Lockdown practices have always been anxiety provoking, and are even more so since the Sandy Hook shooting brought the issue of potential in-school violence so close to home for students and staff. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to draw parallels between lockdown drills and fire drills – they are different and kids know it. In fire drills you are preparing to get away from danger; you take action to get yourself to safety and the “danger” only lasts as long as you’re in the building. In lockdown drills you prepare to hide from danger; your response is inaction, and there is no knowing how long the “danger” (even if it is only administrators checking for compliance) will last. Clear, simply stated discussions in advance of lockdown drills help, and now there’s a great resource to use when having these discussions with kids.
Lucy Practices a Lockdown: Preparing Young Students for School Lockdowns by Gretchen Paniucci is a picture book that clearly and gently explains what happens during a lockdown. The book is narrated by Lucy, who walks readers through lockdown safety steps. She also explains that it’s okay to feel scared or nervous, and that she feels better knowing that the adults and children are keeping themselves safe by following the directions. The simple text is compellingly illustrated with the cartoon characters of Lucy and her friend, John, superimposed onto photos of classroom, hallway, and bathroom scenes.
The book also includes discussion questions, a parent letter to send home after reading the book, and a reproducible maze activity that reinforces the safety steps of a lockdown. Gretchen, the author, is a licensed professional counselor who has also worked as a school counselor. You can tell – she gets it just right!
Full disclosure: Gretchen sent me a free copy of Lucy Practices a Lockdown in the hope that I would share it with my readers. I told her that I would only do so if it was a resource that I would use in my own teaching, so made no promises until I had read it. It arrived too late for me to use it this year, but I will definitely be doing so next year, in kindergarten, first, and second grades.
And now, my favorite lockdown stories:
- The safe place in my room during a lockdown happens to be right next to my dorm-sized fridge. All by myself during lockdown drill = I actually get a moment to eat something during the school day. Please don’t tell!
- One time, when we were talking about an upcoming lockdown drill, a first grader asked what we were practicing staying safe from. Before I could answer, a classmate piped up, “It’s in case a wild animal comes in the school. Like if we get a deer. Or a skunk.” Yup, my little country bumpkins know danger when they smell it!