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HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

  • 1.  HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-10-2019 08:46 AM
    Hi Everyone,

    I am wondering if I could get some feedback about what you think is appropriate to tell/say to PreK (4-5 year olds) students regarding Lockdown/Code Red drills.  This is my first year teaching, and I could really use some advice in this area.  The students totally understand the fire drills and tornado drills and the reasons for them.  I teach in an Early Childhood Center and most of my students moved up to my classroom from the Preschool (3 year olds) classroom, and are used to doing the drill.  I have two students who came new to the school.  I do not believe any of my students have ever had the purpose of the drill explained to them- they were too young before.  I feel like I should give some type of explanation to them so they better understand.  They all pretty much think it is a game when we turn out the lights and go in our bathroom, so they are pretty noisy.  If the situation would ever really occur, they need to know the importance of being quiet.  Since when they were younger it was taught as kind of a game, it is very hard to get them to be calm and quiet.

    I do not, however, want to cause a lot of fear in my students.  I want to reassure them that our school owner/administrator and office staff are handling the situation, and will let us know when it is safe to be loud and come out.  What is appropriate to tell them?  I did have one suggestion from a teacher who tells her students that their principal (she is at a public school) saw a person in the building on the cameras that had not gone and checked in at the office.  She tells them that they are just going to be silent with the lights out, and stay in the bathroom while the principal finds this person and makes sure they are a safe person to be in the building.  My dilemma is we do not have cameras throughout the inside of our building that are used during the day, because licensing says that is not okay.  Otherwise, I like her idea of explaining to students that our owner/administrator is checking to make sure someone that is in our building is a safe person.

    Does anyone else have any other, or further ideas?  I would really love some advice.  As I said, I think my PreK students need some type of  explanation to help guide their behavior during the drill (or if it ever really occurred).  Thank you for any ideas, and advice you can provide.  I will be very grateful!

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
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  • 2.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 07:23 AM
    I would first suggest your director talk to local law enforcement. The new motto is Run, Hide, Fight. They have found that "lockdown" makes you sitting ducks :( Our school has undergone 3 trainings on this since August, including a drill with police officers present. So far, we haven't included the kids, but we will need to once we are fully trained.

    There are stories on Teachers Pay Teachers that explain drills to students. I have the fire and tornado ones, there is an intruder one as well. I like that there are simple, but colorful illustrations that explain each step. I have students with autism and these have been invaluable.

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    Heather Finnegan
    Preschool Teacher
    Our Redeemer Lutheran Church with School
    Delavan WI
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  • 3.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 08:34 AM
    Good morning Heidi.

    Yes, we often times we find it very difficult to keep students quiet during times of "Safety," but it is very important that we bring important information to the children the way they will understand it.  Yes, make a game of it.  Teach children how to catch a bubble and count to 50 or 100.  Make a "Challenge" of it.  If this strategy is incorporated and practiced each day, children will become familiar with what it means to stay quiet.  I would even make a game of getting everyone in the room or to that point of safety (i.e., "I Spy a straight line, a red flashing light, etc.) with a game.  It is important that you teach the children how to use their "imagine" so that when things become very difficult, they will already understand that it is important for them to sit quietly, count, and use their imagination until the exercise is over.

    Have an AMAZING first year!  Dr. Void

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    Lois Void
    Friendship Public Charter Schools
    Washington DC
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  • 4.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 08:55 AM
    I usually refer to fire drills and remind children that when we practice for a fire we are pretending there is an emergency inside and we have to get out to be safe.  Then I explain that in a lock down drill we are pretending there is something that is not safe outside and we are hiding from it inside.  Kids usually understand and do a good job of hiding and playing the quiet game until we release them.  I explain that in a real lock down a police officer would come and tell us it is safe to come out but because we are just pretending a real police officer won't be coming.

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    Sherrie Rose Mayle
    Director/Teacher
    Campbell Parents' Participation Preschool
    Campbell, CA
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  • 5.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-13-2019 06:08 AM
    Sherrie,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing what you do with your students.  I think your explanation to the students makes a lot of sense.  I really think students at this age have a right and need to understand why we are doing these things.  I understand making it a game with our younger students/children, but at some point students need some type of explanation for why we do what we do.  I think once they have a general understanding, then doing something like "The Quiet Game" works fine, and is a great way to help them practice staying quiet.  Thank you so much for sharing what you do!

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
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  • 6.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 05:19 PM
    I like Sherrie's suggestion, modified for whatever fits your center.  It's so difficult to explain this to children and it hurts deeply that we have to.   I feel for all of you who have to go through these drills.

