ELSA Session Planning - Elsa Support

ELSA Session Planning

Why do we need to do ELSA session planning? I see so many posts in our ELSA Facebook group of people struggling with planning so thought I would write this blog post to try and help in some way. It can be particularly daunting when you have just finished training and you have your first pupil to teach.

ELSA is about helping pupils to support themselves independently. Giving them the coping skills to deal with life’s challenges. It is very much a respectful relationship where the pupil can feel heard and listened to. ELSA is a supporting role and isn’t about fixing pupils but helping them find those coping strategies and understanding of their feelings.

Benefits of ELSA session planning:

  • Your session will run smoothly because it is well planned and resourced
  • Pupils will understand what they are going to learn. They will know the goal of the lesson
  • Pupils WILL learn something
  • There is a focus to the session for you and the pupil. Sometimes things happen and you can’t stick to the planning and that is absolutely fine to go with the pupil if necessary. That focus might shift but you can evaluate for next time.
  • You will know if they have met the objective for the lesson
  • You will know what the next steps are and can plan for this
  • Your time and the pupil’s time is more productive and efficient
  • You will find the pupil is more likely to be engaged
  • You will identify any obstacles to the pupil’s learning and be able to think of ways around them
  • You can review the learning from last time, because you planned the session and know what the objective was last time
  • You will find behaviour of the pupil is likely to be better
  • You can plan to the pupil’s interests and make them excited about learning
  • You can make your sessions interactive with a practical element if needed
  • You can give thought to any special needs the pupil has and make adaptations as necessary
  • You can include key vocabulary that you want the pupil to learn and ensure you use it
  • You can show without doubt that your pupil has made progress should any SLT be asking and you might even get more hours to do more ELSA sessions
  • You can plan to the pupil’s ability. If they can’t write very well then can they draw? Can they talk about and you scribe? Can they make something? Can they play a game?
  • You will feel and the pupil will feel that something has been accomplished from the session

Imagine a phonics lesson

You need to know what they already know and you also need to know what they need to learn next. You might need to know if there are any obstacles to why this pupil might be struggling with phonics. Do you need to adapt how you teach?

ELSA is similar in that you need to know where they are at now and what you need to teach them next. Turning up for a phonics lesson without any planning would be unthought of.

Friendly chat?

Whilst there is definitely a benefit to having a friendly chat. However, anyone can do that. You don’t need to be ELSA trained for that. Any TA or Teacher could do that. I particularly think the friendly chat is brilliant when working reactively but we are talking about being proactive in this blog post. There can be a danger with ongoing ELSA sessions with no end, focus or planning, of the pupil becoming dependant on you. They will come to rely on you and need you. It will be difficult to stop the sessions and that pupil will constantly seek you out for reassurance. This is not productive or helpful to the pupil.

Training and skills

With your training and skills you can really help to make a difference with the pupils you work with by planning your sessions effectively.

We have blog posts on  SMART targets and Learning objectives which will all be helpful to you when you begin planning for sessions.

Planning doesn’t need to be detailed, it is your planning so you can do it anyway you want to. It can be incredibly simple with a learning objective, what you are doing, how it went and what the next steps are.

Here is an example of a poster I made to show a typical ELSA session

ELSA session planning


ELSA intervention should be a short term focused intervention with clear aims. Usually half a term to a full term in length.

Our session planning documents

Our session planning documents are incredibly easy to use and you are guided through each part.

This one is for one to one sessions. Click the picture to take you there

Elsa individual planning template

This one is for group sessions. Click the picture to take you there.

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