I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Thursday, June 4, 2009

problem solving...

About ten years ago, when I taught Kindergarten, we opened a Conflict Corner in my classroom. It developed out of a belief that children could solve problems between them, and would if they were given both the autonomy to do so and the tools they needed.

Designating a space itself was a realization I had because several of my young lovelies were just not capable of solving a problem about the blocks if the blocks were right there. They needed to be separated from the problem in order to talk about the problem.

It was the sort of successful insight that I was so proud of having as a third year teacher. I was inspired by the ability to invent something that my children needed, simply by watching, learning, and knowing what they needed.

Of course, I was the tiniest little bit let down near the end of the school year when I discovered that it wasn't my invention after all, that classrooms in other schools had Peace Corners, Apology of Action spaces, and etc...

Ten years, two schools, and four classrooms later, I still always have a place in the classroom where children can go to solve problems. The needs of each class are different, as are the structures they need in place for the area. Some classes simply need the space, and the children are able to use and manage it with little to no support from me. Some classes need the ceremony of building an Apology of Action book, of developing the process for solving problems. Other classes, like my class this year, need a specific, but simple structure. (and how!)
This year, we have The Frog Carpet.

It's a space, right behind our classroom library, in fact, sort of in our classroom library, with a little frog carpet (ahh, we are clever titlers in our class) and a small pocket chart with sentence strips on it.

The sentence strips say:

Excuse me, ______, will you please come to the frog carpet?

When you _______, it ___________________.

I'm sorry, how can I help you feel better?

[high five, hug, special clap, short song, handshake]

These are the words that the class decided. I would have gone toward something a little more open-ended, but I mostly tried to keep my mouth shut as we talked about this, and pulled what I was hearing from the children.

I'm glad I did.

Since we put this into effect in February (much later than I should have), the incidence of: "Miz F, Marcella said/did/looked/ate/called me..." has gone down exponentially. Children use this space independently; they know that they can't use it during a lesson time (ie, at the beginning of Math), but that during a work period, it's fair game.

In classes past, I've needed a record keeping system because some children spent all of their time there, and this helped me regulate it for some of the frequent fliers. But in this class -- even with their need of this specific, almost rigid structure -- no one overuses it. In fact, I have kept an informal tally and each of my twenty-four lovelies has been there at least once. On a particularly rough day one of my students has gone four times (I counted), but my thoughts were: if he's having a rough day, and this is a tool that he has found helps him manage himself independently... well, why not?

It's kind of awesome.

NOTE: I do have a story from last week that really illustrates the power behind having a conflict space, but I also have about twenty minutes and report cards are calling my name (do you hear them?), so I shall type that up later. Peace out. ♥


nyc apple said...

I really like your idea and would like to implement it in my classroom this year. I do a frog theme in my classroom and wondered where you got your rug. Thanks, nyc apple

nyc apple said...

HI there, I really love your idea and have worked really hard with my students to have an "open" classroom where are feelings are best expressed
rather than bottled up. My theme deals with Frogs. I would really like to implement your beautiful idea in my classroom. Would you share where you got your Frog rug from? I would really appreciate it.
Sincerely, Elsa

kirsten said...

Hi Elsa,

I'm so glad this resonated with you; thank you for telling me. I don't remember where I got the Frog Carpet from, but I assume it was a place like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or maybe Ikea or World Market. If I remember, I'll comment back here again to let you know, but probably a place like that would have something similar. Good luck!