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Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom


Found in: Building Trust and Community, Routines and Procedures, Student Health

Research has made clear that the damaging effects of trauma are not saved until adulthood. It starts early and it affects students and teachers. And some experts claim that as much as 30 percent of students suffer from the effects of trauma.

How can an educator help? Create a trauma-sensitive classroom where kids can feel safe and build resilience. Here are some quick ideas from a recent neatoday.org article How Trauma is Changing Children’s Brains.

Trauma-sensitive teachers often offer a “comfort zone” to their students, a safe space where kids can retreat and calm down. Sometimes it’s as simple as a beanbag chair. Their classrooms also are neat and uncluttered. Think about how you feel coming home to a messy house, says John Snelgrove, head of guidance services for Brockton (Mass.) Public Schools. A little overwhelmed, right? It’s worse for hyper-aroused children. Cool colors reign on the walls.

Illinois special education teacher Kathi Ritchie recommends teaching strategies that include:

  • predictable classroom routines with advance warning to students of any changes
  • asking students to repeat verbal instructions
  • using more written instructions
  • using visual prompts for multi-step directions, like a sticky post-it note on a desk.

All students can also benefit from short “movement breaks” every 30 minutes to “reframe the brain,” she says.

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