You may want to take some time to go over the following concepts with your students (if you haven’t in previous lessons):
⦁ Problem: A problem is something that happens that was not part of the plan and negatively influences it. Problems make people feel uncomfortable.
⦁ Size of the Problem: Problems come in different sizes. Small problems can be taken care of quickly and can be solved on our own or with the help of another person. Kids can help other kids solve small problems. Medium problems take more time to solve and require more help. Usually adults help solve medium problems. However, it’s expected that kids help solve medium problems with the adults. Finally, big problems take a lot of time to take care of and require a lot of help from others. When big problems happen, even adults need help from other adults.
⦁ Feelings: Feelings are what happen on the inside of our bodies. To help us talk about our feelings we use words such as happy, mad, sad, and scared. When problems happen, we have different feelings of different sizes or intensities. Because problems make people feel uncomfortable, we usually use words such as frustrated, stressed, sad, upset, disappointed, nervous, worried, and afraid.
⦁ Reactions: Reactions come from our feelings. A reaction is what we show on the outside by what we say and do. Just as problems and feelings come in different sizes, so do our reactions. It’s expected that the size of the reaction on the outside should match the size of the problem.
(excerpt from We Thinkers! Volume 2: Social Problem Solvers)
Activity Option 1:
Examining real life problems and talking about their impacts can really help students understand the size of the problem and how their reactions can match.
To keep things simple, you can start with the analogy of a traffic light to represent various problem sizes. After watching the intro videos, you could have students write down a problem they’re dealing with right now.
Green means go! Green light problems are no big deal at all. Kids can solve on their own with little effort or by ignoring.
- Someone accidentally bumps into you.
- I didn’t get to be partners with my best friend.
- I didn’t get picked when my hand was up
Yellow means slow down. Yellow light problems aren’t a huge deal, but kids need to slow down and think about these before they solve them. These are problems that kids can solve on their own or with support and shouldn’t be ignored.
- My friend said something mean about me.
- I don’t have the supplies I need.
- Someone is cheating in the game we’re playing.
Red means stop! Red light problems are a big deal and require adult guidance to solve them. These are problems that kids shouldn’t try to solve on their own and can’t be ignored.
- Two people are fighting on the playground.
- There’s someone trying to clog the toilet.
- Someone is hurting me.
Once students are able to differentiate the size of the problem, you can talk about matching our reactions to the problems. A big scream doesn’t quite fit with a slight bump of the shoulder the same way ignoring a fire isn’t a good match.
To practice, students can work together in groups to role play a situation (provided to them on a slip of paper) and then identify whether the reaction matches the size of the problem.
A next step lesson can be on calming strategies or mindfulness.
Play the Big Deal/ Little Deal Game: (2 versions; can play twice)