02. Structure of Sessions

Structure of Sessions: this section provides a step-by-step guide to running the 10-week Story Links interventionwith a parent and pupil in school.

Overview of Story Links session

Programme Overview: This page provides an outline of the main elements involved in delivering the Story Links intervention is schools.

The Story Links programme runs over 10 weeks and is led by an educational professional who has attended the 3-day training course. The facilitating professional can be a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO), SEN support teacher, educational counsellor, learning mentor or inclusion manager. For ease of writing the term Story Links teacher will be used to refer to the facilitating educational professional in the programme.

Sessions with the parent and child last 30 minutes with a further 30 minutes required by the Story Links teacher for typing up, printing and distributing the story. A teaching assistant (TA), ideally one attached to the pupil’s class, also joins in the sessions and implements 2 x20 minute school-based follow-up sessions using the written text to develop the child’s reading skills during the week.

As the model has an open systemic structure other professionals such as a learning mentor, home-school liaison officer or a social worker engaged in supporting the child can also be invited to attend sessions. There is an initial session with the parent and pupil to tell them about the programme, deal with any concerns and ensure commitment to the programme of 10 sessions.

He originally would loll about and have his head on the table… but after the first couple of sessions [became] much more enthused… he would sit up and read… his confidence came on in leaps and bounds.
Teaching Assistant

The main sessions begin with the teacher having a few minutes with the parent to review how things have been at home with their child during the week and in particular to ask how joint reading activities have gone. They are then joined by the TA and the pupil who will bring some feedback from his/her teacher on their behaviour during the week in class which is shared with the parent. There follows a ‘feelings check-in’ during which the teacher uses active listening skills (empathic verbal reflection) to reflect and contain the feelings expressed by the parent and pupil.

The child then reads the previous week’s story to the group with support from the teacher or the parent. This then leads into the central activity of joint story-making. The teacher gives the story opening, which will have emerged from the discussion with the parent about the child’s current emotional issues. For instance, if the parent says the child has had angry outbursts it might be, ‘Leslie the lion roared. He was furious.’

Beginning with the child and followed by the parent, each person present then takes a turn to continue the story, with the teacher making notes. The teacher takes responsibility for completing each week’s story and then retells the newly created story to the group. The child leaves the room with the TA and the teacher encourages the parent to reflect on the metaphor/imagery in the newly created story and to think about what metaphors might be included in the next week’s story.

Once the parent has left, the teacher types up the story at the appropriate reading level for the child. This is not done as a verbatim report but the core story line is maintained with an effort made to include the actual phrases used by the parent and child. A copy then goes home with the child to be read with the parent at home and a copy goes to the teaching assistant for work on the two 20 minute reading skills sessions during the week.


A. Preparation Stage

In any therapeutic teaching model the preparation stage is a key element. The following steps need to be addressed:

Identifying the pupil
Liaison with classteacher/SENCO to identify pupil with social, emotional or mental health difficulties (EMHD)  plus reading difficulties.

Contacting the parent
Contact pupil’s parent, provide an outline of the intervention and ask if they would like to take part. In order to maintain the solution-focused aspect of the intervention it is suggested that this is not done following a behaviour incident. The emphasis should be on asking whether the parent would be prepared to support their child’s reading through the activity of joint story-making and to invite them to an initial session to discuss further.

Preparing the teaching assistant (TA)
Identify a TA who will be able to attend sessions and provide 2 x 20 min follow-up sessions in the week.  Go through the principles and outline of sessions. Stress that their contribution to the story should be descriptive or ‘filler’ and ask them to resist ‘making it all alright’ e.g.  ‘he said sorry and they played happily’. Mention that you will take responsibility for bringing the story to a ‘resting place’.

Providing an ’emotionally  containing’ environment
Ensure a suitable room is available for 1 hour at the same time every week for 10 weeks. Put a timetable on the door if there is not already one there and fill in your time. You might consider making an ‘engaged’  sign to put on the door when the sessions are running.

Consistency and Availability
Ensure that your timetable will allow you to attend all of the sessions. You will need to earmark 1 hour for each session. That is 30 mins for the sessions and 30 min to type up and distribute the story. As the parent and pupil will be forming a trusting relationship with yourself it is not appropriate to have another professional step in for you.

Arranging access to a computer and printer
Ensure that you will have access to a computer and printer to type up and print the story straight after the session.

Liaison with classteacher to set a behaviour target

B. Initial Meeting with Parent and Pupil

The  initial session with parent and pupil takes about 30 min and the following points should be covered:

Establishing the location and time
If possible meet  in same room and at same time planned for Story Links sessions. Check that the parent is happy with the time set.

Getting the parent on board
Explain the outline of the Story Links programme including the number of sessions. Mention that, as the most important person in their child’s life, their help with supporting their child’s reading skills would be appreciated. You might  also say  that research has shown that the programme has been shown to have a positive effect on pupils’ attitude to learning and their emotional and social well-being.

Explain the story-making element
Describe how  the story-making element of the session will be rather like a party game where each person has to add another bit of the story. Mention that the stories can be used to address some of their child’s emotional anxieties.

