Learning conflict resolution skills

Learning conflict resolution skills

Kelso the frog and his friend Lily are helping students at Hillcrest Elementary School learn about big problems and little problems, along with skills and strategies to resolve those “little” problems. Called Kelso’s Choices, the program has been introduced to teach young children lifelong conflict resolution skills, to increase confidence, reduce tattling, and to prevent bullying, explains Hillcrest’s Learning Resource Teacher (LRT) Tracey Sauka.

Kelso (right) and his friend Lily (left) help students with strategies to resolve life’s “little” problems.

The program puts power in kids’ hands to be problem solvers and gives everyone at school a shared language to help kids get along. Already at Hillcrest there are several bulletin boards featuring student art work featuring the strategies and messages where students thought of a “small” problem and what strategy they could use to solve it.

“It’s a program that focusses on empowering the students to deal with the little day to day conflicts,” she comments. The aim is to help young people develop and sustain the belief that they are strong enough and smart enough to resolve their own minor problems. She stresses that students also learn that students learn to immediately get an adult to deal with “big” problems.

Through this training students begin to learn the source of the conflict when they are experiencing a minor problem, have some strategies to deal with it, and have the language to talk about it.

Art, stories, music, and puppets, are used to reinforce young students when learning about Kelso’s Choices, which includes the following strategies:

  • Talk it Out
  • Walk Away
  • Wait and Cool Off
  • Go to Another Game
  • Tell Them to Stop
  • Make a Deal
  • Apologize
  • Share and Take Turns
  • Ignore It

Sauka has taken it one step farther and has set up a “green screen” in her LRT room so that students can come in and make a video of a problem and how they would resolve it.

And, although she has just started the program with seven of Hillcrest’s 14 classes, she has already noticed that some of the students are using it.

For example, she said the other day she went into a Kindergarten-Grade 1 class to do a lesson and ironically, two girls were arguing over a book. She said the girls decided that this was a small problem, used Kelso’s Choices, and resolved it. Sauka added that several of their classmates were also giving them suggestions about what strategies might work.

Principal Jodi Garries comments she has also noticed that if there is an issue on the playground when she talks to the students about it they know about the strategies and are starting to use them.

Sauka notes that part of the program also helps students learn about what to do if a strategy isn’t working.

How it works

Sauka says she is currently teaching the program in seven classrooms, for about eight weeks and hopes to have worked with the entire school before the end of the school year. She notes that students are first taught to discriminate between “big” problems that must be shared with an adult, and “small” problems that they can resolve. They also learn about being able to identify adults who are in their personal safety support system.

After mastering this distinction, each of the nine skills are taught to the students. For example, specific strategies for “Make A Deal” are taught and practiced, including how to flip a coin, how to pick a number from one to ten, how to compromise and make a trade-off, etc. The program encourages students to try two choices from “Kelso’s Choice Wheel.” If the “small” problem persists, they are told that adult intervention is warranted.

Sauka learned about the program from colleague Christel Muller, who used it when working in Calgary and felt it was awesome for supporting students with conflict resolution, and developing a common language with the students. Several other schools, including South Broadview and Silver Creek, have also used the program.