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    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
    she/her
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  • 7.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-14-2019 12:34 PM
    Aren,

    Thanks for your thoughts!  I, too, think it hurts that we, unfortunately, live in an age where we have to explain such things to students, and practice for something so terrible.  How I wished these drills/practices were not necessary!  Unfortunately, they are though.  I truly hope and dream of the day when the world is a peaceful, kind, loving place just Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of.  Just another reason to be teaching and showing/modeling the importance of kindness, caring, compassion, and generosity to our students.

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
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  • 8.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 08:48 PM
    We call all these mandated drills "safety drills" - ways to keep children safe. I think it's fine that the children consider this "fun" and playful. For now, that is sufficient for them to practice the skill of getting quickly to their safe place where their beloved teachers will take care of them.
    The people who are learning what to do from the drills are the adults - not the children.  Sadly, the little ones will not be "silent" - it's asking more than they can do. They immediately feel the tension and fear of the adults. At this age they will likely cry. It is the adult's job to comfort, calm them as you can.
    I have been with four year olds during a time of tear gas and police firing on people. The children will cling to their safe adults. It's you who needs the training - and the support. And for now - children need to feel safe and child like.
    (It helps if you can remember that despite the growing numbers of unforgivable horror stories - despite even one shooting being one to many - the likelihood of your school being invaded in this way is very slight. And teaching fear makes children more fragile, not better prepared).

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    [Julie] [Olsen Edwards]
    Soquel CA
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  • 9.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-11-2019 11:33 PM
    I disagree with this a bit, because some children do understand emergencies, based on their life experiences and/or the experiences of their communities.  On the West Side of Chicago, preschoolers stop what they're doing if they hear something like gunfire, and they take drills seriously for the most part. In other places where children have relative privilege, and are taught that they don't need to snap to attention no matter what an adult says, they are less likely to attend quietly during these drills. Communities are not all the same, and so neither are children.  The drills are for all involved to walk through procedures and develop relative comfort with it.  Students can develop some muscle memory about staying quiet for short periods of time if they practice it in some way, even if just a minute a day of listening to music without talking.

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    Mars April Caulton
    Teacher & Teaching Artist
    Chicago IL
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  • 10.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 02-13-2019 06:03 AM
    Mars,

    I totally agree with you.  I understand making it kind of a game for our younger students, but I think, if explained correctly to students in my age group (4-5 years old) that they are ready and able to learn from it.  Like you mention, if students are not taught the importance of the situation, you cannot expect them to respond like is needed.  At this age, I think they really need to start practicing and working on how they need to be, because I, too, think these drills and practices are not just for the adults, but are also important for the students/children so they know what they need to do so we adults can keep them safe.  I also think that an important part of the practice is so students get comfortable with it, so, if the situation ever arise, it hopefully will not be quite as scary.  I realize that, if it did happen for real, and there was things like yelling or gunfire, it would be extremely scary for students and they will become emotional, but I think it is extremely important and helpful for them to have practiced what to do so they know why we are doing it, and that we are doing what is needed to keep them as safe as possible.

    Thank you for your response.  I think you are right on with your thoughts.

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
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  • 11.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 03-14-2019 06:47 AM
    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you for all your wonderful ideas, suggestions, and opinions.  I am sorry I have not responded back sooner with my follow through.  I did have a discussion with my PreK class around the end of February.  I combined many of your suggestions.  I feel like it went really well.  I sat my students down in our group time circle and told them I wanted to talk to them about our Lockdown drills.  I started out by talking about how if we have a fire drill/real fire- the danger is inside the building and we stop everything, line up, and get outside and away to safety.  We talked about with a Tornado drill, again we stop everything, line up, go downstairs to our safe location (where we are less likely to have broken glass flying and is a stronger area of the building), and cover our heads with our hands to help protect them in case anything flies around or gets blown over by the strong winds.  Then I asked if any students knew why we practice the Lockdown drill and go sit, in the dark, quietly, in the bathroom.  No student had any ideas.  I shared with them that in a Lockdown situation, there is some kind of danger inside our school, outside of our classroom/classroom door.  We need to hide ourselves from that danger- so that is why we turn off our lights, close both bathroom doors, and all sit in the dark in one bathroom, and ask them to be quiet.  I told them that my co-teacher and I are there to keep them safe, and that hiding is also helping us stay safe.  I told them an important part of hiding in the bathroom is that we need to stay very quiet- so nobody knows we are in there.  I told them that our administrative team (actually named our team members) are going through the building to take care of the danger/verify that everything is safe.  One of the team members then always comes to tell us when it is okay/safe to come out.  I told them that if it was a real lockdown, with real danger inside our school/outside our classroom door, that it would likely be a Police Officer that comes and lets us know when it is safe or helps us get out safely.

