Writing Worries Away: Literacy Lessons for Anxious Children
Whether they’re worried about life at home or the classroom, coming to school can be stressful for many children. Thankfully, literacy can be an excellent tool to help pupils release their burdens and feel ready to learn.
We’ve all heard of art therapy – but that doesn’t necessarily mean messy activities that require a lot of prep. Reading and writing can provide just as much relief as paint and papier-mâché; you just need a little structure to get the children in the right mood to be reflective.
Here’s our top five literacy lessons to help your primary class leave their worries at the door.
1. A Relatable Story
Reading a story aloud to the class is a great opportunity for the children to absorb a new life lesson.
Our pick is ‘Wemberly Worried’ by Kevin Henkes.
Wemberly worries all day, about all kinds of things; but when she meets a fellow worrier at school, she begins to understand how time spent worrying could actually be spent having fun!
2. Stories With Alternative Endings
The future isn’t certain – and often, worrying won’t help to influence the many ways that a situation can play out.
Try reading a short story starter to the class, about a child with a worry; going to a new school for the first time, losing touch with a friend over the summer holidays, any kind of common childhood concern.
Then, ask the children to write down their version of events for the end of the story.
Once they’re done, the children can share their story endings by reading aloud to the class – demonstrating that life events can end in lots of different ways, many of which you may not predict!
3. Worry Buckets
This isn’t about ‘worrying buckets’, as in worrying ‘an awful lot’… but putting your worries into a bucket, so they’re no longer swishing around in your head.
Invite the children to write their worries on pieces of paper, before putting them in a designated ‘worry bucket’.
The worries can be anonymous, but the children can also put their name on the worry if they would like their teacher to know (an opportunity for you to reach out in regard to more serious worries after school).
For the anonymous worries, read some aloud and see what advice the rest of the class choose to give.
Keep the bucket of worries in the classroom and invite the children to write down their concerns, whenever they choose, throughout the school year.
4. Worry Rhymes
Create a rhyme with the class to help them remember how to deal with anxieties; it’ll most likely stick in their heads a little better than general advice.
The children can recite their Worry Rhyme whenever they’re feeling stressed, to help them recall how to move forward and push that worry aside.
‘To get rid of a worry
When you’re in a hurry
Write the worry down
And it’ll take away your frown.’
5. Empathy Comics
Create sheets of paper with a comic book layout; four squares (or however many you think is appropriate) with space underneath for some writing.
Present the class with a common worry (much like the earlier story starters) and ask them to detail how they would help a friend with that worry, using the comic book to illustrate.
To make the advice clear to the reader, the children should accompany their comic book with some text below the picture panels – this can either explain the scene, or show what the characters in the comic are saying to each other.
When the class have completed the task, remember to share some ideas aloud. By discussing how to help a friend, you’ll create a more empathetic classroom – as well as helping stressed children feel like they will be supported if they make their worries known.
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