Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coping with Conflict Tool Box

In 2 prior posts - Hot, Hot, Anger and Cool Down Ice Cubes, I referenced a book our district uses for Conflict Resolution activities and lessons. Diane Senn's Coping with Conflict: An Elementary Approach is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to incorporate this topic area into their guidance curriculum. In the years since we adopted this book, I have expanded on the grade levels I use this resource for.  I now use the concepts in kindergarten through grade 5.

In the book, she writes about "Timely Tools" - strategies to help solve conflicts peacefully. Many, many years ago, I bought a tool box, made it into a Conflict Tool Box by affixing the strategies on the outside, and making the "tools" or strategies to put inside the box. I use this toolbox every year (many times a year) for classroom lessons, small groups, and individual sessions. The tools provide a visual to go along with the strategies being taught.

For those of you who would like to give this a try, below you will find a picture of my tool box.

For grades K and 1, I use a tool belt (I tie it around my waist) and pick a few of the basic tools to focus on. In grades 2 and 3, I add a few more tools than in K and 1 and use the tool box. In grades 4 and 5, I use the full tool box and all of the tools.

Below is a picture of the Timely Tools.

The Tools
Heart - Have a "Heart to Heart" or Talk it out!
Doughnut - Share
Ear Muffs - Ignore
Band-aid - Apologize
Dice - Chance Games
Seesaw - Take Turns
Rope w/Knot - Compromise
Stairs - Negotiate
Flag - Get Help
Purple "No" Symbol - Avoid
Stop Sign - Postpone
Clown Wig and Sunglasses - Use Humor


  1. Hello
    I LOVE this conflict resolution idea. I am hoping to do it with my K-2 students in December. I am wondering if you could share some more information about this lesson. Do you have students act out situations after you have taught them about the toolbox and tools? What is some of the language you use while talking to students about the toolbox... Is there an ending activity you have the students do? I appreciate your help!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi! First, I have a couple of suggestions. For K-2, I use a cloth toolbelt that ties around the waist. I believe I got it at Home Depot or Lowes. Then, I only use some of the tools I have in the toolbox. I use all of the tools in the toolbox for grades 3, 4 and 5. So, in the toolbelt I put get help, share, take turns, chance games, ignore, apologize. I have stayed away from the other tools because it gets too overwhelming for this age group. In second, you could probably add use humor and compromise (win/win solution or making them both happy) and avoid.
      In the grade levels you will be working with, I tell the students that I have a pretty blue toolbox at home and I ask them what they think I have inside of it. After they name a bunch of tools, etc. I ask the students why they think I need so many tools. I try to illicit from them that I never know which tool I will need to fix something at my house (I play up that it feels like I'm always fixing something. Not all tools have the same job and every thing that breaks (or problem that pops up) may need a different tool to fix.

      I put on my toolbelt and explain that the tools I brough to class today are not the tools you would find in my toolbox at home, but instead are special tools that will help us solve/fix people problems, disagreements or conflicts. I introduce every tool and the corresponding strategy. Then I read a book about some sort of "people problem." In first grade I use Weekend with Wendell and in second grade I use Prudy's Problem and How She Solved It. As we read, we look for the conflicts and discuss how the conflicts were handled in the story (and the consequences for handling them in such a way). Then, the students would name a tool/strategy to use for the characters in the story to help them solve their problem. To end, I give a few age appropriate conflict scenarios and students offer the tool/strategy to solve it.
      We always have a discussion as to why we need so many strategies/tools to solve conflicts!

    2. What would you tell an older grade level?

  2. Thank you, thank you!! I appreciate your help and I LOVE your page! I am always looking for cute ideas on how to teach lessons to children in grades k-2. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! :)

  3. Great Idea. Thanks for sharing