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conflict resolution: activity ideas

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  1. Bullies

    Grade Level: 2-5
    Subjects: Reading & Language Arts; Math; Social Studies

    Children of all ages need conflict resolution skills. Even our youngest students need to know what a "bully" is and how to handle one. These activities will immerse learners in situations that give them practice in resolving conflicts with a bully and help them to think critically about logical resolutions.

    Lead your students in a discussion about what a bully is, who is a target and how to handle a bully. You may wish to print and read the following resources with your class.

    Journaling: Each student will keep a bullying journal for one week. They should share situations where bullying occurred within their classroom, on the playground, in the hallways, arriving or leaving school. Use sentence starters such as I felt, I saw, I wish. It may be helpful to display questions such as what happened, why did it happen, was it resolved, how? What type of bullying did you see?

    During the week, allow time for students to share their journal entries voluntarily. Use a presentation system (or pair students up at computer stations) to view You Make the Call, a multimedia website created by students from Hawaii for Thinkquest Junior. Your students listen to skits where they will have to make a positive or negative choice about how to react to a situation and then see the consequences of their choices.

    Math: Use a spreadsheet tool to prepare a survey that will allow students to collect data on types of bullying happening at your school (physical, verbal or relationship bullying). (Older students may prepare their own spreadsheet.) Distribute the surveys to other classes in your grade level or school. Teams will collect the surveys and input the data into the spreadsheet. When all the data is collected, create a graph to display the types of bullying.

    Act it out: After the students have time to reflect on their journal entries, the surveys collected and the graphs displayed showing the most prevalent types of bullying, discuss ways to solve these conflicts. Using the ideas from You Make the Call, create interactive skits showing the type of bullying happening. Each skit should present the real-life problem and then contain 2 alternate endings. Allow your audience to "vote" on which choice to choose. The actors then present the consequences to the choice.

    Final Activities/Extensions: Invite other classes and grade levels to be the audience for your skits. Tape the skits and place in your school library or digitize them for display on your school's website. Distribute a survey each quarter to see if you are having a positive impact in creating a bully free environment at your school.

    Online Resources

    PBS: It's My Life

    PBS: It's My Life: For Teachers: "Building a Classroom Community and Bully-Free Zone":

    ThinkQuest Junior: You Make the Call

    Bullying Online

    Print Resources

    Bully by Judith Casely
    Stand Tall, Mary Lou Melton by Patty Lovell and David Catrow
    The Bully Free Classroom: Over 100 Tip and Strategies for Teachers K-8 by Allan L. Beane
    Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons
    Bully-Proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach for Elementary Schools by Carla Garrity, Kathryn Jens, William Porter, Nancy Sager, and Cam Short-Camilli

    More Recommended Resources

  2. International Justice

    Grade Level: 6-9
    Subjects: Math; Social Studies

    How do rates of crime in the U.S. compare to other nations? The Crime and Justice Information Network of the United Nations compiles crime statistics from countries around the world. Print out topline data (see "Tables with Key Statistics" in the data section, particularly tables labeled "victimisation in one year") from the surveys and use it to create graphs and conduct data analysis.

    How does the United States compare to other industrialized nations? (Students might pick five countries and create a graphical representation of the data.) How do developing countries fare in comparison? What are the most prevalent types of crime?

    To learn more about the justice system and rates of crime in any particular country, visit the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Web site.

    What is the role of the United Nations in evaluating crime and justice around the world? Read this article from the Bureau of Justice Statistics to find out. What types of crime might fall outside the boundaries of specific countries? Brainstorm a list and see if you can find special reports about these types of crimes on the U.N. Web site.

    Online Resources

    The United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network

    The United Nations: International Law

    U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics

    United Nations Peace Keeping

    More Recommended Resources

  3. Conflict as a Source for Drama

    Grade Level: 7-9
    Subjects: The Arts; Reading & Language Arts

    Much of literature is focused on a point of conflict for the character in a story. Movies are sometimes criticized for having "Hollywood endings," in which conflict is resolved in an unrealistic way in order to provide a happy ending. Have students brainstorm a list of their favorite movies. What was the point of conflict, and was it resolved with a Hollywood ending?

    Assign students to choose one movie and rewrite the ending so that conflict isn't resolved, or is resolved in what they believe to be a more realistic way. Host classroom "Oscars" the next day, allowing students to choose the best one or two new endings. Divide the class into groups according to the number of "Oscar winners" selected, and have students write scripts for their new movie endings and then perform them.

    After each performance, discuss: which ending was more true to life? Which provided a more important lesson? How can we apply the lessons of stories that seem very far removed from reality? As an extension, students may want to read the novel Violet and Claire, whose plot revolves around their ambition to make a movie, which comes to represent the world as they wish it to be.

    Online Resources

    Cinema: How Are Hollywood Films Made?

    University of San Francisco: Picturing Justice: The Online Journal of Law & Popular Culture

    Movies for Busy People (brief movie synopses)

    Print Resources

    Violet & Claire by Francesca Lia Block

    More Recommended Resources

  4. How Do I Solve a Conflict with a Friend?

    Grade Level: 3-5
    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    Elementary students often find themselves in conflicts with their friends and seldom know how to implement strategies that can easily resolve their conflicts. Students will engage in authentic problem solving scenarios that will allow them to practice conflict resolution skills.

    Begin the lesson by brainstorming a list of conflicts the students have encountered recently. Create another list of how those conflicts were resolved (These may be positive or negative experiences).

    Choose one of the conflicts and let each student share their idea of a way to solve the problem. Have the class sit in a circle. If a student does not feel like sharing, they may say, "pass". Allow enough time to go around the circle twice. If students are having difficulty creating resolutions, use the questions at the PBS It's My Life Web site as a guide.

    Break into small groups of 3-4 students and have each group read a Fantastic Fable from the same site:

    • The Boy who Needed Space
    • The Girl With Two Faces
    • Attack of the Rival Friend
    • The Bickering Buddies

    Each group should:

    1. Define the problem in the story
    2. Actions each person involved could take
    3. Ways the fight could have been avoided.

    Final Activities/Extensions: Have the groups reenact the story they have read and create new endings which express their ideas on resolving or avoiding the conflict. Invite another class to view the skits! Your students will delight in sharing their new knowledge of how to solve real-life conflicts.

    Online Resources

    PBS: It's My Life: When Friends Fight

    Print Resources

    Do You Want To Play? A Book About Being Friends by Bob Kolar
    Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

    More Recommended Resources

  5. The Costs of Conflict

    Grade Level: 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; Math

    A recent report issued by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences which calculates that a war with Iraq would cost between $99 billion and $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years, 10 times more costly than estimated by the Bush administration.

    Have students read an overview article on the costs of war at the PBS NewsHour Web site. Follow by reading the Bill Moyers commetnary on the cost of war poasted on the PBS NOW Web site. Why are economists and others so concerned about the cost of war? What did students learn about the overall health of the economy?

    Students may look at specific data tables within the report issued by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In particular, you may want to explore the following sets of data:

    • Estimated costs of a war with Iraq, broken out by category (p.82)
    • Comparing costs of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom (p. 66)
    • Costs of U.S. wars (Revolutionary War through the present) (p.60)
    • Increases in defense appropriations during times of war (p. 79)

    Have students think about the costs of war in their personal lives. Do their parents drive cars? Explore the How Stuff Works Web site to learn how gas prices are established, and why they're rising. Have students plot the rising cost of gasoline in the past twelve months. Have them record how much gas their families use in an average week. What percentage have gasoline prices already risen? Can they be expected to continue to rise at the same rate? Assuming that the price trend from the last twelve months continues, what will be the added cost to their families in one month of war? Six months? A year?

    Discuss with students the indirect costs of war. If the government spends money on war, then it must balance the budget by decreasing spending in other areas. What might the effects of this be?

    Have students research WWI and WWII shortages. The Home Front is a good source, as is this Fulton County, NY Web site. What shortages have families dealt with in past conflicts? Which other goods that students consume might be affected? Is there a way to calculate the costs?

    Online Resources

    PBS NewsHour for Students: Cost of War with Iraq

    PBS NOW with Bill Moyers: The Cost of War

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Cost of War with Iraq

    How Stuff Works: How Gas Prices Work

    More Recommended Resources

  6. Nonviolent Resistance in History

    Grade Level: 9-12
    Subject: Social Studies

    Distribute the six stories told on PBS's A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Resistance Web site, grouping students so that each group of 2-3 students is reading one of the stories. Students should prepare to present to the class the following:

    • What is the central source of conflict?
    • Who are the major actors?
    • What was their strategy?
    • Was there an event that sparked leaders to organize, or that turned the tide and allowed them to reach their goals?
    • What were the conditions that allowed the resistance to be effective?

    Next, ask students their opinions of George Bush's conflict with Iraq. Background information on the conflict with Iraq may be found on the PBS NewsHour Extra for Students Web site. How are the conditions similar to the ones described in the six stories students just read, and how are they different? Would nonviolent protest by Iraqi citizens be effective against Saddam Hussein? Are there students who would protest the actions of the U.S. government? Regardless of their views, have students develop a strategy for resistance, using the historical models they just studied. Do they think their strategies would be effective?

    Online Resources

    A Force More Powerful

    NewsHour Extra for Students

    Print Resources

    Gandhi by Demi
    Peaceful Protest: The Life of Nelson Mandela by Yona Zeldis McDonough and Malcah Zeldis

    More Recommended Resources

  7. Friends Week in Our Classroom

    Grade Level: 2-3
    Subject: The Arts; Reading & Language Arts; Math

    Immersing students in activities that require sharing, working together, and respecting each other will form skills that aid in resolving conflicts. Students will work in center activities that foster "being a good friend" skills.

    Math center: Small groups have to work collaboratively to decide what type of structure they would like to build and then create it out of blocks. Older students may use blunt ended toothpicks and different sized marshmallows. You might explore the building challenges on the PBS Building Big Web site for ideas.

    Listening center: A pair of students listens to Clifford Makes a Friend on tape and more stories if time allows. They share a book to read silently while listening to the story.

    Art Center: After listening to or reading the Clifford story, pairs must draw or paint a picture retelling the story. They need to work together to create just one picture!

    Technology Center: Bookmark Clifford's Big Ideas from the PBS Clifford Web site on each computer. Students will listen to or read the following stories online (pair up a non-reader with a reader or enlist a volunteer from a higher grade to read the stories):

    • Being a Good Friend
    • Respect Each Other
    • Work Together
    • Share

    On each page of the story the students are engaged in various language arts activities such as finding opposites, rhyming words, finding vowel patterns, etc.

    Writing Center: Teams will write a story about friends. One team will write the beginning of the story which will include the characters and setting. Another team will write the middle of the story which includes the character having a problem with another friend. Finally, the last team will resolve the conflict in the ending of the story. 2-3 books will be created when the whole class finishes this activity.

    Dramatic Play Center: Pairs of students "interview" each other to find interesting things they have in common: birthdays, favorite foods, favorite colors, birthplace, after school activities. Each student rehearses presenting their friend for a Show & Tell activity.

    Final Activities/Extensions: Show & Tell Day -- Each student will show and tell as much information as they can about their friend they interviewed. The whole class will develop an appreciation for the diversity and uniqueness of each person in their class. Lead the students through the writing process using the stories they created in the writing center. Publish the final copies and create class books to keep in your class library.

    Online Resources

    PBS: Clifford

    PBS: Building Big

    Print Resources

    Do You Want To Play? A Book About Being Friends by Bob Kolar
    Hogula, Dread Pig of Night by Jean Gralley
    Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes
    When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden

    More Recommended Resources

  8. Dispute Resolution and Mediation Poster

    Grade Level: 7-9
    Subject: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies

    Ask students to write one paragraph about a conflict they had that was not resolved well: with a parent, authority figure, sibling, classmate or friend. Ask them to explain what would they have done differently if they could do it over. In class the next day, brainstorm a list of strategies for avoiding a fight.

    Have students research conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution; a good resources is the American Bar Association: Dispute Resolution. Why do people engage in dispute resolution? Is it useful? Brainstorm questions and invite a conflict mediator to talk to the class. You may find one through the ABA's links to other ADR entities at http://www.abanet.org/dispute/drlinks.html or the Association for Conflict Resolution at http://www.acresolution.org/).

    Have students take notes on strategies for avoiding a fight. Divide the class into small groups and have each design a poster for the hallway with peaceful pictures and things to do instead of fighting with someone. As an extension, students might explore current community issues and determine if any of the strategies they've researched could be applied to help resolve local disputes (in community meetings, by the local government, by civic organizations, etc.). If so, students should contact the adults leading these efforts and offer suggestions.

    Online Resources

    American Bar Association: Dispute Resolution

    Association for Conflict Resolution

    More Recommended Resources

  9. Protest Music

    Grade Level: 7-12
    Subject: The Arts; Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    Throughout history, songs have been used to tell stories, send messages, protest, and teach others about controversy. Music appeals to all people and can reach a wide audience; it can be a powerful force as people voice their opinions and ideas through peaceful protest and other forms of non-violent resistance.

    Begin this activity by playing a popular historic protest song that students can easily understand and listen to. It may be helpful to place the lyrics to the song on an overhead or in handout form so students can follow along as they listen. Once they have heard the song, discuss it using questions like: What is the main message of the song? How does this song show the singer's opinions or point of view? What parts of the song could be considered controversial? What parts of the song of the music would make it easy for others to learn or remember? Do you think this song would be an effective form of protest, why or why not? Explain.

    Once students have completed discussion about the sample protest song, work as a group to brainstorm major historical events that have generated songs of protest. Record ideas on the chalkboard or overhead in chronological order, if possible.

    Place students in pairs or small groups and assign each pair or group a specific event or time period to research. They should find at least one example of a protest song from that event or time period. They should prepare a short presentation for the rest of the class about this particular song, addressing the following:

    • Name of the song
    • Group of people who sang the song as part of a protest
    • Message/opinions the song conveys to others
    • Effectiveness of the song in achieving the desired effect

    As students make their presentations, they should provide a sample of the song or the song's lyrics to their classmates. This could be done by distributing/displaying a copy of the lyrics, playing the song from a recorded version, or performing the song for the class.

    As a final activity, ask student pairs/groups to write their own protest song about a topic they think is relevant. It could relate to a school, community, state, national, or international issue. Songs could then be shared by displaying lyrics or by having live performances of the songs. In addition, students might explore this question: Why are so few protest songs being written today? See the article from LA Weekly "Where are the new protest songs?" by Dan Epstein. Do students agree with Epstein's explanation?

    Online Resources

    The Civil War: Music of the Civil War

    The American Experience: John Brown's Holy War

    The Dramas of Haymarket: Labor Songs

    Union Songs

    LA Weekly: Where are the New Protest Songs?

    Print Resources

    No More!: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance by Doreen Rappaport and Shane W. Evans

    More Recommended Resources

Published: April 2003