Tips on Creating a Trauma-Informed Classroom
The following classroom ideas were developed for K-12 teachers using SAMHSA’s six key principles for a trauma-informed approach to education.
Conduct a meeting on the first day of class that lays out clear expectationsfor behavior, a process for addressing behavioral concerns and a way for students to express fear/frustrations they may have in a respectful way. Post classroom guidelines. Revisit this, as needed.
Establish a ‘Reflection Room’ or area in a classroom for a student who needs some time or space. Use mindfulness to help students connect with their feelings and regulate their behavior in a positive way.
Lead a ‘Mindful Moment’ each day as part of the morning routine, or when needed.
2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
Be firm, but caring in your approach to classroom management.
Model both verbal and non-verbal communication that you expect from your students.
Show empathy. A trauma-informed approach would prompt the teacher to ask “What happened to him/her that led to this behavior?” as opposed to focusing more on applying consequences for unwelcome behaviors.
3. Peer Support
Discuss and model ways students can display supporting behaviors for their classmates. Brainstorm words or phrases students can use or ways students can offer positive feedback for others. For younger students, award helping behaviors on a sticker chart.
4. Collaboration and Mutuality
Design a lesson around the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud, which is about collaboration and mutual respect. The site www.bucketfillers101.com includes an author’s read-aloud video of the book and other free resources.
5. Empowerment, Voice and Choice
Use “I” messages such as “I see that you are feeling upset today. Do you want to talk about it?” Summarizing what you hear a studentsay can reinforce that you understand/respect their feelings.
Offer options such as “You can take a five minute break now before you start the project” or “You can begin now and then stop for a few minutes when you need a break” to make a child feel more empowered.
Suggest students understand they are not their emotions (ex. “I feel angry” rather than “I am angry”). Remember that they might better express their feelings through art or writing (different learning styles).
6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
Be aware of your own biases and work to understand the experiences of the students in your classroom. Solicit parents or community members from all backgrounds to share their personal experiences about cultural traditions, how they manage stress and relationships, personal challenges related to communication, hopes and fears, etc. Seek out professional development opportunities to enhance your cultural humility.