What do you do with a problem? … Sit on it.
An easy trap to fall into, is to problem solve for students. It’s easy because, if you’re like me, I’m multi-tasking on the fly and mentally organizing the next 40 mins like a skillfully choreographed three ringed circus. So, when a student approaches me with a problem, it can be easier and quicker to solve it for them, rather than stop and guide them in problem-solving for themselves.
A great way to get around this is to proactively establish problem solving strategies early in the year. A great book to introduce this topic is, The Girl and the Wolf, written by Katherena Vermette and illustrated by Julie Flett.
This beautiful picture book is a twist on the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. I love it because there are many activities you can do with this story: predict, compare and contrast with a Venn diagram, connect, identify the problem and solution, as a well as begin a discussion on problem solving strategies. I have included these activities plus others, in my unit based on this story. You can find this unit in my TpT store: Infusing Indigenous Literature.
This year I began the lesson by asking students, “What do you do with a problem?” I had many responses. One response was, “My little brother IS a problem and I sit on him.”
I made a mental note to look for opportunities to try this strategy.
For social problems that happen during unstructured time like: recess, lunch and transitioning periods in class, our school has been using the WITS program, (Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek Help) You can find more information about this B.C. based program: here.
For other problems such as getting lost in a public space, losing a lunch box or jacket, not having anyone to play with, we establish problem solving steps: Talk about the problem, come up with solutions, try the solutions, repeat step 2 and 3 if needed, and finally, ask for help. The key is that the default isn’t to ‘ask for help.’
By allowing students to struggle and attempt to independently problem solve, they develop self-confidence as well as build resilience when problems can’t be solved independently. Developing problem-solving skills and being able to adapt to change are life long skills that propel students to success.
And let's face it, I would rather have a class full of independent problem solvers; leaving me with more energy and time at the end of the day to focus on bigger issues, like, where I left my coffee mug, or what am I going to make for dinner tonight, or am I ACTUALLY going to go to the gym today, or when am I going to schedule those dentist appointments, or...