Reflections on School Shootings: NIU, VT, and Columbine


Grades 6 to 12


Language Arts, English, Journalism, Social Studies

In the wake of recent school shootings at Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, and Columbine HS, students are encouraged to share, through discussion and writing, their feelings about violence in schools, as well as ways in which such incidents and tragedies could be prevented.


Students will study recent school shooting tragedies by examining published periodicals.  Students will discuss their thoughts on school violence, cause and effects of these events, and compile a written assignment that allows students to reflect on what they learned. 


Various newspaper articles on NIU’s 2/14 shooting (locate and print before class)

SSN Reporter opinion,


Activity 1: (10mins) As class begins, students should free-write in their reflection journals about the topic of violence in schools. Students can write about whatever aspect of violence in schools they wish, either from personal experience or second hand. Students should then be encouraged to share their responses in class.

Activity 2: (15mins) Distribute various articles about the NIU shooting in order for students to familiarize themselves not only with the events of the tragedy, but also the structure of a news article. Since students will have a number of different articles, they will be able to contribute different points to the later discussion.  Allow a few minutes as students read.  Ask class to discuss articles they have found regarding this issue focusing on the following questions:

What details are known about the events leading up to the NIU tragedy during and after the school shooting?
What is known about the shooter? Their personalities, problems?
What investigative, community steps are being taken to better understand this type of violent act?
How, in your opinion, might this violent act have been prevented? What can we, as students, teachers, community members, do now to help prevent such acts in the future?

Activity 3: (15mins) Assign students a writing exercise in which they reflect on the class discussion and newspaper coverage of school violence in the United States. Have students review the article written by SNN Reporter and allow students time to formulate their own reaction to school violence as well as the possible causes and repercussions of such actions.

Some guiding questions are offered below.

How do you feel about school shootings and school violence in general?
How do recent school shootings such as NIU and VT compare to the incident at Columbine High School?
Why does such violence occur?
What warning signs might youngsters exhibit that may hint at violent tendencies or thoughts?
Could such violence happen in your school?
How can violence in schools be prevented?
Allow students the opportunity to write whatever they wish about violence in schools, its causes and its effects.  Encourage students to compare their current thoughts with the initial reflection journal and note if any changes in their perception has taken place. 

Students should work on writing until the end of class, and if not finished, turn in the next day.  Once the writing assignment is completed, students can publish their articles in their own school newspaper or submit them to an online youth Ezine for publication.

Students will be evaluated based on participation in class discussions and written assignment.

Lesson adapted from: The School News Network,