This is a lesson that many teachers dread, but you don’t have to. As a Year 6 teacher for 15 years, I have always found this lesson to be valuable to all pupils. Having a good rapport and establishing ground rules with the class also helps during this lesson so pupils are respectful towards each other.

Beforehand, ensure that you collaborate closely with parents/carers when planning to deliver this lesson. Invite parents/carers into school so you can discuss what will be taught, address any concerns, and help support parents in managing conversations with their children on these issues. It can be useful to discuss any barriers to understanding that the pupil with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) may have with their parents so that these can be considered when planning the lesson.

“Clear communication and explanations without euphemisms or other figurative language are needed.”

Depending on the dynamics of the class you may wish to teach in single sex groups; however, it is a huge help to girls, and others who menstruate, for boys to know what’s going on. It provides an opportunity to model that periods can and should be discussed openly, and that periods and menstrual products don’t have to be hidden or kept secret. For pupils who have speech, language and communication difficulties (SLCN), it would be beneficial to them if you pre-teach key vocabulary beforehand in a small group or 1-1. Use pictures and photographs to support new vocabulary.

Use: Welcome to Growing Up with Yasmine and Tom – Relationships, Lesson 8 Periods interaction. This online resource is interactive and includes colourful animations to support language and as such supports understanding for children in the class. Encourage the pupils to write down any questions they may have (anonymously if they wish) and pop them in a box. A pre-made question slip, supported with pictures or symbols will be useful for children who might struggle with literacy, which many children with SLCN do. Provide time after the video so that those children who may need a little more time to process the information and formulate a question can have the chance to do so. Pupils should also be given the opportunity to talk to a trusted adult, away from the class if they have questions about periods at any time.

Reiterate that all questions are valid, and no-one should feel embarrassed.

Show the pupils a range of menstrual products. Some pupils may have already started their periods, but many will not have so it is important to explain how to use the different products. FPA have a brilliant information sheet which explains how each product is used if you are not familiar with a product. In the lesson I took a period pad and showed the class how to take off the covering on the sticky strip and put it into a pair of pants. My friend who was a nurse, gave me a set of photographs which showed the sequential order of changing a period pad. This visual resource was perfect for all learners, as they could see exactly what to do. One child even commented, “Oh that’s what those are bins are for in the toilet”.

At this point, you could lead a discussion about how everyone has their own choice about which product they use, for ease, comfort or environmental reasons. I then explained that menstrual products need to be changed regularly and disposed of in a sanitary bin or wrapped up in a tissue, disposal bag and placed in a bin.

One of the many questions asked is, “Do periods hurt?” Explain how some girls have stomach cramps during their periods while others do not. Exercise, warm baths and a hot water bottle placed on the stomach can help. But if these are not enough, they may need to take a mild pain reliever. Ensure that you explain that all periods are different for each person.

Finish this part by being reassuring and positive about periods emphasising that they are not something to be embarrassed about or not talk about. They are a sign that a body is growing up and that the body is healthy.

Finally for the plenary, answer the questions in the box factually and honestly. Use visual support in the form of gestures, pictures, objects and diagrams to help you to scaffold the explanations appropriately for those children with SLCN. After this part it is also useful to give out booklets, period packs and clarify where pupils can get period products from if they start in school. Remember, a pupil with SLCN needs to know exactly what to expect, what to do if they are at school, what a period will look like and how it may feel. They only really work with the information they are given so clear communication and explanations without euphemisms or other figurative language are needed.

As a teacher, you have a wonderful opportunity to prepare the pupils in your class for their monthly period. Teaching a pupil about menstruation before they have their first period is the best way to make sure they know what will happen. It’s also a great time to combat social taboos and false information about menstruation that can hurt a pupil’s wellbeing.

Family Planning Association (FPA) started as a movement in the 1930s with the aim of providing contraception to married women and in 1961 the contraception pill was first prescribed in FPA Clinics. We have been supplying unbiased and up to date information on Relationships and Sex Education, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Postnatal Health and Wellbeing ever since. Many of our products are aimed at primary and secondary children to help teachers navigate RSHE in the classroom.

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