Monday, December 10, 2012

The Problem Solving Team

I was down at the workbench working with three kids on adding the gold and silver stripes to our birthday throne as we'd democratically decided a few days before, when one of our parent-teachers let me know that they needed my help in dealing with a conflict. A quick glance let me know that no one was currently getting hurt, so we finished what we were doing, then I said to the kids, "Come on, let's be the problem solving team."

We have this set of wooden shelves up at the top of the outdoor classroom on which we store wooden blocks. For the past few weeks, the kids have been clearing off the top shelf, making room for two kids, then using it as their castle. R, in the role of usurper, had commandeered one of the two spots as the other kids tried to talk him into moving. As the problem solving team arrived on the scene, he was standing there powerfully, making himself immovable.

I started with the boy who appeared the most upset, "We're the problem solving team. What's happening?"

"We were here first! R won't move." There was more, but that's the gist of it.

I turned to R, "What's happening?" He continued to stand powerfully with a fierce look on his face, but didn't reply. I gave him another chance to state his side of the case, but he remained silent.

I said, "Okay, problem solving team. If I understand it correctly, these guys were playing here first and R won't move." I asked the involved parties, "Does that sound right?" When neither objected, I asked each of the members of our impromptu problem solving team if they had any ideas.

The first problem solver suggested that R could get down and say he's sorry.

The second thought they could, in some unspecified manner, make the castle bigger.

The third suggested that R could use our small climber as his own castle.

I turned to R., "So the problem solving team has offered you three choices. Which one do you chose?"

Still without speaking, R. pointed at the climber. 

"Are you choosing to make that your castle?"

He nodded. It took him a few minutes before he actually acted, but finally he cleared out and assumed a powerful stance for a time in his own castle.

I said, "Thank you problem solving team. Now, I'm going back to work on the throne."

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Kathy Slattengren said...

I love your "problem solving team" idea. R was able to pick a solution that also allowed him to save face. What a great skill you are teaching these kids!

Omaira said...

This is such a great way to teach conflict resolution skills and it's awesome how you facilitate the interaction but don't get in the way.