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Problem Solving Process – Teaching Students to Make Better Choices

October 25, 2012

This post is a follow-up to Challenging School Environments.

Student misbehavior often occurs when students lack strategies for controlling their own behavior. We can dislike behavior, but we cannot dislike our students. Let your students know it is normal to make mistakes.

Introduce your students to the problem solving process where they can begin to take charge of their own behavior. Help them define unacceptable behavior as a problem that may have multiple solutions. Discuss different choices they could make to avoid or change unacceptable behavior. Over time, this will support students in their attempt to change and grow.

When a problem occurs, ask the student some simple questions. What did you do? Why did you do it? What were you feeling when you did it? What could you have done differently? What will you try next time? Provide a quiet place for students to go through this process before they meet with you for a conference to discuss their action plan for change. Have a chair or desk in a special place. Never use it as time out or punishment. Give it a positive name like the Reflection Corner. One of my students called it a Brain Resort. For students to become independent problem solvers, they will need time, practice and support. Initially allow the student to work through this process with your guidance. When you introduce this strategy to students model with a student and have students participate in role plays where one is the student who made a poor choice and the other is his guide or problem solving buddy.

The Problem Solving Process:

  • Identify the problem–What did I do?

  • Analysis – Why did I do that? What was I feeling?

  • Brainstorm – What are other choices I could have made? What could I have done differently? Think of at three alternatives

  • Analyzing the possibilities. What would have been the results of these actions?

  • Selecting the best Solution. Which solution is the best?

  • Planning a course of action. Next Steps: What will I do next time?

Post this Problem Solving Poster in your classroom. Provide student handouts for recording responses and working through the process.

Use this process daily. Don’t take short cuts. Model, guide, and practice. Remember it takes time for teachers and students to get to where we want to be.

Click to download a Classroom Problem Solving Process Poster  or Our Classroom Problem Solving Process Poster2

Click to download the Problem Solving Student Handout

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