Scaffolding Students’ Ability to Solve Friendship Problems in EC


During our unit of inquiry on relationships we wanted to give the students tools to solve problems. I observed students on the playground and in class and chose three major problem areas to address: sharing/taking turns, minor accidents that turn into larger disagreements, and hurt feelings when there aren’t enough toys to go around.

I took inspiration from the Kelso’s Choice conflict management program as I chose 3 ways to teach kids to solve problems.  Those 3 ways were: Find something else to do, tell the person how you feel, or make an agreement such as taking turns.

What we did:

When the students were not on campus, the six EC4 teachers & TAs acted out and filmed different scenarios to teach these 3 ways to solve problems. First we filmed scenarios where we had a problem and then solved it using one of the three strategies. Then we filmed situations where we presented the problem and then asked, “What do YOU think we should do?”

These were the scenarios:

  • Two people want the same bike (solution – agree to take turns)
  • Fighting over the foam mats outside (solution – agree to divide them up equally)
  • Not enough space for everyone to play in one area (solution – the person left out finds something else to do)
  • Laughing at someone when they spill their water (solution – the “victim” says they feel hurt and the person who laughs apologizes)

These were the scenarios where we asked the children to think of solutions:

  • Someone talks about an upcoming birthday party and one person isn’t included
  • Three people want to play tag and one wants to dance instead
  • Two people want to use the red crayon

I stitched together our films with iMovie and narrated in between each segment, to make sure the students understood what they were watching (For example, “So far you have learned 2 ways to solve problems … Now you are going to learn one more way.  The third solution is to find something else to do.  Sometimes if a game isn’t working out you can play somewhere else and then join your friends the next day”.)

We showed the video to our students.  While watching the video we stopped it and discussed the solutions with the students.

After the students watched the videos, I divided the class into groups of 3. I asked each group to think of a scenario where they would use one of the strategies and “act it out”.  I printed the students’ photographs and added speech bubbles to make a bulletin board display of kids pretending to use the strategies.   I made a second copy of these “posters” to be used in a class book that the students take turns bringing home to read with their parents.



The kids LOVED the video.  The strategies instantly became a part of the class lexicon. I have heard so many students say, “Can we make an agreement?” since watching the video.  Also, when students come up to me during recess with a problem I feel comfortable saying, “We learned three ways to solve problems. Is there one you could use?” instead of just solving the problem for them. I believe the students are really developing their independence and social skills with these ideas.

Creating the posters was difficult. It would have been more effective to have the whole class sitting on the carpet and take 3 students at one time and then ask, “What could they do to show taking turns?” And then have the students think of ideas like, “They could all be trying to use the fireman costume at once!” This would have been an easier way to set up the photographs.

The end product (the class book) is valuable for consolidating students’ understanding of the 3 strategies they learned. I like how it will allow parents to see these ideas and reinforce them at home, if desired.

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