The article introduces the term “transition shock” which is defined as “an umbrella term that incorporates culture shock, chronic distress, traumatic upset, and post-traumatic stress disorder—can impact student success in a number of behavioral, emotional, and physiological ways.” Transition shock can exist in any number of students, but this article focuses on the fast-growing population of English Language Learners (ELLs) who may have come from areas of war or resettlement. Following this discussion on terminology, Ms. Yaafouri lists the manifestations of this “shock,” including which can include physical or behavioral issues. These issues can directly impede the educational development of ELLs.
How do we help these students? Ms. Yaafouri offers 4 solutions:
1. A calm, organized environment: “For trauma-impacted students, safety and trust are essential foundations of learning. Environment is a large predictor of safety, so order, routine, and predictability are important to students with a history of transition shock.”
Ms. Yaafouri suggests making an effort to stick to scheduled class time and to adequately prepare students if there will be a change. She also suggests “clear and consistent” expectations and consequences, as well as a room with supplies in labeled bins.
2. Crossing midline activities: “Take short breaks for kinesthetic movements that traverse imaginary lines that divide the human body into quadrants, such as touching the right elbow to the left knee. These activities encourage communication between the brain’s hemispheres and aid with emotional regulation.”
Some forms of kinesthetic movements can be “drawing figure eights in the air or stretching the body in ways that cross the midline.”
3. Expressive therapy: “Art, drama, and music therapy are among the most promising tools for trauma mitigation. In fact, research points to expressive therapy in the classroom as a way to lessen anxiety, encourage self-regulation, enhance cognition, practice mindfulness, and promote healthy integration. ELLs may especially benefit, as this encourages expression in the new language. These strategies can be embedded into lessons across grade levels and content areas.”
A few options for expressive therapy can include “a class mural related to a topic of study, using math blocks to create patterns, taking photos for a report, designing a webpage or music video related to a topic of study, or designing a building using only certain mathematical angles.”
4. Seek out strengths: “All students come to school with knowledge or wisdom based on their life experiences and prior schooling. As teachers, we’re experts at recognizing and building upon students’ unique interests, skill sets, and background knowledge. Learners with trauma backgrounds especially benefit from this intentionality, as it can increase both confidence in self and trust in others.”
Learn about your students and offer opportunities for their strengths to shine in the classroom.
With the emergent demographic of ELLs steadily increasing, all educators should remain aware of these 4 methods, especially if your students come from a background with disrupted schooling. As members of TWIN-CS, we are especially conscious of providing our students with holistic learning, making sure that we acknowledge strengths, that we engage in interactive activities, and that we create a calming environment for education to prosper.
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher