Posted on August 23, 2017
As we do in the beginning of the year, we have our Friendship Stations. I tell the students there are two goals: (1) to get to know each better as I assign them a partner and (2) to actively practice doing kind actions and saying kind words as a friend. I actually go to each station with my clipboard and ask the children how they are being kind, writing down what they say.
In kindergarten, my goal for them is to identify vocabulary/terms as well as identify a variety of kind actions, so they have more ideas on how to be a kind friend. In kindergarten, there are a handful who play independently and do not interact with their partner, which is age-appropriate, too. After all, sometimes being a good friend is letting your friend do what he wants to do independently -- actually, at any age. (Think "man-cave.")
In 1/2, at the end of Friendship Stations, I bring up different issues that arose, and we practice solving them together. After all, being humans, people will disagree, and we need to view ourselves as innovative, capable problem-solvers.
This week with the 3/4 students I already started giving them problems to solve as they played at Friendship Stations. Here is the scenario I presented to them; this is actually a real problem that happened at Friendship Stations the other year. I pretended to be a student who tapped them on the arm repeatedly (of course, I did it softly!!) with a stuffed animal. I told them beforehand that a good strategy was to tell me stop, but that I would not be listening to their words (as unfortunately is the case in real life sometimes) and I would keep tapping them. I also told them beforehand that yes, a second strategy would be to tell an adult or teacher to get me to stop, but I wanted them to come up with another solution. I was curious to see what they could come up with in this open-ended activity.
(After typing my scenario, I realize it may sound a bit diabolical, but please know that this is not the first time I have done role plays with the 3/4 children, so they know that's something we practice in CE to equip them for when these situations really happen out in the world. I do not want the students to play the role of the aggressor, thus I purposely play that role so I can control the situation. The children know me well enough to know I am only role playing and mean them no harm.)
I was quite impressed at the problem-solving strategies they tried!
* ignored me/had no reaction
* moved away
* tapped me softly and repeatedly with another stuffed animal while smiling (that made me realize how it felt to be hit and also distracted me)
* smiled and said in a fun voice, "Bye! Go away!" while simultaneously removing the stuffed animal from my hand. (This student has a much younger sister - she seemed pretty practiced in this strategy!)
* "That feels good! It really does, Ms. Abe. Keep doing it." (Which of course made me want to stop)
* "Let's hit this tomato together and squish it!" (Wow! Great way to redirect me to do something else!)
* "Let's play a game with your puppy!" (I was using a puppy to hit them. Another great way to redirect me!)
* "I'll give you free pizza if you stop." (Ah, classic bribery!) (I did not share the term "bribery" with them.)
* "Are you feeling lonely? Are you trying to get my attention?" (WOW! I was astounded by this boy's response. He was trying to get to the root of the situation! Absolutely insightful.)
* "Do you want to play with us?" (Again, very socially astute! Amazing!)
* "If you stop hitting me, you can play with us." (Ah, bribery but in a good sense by helping the person learn to be more socially respectful!)
At the end, I shared their various effective responses. I also taught them a strategy called "redirect." I pointed out that some of them had actually tried it. You redirect the person's attention to doing another interesting activity, such as hitting the plastic tomato together, so then they stop hitting you.
Of course, as I went around the room, I ridiculously over-acted while tapping them gently on the arm with the stuffed animal so the students knew it was just a role play. I also narrated everything as it happened so the children knew what to expect. I would say out loud, "I'm going to annoy you now" before I started and when they would tell me to stop I would say out loud, "Good -- but I am going to ignore your words." They thought it was funny that their CE teacher was "annoying" them and "not listening" to their words. At the end of class, one new student was smiling as he exited and told me, "That was fun!"
Indeed, solving problems makes the world a brighter place!