How to record Intensive Interaction: Classroom Wallchart

My previous post explained how we ascertain a baseline interaction level at Woolley Wood using the engagement profile that was introduced to the Intensive Interaction community of practice by Mark Barber and Graham Firth.  Once we have completed the baseline we can then use the engagement profile to record the interactions that are taking place and, if we are interested in progress, we can then compare this with the baseline level.
To make this work in the classroom I eventually settled on a wall chart format.  More detailed methods of recording were failing because staff, assailed with many other things to record, were not managing to find the time to complete the records and the blank sheets were therefore remaining in the folders.  So I developed this wall chart with the aim of capturing as much information as possible in the most efficient and accessible way.
There are two PDF’s to download. On the first I have have completed an example line on the record so you can see how it works.  The second download is completely blank with no example filled in.
Interaction Record
Interaction Record No example
The wall chart allows for the recording of an ‘average level of interaction’ and a ‘best moment’.  These are self explanatory… the average level is the level that the child seemed to be at for most of the time while the best moment is the highest level episode of interaction that happened.  I felt that the distinction was necessary because when I began exploring the engagement profile many years ago I found it difficult to assign one level to an interaction – a child may have spent 5 minutes showing no social awareness and then suddenly shown consistent attention to the social encounter for 30 seconds.  Does this mean that they are around the level of Attention and Response? I found that with an average level and best moment we could say that such a child would be at the average level of encounter with a best moment of Attention and Response.  This to me seems more accurate.
Using the Interaction Record
The most accurate way to record an interaction is to film it.  Watch the film and use the engagement profile questions to ascertain the level and best moment.  Then enter the date on the Interaction record and use the top row (more coloured) to mark the best moment and the lower row (faded) to mark the average level.  If you have not filmed the interaction then you need to make an educated guess as to the levels.  Add your initials in the space provided and then use the last space to note anything that worked well or didn’t work so well.
Recording Intensive Interaction in this way has a number of benefits:

  • All members of the staff team can keep up to date on break throughs or things that are working or not working.
  • The record can be used to support video footage to compare with the baseline and discuss how effective the approach is.
  • As the staff team engage with the method they will share a more accurate understanding of the engagement profile, supporting the development of a community of practice.
  • The method will help the staff team will share an understanding of what level a child is at and how the team can work together to support the child’s communication development.

All of the above things are very important but perhaps even more crucial to me is that this it works and is being used successfully in each classroom.
Any questions please just get in touch.

Recording Intensive Interaction – Baselines

In order for a recording system to have integrity progress must be compared to a baseline level.  We can use the seven levels of engagement introduced in the last post to assess our partner’s baseline level of communication ability and then use this to ascertain any future progress.
My requirements for a baseline system were as follows:

  • Involves enough data so as to avoid inaccuracies
  • Practical enough for classroom use i.e. not too staff intensive
  • Simple to learn
  • Accurate

After a few months of experimentation we eventually settled on the following method at Woolley Wood using this Baseline Assessment form.
(Download and open or print the file so that you can make sense of the next set of instructions).
Baseline Method

  1. Find another member of staff (or family member) to film the interactions.
  2. Film a three minute interaction.
  3. Find a time to watch the video together with the person who did the filming.
  4. Begin watching the video and after 30 seconds stop the video and use the engagement profile to assess the level of the interaction.
  5. Record this level using a tally mark on the Baseline Form.
  6. Continue watching the video stopping every 30 seconds to make an assessment and mark the form.
  7. At the end of three minutes you should have 6 marks on the Baseline Form.
  8. Over a period of 7-14 days film some more interactions and repeat steps 1-6.

Having completed the above steps you can ascertain the overall baseline level.  Count the tallys in each box to find:

a) The level that was recorded the most times (AVERAGE)

b) The highest level recorded on  the sheet (MOST INTERACTIVE EPISODE)

Write down the levels in the appropriate areas in the top right hand area of the form and the Baseline assessment is complete.
Things to consider

  • In the school we use iPads to film the interaction because it we can watch the video straight away on the iPad screen rather than having to download the film onto a computer.
  • At the school we do five 3 minute videos over a period of 7-14 days.  The purpose of this is so that we have record the interactions when the child is in different moods, on different days and different times and the baseline will therefore be more accurate.
  • Working on a baseline is a good way to familiarise yourself with the levels.

