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Trying to understand the extreme: school children’s narratives of the mass killings in Norway July 22, 2011

Authors Jørgensen B, Skarstein D, Schultz J

Received 3 September 2014

Accepted for publication 3 November 2014

Published 4 February 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 51—61


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Beate Fosse Jørgensen,1 Dag Skarstein,1,2 Jon-Håkon Schultz1,3

1Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway; 2Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway; 3Department of Education, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

Abstract: School-aged children have limited resources for coping with exposure to high-intensity media coverage of terrorist events. This study explores pupils' meaning-making process of their indirect, media-communicated encounters with a specific terrorist event in Norway. Qualitative in-depth interviews about the July 22, 2011 terror attacks were conducted with 54 pupils aged 6–8 years. Seven months after the attacks, the majority had unanswered questions based on more or less accurate knowledge of the events, and they still experienced fear. The media and peers appeared to be their major source of information and not parents or teachers. These children's narratives, characterized by some detailed facts, limited understanding, and a high degree of fiction, were inadequate for restoring calm and feelings of safety. Examples indicate how teacher-facilitated collaborative activities among pupils dealing with crisis can provide a way to construct meaning-making by stimulating conversations and reflections, and developing the narrative through a process of metacognition can provide for further learning and new insights. Implications for a proactive teacher role are indicated.

Keywords: crisis and terror, meaning-making, media, teacher role

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