Creating a Trauma-Responsive Classroom

Creating a Trauma-Responsive Classroom

0.50 USBE Credits
Understanding how trauma impacts students is important. More importantly, though, is how educators use this information to change their mindsets and practices to intentionally create safe environments, provide opportunities for students to feel competent, teach students emotional regulation skills, and create connections in the classroom.


To earn this 0.5 USBE credit microcredential you will submit two evidence items demonstrating your effective and consistent use of trauma-responsive practices in the classroom. You will also complete a short written or video reflective analysis.


You will be charged $20 by the badge provider. You'll be charged at the point you submit your badge for final review.


Competency will be demonstrated by submitting evidence of the trauma-informed practices you implement with your classroom or group.


Trauma: An event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

Retraumatization: A conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in a re-experiencing of the initial trauma event. It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma.

Sensory Break: A sensory break or “brain break” means taking a break from seated learning activities or sedentary activities. A time for them to gain the sensory input students need in their bodies to reduce stress, stay alert, on task, and focused.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): The process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Restorative Practices (RP): The building and sustaining of relationships among students, school personnel, families and community members to build and strengthen social connections within communities and hold individuals accountable to restore relationships when harm has occurred.


Case 1. Tom is working with other students in a small group when his classmate Marc asks him to stop staring at his phone and help with the assignment. The interaction escalates quickly. Tom and Marc begin to yell at one another and Tom punches Marc in the face. You immediately move in to separate the two students. This is the third fight Tom has been in this school year.

Case 2. At the beginning of her fifth grade year, Denise was a very outgoing and engaged student. However, lately she has been very quiet in class and rarely raises her hand or speaks unless prompted directly by the teacher. She has started complaining of stomach pains and headaches, and frequently visits the school nurse. Denise has also recently missed several days of school.


Video: Submit a 5-10 minute video showing how you are using trauma-informed practices in your group or classroom. This video must include your use of at least three trauma-informed strategies with your students. This video should demonstrate how you have woven these strategies into your instruction and classroom environment. Videos should follow all LEA and FERPA guidelines.

Lesson Plan: Submit at least two lesson plans which exhibit how you are incorporating at least three trauma-informed practices into your instruction.

Unit Plan: Evaluate your trauma-informed classroom practices. Highlight practices you already have in place and set at least two goals for improvement.

Use the “Trauma Sensitive Teacher Behavior Reflection” on page 28-29 of Fostering-The Trauma-Informed-Classroom Handouts to complete this evaluation (see resources below).

Student Performance Data: Gather at least three baseline data points for behavior, academics, and/or attendance. Incorporate trauma-informed teaching practices with fidelity for six months. During those six months, record at least two data points each month. Review the data after six months and submit your findings.

Survey Results: Have students in your classroom complete the Student-Teacher Relationship Perception Survey on pages 20-22 of Fostering-The Trauma-Informed-Classroom Handouts (see resources below).

Analyze the results and submit a plan to improve relationships with your students.

Testimonial: Submit at least three testimonials (e.g., video, written response, letter of recommendation) from students, parents, or colleagues discussing how you use trauma-informed practices within your classroom and/or school. Interviewees should describe specific techniques, tools, mindsets, and environmental supports that are evident in your classroom, school, or group.

Observation Results: Have an administrator or colleague observe your classroom and complete the “Trauma-Sensitive Teacher Behavior Checklist” on page 27 of Fostering-The Trauma-Informed-Classroom Handouts (see resources below).

Submit a plan to increase trauma-sensitivity in your classroom based upon the results of this observation.

Web Site: Create a blog about trauma-informed practices that have made a positive impact in your classroom, school, or group. The blog should include at least three posts highlighting three specific strategies you have implemented with your students. The blog should follow all LEA and FERPA guidelines.

Screencast: Create a screencast, podcast or PowerPoint presentation which highlights at least three trauma-informed teaching strategies, mindsets, environmental supports, and/or community building practices, etc. that you use in your classroom, school, or group. The submission should follow all LEA and FERPA guidelines.

Candidate's Choice: Submit another type of evidence demonstrating your consistent and effective use of at least three trauma-informed practices in your classroom, school, or group.

Candidates are required to make 2 evidence submission(s).

Review Criteria

Criterion 1: Evidence demonstrates that trauma-informed practices are being implemented in the classroom or with a specific group of students.

