The Role of Bibliotherapy and Therapeutic Storytelling in Creating Inclusive Classroom Communities

The Role of Bibliotherapy and Therapeutic Storytelling in Creating Inclusive Classroom Communities

Sanja Skočić Mihić, Kimberly Maich, Christina Belcher, Susan Perrow, Ana Barišić, Nadia Novak Ramić
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2520-2.ch016
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This chapter reviews the literature of using the bibliotherapy as a strategy to provide empathy and understanding for diverse behaviors and emotions. Since diverse learners may have difficulties in developing social skills and emotional regulation, the development of a positive and respectful social climate is critical in encouraging all students to be more accepting of individual differences and challenges. Using the Lessac bio-dynamic approach and verbal intonation and dynamic articulation of the text, enriches students' experience and allows students with difficulties to recognize the intention of the character and to interactively participate with movements. The unique model of therapeutic storytelling with Lessac Kinestetis is presented as a teaching strategy for the development of the skills of diverse learners, as well all students in the inclusive classroom.
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Public school classrooms have changed substantially since the beginning of the 21st century, as a movement towards full inclusion has meant that the majority of children are attending schools in their local neighbourhood school environments. As never before, today’s classrooms consist of diverse learners from —for example—varied cultures, linguistic backgrounds, race, families, with diverse intellectual, academic, and social-emotional needs and abilities. In the last two decades of thought and action on the process and realities of classroom inclusion, significant transitions within legislation and practice have occurred in many jurisdictions: from traditional, segregated classroom environments to a focus on inclusive education. School inclusion allows for, recognizes, and provides education for all children within inclusive classrooms and schools, including those with exceptionalities. Inclusive education, “an ongoing process aimed at offering quality education for all while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the students and communities” (UNESCO, 2008, p.3), has—and continues to—change classroom teaching practices (UNESCO, 2008). It is important to point out that the organization of related teaching and learning processes in inclusive classrooms—which need to be suitable for all diverse learners—is often left to the educators in those very classrooms.

Policies of inclusive education established in many jurisdictions worldwide vary, dependent on a range of factors, including characteristics of national and local education practices, teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, skills, and competencies to work in inclusive classrooms (Donnelly & Watkins, 2011). It is well known, for example, that the successful implementation of any inclusive policy and/or practices depends largely on the teachers’ positive attitudes (Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2010; Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000; Norwich & Avramidis, 2002; Poulson, Avramidis, Fox, Medwell, & Wray, 2001; Wilde & Avramidis, 2011). However, even despite positive attitudes, teachers often feel incapable and/or unprepared to teach children with disabilities in inclusive settings (Cains & Brown, 1996; Lombardi & Hunka, 2001; Scruggs & Mastropierei, 1996; Skočić Mihić, 2011). The variety of academic, physical, social, and emotional needs of children in inclusive classrooms inevitably results in new roles and responsibilities for teachers (Ellis & Larkin, 1995); yet, professional preparation can be described as inadequate (Skočić Mihić et al., 2014; Skočić Mihić, Lončarić, & Pinoza Kukurin, 2009), often limited to only a single mandatory course about inclusive education worldwide (McHatton & McCray, 2007; Sze, 2009). Teachers perceived themselves moderately competent in the area of differentiated teaching for students with disabilities and gifted students, but their professional workload was lower for teaching students (Skočić Mihić, Beaudoin, & Giugno Modrušan, 2016). Also, teachers found that self-learning contributed significantly more to their acquired competencies for teaching gifted students in relation to pre-service professional development, due to a lack of mandatory courses on gifted education (Skočić Mihić & Čepić, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Skills: The interpersonal skills facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, learned, and adapted in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization.

Gifted Students: There is no universally accepted definition of giftedness, as there is no universally accepted definition of intelligence. Most definitions include some evidence of high achievement capability in different areas (e.g., intellectual, creative, artistic, academic, leadership, etc.) and who need additional support in order to fully develop those capabilities.

Lessac Kinestetis: A dynamic discipline applicable to artistic performance, athletics, therapy and personal well-being. Lessac training has a unique, holistic approach to the function and expression of body and voice and provides an immense range of possibilities for interpretation.

Inclusive Values: Appreciating diversity, equality and equity, cooperativeness, participation, community, and sustainability are examples of inclusive values that are fundamental for successful inclusive education.

Students with Special Education Needs: Students who need additional resources so that they can access the curriculum more effectively, in the three agreed cross-national categories: (a) disabilities--students with disabilities or impairments viewed in medical terms as organic disorders attributable to organic pathologies; (b) difficulties--students with emotional, behavioral, or specific learning difficulties; and, (c) disadvantages--students with disadvantages arising primarily from socioeconomic, cultural, and/or linguistic factors.

Therapeutic Stories: Stories that are expressed in a metaphorical way to make a strong connection with inner reality. Such stories can assist in healing, and can have the capacity to be life-changing, if carefully chosen both in term of purpose and timing and are told by a trusted and respected individual.

Classroom Climate: The classroom environment, the social climate, the emotional and the physical aspects of the classroom shaped by the relationships between teachers and students, as well as among students themselves. The way the teacher organizes the classroom influence students socioemotional and academic growth and the student’s behavior affects peer interaction.

Bibliotherapy: The structured use of any written material, such as books, picture books, and poetry, or oral material as storytelling, video, or audio material, that has the potential and capacity for healing. The process of bibliotherapy is based in classic psychotherapeutic principles of identification (with the character or situation in the story), catharsis (wherein the student gains inspiration), and insight (which leads to motivation for positive change).

Inclusive Education: Global education policy based on human rights aims to ensure participation of all learners in neighbourhood classrooms with their peers. It refers to the organization of the education process in such a way as to provide instruction according to the needs of diverse learners and their improvement in individual goals, education, and socioemotional development, as well as all developmental domains.

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