Organization & Management, Tips & Tricks

Teaching Kids To Become Problem Solvers in 5 Easy Steps

Making decisions and solving problems is something we do all day long. So if adults do it all the time, why is it that so many students struggle with this process? Is it that grown ups aren’t giving them enough opportunities to make decisions on their own? Is it that maybe they’re too young to be problem solvers? I don’t know… but what I do know, is that every year I see more and more students giving up when faced with a problem they can’t solve.

 

That’s part of the reason why I’ve banned the words “I don’t get it” from my classroom.

 

I want my students to TRY to solve their probems before coming to me for answers…

 

I want them to learn to be independent…

 

I want them to take risks…

 

I want them to be bold …

 

I want them to make mistakes…

 

I want them to realize that sometimes there’s MORE THAN ONE RIGHT ANSWER…

 

Most importantly, I want to prepare them for the REAL WORLD!

 

So how do we empower our children to become thinkers and problem solvers?

 

If you want your kids to be problem solvers, then you have to teach them how! Try these 5 EASY STEPS and teach them how to effectively COMMUNICATE and RESOLVE CONFLICTS on their own.

 

 

… by direct instruction, that’s how.

 

We need to start by changing the way they look at problems. We also need to plan some time to teach them about the process of problem-solving.

 

 

A great place to start is by reading a good book like Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy from Jacky Davis and David Soman. In this story, a little girl named Lulu and her friend Sam want to play together. The only problem is that they can’t seem to agree on what they should play. (Sound familiar? I hear this complaint ALL the time!) So what do the children do? They actually take turns making suggestions until they agree on a game they’re BOTH excited about.

 

As you can tell, this book not only has a great story line that young kids can relate to, but it’s also a great conversation starter. While reading the story, remember to pause and ask some questions. Ask the kids to think about how the characters resolved their issues on their own and how they felt about it. Also, encourage them to make connections to their own personal experiences. You want them to start seeing themselves as problem solvers!

 

After a few important class discussions, you’re ready to begin teaching the 5 steps to solving problems.

If you want your kids to be problem solvers, then you have to teach them how! Try these 5 EASY STEPS and teach them how to effectively COMMUNICATE and RESOLVE CONFLICTS on their own.

Identify a Problem:

The first step is to recognize the problem. What was the problem in Ladybug Girl and the Bumblebee Boy? Was it that Sam didn’t want to play with Lulu? No, of course not! But at first, that might be the answer some of your students give you. That’s why this step is so important. Help them to realize that the “real issue” is that the children couldn’t agree on what to play.

 

You can practice some more by making a game out of it. Give your kiddos a few different scenarios and then ask them to tell you what the problem is. Once they’ve had some practice, you might want to have them work with a partner or in a group to write down the problem in a complete sentence. I’ve created these problem solving posters with a few question stems to guide them. Although in the beginning we do a lot of collaborative conversations, once I think they’re ready, I’ll ask them to write down a CLEAR and SPECIFIC problem statement. An example of a well-written problem statement might be “How will I complete my homework on nights that I have baseball practice?” If a student simply writes that the problem is that the child can’t complete his homework, I’ll make it a point to ask him to be more specific {completing homework on baseball nights}.

 

Describe Barriers:

A barrier is something that prevents you from reaching your goal. It’s like an obstacle. Teaching students to identify barriers might be a little tricky at first since it involves critical thinking skills. However, it’s important that you not skip over this step. Identifying barriers is what’s going to help them come up with possible solutions later on.

 

While teaching the 5 steps, continue to go back to Lulu and Sam.  What “barrier” keeps the characters in the story from solving their problem? Is it that both of them want to do something different? Is it that they each want their own way and aren’t willing to compromise? Talk it out! I see an opportunity for great discussions here. Having children analyze situations from the perspective of another character is not easy, but it is important for them to think about how their own actions might affect others. #lifelessons

 

If you want your kids to be problem solvers, then you have to teach them how! Try these 5 EASY STEPS and teach them how to effectively COMMUNICATE and RESOLVE CONFLICTS on their own.

Develop a Plan of Action:

The next step is to brainstorm possible solutions! Try to get them to list at least 2-3 and discuss the benefits of using different strategies. Encourage them to accept every idea during a brainstorming session, even if it seems silly… “If you think it, write it” is what I like to tell them.

 

Test Possible Solutions:

If you want your kids to be problem solvers, then you have to teach them how! Try these 5 EASY STEPS and teach them how to effectively COMMUNICATE and RESOLVE CONFLICTS on their own.

 

The fourth step involves testing out solutions to see if they work. Emphasize that if an idea isn’t working the key is to keep going… try something else. DON’T GIVE UP! Remind them that mistakes are part of the learning process.

 

It’s okay to test a few different solutions before finding the one that works best! In the end, what’s important is that the problem is resolved.  Let your students know that scientists and inventors do this all the time. They are constantly trying to find new ways of making things better. Ask them to imagine what the world would be like if inventors stopped making cell phones once the first phone was created. {I’m sure you’ll get their attention now!}

 

Reflect on the Results:

Once their problem has been solved, it’s time for them to do some reflection. Please do NOT skip this step or rush through it! It’s one of the most valuable parts of the process. Once students have resolved their problems, ask them if they’re satisfied with the outcome. Is there something that they wish would have turned out differently. If so what and what might they do differently in the future. Ask students to reflect on anything they realized or learned throughout the process. Perhaps they’ve realized that they need to be more patient in the future or that they need to consider the feelings of others. Wow, those two observations are H-U-G-E! If you can get your students to the point where they are reflecting on what worked or what they might do differently in the future you’re well on your way to having a class of independent little thinkers.

 

I hope this post gives you some new ideas on how to help your kids become better problem solvers.

How do YOU help your students solve conflicts? Do you have any tips or strategies that work for you? If so, I’d love to hear about them… Just let me know in the comments.

 

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If you want your kids to be problem solvers, then you have to teach them how! Try these 5 EASY STEPS and teach them how to effectively COMMUNICATE and RESOLVE CONFLICTS on their own.

 

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