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Teaching Strategies to Help Students Solve Their Problems

Janelle Cox

How many times have you had to break up an argument in your classroom? Probably too many to count. Children (especially the younger ones) have a hard time trying to figure out how to handle any type of disagreement or confrontation. Usually their first reaction is to tell an adult so the adult can solve the problem for them. Much of being a child is learning how to solve your problems. When you use teaching strategies to teach your students how to resolve their own conflicts you are giving them the tools to succeed in not only school, but in life. Here are a five teaching strategies on how you can help your students learn to solve their own problems.

Teaching Strategies to Create an Efficient Classroom Setup

The way that you set up your classroom can make or break a lot of classroom arguments. If you find that your students are always arguing over wanting the same books, then add more of the same books. If you see that every day the little girls are fighting over the dolls in the play area, buy more dolls. By boosting your collection of beloved items, you are essentially eliminating conflict. Set up your classroom so that it will minimize conflict, not escalate it.

Create a Predictable Routine

As you know, children thrive on routine. It’s the way that they determine what comes next throughout their day. Once their routine is disrupted or they don’t know what to expect next, then you will see conflict arise. If you want to minimize conflict, then a predictable routine is the way to go. It also helps children feel safe, which can help eliminate emotional outbursts.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills

As predictable as your routine may be, conflict can still arise, although it won’t be as bad as if you didn’t have any type of routine. Children need to learn how to defuse a conflict on their own when it arises. You can teach them this skill by creating example scenarios for them. For example, give students a sample situation, then have them choose which option is the right option. You can also have them brainstorm a few strategies on what they can do in that situation as well. Here is an example.

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  • Jenny wants to play with the dolls at the play area, but all of the dolls are taken. What should she do? Option 1: go to another activity, Option 2: Take a doll away from a student.
  • Joey and Brady both want the race car but there is only one left, what should they do? Option 1: play rock, paper scissors to determine who gets it, Option 2: Just take it and walk away.

Students can brainstem a list of strategies that they can use to help them figure out how to solve the conflict that they are in. One 1st grade teacher uses a conflict wheel. Every time their student comes to a conflict they take out their wheel and spin it to see how they can solve their own problem. Choices include walking away, talking it out, telling them to stop, etc.

Involve Students in the Problem-Solving Process

Sometimes younger students have a hard time solving problems on their own (even with the wheel mentioned above) and they still will go to you (the teacher) for help. You can involve them in the process by sitting them down and talking to them about what they think they should do. Sometimes all they need is someone to talk to, to help them figure out a solution to their problem. By continually inviting them into the problem-solving process, you are giving them the tools they need to be able to figure it out on their own.

Practice Makes Perfect

You have all heard of the saying “Practice makes perfect” and this hold true for resolving conflicts. There are many adults who have a hard time resolving their own conflicts, so how are we supposed to expect elementary students to be able to do it all by themselves day in and day out? Problem solving is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, a lot. Over time, and with a lot of practice, your students will learn how to resolve their own problems.

Do you have any tips on students can learn how to resolve their conflicts on their own? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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