All posts by Lynne Watts

teaching kids problem solving skills

When I designed the Wyatt book series, eight years ago, my goal was to teach children to be better problem solvers. As a school counselor in an elementary school, I spent most of my time helping kids solve problems. I didn’t want to just tell them what to do, but teach them how to think about the problem so they could figure it out for themselves the next time.

That goal hasn’t changed.  In fact, I think it is more important than ever that we equip students to learn effective problem solving strategies.

 What are the necessary steps to problem solving?

  1. Identify the problem-  The first step in any problem solving is awareness.  if you don’t recognize the problem it is hard to solve it.  We all know it is easier to see the problems in others than ourselves, so at least in part this means developing an openness to feedback and insight.
  2. Recognize the possibilities for growth and change-  It is always easier to stay in our own comfort zone and view the world through our own lens.  In order to solve problems though, we have to develop a willingness to move outside of that arena of knowledge and venture into the unknown.  This is where true creativity and insight develop.
  3. Recognize our strengths and our limits–  We are always most effective when we know what we do well and when we develop those skills.  It is equally important that we know our limitations and that we engage others in those areas where we need help and guidance.
  4. Develop team work-  it is essential that future problem solvers know how to work well with others.  The world has become a connected and interdependent place and successful problem solvers use all the interpersonal resources available to navigate complex problems.
  5. Develop a growth mindset–  Problem solvers are comfortable with change and growth.  They envision a positive solution even when it isn’t yet obvious how it will be accomplished.   They know that maintaining status quo means doesn’t solve problems.
  6.  Embody courage and commitment–  Problem solvers take action, sometimes imperfect action when they aren’t quite sure of the outcome of their efforts. Problem solvers don’t live life as victims but rather take action and effect change. They are resilient in the face of failure.  They know that each step moves them forward, even when they don’t yet have the answer to the problem.

Related Posts:

What is your child’s super-power?

The secret to helping kids develop grit

Two secrets to help kids get organized

 

Wyatt’s Leadership Series for Kids

While supplies last… a $120 value for $95

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt Learns about Giving

And

7 Lesson Plans based on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People

And

A set of problem situation cards to develop critical thinking skills in difficult situations

Your investment: $95




Use brain science to teach effectively

Back in the day when I was teaching lessons to children regularly as a school counselor, I was always trying to determine the best way to engage children in the lesson as well as make sure that they could actually learn and remember it later.  Lucky for educators and parents today, there is all kinds of brain research to show the way.  In her book, Wired to Grow: Harness the Power of the Brain Science to Master any Skill, Britt Andreatti identifies three steps to learning anything well.

  1. The first step is simply the process of listening and taking in the information.  Research has shown that the attention limit is about 15-20 minutes, so keep your presentation short.  So much for those long drawn out lectures we used to listen to in college.  We knew it wasn’t a good way to learn even then.
  2. The second step is getting the information into your long term memory.  There are specific ways to do this and they mostly involve practicing some sort of retrieval that involves participation.  Have students summarize information, take a quiz on it, play a game or use it in some way that involves remembering the essential facts. Three times of intermittent repetition is the sweet spot.
  3. Finally, the last step involves behavior change and in order to effect behavior change, you must practice for about 40-50 repetitions.  I know that sounds like a lot but if you think about it there are lots of things that we repeat numerous times in a given day.

Here’s what a typical lesson might look like:

Teach a lesson on being a good friend; you can include a story, examples of students practicing the qualities of friendship, a list of good qualities, etc.

Review the material.  Here are some ideas:

  • play a game
  • have students role-play ways to be a good friend
  • complete a worksheet
  • make a booklet
  • have students quiz each other on how to be a good friend.

Practice being a good friend throughout the day.  Point out each time you see students practicing friendly behaviors.  Try to catch students modeling the behaviors you are teaching.

Related Posts:

5 effective ways to teach kids in the digital age

the growth mindset and success

7 steps to creative thinking in kids

Wyatt’s Leadership Series for Kids

While supplies last… a $120 value for $95

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt Learns about Giving 

And

7 Lesson Plans based on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People

And

A set of problem situation cards to develop critical thinking skills in difficult situations

Your investment: $95




Teaching kids to get better at getting along

You’ve got two kids who disagree and fight constantly…

Yet they seem attracted to each other like magnets…

You’ve talked to them

You’ve threatened them

You’ve separated them… repeatedly.

What’s the answer?

We’ve all been in this situation before as educators and parents; two kids who just can’t get along but who somehow manage to always wind up together and arguing no matter what you do.  I recently responded to a question much like this on the ASCA forum from a school counselor who was at her wits end with a similar situation.  Here was my answer:

Helping Kids Learn to Get Along

I’m going to suggest something that is probably counter intuitive and outside the box. However, I have found that when you try to enforce a separation strategy,  that it takes a great deal of energy since the students challenge the boundaries at every possible chance. It is much like trying to fight the resistance of two magnets.  There is a better strategy.  Yes, it involves a good bit of time but it is all designed to not only prevent future disagreements, but teach the kids involved how to handle any disagreement in the future. Clearly they need that kind of training.  Plus… you are spending a ton of time trying to keep them apart and putting out fires anyway. Why not invest the time in teaching new skills?

Here’s the plan:

Re-frame the problem as two friends who want to enjoy each other but don’t know how to resolve conflicts.  I would perhaps use the analogy of two carpenters who are trying to build something but who show up for the job with the wrong tools.  They need a hammer and nails and instead they brought a chain saw and a screwdriver so what they try to build results in a lot of frustration.  You are going to teach them the right tools for building a friendship.

Begin with a commitment from each of them to do the work necessary to improve their friendship.  Then back track with them to their latest incident.  What started the conflict?  Who said and did what?  Write it down as though it was a role-play… you could even have them act it out while you write it down, stopping them after each statement. (Pausing should keep emotions low).

