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Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8


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Table of Contents

Foreword by Susan G. Clark Preface Acknowledgments About the Author Introduction: Children Haven't Changed; Childhood Has Glossary: The Vocabulary of Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma Part I: Brain Changes and How They Affect Student Behaviors and Learning 1. The Impact of Losses and Stress on the Student's Mind and Body Losses Stress When Traumatic Memories Are Triggered Cognitive Lockout Interventions Are Possible 2. Regaining Cognitive Access: The Process of Transforming Stress and the Sense of Helplessness Transforming Perceptions of Helplessness Strengthening Self-Regulation Part II: Activities for Transforming the Helplessness Generated by Stress and Fear 3. Language Arts: Creative Writing and Journaling Topics for Creative Writing and Journaling Issues of Loss and Being Lost or Invisible Issues of Rejection or Being Excluded Issues of Brokenness, Helplessness, or Futurelessness Issues of Betrayal or Broken Promises Issues of Emotional Intelligence (Dealing with Feelings) Issues of Hope, Empowerment, and Healing Debating Points and Issues Prose and Poetry Integrating Art and Creative Writing into Core Curriculum Areas Ad Campaigns Comic Books Mandalas 4. Social Studies and History: Creative Topics Historical Cartoons and Storyboards Fictional Comic Books About Historical Characters Artistic Media Projects for History or Social Studies Creating Scripts for Hypothetical Radio Interviews Writing Radio Scripts for "What if ..." Programs Creating Public Service Announcements 5. Character Education Internal Strengths: Emotional Intelligence A Classroom Directory of Feelings and Emotions A Feelings Mural: Addressing All Feelings A Box of Respect: Addressing Self-Acceptance, Self-Respect, and the Ability to Respect and Empathize With Others The Iceberg Project: Addressing Issues of Respect, Empathy, and Trust Letters to Hurts: Addressing Empathy, Compassion, Courage, Anger Issues, Forgiveness, and Generosity Drawing a Dream: Addressing Issues of Anger, Work Ethic, Forgiveness, and Hopelessness Facing Fears: Addressing Fears, Courage, Anger, and the Ability to Overcome Playground Charters: Addressing Issues of Leadership, Integrity, Conflict, Hopefulness, and Justice Where Are the Heroes? Issues of Emotional Honesty, Leadership, Risky Behaviors, and Choices Honoring Strengths With a Character Wall The Character Board Game Physical Strengths Internal Capacities for Self-Regulation and Stress Management Leading a Relaxation Exercise 6. Building Resiliency Through Afterschool, Summer Camp, and Recreational Programming Afterschool Programs Specific Activities for Afterschool Programs Logos Collaborations for Creative Projects With Younger Children: Plays, Puppets, and Masks Designing Board Games Physical and Mental Exercises Sand Trays Clubs for a Sense of Belonging and Identity Crossword Puzzles Theater and Arts Groups or Camps Drama Scripts for Stage or Radio: Building a World Fit for Children Comedy Scripts Movement and Dance The Power of the Beat: The Rhythm of Healing Media Production Summer Camps or Activity Programs Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouting, and 4-H Section III: Schools That Work: A Sense of Safety for All 7. Sustaining Enhanced Learning Environments Opportunities for Classroom Change Avoiding the Stress of Threats Alternative Responses Classroom Guidelines Restorative Discipline "Discipline That Restores" Stress Reduction Strategies for the Classroom 8. School Safety Issues: Violence Prevention Generating a United Effort: Leadership and Staff Development Specific Strategies for Overall Security and Sense of Safety Throughout the School Building Strategies Specifically for Middle Schools Supports for Reentering Students Supports for New or Transferring Students Suspension and Expulsion Policies Crisis Preparation Conflict and Anger Management Violence Prevention Strategies Early Prevention Bullying Inclusion Restorative Justice 9. Meaningful Change in the U.S. Education System Initiating Change from the Ground Up Generating Support Resource A: Crossword Puzzles Resource B: Answers to the Crossword Puzzles References Index

About the Author

After completing the post-graduate program in Child Development and Family Studies at the University of Akron, Barbara Oehlberg was employed by the Family Life Program, Office of Adult Education, Cleveland Public Schools. She wrote, Parenting for Peaceful Families: A Resource Guide for Parent Educators, for Ohio's Governor R. Celeste during that time. Since retirement, Barbara has become an avid reader of neurological research and has become certified as a Child Trauma Consultant by the Institute for Trauma; Loss in Children She serves on their Board of Advisors. She has authored another book on classroom transformation of stress, preschool to grade three. Making it Better:Activities for Children Living in a Stressful World, was published in 1996. Barbara teaches CEU courses for educators through Kent State and Ashland Universities She serves as a consultant for Ohio's Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management and provides inservices to Ohio's schools. She can be reached at


"An 'aroused' child, a child in distress, will experience problems with attending, focusing, retaining, and recalling information--all critical functions. Oehlberg's book provides a wealth of activities that can actually reduce arousal/anxiety in children which research has clearly shown can lead to healthier cognitive functions as well as behavioral stability. This should be a mandated resource for all schools." -- William Steele, MA, PsyD, Director
"Reaching and Teaching Overstressed Learners in Grades 4-8 links sound neurological research with practical activities for educators and youth workers. Oehlberg expands our focus of attention about why young people are not learning. The activities she proposes are conducive to creating a safe climate where young people feel they belong and it is safe to learn." -- Martha de Acosta, Ph.D., Director
"Having knowledge of loss, stress and anxiety experienced by our children offers those of us who interact with them an opportunity to respond with sensitivity and reflective action. Barbara Oehlberg not only identifies the issues, but also provides activities that can help us gain greater insight into the child's world and provide opportunities for empowerment and healing." -- Susan Ross, SAVE Coordinator & Coordinator of Health Services
"Neglect, abuse, violence, and homelessness have altered the way many of our children relate to each other, their families, and school communities. Through her examination of the neurological research and brain development literature, Oehlberg helps illuminate our understanding of the root causes of our students' lack of attention and destructive behaviors...With the wisdom in this important work, we can help our children develop new strategies for successful living in a stressful world." -- Stephen Canneto, Director
"(The author) shares her message of hope and healing through an understanding of the impact of trauma, stress and loss on young children. Once we begin to accept and metabolize the research (on) changes that can occur in the developing brain when under stress and trauma, we can begin to address the many behavioral isues and challenges that we face in raising and teaching our children." -- Nacie T. Arnold, Youth Services Coordinator
This book will help the teacher create a classroom in which all students feel safe, where they can learn to express themselves in appropriate ways, and where they may develop trusting relationships with adults. The purposes of schooling are important and the meaning of learning is profound, but without a safe place to be, the heart of the child cannot be touched and the power of education to transform lives and our world is not possible. What lies within each child is the key to the future. -- Susan G. Clark * From the Foreword *

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