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Lesson Plan

The Solution Square: Strategies for Conflict Resolution

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five to six 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Audra Roach

Austin, Texas

Victoria Polega

Austin, Texas


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Sessions 5 and 6


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Demonstrate critical thinking, comprehension, and the ability to make personal connections as they respond orally and in writing to texts that are read aloud

  • Become familiar with fictional story elements by identifying characters, problem, and solution in texts

  • Model and acquire appropriate conflict-resolution strategies by identifying effective strategies in texts, working cooperatively to role-play problem–solution scenarios, and implementing the strategies when encountering real-life peer conflicts

  • Practice oral communication skills by participating in whole-class and small-group discussions and demonstrating clear speech in performing a role-play scenario

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Session 1

1. Introduce the class literature chart entitled "Forever Friends," and ask students what they notice or wonder about the chart (see Preparation, Step 3). Prompt their thinking about friends and conflict by asking questions such as, "Is it ever hard to have a friend? Have you ever had a problem with one of your friends? Think in your head about a time when you felt hurt or frustrated with one of your friends...(pause)...Did you know what to do to solve the problem so that you could stay as friends?"

2. Set the purpose for reading. "We are going to read books over the next few days that will tell us about what friends do when they have problems. While I am reading, think about what the problems are in the story and how the characters solve them..."

3. Read aloud Toot & Puddle: You Are My Sunshine. Pause at key points during the story to model thinking aloud about friends and making personal connections (e.g., "Sometimes when a friend is upset, it can feel confusing and hard to know just what to do. . . This reminds me of a time when...") Pause also for students to share responses and connections to the story in pairs and with the whole class.

4. Discuss the problem, the solutions tried by the characters, and the students' connections to their own lives or to other texts. Prompt students' connections by offering sentence starters like, "I think... I notice... I wonder..." Record students' responses on the Forever Friends literature chart.

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Session 2

1. Briefly review the discussion and the Forever Friends literature chart from Session 1.

2. Prompt students to think about new friends. You might ask some of the following questions: "Has anyone ever been the new kid in a group? At school? In a neighborhood? In a club? Have you ever met a new kid at school who became your friend? Turn to your partner and pair-share about what you remember about a new friend." After about 1 to 2 minutes of sharing, ask for a few volunteers to share their stories with the whole class and prompt them to say what is hard about being new or meeting someone new.

3. Read aloud Toot & Puddle: The New Friend. Pause at key points during the story to share responses and discuss the problem and solutions. Record students' talk on the Forever Friends literature chart.

4. After reading the story, send students back to their tables in small groups of three to four to discuss and draw or write their connections to the story on sticky notes. Remind them that their connections could be about personal experiences, about texts that are similar to this one, or in response to prompts such as "I think... I notice... I wonder...." Note: If your students are unaccustomed to working in cooperative groups, consider engaging them in community-building activities prior to this lesson. For ideas to modify, see the ReadWriteThink lessons It's Too Loud in Here: Teamwork in the Classroom or Using Children's Literature to Develop Classroom Community.

5. After groups have completed their connections, have them post their sticky notes up on the literature chart under the Connections column for this story.

6. Ask for volunteers to share what they learned, noticed, or wondered with the whole class.

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Session 3

1. Briefly review the Forever Friends literature chart and the discussions from the previous sessions.

2. Tell students that in this session you will read aloud Toot & Puddle: The One and Only, and they will write about the story's problem, solution, and connections on their own.

3. Read the story aloud, pausing at key points and prompting students to think silently as you prompt them with a few questions that will help them prepare for writing. "Are you noticing a problem? Remember to look for solutions. What are they doing to try to solve the problem?" About halfway through the story, stop reading and pass out the Student Response Sheet. Have students return to their seats for a few minutes to record their thinking so far. Depending on the age and abilities of your students, you might ask them to draw and/or write about their ideas.

4. Ask students to stop working on their response sheets and return to the whole group as you finish reading the story aloud. Prompt students to think silently about their connections. "What are you thinking? I bet you are noticing connections between this and other books we've read..."

5. Have students complete the Student Response Sheet.

6. Gather as a whole class and have an oral discussion about the problem, solution, and connections in the story. Record students' talk on the Forever Friends literature chart. Collect the individual response sheets at the end of the session.

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Session 4

1. Tell students that they are going to collect good ideas for solving problems to make a class Solution Square. The Solution Square will be something they can use whenever they have a problem with a friend. Just like the characters in the stories, they can use strategies to solve their own problems.

