Conflict Escalator Lesson

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
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While reading through the comments on this blog post, I discovered the book Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children's Literature (Grades K-2) and the idea of the "conflict escalator". Especially when conflict was a bigger problem at our school, it seemed like our students were constantly escalating their problems unknowingly! This seemed like a great lesson topic for 3rd grade's conflict resolution unit.

3rd grade conflict resolution lesson plan: Conflict Escaltor lesson

This was a lesson I wanted to start with a book but had a difficult time finding the perfect one. I needed something that showed not just the cycle and effect of conflict, but the escalation of conflict. While I would still love to find one that has more real world examples, The Butter Battle Book: (New York Times Notable Book of the Year) (Classic Seuss) ended up working as a great start. After reading the book, I asked them:
  • At the beginning of the story, what was the problem or conflict about?
  • At the end of the story, what was the problem or conflict about?
  • Did the size of the conflict or problem stay the same or change during the story? Did it get bigger or smaller?
  • The conflict kept going and growing. Did it have to? Or could the Zooks or Yooks have done something to make the conflict smaller or stop?

The Butter Battle Book cover used to teach conflict escalation/deescalation

Then the students move to their desks and I introduce the concept of the conflict escalator using a PowerPoint. Not all of my students have been to big malls and most have not been to airports, so it was important I be able to give them a visual! We walked through the vocabulary of escalating vs. de-escalating. I added in the weather visuals to tie in with our size of problems lesson and learning.

Conflict Escalator Lesson: gif of an escalator

The next step was to go through two story examples. The stories are adaptations of stories I found over and over again when googling the teaching of this topic - just changed the specifics to be a fit to my school.

First I read aloud while students acted it out. Then I read it aloud again and students motioned whenever a character said or did something that escalated the conflict and made it worse. I flashed these up the steps on the PPT as we went. After finishing the story, I asked them to come point out one or two star locations and give an example of how the character could have made a different choice to de-escalate the conflict.

Conflict escalator lesson plan: gif of an escalator with points representing where the conflict could be deescalated.

Our final activity was for students to work in pairs or trios to sort words and actions that would escalate vs. de-escalate conflict, and then to personally identify 1 or 2 escalation cards that they were "guilty" of doing during conflict. Cards are available here in my TpT store.

Conflict escalator/deescaltor activity using sorting cards

Closing questions (if time):
  • Which is easier to do, escalate or de-escalate conflict?
  • Why do people sometimes choose to escalate conflict?
  • Why should we choose to de-escalate conflict instead of escalate it?
Our next lesson starts a 3-part "unit within a theme" on conflict de-escalation strategies.

You can get the complete lesson plan (typed up plan, PPT, and sorting cards) here on my TPT page.                                                                                                                                                                                                                

I Caved - My TpT Store

I make most of my lesson plans and the associated materials myself. A couple of colleagues have encouraged me in the past to list them on TpT....and I was incredibly resistant. I felt so grateful to the bloggers that shared their materials freely with the world (and me!) that I felt a little indebted to the school counseling internet community. I started this blog in part to give back and do my part to help school counselors find resources and ideas that they connect with. Charging money (even tiny amounts) sort of felt...un-counselory? You know what I mean. We are givers! We are helpers! We feel awkward taking things from people!

Then yesterday I had the privilege of presenting at a small local conference. I had brought some of my task card materials with me as a visual aid, to get people's minds rolling, etc. There were several people who asked where they could find them online. My co-counselor and my husband encouraged (...or pressured) me once again to set up shop. So I caved and I did it - I made a TpT store and started adding some of my creations. Many of my things will be free and all will be pretty cheap - essentially however much I would be willing to pay for the product myself.

Because sometimes, spending $2 on something someone else made is worth the 2 hours you would spend creating/re-creating it yourself.

If you feel inclined to visit, I'm linking it below and there's a "widget" for it on the side of the page.

Blogs That Inspired Me

When I started out as a school counselor, I was pretty underwhelmed by the small group and classroom lesson ideas I found in dusty books and binder left in my office but I was desperate for resources. Pinterest was growing however, and that combined with some strategic googling lead me to some amazing blogs that helped get me off on the right foot. Even if I didn't use their lesson plans exactly, they gave me some much needed inspiration. I believe that lesson planning is incredibly personal and subjective - it all depends on how your brain as an educator/counselor work plus your personal theories and philosophies.

I presented recently at a local conference and had several people ask me later to share some of the blogs that I turn to as resources. There are an incredible number of wonderful school counseling blogs online now, and I'm sure I haven't even discovered half of them. If you like the lesson plans you've seen me post, you may also love some of these listed below. There are other ones I've pulled from or enjoyed reading, but these are the ones that get me really excited and that I can say I've found more than 1 or 2 posts that gave me ideas I implemented.

Ms. Sepps' RoadRunners
^no longer posts, but her older stuff is definitely worth going through

Life on the Fly Counselor
 ^has a great TpT store too

Corner on Character

The Handy School Counselor
^also no longer posts, but her older stuff is definitely worth going through

The Art of Social Work
^for individual and small group interventions

Jill Kuzma SLP Social Emotional Skill Sharing Site
^speech language pathologists often have great social skill activities on their blogs!

Best Effort Lesson

Monday, September 19, 2016
Every year, my third grade teachers request that I do an effort on "Best Effort". I think some of it is the teachers and their expectations and I think another part is the huge jump between 2nd and 3rd grade in regards to rigor.

Since I first posted this, I've gone back and edited my lesson to make it even more visually appealing!

I start the lesson with a super short PowerPoint walking them through different levels or degrees of effort. The students take turns reading different parts of this to make it more engaging. Here's a fly by of what it looks like:

Best Effort Lesson Plan photo of students acting out related story.

The next step is for me to get a couple volunteers to help act out a story I'm going to tell. I have it in the PPT and also separate as a teacher 'script'. The two student volunteers wear character signs and I try to get them to act out what I'm reading whenever possible.

After I read about how each character responded to the pretend assignment, I project their assignment (written in composition notebooks so it looks more legit) and give each table group a copy of the rubric and have them score the effort.

Best effort lesson planBest Effort lesson plan

I ask some discussion questions once the stories are over:
  • Which student does your teacher want in her class? 
  • Which student will achieve their goals? 
  • Which student is going to get a better job when their an adult? 
  • Which student will get raises at their job?

The last piece to our lesson used to be for the students to self-evaluate their effort in class. This takes a lot of coaching! The best outcome is when the teacher joins me for this piece of the lesson to help students be more accurate. Even with examples of what best effort looks like, they still struggle to identify what they personally need to do differently in order to show more effort - they just don't have this self awareness yet. I have one self-evaluation form that I use when we think the students can truly evaluate their general effort. The other one is for specific assignments, and I ask the teachers to direct the students to pull out a very recent assignment to look at.

The truth is that nearly all of the students want good grades and to give their best effort (they don't lack the motivation), and don't struggle from fixed mindsets, they just haven't developed great schoolwork skills (reading the directions, checking work, ignoring distractions, writing multiple complete sentences, etc.) yet. This is the kind of lesson I do that is more about providing a knowledge base and common language - it takes consistent teacher reinforcement for behavior change in this arena.

If you're interested in using the PowerPoint, stories, and exit tickets that I made, you can find them in my TpT store - just click the image below.

Best effort lesson plan includes Powerpoint plus character stories

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