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Conflict Resolution in Your Classroom

By Barbara Capps

Rather than stand by and watch our students argue over petty issues, teachers can train their students in the skill of conflict resolution by modeling it to them. Using everyday issues students learn by informing their teacher, who lets the class listen in as she helps their peers find solutions.

Every teacher knows the drill. Sometimes, maybe even often, problems happened at recess that are dragged back into the classroom disrupting even the best of lesson plans. As an educator, you have a choice, stop everything and deal with it as a total class, even though very few even know what’s up. Or, put the class to work while you call the culprits over to your desk for a quick conference. Of course, done this way, the class may look like they are working, but the reality is every ear is leaning in trying to see “who’s going to get in trouble.”

A Successful Solution

Photo Storage Box I grew tired of the above scenarios and decided once and for all to develop a more successful way. Most of the time, there was no need for anyone to feel they were “in trouble”, my students just needed a mediator teacher to help them solve what they couldn’t solve yet because of their age.

To no avail, I started research on the internet. I wanted to know what other teachers had tried and whether or not it was successful. Then one day, at a craft store, an idea began to evolve. I bought a mauve photo storage box. Later I wrote “Conflict Resolution Box” on it and embellished it with stickers and some sticky, sparkly “gems”. I then used a box cutter to add a slit on the lid of the box. Then, using tables on a Word document, I designed a form for a student to fill out at their desk immediately after recess. I sat both on our entry table. These were also a conversation piece to visiting parents,adults, and administrators. To me, it testified that I was the kind of professional educator that took kids school day problems seriously and integrated them seamlessly into my teaching process.

The Lesson

With every new addition to classroom management there should always be a “how to” lesson. I explained what conflict resolution meant and why we were going to begin using the new box. Then I showed the class a close up of one of the forms on our document camera. I talked them through how to fill out the firm by circling their concerns and using the lines on the back if they needed them, but that they would always talk privately with me, anyway, so there was really little need to write a long note of explanation. Then I modeled the rest of the new conflict resolution procedure to them.

Walking over to my desk, I sat in my chair and showed them how I would face the class while the students in mediation would be facing me. I called two students up to my desk together we modeled the hushed tone in which we would talk. After doing so, I explained that whenever they came in after a recess, instead of bombarding me with their issue while lining up that from now on they would need to use a form, that were lying beside the box, they were to put it in the slot in the box and set the box on my chair. This way, when I saw the box on my chair I would know there was a note in it. I want to emphasize, this method was not used when a student hit or physically assaulted another student.

Conflict Resolution in Action

Every day after lunch recess, I turned on the classical music. The students retrieved their book logs and library book and read silently, but strategically with their logs. If the box was on my chair I would read the forms and first call up the writer, giving them a private opportunity of expression, possibly of emotional hurt someone had spoken to them. Next, I called up those whose names were on the form on those involved. I never called “The Witnesses,” in the interest of time, unless I couldn’t figure out the truth on my own. We only used silent reading time to whisper our deliberations. I always emphasized the goal was to learn how to solve conflicts, not to get someone “in trouble”.

After a while, fewer and fewer forms were put into the box. I asked the class about this. What I was told by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders was the same every time, “Oh, we just stop and do a conflict resolution on the playground now.” My job was done! Like Christa McAuliffe said, “I teach, I touch the future.” I’d just taught my students how to touch their own near futures… on the playground and, hopefully, in life.

Download the conflict resolution form here and edit it to fit your needs.