Criterion 2: Evidence demonstrates specific practices and interventions as well as mindset shifts and environmental supports such as creating a safe space, building trust, offering choices, staying regulated, incorporating social and emotional learning, etc.

Criterion 3: Submissions should follow all relevant LEA (district/charter) and FERPA guidelines.


  1. Pick one of the two cases presented in the background scenario. Describe how you, as a trauma-informed educator, would respond. What would your initial response be? What evidence-based practices are used in your classroom to help these two students to feel safe and begin to develop new skills?

  2. How has the implementation of trauma-informed practices changed your classroom environment and the behavior of your students?

  3. Some of your colleagues have noticed a change in your mindset and your classroom. They would like you to give them some advice about how to implement trauma-informed strategies in their classrooms. What are three practices you would recommend and why?

Review Criteria

Criterion 1: Reflections should demonstrate what you learned as you have implemented trauma-informed practices within your classroom, school, or group.

Criterion 2: Reflections should demonstrate ways in which you have infused trauma-informed practices into your classroom, school, or group, including mindset shifts, evidence-based practices, teaching practices and curriculum, and environmental support.

Criterion 3: Reflections should describe how trauma-informed practices have impacted students in your classroom, school, or group.


Fostering the Trauma-Informed Classroom Handouts
Hands on materials to help develop, implement and evaluate trauma-informed practices in the classroom.

Getting Started with Trauma-Informed Practices
This video discusses the importance of using trauma-informed practices in the classroom. When teachers use strategies tailored to children who have experienced trauma, all students reap the emotional and academic benefits.

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom
Help for Billy" is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents. This easy to read book, with tables, outlines and lists, clears the way for a better understanding of the true nature regarding traumatic experiences affecting the brain and learning. It is a must read for anyone working with a child in the classroom.

Helping Traumatized Children Learn
TLPI’s landmark report summarizes the research from psychology and neurobiology that documents the impact trauma from exposure to violence can have on children’s learning, behavior and relationships in school. The report also introduces the Flexible Framework, a tool organized according to six core operational functions of schools that can help any school create a trauma sensitive learning environment for all children.

Lost At School
Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of the acclaimed book The Explosive Child, offers educators and parents a different framework for understanding challenging behavior. Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps adults focus on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids.

Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress
Experts Debbie Zacarian, Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz, and Judie Haynes outline a comprehensive, collaborative approach to teaching that focuses on students' strengths and resiliency. Teaching to Strengths encourages educators to embrace teaching and schoolwide practices that support and enhance the academic and social-emotional development of students living with trauma, violence, and chronic stress.

The Heart of Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success (Chapter 3)
Chapter 3: Instructional Principles, Curricular Domains and Specific Strategies for Compassionate Classrooms

Trauma Informed Teaching Strategies
An article in the October 2018 issue of Educational Leadership that talks about small changes that teachers can make in the classroom that are good for all students but will make a big difference to students that have experienced trauma.

Trauma Training for Educators
A free video training resource designed to give anyone who works with children important trauma-focused information about how student learning and behavior is impacted by trauma, and how educators and support staff can help students develop a greater sense of safety at school and begin to build new emotion regulation skills.

Trauma-Informed Instruction
6 short videos discuss mindset, building relationships, classroom environment, and social emotional learning, the building blocks of a trauma skilled classroom.

Trauma-Informed SEL Toolkit
Trauma-informed SEL is an approach to fostering youths’ social-emotional development with practices that support all students but is particularly inclusive and responsive to the needs of children and youth who have experienced trauma. This approach calls for creating reliable learning environments where students who have experienced trauma feel supported and connected; are welcome to explore their strengths and identities; can exercise their agency; can develop meaningful, positive relationships with adults and peers; and have access to the mental health supports they need.

Truth for Teachers Podcast: A Crash Course on Trauma Informed Teaching
An overview of and a solid foundation for understanding trauma-informed teaching practices. You’ll learn ways that trauma impacts students and what we can do to support kids without carrying the weight of that trauma yourself. Specific dos and don’ts to make it easier to navigate this in your classroom.

USBE Trauma-Informed Professional Learning Modules
The Utah State Board of Education’s Trauma-Informed Learning Modules are available through Canvas and are designed to help participants develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become trauma-informed and trauma-aware.


Jenna Gardner
Jenna Gardner


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