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Problem Solving Lessons for Grades 2-5

I don’t know about you, but this time of year is rough at my elementary school.  It’s like the weather gets nice, and all of a sudden, my cute little students turn into drama queens/ kings.  In turn, there are lots of tears, aggravation, and jealousy.   Last year, spring fever began, and I had a stream of students coming in to discuss the problems they had with their school friends.  I vowed never to let that happen again!

To help the students and my sanity, I developed FRIENDSHIP Problem Solving Activities to be used with students in grades 2-4 (maybe grade 5, but depends on the class).  This can be used with small groups or a whole class, and the lessons typically last for about 6 weeks.  Perfect for a small group of students who are getting discipline referral forms for disrespect or difficulty with peers – just saying!


This is what I do…

1. Post-It Note Activity

I make a large poster titled “How big is the PROBLEM?”*.  I then give each student Post-It notes and ask them to write down all their problems.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the problem is just write it down.

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We take each Post-It Note and discuss each problem.  The students then put there Post-It note in the correct column – small, medium or big problem.  At first every student feels like their problem is a big problem but as we discuss each problem they quickly understand that most problems are small problems (including my “Hungry at night” problem that I have, lol!).  I try to stress how quickly students can turn a small problem into a big problem- SUPER IMPORTANT!


2.  Strategies to Solve Problems

I have the students complete a group work activity.  They make 2 columns and we discuss each option.

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Group work activity separating problem solving strategies

3.  Interactive  Worksheets

These are awesome and the students enjoy putting them together!  We take each strategy and they either draw or write what that strategy “looks” like.  This typically takes 2 lessons to complete.

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Problem Solving Interactive Worksheets

4.  Which strategy would you use?  A discuss, write, draw then role play activity.

I have 9 different questions the students work in small groups to complete.  Example would be – “Your friend wants to play tag at recess and you want to play on the swings.  What strategy would you use to solve this problem?”  The students would have to decide which strategy to use, draw what that looks like and then ROLE PLAY and put it into action.   This is a lot of fun, and during the role play, I use it as a teachable moment to discuss the concept of keeping a small problem SMALL, and how quickly a small problem can turn into a GIGANTIC problem.   We have all seen kids overreact over something small.

5.  What are your problems?

The students share out any school/ friendship/ teacher problems they are having.  I first give them the opportunity to decide which strategy they would use and then the group will chime in to decide if that’s the best strategy.

To purchase this 4-6 week unit on Problem Solving Strategies it is super easy.  You can buy it for $3.oo on my Teachers Pay Teachers store – School Counseling Confessions, or you can buy it directly here.

*The idea for the “How big is the PROBLEM?” poster came from an online resource that I saw a few years ago.  I tried to find the original website but I was unable to locate it.  If you know of it please send me an email and I will gladly give credit where credit is due.

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One Comment

  1. Kara Kara

    Looking forward to trying these ideas.

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