Create a list of conflict rules:  No name calling.  No blaming. No yelling.  Think before you speak.  Treat others as you would like to be treated… etc.

Develop a new dialogue: Now working with the students at each point in the latest conflict, have them suggest what they could have said that would have followed the rules and built rather than damaged the relationship.  Have them act it out and describe how they feel at the end.

Anticipate the future: Have the students brainstorm situations that could create problems again.  Review things they can say and do to prevent problems.  Have them practice and role-play the situations so they are prepared.

Follow up:  Check back on a regular basis to mediate any problems, reinforce what they have learned and encourage them to continue good practices.  Review the rules and repeat the  role-playing of situations as necessary until they learn better habits and strategies. Congratulate them on taking the time to learn to be great friends.  Once they are successful ask them to help others who are having friendship conflicts and teach them what they have learned.

Related Posts:

five ways to turn sibling rivalry around

taking the drama out of conflict

what to do when kids argue

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

                    

End of School Year Special

Ends June 9th!

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




do you teach rules or values?

Do you feel like you are constantly correcting your child?

Do you feel that you are redirecting and repeating behavior rules all the time?

Guess what? You probably are.  In fact, research shows that from ages two to ten children are urged by their parents to change their behavior once every six to nine minutes… 50 discipline encounters a day or over 15,000 a year!  No wonder you are so tired.  School isn’t even out yet… and you are counting the days until the summer is over.

So how can you make sure that all that correcting is effective anyway?

Two discipline options

The same research shows that there are a couple of ways parents can chose to correct a child.  One is using reasoning or a rational approach.  It often involves identifying a rule and why it is wrong. For instance:  The rule is no hitting and hitting your sister is wrong because it hurts people.

Another option is to have fewer rules but focus those rules around values. The golden rule is a good example:  The rule is treat others as you would want to be treated. So, I know you don’t like someone to hit you, do you?  How does it make you feel?  How would your sister feel if you hit her?

You may wonder what difference it makes. Aren’t rules… just rules? According to the research, it can make a lot of difference. The second option creates adults who are able to demonstrate, even in difficult situations where there is pressure to follow a crowd mentality, that they can behave in ways that demonstrate positive character values. So teaching positive values such as integrity, honesty, perseverance, or compassion trumps simple rules every time.

Related Posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

How do you create better behavior?

One phrase can change entitlement mindset

 

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

                    

Got hustle?

You’ve got one kid in your class who is knocking it out of the park…

  • they are on top of their assignments
  • they are engaged
  • they ask questions and are genuinely interested in learning

You’ve got another who is failing…

  • they are always behind the eight ball
  • they are disengaged
  • they are disinterested

What is the difference?  Intelligence?  Talent?  Ability?

Those factors may be a part of the picture, but its also very possible they are not the root of the problem.  I bet the deciding factor is: hustle.

What is hustle?  Tim Elmore in a recent post defines it like this:

Energy + Effort + Urgency = Hustle

Angela Duckworth in her book Grit identifies a similar standard for the high achiever; grit. Students with grit put forth more effort and exhibit more drive, even when they experience failure.  In fact, they re-frame failure as an opportunity to learn and approach the task with even more energy and effort.  They set goals and push themselves to accomplish them, even when it may appear that they have less talent or ability than someone else.

So how do we as educators and parents encourage hustle?  Here are a few ideas…

  • Focus on the experience of learning more than the experience of success— Help children understand that success is a process not an event.
  • Focus on effort more than talent or ability–Help children understand that energy and effort trumps ability or talent.
  • Focus on persistence and endurance–Help children understand that sticking with a task is more important than giving up especially when the outcome is uncertain.
  • Focus on serving others more than personal accomplishment–Help children understand how their efforts benefit others (their team, their family, their friends or their community) as well as themselves.

There are lots of ways to teach grit or hustle but one effective and engaging way is to use the examples and lives of well known individuals who have overcome failure, lack of resources and even personal handicaps to succeed.  Here are some great books to use:

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream  by Deloris Jordan

 

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

 

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmeah

 

Harvesting Hope The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

 

Odd Boy Out by Don Brown

 

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkin

 

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

 

 Lesson Plan to teach growth mindset and grit with Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Kids and vision boards

If there is one activity that is always a hit with kids, it’s creating a vision board.  I’ve used vision boards as a way to create focus for kids around different topics such as goal setting or determining an intention for the next season.

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of reviewing an intention that was set at the beginning of the year.  A great way to set an intention for the weeks or months ahead is to create a vision board around that intention.  Here’s how:

Use a vision board as a focus for goal setting

  • Have students write down their goal:
    • It could be a goal for the summer: Relax and enjoy my family and friends.
    • It could be a goal for a sport:  Place first or second in breaststroke for my swim team.
    • It could be an academic goal:  Read 5 books this summer.
  • Have students create a vision: Students can close their eyes and imagine accomplishing their goal.  What would it look like?  How would they feel? What would they be doing? How would their senses come into play (what would they touch, see, taste, smell?).
  • Have students  find a way to represent the vision: Students can cut out images and words or phrases from magazines that represent them accomplishing their goal.
  • Have students make their vision concrete:  Once they have accumulated enough images, they can glue the images on a piece of poster board.  Using markers or other creative tools, they can decorate their board so it is eye catching and memorable.
  • Have students share their boards with the class:  Research shows that goals that are shared are more likely to be accomplished. Have students identify how they will use the boards as inspiration and motivation for accomplishing their goal.

Related Posts:

Learning from Goal Setting

5 Effective Ways to Teach Kids in the Digital Age

The power of ‘not yet’ in changing behavior

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)