Children express themselves in all kinds of ways. Some draw, others run around and scream. Some write, and others talk. Some throw blocks at their classmates. Teachers have all kinds of opportunities to teach conflict-resolution skills to students. Teasing and name-calling, pushing, and other gestures often happen as kids play and interact with one another. Sometimes joking and teasing can turn into hurtful words and actions, and the police are called to the school.
It’s important to remember that one-time events are not bullying. Bullying often is a repeated situation.
Conflict happens at all ages and levels in school. When teachers see conflict happen inside or outside the classroom, they should be use that event to help children express themselves through art, writing, or by talking their feelings out.
What are some ways to teach conflict-resolution?
The main goal of conflict-resolution is to repair relationships and work to find a positive outcome for all parties involved.
This website offers some creative and engaging activities:
- Anger Ball-Toss
Find a soft ball. Have the class stand in a circle. Begin by completing the sentence, “I feel angry when …” Ask for a volunteer who is willing to restate what you just said. Toss that student the ball. That student restates what you said, then completes the sentence for herself. She then tosses the ball to someone else, who repeats what she said, then completes the sentence for himself, and so on.
- Feelings Check-ln
Pass out markers and 5×8 index cards. Ask each student to write on the card in large letters one word that describes how he or she is feeling right now. Then ask students to hold up their cards and look at the variety of responses. Point out how rare it is for different people to bring the same feelings to an experience or situation. Invite students to share why they wrote down the words that they did.
- I Represent Conflict
Place yourself in the middle of the room and say, “Imagine that I represent conflict. Think about how you usually react when you experience a conflict personally or witness a conflict happening nearby. Then place yourself, in relation to me, somewhere in the room in a way that indicates your first response to conflict or disagreement. Think about your body position, the direction that you’re facing, and the distance from conflict.”
Once students have found a position relative to you in the room, ask individuals to explain why they are standing where they are. You might also want to ask, “If this represents your first reaction, what might your second reaction be, after thinking about the conflict?”
- What Color is Conflict?
Cut up a large quantity of 4×4 construction-paper squares in a wide variety of colors. Be sure to have plenty of red, black, brown, and gray. Ask each student to choose a color or group of colors that she thinks represents conflict. Either in the large group or in smaller groups of five or six, have participants share the colors they chose and why they chose them. (If you split up into smaller groups, come back together at the end and have volunteers share with the whole group which colors they chose and why.)
- Putting Up a Fight
Go around the group and have students answer: “What is something you have that you would put up a serious fight for–even risk your life for–if someone tried to take it away?” (This can be a material thing, like a gold chain, or something intangible, like a good reputation.) Then ask: “Why is this so important to you?”
- “What Would You Do …?”
Go around the group asking each student to respond to this question: “If you saw a fight starting in the street between two people you didn’t know at all, what would you do?”
- “When I’m in a Conflict…”
Go around the group, asking each student to complete the sentence, “When I get into a conflict, I usually …”
( Excerpted from Conflict Resolution in the High School by Carol Miller Lieber with Linda Lantieri and Tom Roderick.)
Strive for peace
There is a classroom management model called the Peaceable Classroom Model. This model uses six themes to help with classroom management.
These six themes are:
- Appreciation for Diversity
- The Healthy Expression of Feelings
- Responsible Decision-making
- Conflict Resolution
Children need to learn how to deal with problems. Adults cannot always coddle them and come to their aid 24/7. At any level, students should be taught to use their words when they are feeling upset instead of using physical violence. Whenever students are sad or feeling lonely, they should be encouraged to talk or at least write/draw their feelings instead of keeping them bottled up (provide 1:1 time and a safe place, like the break room, for students to freely share their feelings).
Not everything can be solved easily, or even in a day, sometimes conflicts build slowly or last over a period of days. Regardless, it’s still necessary to help students develop social and interpersonal skills for dealing with such situations.
Help is on the way!
PBS has a nifty webpage with lesson plans for elementary teachers about conflict-resolution and bullying.
Goodcharacter.com also has some helpful tips to checkout!
Dr. Seuss’s book, The Sneetches is a great way to introduce conflict-resolution to children.
Here is a helpful video as well!
While there will always be conflict in school, and in life, if we work together we can find constructive and positive ways to deal with it!