Please contact me with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.


How to record Intensive Interaction

This week I looked at the statistics for my blog and noticed that the intensive interaction recording sheet post was the most popular.  I have therefore decided to post the full system for recording that we are now using at Woolley Wood.  This system was approved by the OFSTED inspector during the recent inspection in March 2015 and is being used in every classroom.
My requirements for an intensive interaction recording system are as follows:

  • Simple and easy to understand and explain to others
  • Straightforward to use in the classroom
  • Accurate

After a few unsuccessful attempts I developed the current system which is based on the engagement profile work of Graham Firth and Mark Barber.  This system involves seven levels of engagement and is a useful tool to assess a learner’s communication ability.
Over the next few weeks I will post the forms that I have designed for taking a baseline, recording sessions and charting progress against the baseline.  For the system to be accurate it is important that all the staff share the same understanding of what the seven levels mean.  This is the purpose of my 6 week course – to familiarise the staff with the engagement profile and the recording system and then mentor the staff in it’s practical use in the classroom.
The first PDF that I include with this post introduces the seven levels.  On my course staff have the opportunity to watch videos and explore the levels together in order to reach a shared understanding and the attached sheet is the first sheet they receive on the course.
The small text by each level is taken from Graham Firth’s and Mark Barbers original document.  The large italic questions is my way of simplifying the assessment.  I’ve found that it takes time for trainees to understand what each level means so I designed these as a kind of flow chart to help trainees find the correct level.  This might require more explanation too but you can give it a go.  First watch a video of an intensive interaction and then ask each question in turn starting at (ENCOUNTER).  When there is no longer ‘more than that’ you have reached the communication level of the learner.
Without the course or similar opportunity for staff to get together and work out what the levels mean there may be issues with accuracy and I’m very interested to know how clear this is to you.  Please use the comments section to ask questions and I will endeavour to answer them.
My aim over the next few weeks is to post the baseline form, sessions record form and progress chart along with instructions and (perhaps) even a video explaining how to use them.
Let me know if its all useful :0)
Engagement Profile Explanation
Next time: How to take a Baseline
Graham Firth and Mark Barber’s original document can be found here

Ofsted, Woolley Wood and Intensive Interaction

Ofsted visited Woolley Wood before Easter and the report has just been published.  The school was graded overall as good with some outstanding features.  I had the opportunity to meet with the inspector and explain the Intensive Interaction work that I had been developing and co-ordinating and the informal feedback from the inspector on the day was great.  Now the report has been published I am happy that there are some references to the Intensive Interaction work, although the direct naming of specific approaches is apparently not allowed within the Ofsted framework.  Here are the relevant sections of the report:
Currently, the quality of teaching is improving rapidly as a result of the now very closely-tailored training for staff. (Quality of teaching, page 5)
I am currently teaching a 6 week course on Intensive Interaction and this is the only ‘closely tailored training for staff’.  The course aims to develop skills in observation, recording (including taking a baseline and recording progress), reflective practice and practical skills such as positioning and synchronising.  Techniques and methods are first modelled to staff in the classroom and the course then requires the staff to team up and try out the methods together.  Staff have so far reported that the course has made a big difference to how they understand the practice.  My own observation is that a genuine change in staff practice takes time and the 6 week course supporting in-class mentoring has been instrumental in affecting this change.
In the past, pupils with profound learning difficulties have made slightly less progress than their peers, as a result of less effective communication. Now, however, the rapidly developing system of communicating with pupils with profound difficulties, through intensive observation of pupils’ responses, is having a much more positive impact on the learning of these pupils. (Quality of teaching, page 5)
While the inspector is not allowed to mention Intensive Interaction specifically, the reference to the approach is clear.  The reference to pupil progress “in the past” relates to 2013, before I began working at the school.
Teaching typically enables most pupils to make good progress and occasionally to make outstanding progress in communication. (Quality of teaching, page 5)
I believe that one reason why the inspector is able to say this with confidence is that staff are trained to use the Intensive Interaction recording system which involves taking a clear baseline and then charting progress against this baseline.  I was able to show examples of excellent progress using video and paperwork recorded by staff who have attended the Intensive Interaction course.
Pupils make good progress in their communication and personal skills as a result of the emphasis placed on these areas and the expertise of staff. Pupils’ progress in communication has accelerated rapidly over the last year and this has had a good impact on achievement overall. (Achievement of pupils, page 6)
Another reference to the development in communication that has taken place since the Intensive Interaction project began.
Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good because pupils are able to reflect during high quality musical experiences and enjoy warm relationships. 
I have also been helping to develop the provision of music at Woolley Wood.  The inspectors observed a group music session that was co-led by myself and the Music Co-ordinator.  The musical interaction approach that I have been teaching at Woolley Wood is based on the principles of Intensive Interaction and I have delivered two training days that have been attended by teachers from other special schools in Sheffield, Leeds, Chesterfield and Tameside.
Here is the link to the report from the Ofsted website.