Parent’s evaluation of their child’s progress
If the parent is happy to participate, ask parent how they feel their child is getting on with reading & school in general. You can use the  parent pre-evaluation as a prompt but try to keep the conversation fairly informal.

Bring pupil into session
Invite pupil and TA into the room. Encourage pupil to give parent hug/kiss if they wish. Outline programme to pupil and ask if they are happy to come along to the sessions.

Looking forward to the start
Explain that the first story-making session will be the following week.

Encourage expressions of affection between parent and child
Encourage pupil to give hug/kiss to parent to say goodbye.

C. Pupil’s pre-evaluation

Once you are sure that the parent is committed to attending the programme, arrange a time to meet with the pupil and complete the pupil’s pre-evaluation form.

D. Main Story Links Sessions

You will need to allow 1 hour of your own time for the main Story Links sessions. This allows 30 min for the session with the parent, pupil and TA and 30 min on your own at the end to type up,  print and distribute the story.

Parental review of the week
Invite parent into room for 5 mins before child. Check-in with how the week has been with their child. Complete parent reading record. Keep questions open. For example:

  • How has X been this week?
  • How has the home reading gone?
  • Discuss where & when reading at home has taken place – encourage cosy (sofa/duvet) environment
  • Was reading together  enjoyable for both parent and child?

TA brings pupil to the session
TA brings pupil from classroom. Encourage pupil to give parent hug/kiss for greeting.   Seating is clockwise from the Story Links teacher as follows:


Share classroom behaviour score with parent
Record pupil’s behaviour score from classteacher on the behaviour record sheet. Do not discuss particular incidents – refer on if necessary. Ensure the target set by the classteacher  has been clearly communicated to child at their level of understanding. Pupil sets themself a score to aim for over the next week and you facilitate the parent/pupil negotiation of a reward from parent  if  pupil succeeds in meeting this score. Encourage non-material rewards that foster attachment e.g. some special activity with the parent. Pupil records last week’s  score on their bar graph and colours it in.

Feelings check-in

Story Links teacher starts and then proceed anti-clockwise round table:


This gives the pupil the chance to hear expression of feelings modelled before it is their turn. Pupil can continue to colour their behaviour target bar chart during the Feelings Check-in.

Pupil reads last week’s story  aloud
Pupil reads last week’s story aloud to the group. Begin with the SL teacher or TA supporting the child when they get stuck. However, as soon as the parent starts to help the child, allow them to continue to do so.

Co-creating the story
Co-create a story starting with an opening provided by the SL teacher. For example, ‘Dino the dragon lay outside his cave. He was feeling angry…

Go clockwise around the table  with each person adding another part of the story.


Go round 2 or 3 times. SL teacher takes notes but maintains eye contact with each contributor.


Maintain  coherence of story
If the story gets confused, provide a summary ‘so far’. Ensure the main character has a name and is kept in the third person.

Re-tell the group story
SL teacher re-tells the story to the group. This provides a reflection and also a check that the SL teacher has remembered the key elements of the story.

TA takes pupil back to class
Pupil is encouraged to say goodbye to parent with hug/kiss and then TA takes pupil back to class.

Reflection with the parent on the co-created story

Reflect on the story with the parent. Ask open questions e.g.

  • What did you think of this week’s story?
  • Do you have any ideas about what might be included in the next  story?

Parent leaves

Type Up the Story
Teacher types up story at pupil’s reading level and prints 2 copies  of the story: one for the TA to use during the week and one for the parent.

Distribute copies of story
Leave copies of stories in arranged  locations for parent and TA

E. Final Story and Session

It is important to prepare parent and child for the ending of the intervention. This will include mentioning over the last 2 or 3 weeks the date on which the last session will take place. The final story should:

  • acknowledge the main themes addressed in previous stories
  • provide a resolution to any outstanding dilemmas
  • celebrate achievement

F. Reading with the Teaching Assistant

The TA who attends the sessions also needs to timetable 2 x 20 min during the week in which to hear the pupil read through their story. The TA should focus on developing the pupils reading skills as directed by the Story Links teacher. Once the pupil has read the story they are then encouraged to illustrate it withe a picture.  The TA provides coloured pencils but avoid rubbers and rulers as these can limit the child’s expression through drawing. These drawings can  help deepen the story metaphor and are an important part of th work with the TA.

The TA needs to ensure that the timetabling of these sessions is consistent and record sessions using the Teaching Assistant Reading Record.

Section Summary

The Preparation Stage involves:

  • Identifying the pupil
  • Contacting the parent
  • Preparing the teaching assistant (TA)
  • Liaison with classteacher to set a behaviour target

Outline of the main sessions:

  • Share classroom behaviour score with parent
  • Feelings check-in
  • Pupil reads last week’s story
  • Co-create story
  • Reflection with the parent
  • Type up the story

The final story should:

  • acknowledge the main themes addressed in previous stories
  • provide a resolution to any outstanding dilemmas
  • celebrate achievement

Reading with the Teaching Assistant

  • 2 x 20 mins sessions
  • meet at same time each week
  • read through story and focus on points identified by SL teacher
  • allow time for drawing to deepen the story metaphor

What to read next?

From the Dragon’s Mouth