Not all classroom teaching happens in the four walls of the classroom. Recess is a perfect opportunity for plenty of teaching too. If your recess runs anything like mine, the first few minutes are spent in blissful happiness. Students run to the playground structure, jump into the sandbox, look for ladybugs in the tall blades of grass, or they grab a ball and begin playing a game. You can almost do a count down and be guaranteed that within about ten minutes, students will suddenly show up in little packs to tattle-tale on each other.
The tattle-tale process almost always runs the same as well. At least one of them is yelling something indecipherable over another one's cries. Often times, the one crying is louder, so you hear, "He is going to telllllllllllll on meeeeee!" The other one is either yelling, "Nooooooo I'm nooooooot!" or tries to shout over the crying to tell you what the alleged infraction is. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, I have some ideas that have worked well for me.
I look each child in the eye and in a calm voice, explain to them that I would like to hear what they BOTH have to say. It seems that when both students know and learn to trust that they will both be guaranteed a time to voice their hurt, it helps to calm them down some. I usually suggest that they sit with me on a bench. For some reason, moving them from an aggressive stance where they can use their body language to continue a silent form of frustration to a separated chance to sit next to me also adds to helping them to calm down.
In my classroom, we talk A LOT about how we work together and are on a team together this school year. When I sit down to have these feuding students talk, they are tempted to cut each other off and continue the yelling. If this happens, I calmly remind them that each of them will have a turn to talk and to remember that they need to work together with their teammate. This also helps to diffuse the frustration.
Before I give my suggestions to them for how to solve the problems, I explain to them that I will take a moment to think about what they have said. The next step is to suggest that they take a moment to discuss things between themselves to see if they can come to a solution on their own before I come up with one for them. I stand close enough by so that I can over hear their interaction and intervene if necessary. Many times, they can successfully come to a solution before I have to become involved. I hear out their suggestions, give accolades to the good ideas, and sometimes suggest a few more ideas as well.
If they do come up with a good solution, I ask them to tell me what they think they might be able to do next time so this does not happen again. Unfortunately, there are times where both parties are stubborn about wanting to work things out. If that happens, I ask both of them to sit in a separate place for a few minutes to think about some solutions and we have another group meeting and I walk them through some suggestions.
Prior to excusing them back to the play space, I ask them if they have anything they'd like to apologize to the other person for. Usually, at this point, everyone has calmed down enough to think of something appropriate to say to the other person.
I can't say that every step of this process will work immediately. It takes awhile for the students to trust that the teacher will take the time to actually LISTEN to BOTH of them, regardless of who causes the infraction. It takes time on your part. If you consistently and calmly teach your students how to work out their differences with each other, they can be taught, by you, to work things out.
How do you deal with students who have difficulties working things out with others?
I'd love to hear!