- Transition shock – defined in an Edutopia article as “an umbrella term that incorporates culture shock, chronic distress, traumatic upset, and post-traumatic stress disorder”— can affect many students in physiological, behavioral, and emotional ways; however, it especially affects English language learners (ELLs) because of the ways brain development impacts language development and learning capacity.
- Several strategies, which can also benefit other students affected by trauma and chronic stress, include providing students with a calm, organized class environment with regular schedules and seeking out student strengths to build confidence in themselves and trust in others.
- Other more specific strategies include the incorporation of expressive therapies — such as those of music, art, or drama — and the use of kinesthetic movements that cross the body’s midline, thus encouraging communication between the hemispheres of the brain.
Transitions are hard for many students, but ELL students have often uprooted their lives, moved to another country, and are living in poverty and/or migratory situations and are therefore immersed in more transitions than the typical student. This transition shock can also affect other students who are dealing with more than their fair share of trauma or chronic stress. Unfortunately, these issues affect a growing number of students in schools.
Some schools are moving to a trauma-sensitive culture in order to help these students cope with life and perform better in school. However, transition shock often more specifically affects language acquisition and learning, which, in turn, affects developmental and literacy skills. By seeking to address this issue, schools can improve their chances of seeing academic success in these students' lives.
School is made up of transitions, and some of the mentioned strategies can be used to ease the impacts of these changes and speed up the process of acclimating students to new school situations. For instance, at the early childhood level, teachers are looking for stronger connections between preschool, kindergarten and elementary programs to help students and allow for instruction to build on previously taught concepts. Some school districts are finding that looping or the creation of “mini-districts” established through school feeder patterns also smooths transitions from one grade level to another. At the secondary level, some high schools are working with eighth grade students to make the transition to high school easier by connecting students to resources and mentors early. Any strategies that improve these types of conditions that students face are apt to improve academic outcomes.