Modelling Conflict Resolution: One Conversation as a Time

At our school when students have a small problem, we encourage them to solve it for themselves using Kelso’s Choice. We have had so much success with this program, I would encourage you to check it out!

Kelso's Choice

But when it comes to larger problems where an adult needs to step in, how can we truly help work through these problems, but also ensure that students are learning peaceful and productive ways to deal with conflict?

Here is a framework that I have picked up along the way to help guide students in working through their bigger conflicts:

1. The Invite

Can you and you please come have a chat with me so I can help you solve your problem. 

2. The Initial Agreement

I am going to help you solve this problem and I am going to give each of you a chance to tell your side of the story, but first we need to agree that we won’t interrupt each other when someone is telling their perspective.

3. Uninterrupted Sides of the Story – Listen and Rephrase 

Can you please go first and tell me, in your opinion, what happened?

I’m going to tell you what I heard. I heard you say that…

*repeat with all students involved*

4. Making Sure Stories Match

(This is a tricky one. Oftentimes when students are telling their side of the story, the stories don’t match right away. I have learned to avoid the ‘L’ word and use other methods to help get the stories to match.)

Second Chance – Unfortunately your stories aren’t matching and I can’t help you solve your problem until I understand what actually happened. So I’m going to give you a second chance to really think and see if there are any parts of your story that you want to change to make them more true. 

Clarifying Terms – You said he hit you. He said he didn’t. What did you mean by ‘hit’? 

5. Identifying Causes of Feelings

So if I am hearing you correctly, you are saying that you are upset because…

*repeat with all students involved*

6. Taking Responsibility & Action

Think about what you just heard about why the other person is upset and tell me what you might have done in this situation that was not the right choice.

Now that you know how you made this person upset, what can you do to make them feel better?

*repeat with all students involved*

7. Reflection

How could you have handled this situation differently? What different choice could you have made to solve this problem more peacefully?

*repeat with all students involved*

8. Resolution Check-In

Do you feel this problem has been resolved?

*repeat with all students involved*

9. Peace Offering

After problems have been resolved it is nice to show a gesture of peace that says, ‘problem is solved, let’s move on’. What would you like to do to show peace; high five, hand shake, fist bump, chicken wing, nod etc.?

True this model takes time, which is often something that comes at a premium during the teaching day. But, I often find that these steps allow me to work through student conflicts without needing additional help, so I try to make time for them. If I’m on duty at recess I will often find a grassy spot or picnic table where we can sit down and chat. If it happens during class time, I take the first opportunity possible when students are doing independent learning to gather the students involved at a guided reading table. Or when there is no other option, I tell the students to wait and cool off and we will do some problem solving together privately at recess.

Sometimes it feels like these ‘teachable moments’ get in the way of the learning we have planned for our students, but what could be more important in the pursuit of helping to make good humans, than helping students learn how to peacefully work through conflict?

How do you help teach students to work through their conflicts?

One thought on “Modelling Conflict Resolution: One Conversation as a Time

  1. grade3love May 11, 2015 / 8:10 am

    I like how you broke down each step. Many times the students’ stores do not match up and it’s so important to clarify what really did happen. Thanks for sharing Taryn!


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