Ninth Graders Teach Conflict Resolution to Third Graders
By Irem Ozpolat, with Alej Gorham
and Jamie Donahue
In ninth grade English, we read the classical Greek tragedy Antigone and discussed how the famous play reflects on misunderstandings, conflict, and resolution. These are a big part of life at a Quaker school, and knowing how to solve conflicts without violence is a useful life skill. We practiced identifying emotions and using ‘I’ statements to communicate in non-judgmental ways.
We wrapped up the unit by teaching third graders the skills we had learned in an interactive way. My group’s project was a board game that took place over the span of a school day, so the kids could relate. Players moved through the board and drew a card that had on it a conflict. Each card also had two or three possible reactions. The player would have to choose one, and then move ahead or backwards depending on the quality of their choice.
To deepen the third graders’ learning, we asked them to explain why they chose the answers they did, and then talked them through why that reaction would–or wouldn’t–produce desirable results.
We tried to make the problems and their possible responses as realistic as possible. Writing them, we felt as if we personally could have reasonably chosen either response. An example scenario:
You emptied the trash can yesterday, and now it’s your friends turn. She says she won’t do it. What do you say?
- a) “No. You have to do it!”
- b) “It was my turn yesterday, so I think it’s yours today.”
Instead of hurting the other party in return, students should use I-statements. Choice ‘b’ moves forward, choice ‘a’ sets the player back a space. Much of the time, the children chose the right answer, but didn’t always know exactly why. We made sure to talk about specific ways to resolve conflicts when we talked through the scenarios
The third graders were excited to play our game, and were surprisingly insightful. We split them up into groups of three so they could work together, and then played the game. The other groups also presented, and they really did seem to learn that day. I really loved being with them.