappointed that four months after a major report called for more research no progress has been made."

A major recommendation of the report on safeguarding vulnerable children was for education to support the development of emotionally intelligent schools. But the Assembly government say it is working onJinitiatives to develop emotionally literate schools.

A spokesperson said: "A document is due out around the end of the year offering guidance to schools and early-years settings on promoting emotional health.

"It will include initiatives to develop children's emotional intelligence.

Many of the principles of emotionally-literate schools will be set out in forthcoming guidance on inclusion and pupil support which will be distributed in November."

This week Dr Killock launched a new book, Emotional Literacy at the Heart of the School Ethos, which advocates games and storytelling for "calmer classrooms".


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