The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Big deal, little deal

Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School is helping its pupils to overcome small challenges by themselves.

Big deal Little Deal 2Teachers at Robert Douglas Memorial Primary School in Scone have been encouraging pupil resilience by helping children to understand the difference between a ‘big deal’, which requires adult intervention, and a ‘little deal’ which they should be able to resolve themselves.

Robert Douglas Memorial School (RDM) is the only school in Scone and has around 430 primary children as well as a base for 20 children with autism. As part of the Tayside Regional Improvement Collaborative (TRIC), the school has recently been encouraged to participate in practitioner enquiry.

With the encouragement of deputy headteacher Deborah Swan, RDM P3 teacher Emma Mackie began to use a ‘big deal, little deal’ approach to discuss playground and classroom behaviour with pupils and to develop aspects of self-regulation with her class.

Emma said: “I was inspired by the work of Lisa Marshall, a colleague in the autism base, who is an experienced practitioner working with autistic pupils and researching approaches and new strategies when resilience levels are becoming lower and children often don’t know how to deal with things themselves.

“It is really all about using consistent language. In our autism base we use the 5 Point Scale to help the children become aware of their emotions and the stage or level of the emotion. They each have individualised plans to support this, whether that is to go for a walk, a bit of space, or to listen to music, when things get overwhelming. Having seen the success of our techniques within the base, we are embedding some of these throughout our mainstream classes.

Big deal Little Deal 3“Last year I had a large and fairly challenging class. I wanted to focus on teaching time but I noticed that they regularly came in from the playground with stories and things they needed fixed before they could settle down.”

Emma set up a ‘chatter box’, which allowed children who needed more support to write their name on a Post-It note which indicated they needed to speak to her about something. She also embedded a ‘big deal, little deal’ approach through roleplaying scenarios and workshops in her class. The children were encouraged to consider situations arising in the playground and in the classroom, which were minor – someone has taken my pencil – to something which required help from a teacher – e.g. a fall in the playground.

“We spent time exploring examples and challenges, and to focus on when they need intervention in the classroom and playground. I wanted to give them the tools to deal with minor challenges, helping them become more independent by dealing with little issues themselves,” said Emma.

“I used images of scales as a visual tool to help them see the difference, while making it clear there is no right or wrong; rather it is about making a better choice next time when something has gone wrong.”

Emma said these approaches positively impacted on the class, with pupils able to work together to more frequently come to a consensus or to resolve minor issues without relying on adult intervention and help.

“The children all benefit from these approaches. I have a new class this year with different dynamics, but I use the same vocabulary about fairness and appreciating everyone’s point of view and that is helping the children to identify and overcome those ‘little deals’ by themselves.”