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Use the Wall

How the Wall started


The Wall was developed by Steve Russell who was curious as to how the Cycle of Development theory might help staff in schools make better sense of troubling/challenging behaviour. Conversations would often centre around an intuitive sense staff had that pupils had missed key elements in their emotional development. These ‘gaps’ were seen to be a significant factor in explaining the inappropriate behaviours. Frustration arose out of an uncertainty as to what these ‘gaps’ specifically were. Furthermore, there was a feeling that, even if they did know what they were, staff were not in a position to address them. The comment ‘We are teachers/support assistants – not counsellors or psychotherapists’would be made not infrequently.

The Cycle of Development appeared to provide a framework within which these insights and concerns could be explored. Talking about behaviour in relation to the stages and tasks from the Cycle led to a number of ‘light bulb’ moments as staff began to link them together. They could also see that there were indeed practical steps they could take in the classroom to help address the underlying needs.

The idea of representing the different stages and tasks in the form of a wall arose from discussions with a behaviour mentor, Karen Mason. The wall seemed to work on several levels:

  • Just as a strong wall needs good foundations, so too children and young people need to get the early tasks under their belt to optimise their subsequent development
  • Tasks that aren’t yet secured are similar to bricks being out of place – they can create a bit of instability 
  • Any wall, no matter how weak, will have some bricks in place, even if these themselves aren’t quite secure. Similarly, all children and young people will have got some of the developmental tasks under their belt, to whatever degree. The job is then to ensure that these are more secure and to attend to the foundational bricks.

 In order to make the model more accessible the bricks were categorised according to key terms that tend to be used when talking about behaviour – emotions, self-esteem, getting on with others etc. Icons were used to distinguish each of these categories.

The first prototype of the Wall was made out of corkboard and cardboard bricks – with many evenings spent guillotining the bricks and sticking them on with blutak! Not the most attractive of resources – but nonetheless schools were very positive about how it was informing their understanding and, very importantly, leading to more effective interventions. Staff also spoke of how it was giving them a shared language with which to discuss concerns about behaviour, not only with colleagues and parents but also other professionals such as behaviour support staff and psychologists.

This feedback led to the development of a magnetic board (see photo). By May 2009 the Wall had been introduced into over 80 Lincolnshire schools and settings, with interest also being expressed from other local authorities and also overseas.

It became apparent that a web-based version would greatly enhance the ability to create action plans and access additional resources. With this in mind, Steve linked up with website developer Colin Jensen, working on behalf of Dizinestudioz, to create behaviourwall.com

Please feel free to explore the site and see what it can offer you, your colleagues and, most importantly, how it might contribute to even better outcomes for your pupils.

With thanks to all those who have supported the development of the Wall, and in particular:
Colleagues in Lincolnshire schools

Sarah Austin and Viki Thomas for their invaluable help in making the links with the Early Years Foundation Stage materials

Giles Barrow and the Transactional Analysis Supervision and Training Group

Steve Russell

Steve has over 20 years experience working with children and young people. This has included teaching in a variety of primary schools, being a SENCO and working as an outreach teacher for a local authority emotional and behavioural support service.

During this time he has become increasingly passionate about helping staff to make better sense of children's and young people's behaviour. In particular he looks at making insights from psychology accessible in order to inform how they support and engage pupils. This formed the focus of his Masters’ dissertation which looked specifically at the contribution Transactional Analysis can make to enhancing teaching & learning, relationships and behaviour in the classroom. It was out of this research that the Wall was born.