The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 56


Overall, all groups of students

I was just two short months into my first year as a second grade ESL classroom teacher, and I were having a hard time. All day it had been endless complaints, such as:

“Mrs. Henderson , Jason stole my pencil!”

“Karl is hitting Stewart!”

“Kiki is under the desk crying!”

Near the end of the afternoon I had shouted at the whole class, “There is only one of me and twenty-seven of you! I can’t help you all at the same time!”

After dismissal I thought about the day, and I realized what I said was true. There was “only one of me,” but there were “twenty-seven other human beings” in that classroom who could help me if I taught them how. It was high time for me to implement a strategy I had read about -- peer to peer problem solving.

Peer to Peer Problem Solving in the Classroom

Students will inevitably run into conflicts. It can happen in the cafeteria, on the playground, or in the middle of class while you’re trying to do guided reading with a small group. When students are given the skills and responsibility to step up when a conflict arises, it prevents the teacher from being pulled in multiple directions and allows the focus to remain on teaching.

Some of the skills and tools that students need to be taught for peer to peer problem solving are listening skills, empathy, and a list of solutions that they can offer to a peer who is in need of emotional support. When students successfully use these skills, they become mediators for their peers. According to Tzuriel and Caspi (2017), “When mediated children respond to mediators’ behavior, it enables mediators to adjust and continue the process efficiently” (p. 303). Even at second-grade level, this ultimately shows that when you teach your students how to problem-solve and mediate with their peers. They can help students who are off task get back on track.

Modeling and Teaching Peer Problem Solving Skills

At school the following day, I began to put my new mindset to work. I sat the class down and explained that I needed their help. Of course, being the eager second graders they all were, they all shot their hands straight up in their air and started saying, “Me! Me! Me! I want to help!”

I explained to my class that I would be choosing two students to be classroom buddies. These buddies were going to be in charge of helping their classmates when they were upset, sad, or angry about something. I showed them my simplified model of the steps in peer to peer problem solving, which were to identify the problem, develop a plan, evaluate the plan, and implement the plan.

We then went into a little more detail about each step. Identifying the problem meant finding out how their peer was feeling and what caused that feeling to happen. Developing a plan meant, “What could they do now, and what were their options?” Evaluate the plan meant for the peer to consider, “Will this plan benefit me and help me make some better choices?” Lastly, implementing the plan meant sitting or walking with the peer to make sure they followed through. Once I was finished explaining the process of peer to peer problem solving, I showed the class the Cool Down Zone where the mediator/buddy could walk with their peer and talk to them in private. The Cool Down Zone was in the corner by my small-group table and had a little rug, a feelings chart, and a calm-down ideas chart. I then chose two names out of our Popsicle © stick jar and it was official: we had our first two class buddies who would be able to help their peers solve problems if I was busy with another student.

The First Trial Run

Identify the Problem

It was not long before we had our first problem and I was about to see if this peer buddy system would work. I heard Karl yell, “Hey, give me back my pencil!” Stewart had taken Karl’s pencil without permission which caused Karl to shove his desk and throw his work on the floor. I looked over at my tow student buiddies, Jasmine and Michael, and asked them, “Would one of you like to go talk to Karl for a bit?” Michael responded that he would and walked to Karl’s desk. He then walked with him to the Cool Down Zone. I walked by to listen in on how the conversation was going.



There’s Only One of Me and Twenty-Seven of You: Peer to Peer Problem Solving

Toni Henderson


Toni Henderson

Classroom Close-up