2. Ask students to think about what the characters from the stories did to solve problems and what they personally do in real life to solve problems with friends.Note: You will need to translate students' strategies into concise terms. For example, "walk away," "ignore it," "apologize," "take turns," "talk it out," "tell them to stop," "take time to cool off" (see the Sample Solution Square). For even more ideas, see the "Wheel of Choice" by Jane Nelson, et al. in Positive Discipline in the Classroom. Be sure to discuss with students that in situations that are dangerous or emergencies, they should seek immediate adult assistance.

3. Draw a square shape on the board and record students' ideas inside the square. (This will serve as a rough draft of your Solution Square.)

4. Tell students that they are going to work in small groups to plan a role-play that demonstrates one of these solutions in action. Introduce the Role-Play Planning Sheet. When students perform their role-plays, the rest of the class will have to guess which solution they are acting out so it is important that they keep their solution a secret!

5. Generate a criteria chart for the role-play by asking students what they would expect to see in a "good" role-play (e.g., a problem, a solution, clear voices). List ideas in kid-friendly language on the board for reference (see the Role-Play Sample Criteria Chart for suggested criteria for student and teacher evaluation).

6. Assign a different solution to each small group of three to four students each. You may want to write it down on a sticky note and secretly give it to each group or just whisper it to them.

7. As students are planning and rehearsing, monitor and evaluate the groups. If conflicts arise as students are planning, encourage them to use a strategy from the Solution Square to help them resolve the conflict within their group (or to use the conflict as the subject of their role-play)! Scaffold students who are actively having conflict by inviting them to look at the Solution Square and enact an appropriate strategy.

8. As a whole class or in pair-share, ask students to reflect on how their group cooperated or solved problems. If they had a real problem in their group, did they use any solutions from the Solution Square to help them? Collect the planning sheets before the end of the session.

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Sessions 5 and 6

1. Tell students that they will have time to complete and practice their role-plays before performing them for the class. Review the criteria for a "good" role-play. Return the Role-Play Planning Sheets. Remind students that they should keep their assigned solution a secret from the rest of the class for now.

2. Give students time to rehearse their role-plays. The amount of time needed will vary according to the size and ability level of your students. Some groups might need only 20 minutes to rehearse while others might need the entire session (and a few minutes at the beginning of the next session) to adequately prepare for their performance. As students are working, continue to monitor groups using the Role-Play Sample Criteria Chart, giving specific praise to students who are using good problem-solving and cooperation skills.

3. Gather students together to perform their role-plays. After each group performs, have them call on audience members to guess which solution they were acting out from the Solution Square.

4. Tell students that you will create a poster of the Solution Square to post in the classroom. This will be for students to refer to whenever they have a problem with a friend that they need help with. If they have tried two strategies from the square and still have the problem, they should seek the help of a teacher or adult. Note: Encouraging young students to try two of the strategies before asking a teacher reduces tattling and builds student confidence and the ability to independently resolve everyday conflicts.

Use materials such as butcher paper, poster board, construction paper, precut letters, or markers to create a colorful, attractive Solution Square (see the Sample Solution Square). You might also enlist the help of your students to create or decorate pieces of the square, adding ownership and interest in the project. You may want to laminate it for durability.

As the school year progresses, continue to refer back to the Solution Square and revisit lessons about the various strategies as needed.

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  • Use the interactive Flip Book tool to create a class picture book of solutions. You may want to project the Flip Book onto a screen and conduct a shared writing with your class, or call students in small groups to come to the computer and write a page together. Print the finished book and let small groups decorate it. Laminate it for your classroom library.

  • Throughout the year, use your daily read-alouds for extended discussions on conflict resolution and the Solution Square.

  • Use the interactive Story Map tool to have students plan a story using the Conflict Map and the Resolution Map. Refer them back to the class Solution Square for resolution ideas.

  • Introduce your students to "Class Meetings." This group problem-solving method, based on the theory of Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Jane Nelson, et al. is an effective tool for managing a democratic classroom. See the book or Class Meetings: A Democratic Approach to Classroom Management for more information.

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  • Observe students in whole-class and small-group discussions of literature. Monitor for comprehension by observing students’ responses on the Forever Friends literature chart and listening to their responses to the reflection questions.

  • Review each Student Response Sheet and give oral or written feedback.

  • As students plan the role-play in their small groups, review each Role-Play Planning Sheet. Monitor for evidence of effective problem-solving ideas and cooperation between group members.

  • Record good examples of group problem-solving in the form of anecdotal notes to share with the class later (e.g., “I noticed that one group decided to ‘make a deal’ when they couldn’t decide whose idea to choose…”).

  • Evaluate students’ role-plays using the Role-Play Sample Criteria Chart or the criteria chart you developed with your class.

  • Continue to assess and scaffold students’ conflict-resolution strategies during the school year via ongoing observation, discussion, and weekly class meetings that emphasize problem-solving using the Solution Square.


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