Category: Coaching Learners

Getting them to talk

Getting pupils to talk about themselves and what they have been up to can sometimes be a challenge when coaching. This is especially true in the early sessions when they still are getting to know you and work out your motives for helping them. So I find the main aim in the first few sessions is to build a relationship, particularly with Primary school pupils, and not dive into trying to solve the myriad of problems they might have brought with them.  We also want them to be able to develop a process of figuring out their own solutions and reflecting on their behaviour, not depending on you all the time (you obviously don’t want to be coaching them forever!).

So, how can we get them talking? Asking non-judgmental questions that require them to give real answers is something I do. ‘Why’ questions often make a young person defensive, so questions that start, ‘what do you think……..’ for example, are usually good ones. Being nice, and inoffensive in the way you interact, reminding them why they like you is also something I try to do. And of course, if they react negatively towards you, don’t reciprocate, stay calm, and model the behaviour you want to see from them.

Using indirect communication is also a good strategy. Young people are more likely to open up when there is less direct eye contact, so when you are playing a game with them, for example, you can be asking questions in a non confrontational way (I like to play Jenga with students!). Also, reflect back what they’re saying so they know you understand, and then be quiet so they can talk more. If they don’t keep talking, you can ask another question, but keep your tone companionable, not interrogatory. Sometimes it might be appropriate to leave a particular theme of questioning and just chat for a while, but always with the aim of returning to the issue, maybe reframing the questions and the context they are asked in (for example, change the type of activity you are doing with the young person).

Happy coaching!


Using a colour/ emotions wheel


This is something I use, usually at the beginning of each session I have with a young person. At the very first session, I ask the learner to either colour each segment with a colour they associate with a particular emotion (so they might think of the colour red for anger), or, draw a picture associated with the emotion. Then, at the beginning of each session, we visit the wheel to see how they are feeling (and you could ask them how they were feeling at other parts of the week to find out more about their emotional journey so far).
You can explore how they feel (what happens to their body, for example) when they experience a particular emotion, what does their face look like, their posture, and what sort of situations have they been in which have triggered a particular emotion, and how did they deal with them.
Christie Burnett also suggests that you can use the wheel to investigate how other people might have felt in a situation, should you be discussing an issue that the young person wants to talk about.

Have a good first session!

Colour or Emotion Wheel

Colour or Emotion Wheel example

Negative Pupil Thinking

Limiting beliefs about yourself are those thoughts that stop you from really experiencing life to its fullest. As far as learners are concerned, you can identify their beliefs in their language and thinking patterns – some phrases may be repeated (in different ways), or they explain things in absolutes (such as ‘everyone will laugh at my new haircut’).
When coaching a young person, it might be a good idea to make a note of any limiting belief statements as they may reveal a central theme (such as different ways a learner might say they are stupid, without actually saying, ‘I’m stupid’). We must however, be careful when looking to challenge a negative belief – this limiting factor may be the way the child sees themselves in the world.
So, for example:

  • a student might say, ‘I’m stupid’.
  • first, look at the costs of that limiting belief and ask them what are the reasons they don’t want to believe this is true. They might say they don’t feel well in class when the teacher goes round the class asking random students a question, or they don’t put their hand up to ask a question, or don’t ask the teacher for help even when they are unsure of what to do. This might take awhile to unpick so please be patient.
  • then, ask them why they might want to believe this statement is true (the ‘pay offs’). They might say, they don’t have to push themselves hard, and risk failure, or that they want to feel part of a certain friendship group, and they don’t want to stand out. Again this might take time to unpick.

Before we get to  creating a new positive thought, that they can believe in, there needs to be a discussion about the evidence that both supports and disproves the limiting belief they have. So, two good questions to ask are around thinking about times when something happened to make them think they were stupid, and of course, times when they thought they were not stupid. Again this might take time to unpick. Hopefully however, you will find a reason or two, that the learner thinks supports their assertion. In the above example, it might be because they did badly in a test.
Talking this through, it might become apparent that they didn’t revise, know how to remember things, do the homework set, didn’t know when the test was etc, and so they can’t expect to get great marks without putting in the hard work.
Now comes the reframing part of the negative belief, or the creation of a positive thought. In the above example it could be, ‘I can do well in tests. (but I must revise and do the associated homeworks)’, after having uncovered some evidence of success in other tests.

