Conflict resolution is an important skill that students need to learn – beneficial to them within the classroom as well as in everyday life. Not only will kids use conflict resolution in the classroom, they will also continue to use these skills as they grow. The conflict resolution skills they learn in elementary school will help them solve problems as adults. So how do we teach conflict resolution in the classroom?
Teaching Conflict Resolution in the Classroom
Children learn social-emotional skills by watching, practicing, and eventually adopting the behaviors for themselves. Below you will find ideas about what conflict and conflict resolution is, and how to teach students the various aspects of this important life skill.
What is Conflict?
Conflict is a disagreement or problem that happens between two or more people. It can happen to anyone, from best friends to enemies. Most conflicts start small, but they continue to grow, snowballing into major problems. As teachers, we can explain what conflict is, in order to effectively teach how to keep conflicts from becoming major problems in the classroom.
What is Conflict Resolution?
When there’s a problem, it’s important to address the problem in a peaceful way, understanding both sides of the situation. This is conflict resolution or peaceful problem solving as I like to call it in my classroom. Conflict resolution is an important skill to have, both in the classroom and in life. By helping our students practice and adopt healthy ways of solving interpersonal problems, we help them succeed in other areas of their education and life as well.
How Do You Teach Conflict Resolution?
There are many steps to teaching conflict resolution. To truly teach conflict resolution, you’ll need to teach your students how to analyze the conflict. They’ll need to be able to identify the problem and try to understand what’s causing it.
- Teach Understanding – Students need to understand what conflict is and how it can have a negative effect on a person. This type of understanding will help them know why conflict resolution is so important.
- Teach Empathy – After understanding comes empathy. Once students understand conflict, they should learn to empathize with all other students involved. Conflict affects more than one person, so to resolve it, it’s important to empathize with the other person’s feelings
- Teach Responsibility – Conflict involves more than one person. The students involved need to know how to take responsibility for their own part in the conflict. Whether they caused the problem or simply exasperated the situation, they need to admit that they were wrong and be willing to do their part to make amends.
- Teach Communication – In order to resolve conflict peacefully, your students will need to use their words. Communication is vital to conflict resolution, so teach them how to talk about the issue and come to a mutually beneficial solution.
- Teach Choice – Children need more than one strategy to solve a conflict independently. Talk about these different ways during a classroom meeting and have them practice different types with a friend. The ‘Wheel of Choice’ below offers many strategies that are simple and effective for kids.
How Can Conflict Resolution Be Used in the Classroom?
Kids will always have some sort of conflict, whether big or small. The conflict between kids can be anything, whether they’re fighting over a toy or pushing another student down at recess. Conflict resolution can be used in the classroom to help keep the peace between kids. When a small problem arises, such as a friend cutting them in line, your students can use what you’ve taught them about conflict resolution to fix the problem before it becomes more of an issue.
Teach kids a peaceful problem-solving method that they can practice and use with growing independence at school. The process involves the children following 4 simple steps to solve their conflict.
Activities to Teach Conflict Resolution
Kids learn best when they practice. This is especially true for conflict resolution. When you give your students fun ways to learn conflict resolution, they’ll have a blast practicing it. The more they practice, the more it becomes second nature. If you’re looking forward to teaching conflict resolution in your classroom, here are a few activities you can use to make it fun.
- Role Play – A great way to teach conflict resolution is to role-play various scenarios. By acting out tough situations that might require conflict resolution, your kids have a safe place to work through the issue. You can discuss the process with them after, going through what they could do better next time. Great scenarios to role-play include resolving conflict with a bully, fixing a friendship after a fight, or getting along with a sibling.
- Play a Game – Playing games with peers involves learning to get along and figuring out rules together. If issues arise during a game, they can work together calming to solve the problem and continue playing. “What the Solution?” is a fun card game to play that involves kids coming up with solutions to solve common problems.
- Creative Writing – Encourage kids to write down or draw a picture to depict a story that includes a problem and a solution. This can be done as a short story or as a script. Encourage students to read or share their story with the class and allow students to talk about what they would do to resolve the same conflict.
- Puppet Show – This is a wonderful activity if you have some students too shy to stand in front of the entire class. Have students work in groups to put on a puppet show. Students will have fun designing puppets, all while working together to learn how conflicts can be resolved peacefully.
- Peace Maker Promise – Have children learn and sort differences between a peacemaker and peace breaker. Have them take an oath to be a peacemaker in the classroom.
Books that Teach Conflict Resolution
Reading books to your students can help you teach them about conflict resolution in a safe but fun way. The problems the characters face are oftentimes ones that your students have faced as well. As the characters journey through their problems towards resolution, children will get the chance to see a healthy way to handle conflict. Here are just a few books you can read to you students to teach conflict resolution.
- Talk and Work It Out – This book, written by Cheri J. Meiners, is a great way to teach conflict resolution to students. This book focuses on using your words to solve problems instead of acting out. By teaching students to use their words, you’re teaching them how to peacefully solve their problems instead of using anger and aggression.
- Let’s Be Enemies – Janice May Udry is the author of this book on conflict resolution. In this story, two friends become enemies due to unresolved conflict. Your students will love listening to the story as James and John work out their issues.
- Give It Back! – Conflict happens at home as well as in the classroom. This conflict resolution book teaches kids how to resolve conflict with their siblings. These conflict resolution skills can be used in the classroom and on the playground as well.
- Enemy Pie – One of the best outcomes you can hope for is turning an enemy into a friend. This book, written by Derek Munson, helps kids understand more about resolving problems and making friends in a creative way.
- Confessions of a Former Bully – True conflict resolution requires understanding. Trudy Ludwig uses this book to help kids understand what a bully might be going through. This can help them look deeper so they can figure out why a bully might be acting out, helping them to better resolve the conflict.
There are so many fun ways to teach conflict resolution to your students. Which of these activities do you plan to use in your classroom?
Conflict Resolution Resources
FREE Responsibility Punch Cards
Catch kids when they are being independent and responsible problem solvers with a hole punch in the “Caught Being Responsible” punch cards. Click the image below to download the FREE Responsible Punch Cards.
Responsibility & Conflict Resolution Curriculum
The Responsibility SEL Curriculum includes 5 lessons and many activities that teach children about responsibility, goal setting, conflict resolution, and anti-bullying.
mind+heart Social Emotional Learning Curriculum
The mind + heart Social Emotional Learning Curriculum includes 8 units with 5+ detailed, character education, research-based LESSONS filled with TONS of hands-on and mindful ACTIVITIES that encourage children to express themselves and build important emotional and social skills. Click HERE for more details on the program.
Read more about Empowering Kids to be Responsible