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Three powerful resiliency building tools

Bounce Back a classroom resiliency programme devised by two Australian psychologists - Dr Helen McGrath and Dr Toni Noble, includes various useful tools and techniques to foster resilience in young people. The following three are the ones we think are either the easiest for the busy teacher to use or the most effective. For other tools and techniques please consult the Bounce Back Teachers’ Handbook.

1. Helping young people to ‘normalise’ difficult experiences

2. Using literature to teach resiliency skills                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. Responsibility Pie Chart

For additional support with resilience building techniques go to the optimism section of  Flourishing Lives Tips and Techniques and access some additional tools there.

1. Helping young people to ‘normalise’ difficult experiences

When people experience difficulties in life it is common for them to make out that somehow this is something which is much more likely to happen to them. For example, they might say: ‘that’s typical of me’, ‘that’s just my luck’ or something along the lines of ‘what’s wrong with me?’ or ‘why me?’ when difficulty strikes. This type of thinking leads people to feel that they are victims and doomed in some way. This thinking style does not foster resilience.

So it is useful for adults working with young people to listen to their conversations to see if they are construing difficulties in their lives in this way. Without trivialising the young person’s feelings, it is useful to ask the young person to consider ‘Is what I am going through totally uncommon or does this happen to other people as well?’ The point of this is to encourage the young person to see that lots of people have to confront difficulties in their lives – that this is normal rather than abnormal.

The central lesson you hope the young person will learn is that people cope with bad things happening in life and so there is no reason why they can’t cope as well. This realisation can help build optimism and hope.

2. Using literature to teach resiliency skills

One of the best aspects of Bounce Back is that it is a programme designed by people who understand how important it is to produce material which is usable in the class-room or in other settings. The authors argue that many resilience messages can be communicated via the use of general literature. Story telling and reading a story are also useful ways that teachers can explore the subject of resilience with young people.

Below we list a number of books which are most suitable for these purposes as well as examples of questions teachers can ask to get most out of the stories or discussion.

The following is a list of recommended reading which corresponds with the three different levels of Bounce Back handbooks. This is just a selection of the most useful resources. There is a full list of reading material and resources available on the Bounce Back website http://bounceback.com.au/node/26 however, as this is an Australian programme, some books may not be readily available in the UK.

Level 1

• Is That What Friends Do?
• Little Red Hen
• Pinocchio
• The Bad Tempered Ladybird
• Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
• Lizzie’s Ups and Downs: NOT an ordinary School Day
• Nothing Scares us
• Alexander Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean it) Going to Move
• Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep
• Tough Boris
• Silly Billies
• Rainbow Fish and the Blue Whale
• Chrysanthemum
• Willy the Wimp
• Hansel and Gretel (Anthony Browne)
• Try Again Sally Jane

Level 2

• Henry and Amy
• Piggybook
• The Deliverance of Dancing Bears
• The Race (Mattingly)
• Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
• Downsized
• The Tunnel
• Mutt Dog
• Platypus and the Lucky Day 
• The Duck that Had No Luck
• Gorilla
• John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat
• My Many Coloured days
• The Pain and the Great One
• Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten
• Willy and Hugh
• Speccy Four Eyes
• The Recess Queen
• Counting on Frank
• The Giant Jam Sandwich

Level 3

• Piggybook
• The Lorax
• Chinese Cinderella
• Hatchet
• Oh, The Places You’ll Go
• Sky Boy
• The Tunnel
• Let the Celebrations Begin
• The Red Tree
• Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
• The Visitors Who Came to Stay
• Voices in the Park
• Fox
• Ann Frank (Picture Book)
• Stargirl
• Louisa may Pickett: the Most Boring Person in Class
• Nips XI. 
• The Lighthouse Keeper's Catastrophe

Examples of questions to encourage resilience through the use of literature:

• What were the ‘hard times’ in this story? Which ones are the sorts of hard times that everyone faces at some time in their life? Which ones were the sorts of hard times that many people your age experience? Which ones were rare?
• Was there any part in this story where a character coped better because they talked to someone else about their problem and their feelings?
• Did anyone in the story jump to conclusions without good evidence?
• Did any character use humour as one of the ways in which they coped?
• How much of what happened was because of what this character did? How much because of another character? How much due to bad luck or circumstances?
• Were the bad times only temporary and got better? 
• To what extent did the character in the story just have to accept what happened or did they have the ability to change things?
• When one unhappy time happened for this character, which parts of their life were still OK?

For more questions see Bounce Back Teacher’s Handbook.

3. Responsibility Pie Chart

The Responsibility Pie Chart (RPC) is a tool taken from the Bounce Back programme to encourage young people (particularly children) to understand that all negative situations can be said to occur as a result of the combination of three factors: 

•    Their own actions: How much did their own behaviour contribute to the situation (me)?
•    The action of others: How much did the behaviour of others contribute to the situation (others)?
•    Random unpredictable factors: How much did bad luck or circumstances (e.g. weather, timing, coincidences, lack of knowledge, illness) contribute to the situation (bad luck)? 

How the RPC works

Following an incident a young person thinks through what happened and then allocates responsibility in terms of percentages. When discussing the issue with older children it might be more appropriate to use a pie chart in an Excel spreadsheet. With younger children you could use Lego bricks to attribute the percentages or ask them to draw a circle to represent the RPC. No matter what method used, young people are required to allocate a percentage of responsibility to ‘me’, ‘others’ and ‘bad luck’ and this forms the basis of discussion and resolution of the incident.

If you are interested in using the Responsibility Pie Charts then please access the document below for further information and advice on how to make your own as we no longer have any RPCs.

The RPC idea has come from the Bounce Back programme devised by Helen McGrath and Toni Noble.




 Using the Responsibility Pie Chart (68 KB)
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