Beginning The Year With Conflict Resolution:

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               Beginning the Year with Social Competencies:
                  A Sample Plan for the First Eight Days

Please Note:
The following plan must be adjusted appropriately for the needs of each grade level being considered.
The concepts, while universally valid, must be shaped to the maturity level, reading level, etc. for each
grade level.

Day One:       Community Building
Allow for grade-appropriate introductions. Encourage some system of learning names. If students are
old enough to understand the difference between rules and agreements, you might have them make a
list of agreements (commitments) they will make to their class members. Some teachers report
successfully using the “What you can expect from me, and what I would like to see from you”
discussion to set the tone of mutual respect and caring. Other teachers have used the “Rights and
Responsibilities Chart” or the “Social Contract”.

Day Two:       Community Building and Listening Exercises
Give students an opportunity to recite the names of classmates they remember from the day before.
Make the point that listening to each other shows caring and respect, and that you intend to practice
good listening and give them the chance to do the same. Demonstrate good” listening looks like with
one student. Have a student speak to you for about a minute, then paraphrase the content of their
talk, starting with the phrase, “You said ___”. Point out the details of how you listened (i.e.”Did you
notice how I looked at him/her, how I kept my body still, how I nodded my head?” etc.) Then
have each student pair up with another to practice listening. Write suitable questions on the board,
such as favorite T.V. shows, pets they have, sports they play, activities they enjoy, etc.. Have
students take turns being the speaker and the listener. Let each person speak for one minute, then
have the listener paraphrase the content using the phrase, “You said _____” as a starting point. You
may have students change partners and go as many rounds as time permits.

Day Three: Things We Have In Common: What We Don’t Like
Tell your students that you want to see how well they remembered the things they learned about each
other the day before. Put some of the questions from the exercise yesterday on the board, and quiz
students about the answers they learned from their classmates. Draw out as many commonalities as
possible. Point out that people in class seem to like many of the same types of things. Tell them that
your experience with students has shown you that people in your grade not only like similar things, but
they also dislike similar things. Ask students to pair up again and use the sentence stem, “I don’t like
it when people_____”. Use the same format you used yesterday to practice paraphrasing. After a
couple of rounds with different partners, formulate a list on the board of things people dislike. After
writing each statement, ask “Did anyone else say that one?”, and put check marks next to that
statement for each person raising their hand. The final product will probably contain many items that

               Created by Rick Lewis, The School District of Palm Beach County, The Department of Safe Schools
                                    (561) 982-0920, PX 50920, lewisr@palmbeach.k12.fl.u

people of all ages dislike, such as being made fun of, being called names, being made to look foolish, etc.
Point out the similarities, and solicit their commitment to keep such things out of the classroom they’ll
be sharing together all year. Comment, “Nobody likes it when mean things are done to them”. Ask,
“If nobody likes being hurt or embarrassed, why do people still do mean things to one another?”
Answers will probably include, “people get mad”, “people want to get a laugh”, “people don’t know what
else to do”, or “I don’t know...they just pop out”. Tell the class that you don’t intend to hurt them, and
ask “What do you think this class would be like if nobody was mean to each other?” Close by
saying, “Next week we’ll talk about ways we can deal with our tempers, get a laugh, and all the
other things, without being mean. If I hear anyone being mean, I’m going to say, “That sounds
hurtful to me. Remember, we said we weren’t going to hurt each other. Can you tell him/her
how you feel and what you want without hurting him/her?”

Day Four:     Feelings Discussion
Do a name review of some kind. Ask the students to recall the list of disliked behaviors they
generated last Friday. Make the point, “The reason we don’t hurt people is because we care about
their feelings.” Ask the class, “How can we show people that we care about their feelings?” Write
the list on the board. Make the point that doing those things for each other in class will make a big
difference both at home and at school. Tell the students that you want to see how many feeling words
they know. Tell them that you will give them one minute to write down all the words that describe
feelings that they can think of. Spelling doesn’t count. At the end of a minute, ask the students to
count the words they thought of. Congratulate the person who had the most, but don’t emphasize the
competitive aspect. Go around the room and ask people to name some of the words on their lists.
Make the point that some words describe pleasant, easy-to-manage feelings, and some describe
unpleasant, more difficult-to-manage feelings. Tell them that, in your experience, one of the hardest
feelings to manage is anger. Tell them that they will have a chance to make an anger management plan

Day Five:    Anger Management Plans
Say something like, “We are going to spend a lot of time together this year. All sorts of feelings
will come out during our work together. One of those feelings might be anger. Just because
people get mad sometimes, it doesn’t mean that we stop caring about each other. People usually
get mad because they want to do something, and something or somebody interferes with their
plan. People also get mad if he/she feels disrespected or made to feel that his/her feelings
don’t matter. My goal in our class is to find solutions to problems and respect people’s feelings.
Why don’t we spend some time talking about a plan now, while we’re calm, so that we’ll know what
to expect when we get frustrated or annoyed later. We call this an anger management plan.”

