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For students facing trauma, writing is more than a literacy exercise

By October 6, 2020September 19th, 2022No Comments

Trauma—something more and more students are learning about the hard way—is the theme for this month’s Educational Leadership magazine. McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Lisa M. Jones contributed a Research Matters column on a tool that all teachers have access to and that can address some of the effects of trauma: writing.

The notion that writing can help us recall and reexamine past traumas dates at least to Freud, but not all writing assignments are equally helpful; some may even exacerbate the trauma. Educational researchers have identified guidelines to help victims heal from trauma rather than merely relive it. While taking care not to overstep privacy boundaries, teachers can prompt students to weave a jumble of troubling memories into a narrative, which can help them draw wisdom and strength from their experiences. There are also opportunities to blend writing tasks with cognitive behavior therapy.

Bryan and Lisa include writing prompts that teachers can use to help students process the coronavirus-related disruptions they have undergone.

Read the column and hear Bryan run through some teaching techniques in this video:

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.