Making progress

A question recently posed by a parent at a recent training session at Woolley Wood was “How do I move on from these fun interactions to make sure I really progress my child’s communication skills?”  We had been talking about how to engage a child with a communication impairment in natural playful interaction and how the repeated encounters help a person to rehearse fundamental communication skills but the parent was interested in what she should do to ‘push’ this forward and ensure progress.
To answer this I used a metaphor.  I asked the group whether they had ever tried to make a new friend as an adult and I went on to explain how the process might take place.  Imagine that you are new to the area and another parent you have met at the school gates has invited you around for a cup of tea.  You go round their house and what do you talk about?  Perhaps you would discuss the weather or how your child is doing at school ie. you would find a common theme for interaction that you both share.  It’s likely that you would start by talking about whatever the other person seems interested and it’s unlikely at this stage you would start a conversation about more personal matters such as your family problems.  You would probably not yet call this person a true friend and if you were invited around again then you would probably still be happy with the small talk.  After a few visits however you may find that there is an opportunity to go a little deeper, to ask a question about your friend’s history, to share a personal story or perhaps ask some advice about something.  A conversation like this would make you feel more connected to the other person and that you have more in common than just the fact that your children are at the same school.  With more encounters one person may invite the other to the pub or the gym etc.  With more time, more shared experiences and more shared themes, you may even call each other friends.
I think that we all probably have some experience of something like this and I believe that Intensive Interaction works in the same way.  We should begin by just joining in with the themes that our partner is interested in without asserting our own agenda.  When we can enjoy being with our partner and they enjoy our company then, very often, opportunities to go deeper spring naturally from this sharing of space.  This opportunity may come in the form of a smile from our partner or some warm eye contact or a shift in their position so they are more open to us.  This may then be our time to act if we feel the need to develop the theme.  Our action may come in the form of moving a little closer to our partner, or reaching out and touching our partner or in some other way commenting on what is happening positively all the while making sure that our actions are still a response to what is happening.
The more time you spend sharing your partner’s space in a mindful and responsive way the more ways you will find to be with them and the more they will find they enjoy being with human beings like you.   As you find more and more themes that you can play with your partner you will more than likely feel that your relationship is developing, just like in the above example when more personal topics of discussion are found rather than just small talk.
I think that one way to define a relationship is by what you have in common.  In the context of intensive interaction we can be more specific and say that the quality of a relationship is defined by the number of themes you can share with your partner.  If you cannot find any way to enjoy being with your partner then you would say your relationship is not very good and if you find there are many ways to engage you would say that you had a good relationship.
So what do we have to do to ensure that this progress takes place?  The short answer is that we should continue to offer positive experiences of being socially included and persevere with our attempts to enjoy sharing our partner’s space.  During these repeated encounters our partner will have the opportuity to explore the social environment on their terms, naturally learning and rehearsing the fundamental communication skills a person needs to enjoy being with another person.
This sense of enjoyment, fun or satisfaction is a strong motivation for both partners.  We need to trust that, by cultivating a responsive and mindful attitude to interaction the repeated opportunities for mutually pleasurable engagements will create the conditions for our partner to make progress.  Without this trust in our approach we may feel compelled to direct the interaction toward our own goals and lead the interaction rather than letting our partner lead.  Once you have seen the results of regular intensive interaction then it is much easier to have this trust but in the beginning you must put your faith in the practice and play!

Forms of Observation

Each week at Woolley Wood I deliver a 45 minute classroom based course for 8 of the staff.  Each course runs for 5 weeks and is an opportunity for me to present the principles and method of Intensive Interaction through presentations and social learning activities.  The course supports the mentoring that takes place in class and the combination of these two approaches seems to be helping staff to understand the practice.
Last week I explained to the staff my framework for observations and this week everyone reflected on the observations that they had carried out during the week.  For example, one thing that I have asked people not to do is to write on a form at the same time as trying to observe.  This approach just means that, for at least half the time, the observer ends up looking at the form rather than looking at the child and the constant shifting between filling in the form and trying to observe can make the practitioner feel quite tense.
Having tried this during the week the staff made several reflections.  One person said it was much more relaxing to just watch and then fill a form in afterwards.  Although she felt that once she had got to the form she may have forgotten something that she observed, she also felt that she actually saw much more in the first place by not trying to fill in the form at the same time.  Other staff reported that it was much better to leave the form until later because, having tried without it, the form only seems to serve as a distraction.  The reason we can place less emphasis on the form is because the purpose is slightly different.  Our aim for observation in intensive interaction is that we need to be able to function as observers all the time so that we can respond appropriately to the moment-to-moment happenings of the interaction.  To do this well our observations cannot be reliant on a form so the idea of the framework is that it is clear enough so that it can be remembered easily and staff will eventually be able to conduct accurate observations without needing paperwork.
Teaming up on the observations was also reported to be a successful approach.  The idea was for one staff member to observe while the other films the observation.  After the observation they discussed what each person saw and then looked at the film to see if they missed anything.  The two staff from foundation reported that between them they felt that they missed very little and that the post observation discussion was very helpful because they were able to discuss the application of the observation framework and this helped them notice more about how the child was behaving rather than just what they were doing.
The highlight of the session for me was when one teaching assistant talked about how she found that conducting an observation using the iPad helped her to focus on the observation more and let go of the tasks she would otherwise be responsible for with the other children.  She said that using the iPad made her feel like she had a clearer task to do and that if the rest of the staff team saw her holding the iPad they would know what she was doing and that she couldn’t be disturbed.  The effect of this was that the teaching assistant felt she could let go of her other responsibilities, stop worrying about the other children in the class and relax into a mindful observation.
The reason I really like this is because the effect on the staff team of the teaching assistant’s holding of the iPad is pure intensive interaction.  By holding the iPad she is non-verbally communicating to the rest of the staff team that she is engaged in an observation.  How as practitioners can we use our actions in a similar way to affirm the behaviour of a child and non-verbally communicate that we are here for them.  By enjoying doing what the child is doing and using our actions to show that we too can find meaning in what the child finds meaningful.

Intensive Interaction Recording Sheets

For the most recent posts about how we record intensive interaction at Woolley wood school click on ‘recording’ in the menu above.
The intensive interaction recording sheets that I use have gone through many revisions over the years and change depending on the context too.  At Woolley Wood implementing a consistent system of recording is hot on the agenda this year and, because the teachers have many recording systems in place for other observations,  I spent some time over the summer trying to find an efficient method of recording that charts progress.
The idea was to create a form that could show progress in terms of new interaction behaviours becoming the norm.  The form needed to be efficient so that it could be filled in quickly (while still being a useful record) and also leave room for som
eone to add detail if they have more time.  I also use the form to focus staff attention on the things that they should be looking for hence the mention of staff enjoyment (with smileys) and eye contact types for example.   Whether I have succeeded or not will be evident as we put it into practice :0) The form will no doubt be revised as we progress through the year at Woolley Wood School (this is already the third revision!) and I will post updates as things evolve.  Thanks to Graham Firth, Dave Hewett and Mark Barber for their contributions to interaction records that I have absorbed over the years.
The form is available to download below.
Matthew Laurie Interaction Record Oct 14

  • Make a note of meaningful two-way interactions and indicate how typical the interaction is by using the relevant box.
  • For each row fill in one box only i.e.  typical, rarely seen, or never seen before.
  • Fill in the box using words to briefly describe the context of the interaction and cues.
  • Indicate whether you enjoyed the interaction (or not) using the smileys as shown below.

If you would like more information please get in touch.