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 The Massachusetts Child

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Discussing Problem Situations

Successful teachers say they must use some instructional time to discuss social problem situations. Unresolved, these problem situations can sometimes fester, involving more students and making it extremely difficult to motivate academic attention and effort.

Consider which of the following ways you might begin to resolve problem situations.

1. Discussing problems. Set aside 5 minutes of show-and-tell time at the primary grade levels to discuss possible solutions to real or fictional problems in social interactions on the playground.

2. Create a sealed "Social Problems Box." Students can anonymously submit observations of social problems in their classroom. Deal with these at a regularly scheduled weekly time.

3. Review and memorize the following questions teachers ask when attempting to resolve social conflict. Tell me what he or she did to start the problem. What did you do to try to fix the problem? Did that help? Did that make it better or worse? Would you do that again? What can you do when you are angry? What will you do the next time this happens? What would you like to say to ____ to make things better?

4. Teach students the value of using "I" messages. It's possible to defuse a conflict situation by saying, "I'm angry that I wasn't included in your game," instead of saying "You're a jerk for not inviting me." "I" messages teach children to take responsibility for their own feelings, rather than blaming others, and other people are more receptive to hearing "I " messages rather than being accused of something.

5. Become familiar with the following conflict resolution procedure. Use it outside of instructional time when two students have conflicts on a repetitive basis. Ask Child #1 to state the problem and how he felt about it. Instruct Child #2 to listen to what Child #1 is saying, because she will have to repeat what the other person said. Ask Child #2 to repeat what Child #1 said. Reverse the process with Child #2 stating what she thinks the problem is and how she felt about it and Child #1 repeating what Child #2 said. Ask both children what they need to do to get along better. (Brainstorm solutions.) Decide which solutions to support or impose. Conflict resolution techniques can keep small disagreements small. When students learn to communicate effectively even when they disagree, they are less likely to be part of discipline problems.

From The Discipline Checklist by Ken Kosier. Copyright 1998, the National Education Association.