Emotional Literacy in the Early Years


Christine Bruce

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  • Education at SAGE

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    For Dad, who gave me my energy and determination


    There are many people whom I should like to thank for their support, participation and patience: my colleagues Janice Mackenzie, Catherine Douglas, Kerry Mackie, Ann Macleod and Andrea Stark for their enthusiasm and support at various points along the journey; the children and parents of Parkhead Primary School who became involved in the project; and those who in addition allowed their photographs to be used in this book. To Corrine Mackenzie, Shamim Aslam and Anna Martin thanks for your support in the nursery, and Christine Robertson for yours in primary 1. I would also like to thank Catherine-Mary Thomas, Dorothy Johnstone and particularly Liz Lockhart who not only provided a listening ear, but additionally gave her time to proofread this book.

    The original project would not have been possible without the support and confidence of our headteacher at that time, Carol Gordon, and then acting head, Rita Angus. Nor would I have reached this point without the encouragement and advice of Gillian Robinson of the University of Edinburgh, and more recently the editorial guidance of Jude Bowen, Amy Jarrold and the editorial team at SAGE Publications.

    My quest to discover Emotional Literacy in action brought me into contact with a variety of colleagues exploring similar themes and to them I give my thanks for their support and advice, particularly Susan Maclennan, for showing me around her school and sharing her practice.

    My family deserves very special thanks since they often came second to project work: my sons David and Peter, and especially my husband Malcolm for his encouragement, patience and understanding – for keeping me sane!

    About the Author

    Christine Bruce has an energetic personality and great love of the outdoors. With almost 30 years' teaching experience she would describe herself as simply an ordinary class teacher who takes pride in her work. She continually strives to improve her teaching and became one of Scotland's first chartered teachers by completing a postgraduate Masters degree in teaching at the University of Edinburgh in 2006 and by meeting the enhanced standard for teaching that a chartered teacher must demonstrate.

    Christine has long held the view that education should be child-centred and believes unequivocally that children achieve most when they are happy and comfortable in their environment. She feels that developing a holistic Emotionally Literate approach is the answer to many of her concerns. She sees a teacher's role as more than a simple educator – working with parents, leading after school clubs and outdoor activities throughout her teaching career.

    As a newly qualified chartered teacher she presented her final research project at the inaugural conference of Chartered Teachers. Her work won an award at the BERA research conference in 2007 and she has since presented at the SERA 2009 national conference. She led the West Lothian Network for Health and Wellbeing for two years before accepting a secondment as a teaching fellow to Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently working within the infant years department of a large semi-rural primary school. Christine feels her experiences have broadened her views and strengthened her teaching. She continues to be interested in action research and like all dedicated teachers manages a full and active working week. She believes in the importance of Emotional Literacy as a life skill in our modern world.

    About This Book

    I hope that through presenting my experience of undertaking this action research project in an honest and realistic manner that it will in some way, be it whole school, class, group or indeed at an individual level, encourage you to have a go and take on a similar project. I have learned such a lot from the experience, about myself, my teaching approach and working with my colleagues. I expect most readers will dip into this book for a variety of purposes and so the structure is intended to facilitate this approach with each of the six chapters able to stand alone.

    Each chapter includes questions to support reflection, and ends with some suggestions for further reading. The resources were made to suit the specific needs of our children and are available on the website http://www.sagepub.co.uk/christinebruce for you to adapt to suit your particular needs.

    Readers will notice that although the work is related to education across the UK it retains something of a Scottish flavour which soundly demonstrates the close links behind our common educational values. This underlies the principles of Emotional Literacy as an approach to bring the people of the world closer together through a common understanding and empathy, a greater sense of resilience and wellbeing. Readers are encouraged to read over and around the specific curricular references and reflect on how the ideas could be extracted and used or adapted to suit their own situation and individual needs.

    Throughout this book, I have made use of the voices of children and parents recorded in my journal observations. These are used to give greater depth and richness to points being made and to help the work become more alive, within the context of a working classroom. In addition, I would be interested in any feedback and ideas that have worked for you.

    Ethical Considerations

    To give credence to this action research project (or indeed to the one you may undertake) I have taken particular time and attention in the planning, preparation and piloting of suitable research vehicles and to rigorous, systematic data collection. Confidentiality has been maintained at all times. Through working in collaboration with the nursery nurses and support assistants, I have used investigator triangulation, which minimises the opportunity for researcher bias on the data. I also kept parents informed of our work through an initial information letter, progress newsletters, open evening/afternoons and daily news bulletins at the nursery front entrance. The parents, children and staff were all informed of the research findings and invited to read my dissertation prior to submission. All pupil guardians gave permission for the use of photography.

    Electronic Resources

    Electronic resources for this book can be found at: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/christine bruce for use in your setting. For a full list please see below.

    • Project Aims and Objectives
    • Project Action Plan
    • Project Timetable
    • Revised Timetable
    • Nursery Pupil Interview
    • Primary Pupil Interview
    • Nursery Parent Interview
    • Primary Parent Interview
    • Emotional Expression Drawings
    • List of Stories for Encouraging Discussion
    • Transition Sheet: About Me
    • Example of Emotional Literacy Class Contract
    • ‘How I Feel’ Worksheet
    • A Checklist for Emotional Inclusion
    • Individualised Train Timetable Template
    • Positive Behaviour Support Cards
    • Puppet Letter
    • Circle Time Lesson
    • Small World Play
    • Wanted Poster and Resource Sheets
    • Parachute Games
    • Ideas for ‘A Pocket of Instant Fun’
    • Ideas to Establish Creative Outdoor Fun
    • Games Instructions
    • Useful Web Addresses
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