- Adapt the activities in the Seven-Step Activity Guide to your own instructional program. These activities reinforce writing, reading, and discussion skills. Also, you may use them to address a range of social studies and character-education issues or to pave the way to teaching conflict resolution and mediation. Schedule class time over several weeks to give kids ample opportunity to work through the activities.
- Do some background reading. If you are unfamiliar with research on violence, check out the resources in this article.
- Consider teaming up with a colleague or a group of teachers. Discuss your thoughts and feelings about violence, especially if these activities bring up painful feelings for you. As a group, anticipate tricky issues that may come up with your students, share your experiences as you use the activities, and brainstorm follow-up projects.
- Anticipate suspicion from children and, perhaps, parents. Communicate to parents in advance that you will be teaching about violence, says Kathleen Perkins of McLean, New York: "I stress that we present the topic in a nonthreatening way and offer strategies to help kids deal with the frightening feelings they often experience." Keep in mind that some parents and their children may believe that authority figures — including police and teachers — are the source of violence. They may have had bad experiences with authority figures or be afraid of repercussions if they talk about violence. To help, schedule a classroom visit by a police representative who you know will make a positive impression. Invite parents, and use the occasion to spark a social studies discussion on social justice.
- Give students a chance to talk about their experiences, their thoughts, and their feelings. It's important to let children voice their concerns and to accept what they say to you in a way that does not cut off dialogue. Try to understand what children are saying from their point of view, not yours. To help naturally foster discussions, you might try some of these activities with small groups and afterward invite children to share their thoughts with the whole group.
- Be prepared to handle students' thoughts and feelings. For some children, the fear of violence is very intense — to the extent that they may find it difficult to complete some of the activities. If there is domestic violence at home, for example, a student may become defensive or try to skirt the issue. Be as gentle and sensitive as you can and avoid embarrassing the child in front of his or her peers. Also, take steps so that children don't gang up on classmates whose lives are troubled.
- Have children keep folders of their work. This is important so that students can reflect on these experiences.
Before You Begin: Preparing to Teach About Violence
PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8