Teaching Talk it Out: I-Message Lesson Plans

Saturday, October 29, 2016
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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 single Kelso's Choices lesson (written about here and here) wasn't cutting. Cue: TALK IT OUT


school counseling lesson plan for teaching talk-out or i-messages in elementary school

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.

Teaching Kelso's Choices

Friday, October 28, 2016
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Teaching Kelso's Choice lesson plans

Kelso's Choice are the best. They provide a common language (and visual) to use throughout the school in regards to "small problems" and conflict. A few years ago, my admin agreed to buy enough posters for every classroom and major common area (cafeteria, gym, etc.) to have one and I used some of my counseling budget to get a DVD (I picked the booster one because the scenarios seemed to be a better match to my school). Pricey, but worth it. It was also great to have the real posters because...I admit...I once handmade my own versions of them and they were pretty rough looking.


Without the curriculum though, I wasn't sure how exactly to teach Kelso's Choices. And then all the TVs and DVD players were removed from classrooms, and all faculty got brand new laptops....that didn't have CD-Rom drives in them...meaning I lost the ability to play the DVD. I tried to find a simple way to get it onto a flash drive, but I haven't succeeded in that yet.

Though I know tons of counselors use Kelso's Choices, I didn't quite find what I was looking for when I did some googling to see how others were teaching this. We also don't usually have more than 1 or 2 lessons to tackle this. This is a brief breakdown of some things we do each year in the various grade levels (and here's a post about the changes I've made with 3rd and 4th grade since I originally posted this):

  • In K and 1st, we bought a cheap stuffed frog from Amazon. We bring him to the room, introduce him, and explain that he's going to help us teach what to do when we have small problems. Usually we do this lesson after we've taught or reviewed tattling vs. telling so they have some context.

Inexpensive stuffed frog used when teaching Kelso's Choice


  • In 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, we're able to ask "Remember when we learned last year how to solve small problems? It has to do with a green frog..." and they almost always remember! This is in part due to them seeing the poster everywhere and in part due to counselors (and sometimes teachers) asking "Have you tried Kelso's Choices yet?"

  • For most grade levels, we show these two YouTube clips. They're meant as previews for the DVDs but they work well to model several of the choices. We stop after nearly every scenario to ask some questions. Here are the clips and some of the questions we ask:


**For all of the scenarios, I ask "What was the problem?" and "What Kelso's Choices did they use?" after each clip**
-What does Kelso mean by "big problems" vs. "small problems?
-What did you notice about how Amy used "talk it out"? (word choices, tone of voice, body language)
-Linda copied her again. Should Amy tell the teacher? Why or why not? How many Kelso's Choices should you try before you go to an adult about a small problem?
-What did you notice about how Amy used "ignore"? Did she tell Linda she was going to ignore her? Why not?
-Is Linda going to stop copying Amy since she's ignoring her? Why would Amy choose to ignore, even if it won't make Linda stop?
-What did you notice about how John ignored Jackie? (ignored with eyes, mouth, and body)



-If you're showing this one right after the previous one, you can start it at 1:00 because both have the same intro.
-What would have happened if Linda told on Jackie for borrowing the pencil without permission?
-If you choose to wait and cool off, what are some things you can do that will help you calm down?


  • To practice ignore in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, I "bother" each table group of students while they practice ignoring me. After each, I reinforce how they ignored with their eyes, mouth, and bodies. The kids love watching me act poorly and it provides a way for them to practice the skill without asking other kids to act poorly (which my students at least aren't usually able to handle). These are the scenarios I use:

-Students are eating lunch and another student comes up and says “Your food looks so disgusting. That's gross. Ugh."
-Students are working and another student sits down and starts humming a song.
-Students are playing at recess and another student says “That game is stupid. Only babies play this."
-Students are lining up at the door and another student cuts in line in front of all of them.
-Students are working and another student says “Your answers are dumb. You should go back to kindergarten."

  • In 3rd grade as the first part of our mini-unit on conflict de-escalation, I projected the non-verbal Kelso's Choices, gave each group a die, and had them take turns identifying when they could use the different choices.
Kelso's Choice non-verbal activity using die

  • We send home a letter to the parents with a picture of the wheel and explaining that at school, we  expect students to use Kelso's Choices when solving small problems with peers.

Kelso's Choice Parent Letter


  • Often times (depending on need), the younger grades get separate lessons on teamwork that focuses sharing and taking turns.

  • One year, we created foldables after learning briefly about the choices. Here's a pic of the model my awesome intern at the time made.
Examples of Kelso's Choice foldables


  • "Talk it Out" is MY FAVORITE THING EVER. Other schools call them "I-Messages". We either incorporate this as a significant component in our Kelso lessons OR we do an entire lesson on this. 

  • For 3rd and 4th grade, I send the teachers this PPT to have them do Four Corners as a Morning Meeting activity. This asks students to identify, by moving to a certain corner of the room, which of the most popular Kelso's Choices they would use given different conflict scenarios.


No Biggy! 1st Grade Lesson

Friday, October 21, 2016
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"No Biggy!" 1st grade lesson plan

This blog can be a little "big kid heavy" since I only service 2nd-4th, but my co-counselor does amazing work and I want to share some of her great ideas a swell. As part of the self-regulation theme she is using in 1st grade Life Skills lessons this year, she delivered a lesson using a book beloved by us both: No Biggy!: A Story About Overcoming Everyday Obstacles This book is an awesome tool we've used in every grade as a way to teach some basic cognitive coping.

The lesson starts with a video clip showing a really young girl getting pretty frustrated over her blocks falling over:

This video leads to a short discussion on the girl's problem: Is it a big or small problem? Does her response match the size of the problem? Was it too small or too big?


"No Biggy!" by Josh Talbet book cover
Then my co-counselor read No Biggy!, asking:
  • What was Kiki’s problem?
  • What did her parents teach her?
  • What was Kiki able to do once she told herself “no biggy”?
There are two different activities she created to use to apply the lesson of the book. For each class, she selected the one she thought was the best match to the class's strengths and challenges.


Option A:

A piece of paper folded/divided in half.  On one side it says: "I might feel frustrated when…" and on the other side it says: "But, I know it’s NO BIGGY!" Students draw a picture of the problem and their solution on each respective side.
Student work example working on "No Biggy!" lesson plan
Option B: 

Create a powerpoint with images (muddy shoes, dropped food tray, etc.) and ask students to talk about what’s wrong in the picture.  Then with a partner or their table group, have them discuss solutions to these “no biggy!” problems


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