Talk it Out

Saturday, October 29, 2016
A few years ago, our 3rd and 4th graders were just plain old mean to each other. Half the time, it was coming from them feeling wronged by the other person and believing that meanness was the appropriate response back. The standard Kelso's Choices lesson wasn't cutting. Cue: TALK IT OUT

I went into each room and explained, taught, modeled, and practiced using specific sentence stems to talk it out with someone when you're upset with them. MAGIC happened. Well, sort of. In every room where the teachers made any effort (big or small) to reinforce this, conflict went significantly down in every room. It's now become a mainstay in our program. This is a rundown on how we teach it.

In all of my classrooms, I start by "picking on" a student that I pretend has been talking through my lessons. "Why are you always talking during my lessons? You're driving me crazy kid!" vs. "I feel frustrated when you talk while I'm teaching because then your classmates can't hear me. Could you please save your talking for a better time?" I ask the students which would make them more likely to start listening better - and tada! They are introduced to 'talk it out' and have begun to generate buy in that it's an effective practice.

With K and 1st, we read The Peace Rose. It can be hard to get your hands on, and it's ridiculously simple and short, but it's the perfect model and mentor text. We read the story, then ask the students to recall the words the characters used to solve their problems and write them on an easel. We whip out a fake rose (a "gift" from our friend Kelso) and then have students come up in twos and practice using Talk it Out with the rose given scenarios we provide them. I usually avoid lessons that involve everyone coming up and practicing something because this usually requires the class to have crazy strong attention spans, but it always seems to work here.

With 2nd grade, we review the sentence stems involved (usually by projecting them) and model a couple examples. If the class has done "quiz, quiz, trade" before, then we provide them with pre-written statements and practice this way. If not, or if they're just not ready for this sort of activity, we have the students sit in a circle and read cards in whisper voices to themselves and then pass. After a couple rounds, have 1-2 students read theirs aloud before we continue on. We also included some apologies in our cards.

With 3rd grade, I hit Talk it Out pretty hot and heavy. After a lesson specific to the action options in Kelso's Choices (ignore, walk away, wait and cool off, go to another game, share and take turns), we talk about our "peace words". Students share their ideas and we add them to the board in a bubble map of sorts. Then I re-introduce the sentence stems, adding in the "because" element (more for their own self-awareness!). I model it twice and ask them to tell me what they noticed about my body language and tone of voice. Then we briefly discuss why we tell the person how we feel and what caused it. Our first practice activity with this is using pre-written Talk it Out statements in a modified "quiz, quiz, trade" (more like "read, read, trade"!). You can find these statements here. Without prompting, they usually respond appropriately to one another's statements which is a great bonus. When I've done this with older/more mature groups, we process after what it felt like to both deliver and receive these messages - but my fall semester 3rd graders aren't usually read for this. 

Then it's time for a challenge - I have the students write their own statements. Each kiddo gets the sentence stems in a sheet protector and a skinny dry erase marker. I project several of the conflicts from my key ring of conflict situation cards (as many as time allows). After each scenario, I have one or two students read their statement aloud.

Depending on the group, I sometimes repeat the 3rd grade lesson to the 4th graders. This year I was able to just review it and then model/teach using reflective listening. Instead of a QQT, we sat in a circle and I gave half of the students the pre-written statements. Everyone turned to a partner next to them, the person with the card read it, and gave it to their partner. Then everyone turned in the opposite direction and repeated. This allowed students to practice both reading and listening/responding. Then I introduced the idea of reflective listening. Without using that phrase, I just explained it was one way of responding to someone when they talk it out with you. We discussed how using it helps us be better listeners and helps the other person know we were paying attention. 

To practice, I have half of the students the remaining talk it out statement cards and the other half of the students received reflective listening sentence stem cards. Then it was time to "read, read, trade!".


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