Happy Coaching!


Building a learner’s emotional vocabulary

To really encourage a deeper exploration of a young persons emotions, and how they feel on good and bad days, invite them to talk about how they would feel in certain situations such as having a big argument with a best friend, being bullied, getting a great mark in Maths, having the best day out ever etc. When you have a good selection of positive and negative feelings (and not just words like sad, happy etc), write each one down on a different piece of card and then get them to order the words from the most negative at the bottom to the top most, very positive (you could create a sort of ladder shape). Glue the ordered words on to a bigger piece of card and use as a useful resource you both can refer to in future sessions, to aid effective dialogue.

Happy coaching!

Building self esteem in our young people

A quick post! A young person with low self esteem, can usually do with a bit of extra praise. Sometimes you will find young people doing something that would be a normal expectation of every day life, like brushing their teeth, or getting ready for school, and then running to tell you about it, possibly expecting some praise. Don’t hold back! These moments (in fact go looking for them if they aren’t telling you) are great opportunities to bolster self esteem. It can be wearing, but this drip, drip, drip effect is extremely powerful and will have impact.

Powerful Coaching Questions to ask Learners

It’s critical in any series of coaching sessions to build a strong relationship with your Coachee, and in the process be able to understand the young person’s frame of reference and patterns of thinking. Let’s face it, without this it’s going to be tough to set and achieve any goals at all. So, how do we get to learn more about them, help them get unstuck and shift perceptions? Powerful questions are the answer, and Nikki Giant suggests some you might like to try below:

  • What does the perfect life mean to you?
  • What is the best thing about being you?
  • If you could do anything your heart desired, what would you do?
  • What could be different in your life right now if you changed your thoughts?
  • If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
  • If you could be an animal, which one would you be and why?
  • if you had a magic wand, what would you change about your life?

Happy coaching!

…….but I don’t have a goal, Miss!

Hi there everyone. Sometimes a young person will not know how they want coaching to help them, or might struggle to identify where their life is out of balance. The Wheel of Life is a great tool that aids reflection and focus on specific coaching goals.
Using the PDF document below:

  1. Explore each section with the young person. For example, ‘Friends’ might lead to discussions about popularity, number of friends, quality and longevity of friendships etc.
  2. As each section is explored, get the pupil to rate the quality of that particular area of their life from 1 to 10. ’10’ would be totally satisfied, whereas a ‘1’ would signify being extremely unhappy.
  3. The ideal shape on the Wheel of Life would be a circle passing through the number 10 on each segment. However, there will more likely be some low scoring areas and the coach would need to explore those in some detail, attempting to help the pupil identify some goals.
  4. It would be too much to focus on a number of low scoring areas all at once, so help the young learner prioritise.
  5. But take care, not to just focus on the areas that need attention, but also celebrate the segments where the pupil is doing well and satisfied with their life.

Wheel of Life children

How to get Pupils from A to B

…….with the Scaling Tool. This tool can help measure how a young person is feeling generally, or to measure their perception of a specific issue such as bullying or taking exams, for example. It helps put these issues in a realistic context, clarify commitment and aids measuring progress over time.
Using the attached PDF file below:

  1. Show the young person the scale, and describe what each end of the scale might look or feel like. So, if we are talking about David’s behaviour in Mrs Johnson’s class, a ‘1’ might be getting sent out almost immediately due to extremely poor behaviour, and a ’10’ might be staying in class all lesson and completing the appropriate work to a good standard. Get him to circle the most appropriate number.
  2. Ask David how he knows he’s at that number, and list his responses.
  3. Now ask him which number he would like to be at, and circle it. Ask him how long he thinks it might take to get there. Set a realistic timeframe.
  4. Now ask David to describe (and you can list) how he will know when he has got to that desired number; what would be different about his behaviour/achievement/relationships etc
  5. Now identify a small goal, that David can achieve by the next session, that would move him up the scale (say from a ‘3’ to a ‘4’, where a ‘4’ might be not having to be removed from the class before the end). Ask him what actions he can take to get there and seek a commitment.
  6. Repeat this process each coaching session, celebrating David’s successes, and reminding him of how he did it, and the strategies he used.

Scaling Tool