    After that part of the discussion I explained to students that we (my co-teacher and I) were going to help each student pick a favorite place they like to be where they feel very SAFE and happy.  We had students close their eyes and really work on picturing/using their "Imagine" minds to see all the details of the room- color of walls, the color and feel of the floor, all furniture and toys, where they are in the room, if they are sitting or laying down- how does what they are sitting/laying on feel to their body, and most importantly reminding them that this is a place where they feel SAFE and happy.   We have continued to practice using our "Imagine" minds to see and feel our favorite, safe place close to everyday, for varied amounts of time.  My PreK class is really doing quite well with this.  They are all now willing to close their eyes, take deep calming breaths, and "Imagine" their favorite, safe place.

    We often practice this at the end of our Thumbs Up! Gross Motor Lesson, and Outdoor Play/Inside Active Movement Activities (weather dependent).  When we are inside, due to weather/temperature, the Preschool (3 year old students) class, often joins us.  We have had them doing the "Imagine" your favorite, safe place, also.  It is more difficult for them to close their eyes/keep them closed and actually "Imagine" and stay quiet.  It is good practice for them, though.  Their teacher liked the idea of doing this when we have Lockdown drills.  The preschool class actually joined us the first day we started doing the "Imagine" your favorite, safe place.  They were part of us explaining how to close your eyes, and see in your mind, all the details of the room.  I felt they were probably too young yet to hear the full explanation I gave my class about the danger inside our classroom/outside our classroom door, etc...We did share with them that when we have a Lockdown drill, and have to into the bathroom, with lights out, that we are going to be doing this "Imagine" activity to help everyone stay calm and quiet.

    We have not had a Lockdown drill yet since the discussion, but I'm sure one will come up soon.  We practice all our drills regularly.  We actually had a Lockdown drill the week before I finally decided I had to have the talk with my students.  It was during our Inside Active Movement Activity time, so preschool was with us.  I must say- I'm glad we have a large bathroom, since we had to fit both classes inside.  Luckily, it happened on a day when I have low numbers in my room.  It was really difficult for students to quiet down, once inside.   It helped push me to get the discussion done and start practicing our "Imagine".  I am glad we had the talk, and I think my students have a much better understanding of what and why we are doing it.  Some students had questions during our discussion, but no students seemed frightened or distressed about our talk.  I also made sure to share with parents that we had the discussion.  Luckily, I had our owner/administrator look over what I was telling parents in our communication tool, because she caught the fact that I had included where our "safe" hiding spot actually was.  I took that out, since, if (hopefully not) we do ever have a parent that would pose a threat, they do not know where we hide.  I was glad she noticed that, because I totally missed that.

    Thank you all again for your very helpful ideas, thoughts, your own practices, and opinions.  I feel it is terribly unfortunate and so sad that we have to put our young (or any age) students through this.  I dream, hope for the future, and am actively trying now to help create a peaceful, kind, caring, compassionate, and conscientious group of future citizens and leaders who will help build a peaceful, safe world to live in.

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
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  • 12.  RE: HELP PLEASE: Explaining Lockdown/Code Red drills to PreK students

    Posted 03-31-2019 07:31 AM
    Hello everyone!  I'd like to give a very good update on how our two most recent lockdown drills have gone- since my last post.  I am very excited to say that students have really been doing a great job.  The first one, two week ago, we all practiced our new "Imagine Our Favorite Safe Space" while taking calming breaths.  It went pretty well.  I few students needed reminders to stay focused on using their "Imagine" minds, but I expect that with 4-5 year olds.  Last week we had our second Lockdown drill, and it went even better!  I am so proud of my students.  They really focused on taking deep breaths and using their "Imagine" minds.  Other than a couple quiet giggles and one girl putting her fingers under the door- which is to be expected with this age, I would say it was a complete success.  Thank you all so much for your ideas, feedback, and approaches you take.  My students have a much better understanding of why we are doing the drill, and are better equipped to help themselves stay quiet and calm.  Thank you all!

    Heidi

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    Heidi Van Amburg
    PreK Teacher
    Primrose School of St. Louis Park West
    Crystal MN
    ------------------------------