You could begin by stating your own anger management plan. You could put three columns on the board,
“What makes me mad”, “What doesn’t work”, and “What I will do”. Point to the first column. Say,
“Sometimes, at school, teachers become frustrated and annoyed when they want to teach
something, and people aren’t paying attention. When I ask for people to listen, and they don’t, I
get frustrated.” Point to the second column. “Sometimes, teachers yell at people, threaten people,

                Created by Rick Lewis, The School District of Palm Beach County, The Department of Safe Schools
                                     (561) 982-0920, PX 50920, lewisr@palmbeach.k12.fl.u

raise their voices to the whole class, and generally act angry all day. Nobody likes
that...especially me. I want to feel good at work.”
Point to the third column. Say, “Here’s what I intend to do. If I feel myself getting frustrated,
I will take three deep breaths. I will say to myself, “I know there is a good solution to this
problem”, then I will talk to the person privately about the situation. I will not embarrass
him/her in front of his/her friends. We will work out the problem.”
Ask the students to do their own anger management plans at their seats. Ask them to consider in-
class and out-of-class situations. After a few minutes, solicit responses from those students who want
to share elements of their plan. Look for common strategies such as postponement, positive self-talk,
relaxation, distraction, etc.. Offer encouragement and positive reinforcement.

Day Six:       I-Messages and Other Communication Strategies
Say, “Yesterday we talked about ways of dealing with our angry feelings so that people did not
get hurt, and situations were not made worse. When we are calm enough to talk, the way we say
things matters just as much as what we say. One of the best things we can do is start off with
a statement of our positive intent. If my friend Jim had done something to interfere with me, I
could say, “Jim, I want to work something out with you.” We could say all kinds of positive
things, like “I want us to be friends”, “I want to understand your situation”, “I need your help to
solve a problem”, or “I want to get some ideas from you about this situation”. Next, teach
students the “I-Statement” (“I feel ___ when ___. Please ___.”) and model it for them. Next, give
them the opportunity to practice using it in a few sample situations. Make the point that the I-
Message is most effective after we have built up trust with the person. Also, let the students know
that the I-Message is not a magic wand that will make people behave the way they want them to.
Rather, it is simply a way to start a discussion. Demonstrate at least one role-play of a situation where
the listener rejects an I-Message, and ask students, “What would you do next?” Strategies could
include trying another I-Message, asking the person to talk about it later, getting help through
mediation, etc.. Mention, “When people give us an “I-Message”, we might or might not agree with
what they want us to do. We don’t have to automatically do what they want….but we can say to
them, “Thank you for telling me how you feel. I want us to be friends, too. Let me think about
what you said.” When both people feel respected at the end of an important conversation, it
opens the door for problem-solving.          Tomorrow we will discuss a method for brainstorming
solutions to problems where both people can win.”

Day Seven:    The Win/Win Concept and Searching for Solutions to Problems

Introduce the concept of Win/Win with some grade-appropriate examples. Say, “A Win/Win solution
is one that gives both people a way to get their goals met, and both people end up feeling
respected. The solution is fair and “do-able”. Give students some situations to use for practice.
This might also be a good time to address common situations that will arise in class, (i.e. “Students
want to talk, teacher needs to have everyone’s attention”, “student is tired, teacher wants work turned
in”, etc..) The solutions in most situations will concern timing, i.e. “We’ll work hard for thirty minutes,

                Created by Rick Lewis, The School District of Palm Beach County, The Department of Safe Schools
                                     (561) 982-0920, PX 50920, lewisr@palmbeach.k12.fl.u

then take a five minute break”, “we’ll do all our math now, then read a story”, etc. The key is
recognizing and validating the goals of the other, and letting them know you intend to give them the
chance to meet their needs as long as they give you a chance to meet yours. Conclude by restating
your willingness to use this problem-solving approach as situations emerge throughout the school year.
You might introduce the format of class meetings as a format for brainstorming win/win solutions to
problems that affect everyone.

Day Eight:    Responsibility
Say, ”People sometimes use the word “responsible” when they are looking for someone to blame, as
in “Who’s responsible for this mess?!” That’s not how we’re going to use the word in here.
Responsibility is something people gain as they become more capable. Babies can’t be responsible
because they can’t control their emotions, they can’t make and keep promises, and they are
totally self-centered. As we get older, we realize that what we say and do affects other
people. Every person in this room affects everyone else in here.” Give some examples. Say,
“Responsibility means we recognize the power we have to make a situation better or worse by the
choices we make. Babies don’t know how upset everyone gets when they scream in the middle of
the night...we, in here, know that our moods, decisions, and actions make a difference. When
we accept our responsibility, it means we make a promise to each other to act with the good of
our whole class in mind. It also means that if we make a mistake, we admit it, and try to make
the situation right by choosing differently. Sometimes that might mean apologizing if we hurt
somebody’s feelings. It might mean replacing or repairing something we’ve broken. The main
thing a responsible person thinks, when he/she has made a mistake, is, “What can I say or do to
make this situation right?” When we figure out the right thing to do, we do it. What else do
you think responsibility means?” Have students discuss private and class property, the power of
words, trust, and the notion of rights and responsibilities. Discuss the difference between behaving
well out of concern for each other’s feelings vs. simple fear of getting caught. Let them know that
part of your job is to help them grow in responsibility as the year goes on, and that you will be their
“coach” in conflict resolution affairs.

               Created by Rick Lewis, The School District of Palm Beach County, The Department of Safe Schools
                                    (561) 982-0920, PX 50920, lewisr@palmbeach.k12.fl.u

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