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How to have a Classroom Discussion about Hurricane HarveyAs your students return to the classroom after Hurricane Harvey, you may be wondering if you should talk about this natural disaster with them or if you should avoid the topic altogether and get back to your class lessons. If your intuition says you should talk about it then you may be wondering, How? One simple truth to keep in mind is that regardless of whether or not the teacher talks about this experience, the students will talk about it. They want to share their stories with each other and, in some sense, they need to, because storytelling offers them connection and support. So it is advantageous and helpful for teachers to take charge of the chatter by initiating a classroom discussion where students can share their experiences in an organized and constructive way. Here is a simple way Catholic schoolteachers can lead a classroom discussion with just about any age group.

Download PDF here: How to have a Classroom Discussion about Hurricane Harvey

STEP 1: Lead by Example
Dedicate about 30 minutes of your first class for a conversation with your students. Tell them you want to have time for the class to share their stories and experiences of the hurricane. As the teacher, begin the discussion by sharing your own story, highlighting something you are grateful for and then mentioning anything that was frightening, sad, or humorous.

STEP 2: Express Gratitude
In a spirit of Christian hope, begin with thanksgiving. Invite each of your students to mention something they are thankful for from the week, i.e., safety, getting extra days off from school

STEP 3: Express Fear or Sadness
Ask your students if anyone has a story to share about something frightening or sad that happened to them or their family, i.e., tornado drills, flooding streets, getting stuck in the car. Be sure to express empathy and understanding so that they feel validated and supported. This part of your conversation can help teachers identify any students who may need some extra support as they cope with the impact of the natural disaster.

STEP 4: Share Humor and Playfulness
It can be beneficial to balance the seriousness with some lightness if it is done with sensitivity. Ask your students if anyone has a story to share about something funny or silly that happened to them or that they saw, i.e., a dumpster floating across a parking lot, a neighbor’s sprinklers turned on in the storm. Humor is an important tool for coping in difficult times. For the young children, the teacher can also ask if they had a chance to play in the rain or in their swampy yards.

STEP 5: Helping Others
Helping others is an important part of overcoming a natural disaster. The experience leaves people feeling out of control, but when we begin to offer help to others who are in need then it’s a sign that we are regaining a sense of empowerment and can contribute to the safety and wellbeing of the community. Ask your students how they and their family can help others or how they have already begun to do so, i.e., donating toys and clothing, praying for flood victims

STEP 6: Conclude in Prayer with Gratitude and Intercession
After the students have had the chance to share their stories with each other then you can lead a closing prayer giving thanks for safety and also inviting the students to offer intercessions for others. This is an opportunity to “collect” everything that has been shared and offer it to the Lord together in prayer.