Helping your students process tragic events
The climate that we are in at the moment is complicated. As teachers, the possibility of students asking questions is highly likely. This lesson plan will help you to support your students process tragic events.
Tragic events in the media may enhance a sense of danger and cause worry about what will happen in the days and weeks ahead. A range of emotions (e.g., outrage, fear, anxiety and sorrow) are common and can change as the situation evolves. When these events happen, students can be exposed to escalating verbal aggression online or within the community. Most students will learn about challenging and tragic events through the media or social media and at times these sources can be misleading or false. Students turn to trusted adults like teachers for help and guidance. Parents, caregivers and teachers alike can help students navigate what they are seeing and hearing by conversing with them, acknowledging their feelings, and finding ways to cope together.
- 1 x 4-page A4 student worksheet including Australian Curriculum general capability syllabus based questions. (PDF)
- 1 x 2-page detailed Helping your students process tragic events Lesson Plan (PDF)
To begin the lesson plan, start the conversation by checking in with students about how they are feeling in the present moment.
Ask your students to simply notice the emotion. They may write it on a post-it note if you would like a record of the emotion, but they do not have to.
Explain that the lesson plan will focus on processing some of the emotions they may feel due to current events. Let them know that they do not have to contribute publicly and that this is more about exploring and reflecting on their feelings. Explore page 1 student worksheet ‘How tragic events affect me’, with your students. They may wish to share some of their responses and may provide examples. Be sure to foster connection by validating responses and adding your own relative examples to the student worksheet.
Introduce page 2 student worksheet ‘Coping methods that work for you personally’ providing examples that can help. These examples are provided under the left column including safety, remaining calm and in control, managing feelings, building connections and increasing positive emotions. Again, help students feel comfortable by providing your own examples to the student worksheet and providing context to each situation.
Discuss the importance of practices that help express emotions. You may choose to give students an opportunity to try page 3 or 4 student worksheet ‘Exploring coping methods’, or you can give this to them to use when they need it. There are two opportunities to use this student worksheet with different questions which may be supplied to use at home too. Check back in regularly to help your students understand that you are open to talking about difficult situations.
For some of your students, current events may serve as a reminder of their own trauma or loss. This may result in feelings of sadness, fear, and helplessness, worries about separation, increased acting out, as well as possible disruptions to their sleep, appetite, and ability to concentrate. You can provide support in this lesson plan by learning about common trauma reactions for their specific age group. Offering comfort and reassurance and connecting with the family or caregivers of the student will also be beneficial. Acknowledge how difficult uncertainty and worry can be for the entire family.
Remember, your students’ worries and feelings may not be what you think. Validate any feelings your students share and check in regularly to ensure your students know that they are being heard, and then help put any of their concerns into context. It is okay to let your students know you are upset by current events and that you are willing to talk to them about their thoughts and feelings.
Students may benefit from further opportunities to explore coping methods through journalling, drawing, music and physical activities. Help students become aware of the support that is available in the school, for example, the school counsellor or year advisor. Ensure students are aware that they can access Lifeline out of school hours.
Lifeline Australia are available to talk 24 hours per day. Students can call 13 11 14 or SMS: 0477 13 11 14 if required.
Syllabus Outcomes: This resource helps students meet the following:
ACARA Curriculum General Capabilities
- Personal and Social Capabilities
- Recognise emotions
- Recognise personal qualities and achievements
- Develop reflective practice
- Express emotions appropriately
- Become confident, resilient and adaptable
- Understand relationships
- Communicate effectively
- Detailed 2 page lesson plan (PDF).
- How tragic events affect me student worksheet (PDF).
- Coping methods that work for you personally student worksheet (PDF)
- Exploring coping methods student worksheet (PDF)
- Personal and social capabilities questions and reflection activities.
Why Choose This Resource?
- Real-World Application: Connect classroom learning to real-life current events to assist students to process tragic events that are prevalent in the media.
- Alignment with Curriculum: Designed to meet ACARA Australian Curriculum personal and social capabilities.
Helping your students process tragic events lesson plan and student worksheets was designed to give your students the opportunity to be creative, and feel connected to their peers. Download now and help your students become confident, resilient and adaptable!