According to the FBI reports on active shooter incidents, violent attacks on schools are increasing in frequency, leaving schools in a position of needing to train and empower their students and staff. Schools are facing pressure from parents, the community, and government regulations to prepare for the threat of violent tragedy.

But how should you train students? How can you train them on a scary topic without scaring them? How do you train them age appropriately?

These questions are focused on training and preparing our youngest group of students to respond to a violent critical incident (active shooter, domestic violence, stranger danger, etc.). We must prepare students of all ages by using strategies and lessons that are age and ability appropriate. When focused on age appropriate training, levels of cognitive and behavioral development, along with the variety of learning styles must be considered. In the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety (2018), the commission states that “effective training is critical, making it imperative that schools regularly review training protocols and ensure that every SRO, SSO, teacher, administrator, and student is as prepared as possible.”

Preparing students to respond to an active shooter event should not be as difficult as many people make it out to be. When training students, remember to design and develop your lessons to their age and developmental level (see table 1). Students will learn in one or more of the following seven ways: auditory, kinesthetic (hands-on, doing), visual, logical, verbal, social, or solitary. Understanding these learning styles will help you in developing your lessons and activities. There are three categories that should be included in lessons: visuals, stories, and activities. The information provided in table 1 illustrate appropriate lessons for different age groups.

Age/ GradeCognitive LevelTraining Ideas


Students begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects.  They think in very concrete terms.The ALICE Pre-K lesson plan follows the ALICE coloring book. ALICE at this level introduces a general understanding of danger and how the children should respond. Listening to the teacher is emphasized. The lesson plan is then reinforced through guided practice led by the teacher.
K-3rd Grade


Students are still thinking symbolically and learning to use words and pictures to represent objects.  They think in very concrete terms.The ALICE K-3 lesson plan follows the book “I’m Not Scared …I’m Prepared, Because I Know About ALICE,” and the companion Activity Book written by Julia Cook. The book uses the Sheep, Shephard, and Wolf metaphor. This lesson plan is reinforced through guided practice and activities from the activity book.
4th– 6th Grade


Students are still thinking symbolically and learning to use words and pictures to represent objects.  They think in very concrete terms.The ALICE Grades 4-6 lesson plan introduces the “Stop and Do” approach. The training consists of watching a video as a group that illustrates the ALICE strategy. After the strategy is introduced, the video is paused, and the class of students performs the strategy they learned. The guided practice for this age group is performing the do’s of the video.
7th – 12th GradeStudents start to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems and think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning.The ALICE Grades 7-12 lesson plan also uses the “Stop and Do” approach to provide the information and guided practice of the do’s for the students. Critical thinking drills can be added at this level as well. These drills allow students to feel like a part of the solution and encourage them to solve the problems.
Special Considerations


Students with disabilities need to have customized planning for response to a violent attack. The ALICE Special Considerations resources include customizable social stories, ALICE power cards, Design Guide and an e-Learning module for the educator to instruct on training individuals with special considerations. The social stories can be downloaded and personalized for each student. The power cards use images to reinforce the ALICE strategies. Training for students with disabilities must be customized to each student’s individual ability level.

Today’s society is pressing schools, law enforcement, parents and the community to come up with a plan on how to prepare for a violent critical incident such as an active shooter or violent intruder.  It can be disheartening and scary for parents to discuss this topic with their kids, especially the youngest ones, but if we don’t, our children are not going to be prepared.  I hear many times that “we don’t want to scare the kids.” Kids are resilient.  It has been estimated that 68% of video games, 60% of television shows, and 15% of videos depict some type of violence (Federal Commission on School Safety, 2018).  Our children have grown up in this era of school violence, most parents have not, and parents tend to place their own fears on their children. We need to protect our children by providing them the tools to respond to danger.  In order to remember training or information, it helps if you see it, hear it, and do it.  The students need to perform the drills to understand what they can do.   Having this in mind, we need to make sure that all our faculty, staff, and students are prepared when facing a violent, man-made disaster.