Recently, first grade teacher Brenda B. wrote in to our WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook asking for help with a tricky issue. “My first graders have never done a lockdown drill before,” she wrote, “and I don’t know what to tell them. How do you explain to your littles what you are doing when you have a lockdown drill?”
Lockdown drills are a hard part of teaching and school in 2022. While we wish that this responsibility did not lie on teachers, the reality is most of us will have to do lockdown drills with our students. Here’s what the teachers in our group had to say:
Call and Response
My go-to for all of the drills we do at school has been the same call and response. I say, “What does drill mean?” My students respond, “A drill means practice.” I say, “Why do we practice?” My students respond, “We practice to be safe.” I teach fire drills, earthquake drills, tornado drills, and lockdown drills. This routine helps my kindergarteners understand and doesn’t seem to scare anyone. —Robin T.
Keep it Casual
Being too blunt about it could actually be traumatic for them. Explain that it’s like a fire drill—there is no real danger, and it is just to practice. —Francesca F.
Keep it Simple
I link lockdown drills to fire drills because I phrase those as, “fires almost never happen in school, but it’s important to know how to leave quickly just in case.” So I tell my little ones something like, “If there was ever a reason we needed to hide because something dangerous was happening, this is what we would do.” —Brenda B.
Just Enough Information
I tell my first graders that we do this drill to practice being safe if the police were trying to catch someone who is doing something wrong. That person could be far away, many streets over (usually the case), but since we’re not sure, we just need to stay quietly in our room. We turn off the lights and read a story together until we know everything is good again. —Kathy J.
When we have a lockdown drill, I read the book “Storm is Coming” to my kindergarteners and tell them we are going to practice being together and waiting together, just like the animals in the story. I don’t say much more. —Janet H.