In the earliest grades, teachers address social behavior on a daily basis. They structure lessons so students can practice the skills of getting along. In this unit, The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss sets the stage for examining how friends solve problems and get along on the playground. Primary students think about the factors that contribute to and detract from their recess experience, and plan ways to make the playground safe and fun. Their teacher uses the Seeing Reason Tool to guide and document class discussions and to collect students' thinking as they consider solutions to most common problems on the playground. Students then poll their peers to find the biggest problem on the playground, graph their results, and set out to find solutions.
- Essential Question
What pulls us apart and brings us together?
- Unit Questions
What affects students getting along on the playground?
How can we solve playground problems?
How can we use math to show what we have learned?
- Sample Content Questions
What is cause and effect?
What problems happen the most on our playground?
What are the steps for conflict resolution?
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Getting Along Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, products; and reflect on learning throughout the instructional cycle.
Prior to Instruction
This unit of study makes use of the Seeing Reason Tool. Collect data during recesses and other times students are on the playground. You may want to ask a parent helper, playground duty person, or even older students to track different activities. Consider tracking student activity related to these questions:
- How are students spending their time on the playground?
- What problems happen on the playground?
- How are problems resolved?
It is likely that staff members at your school already monitor and report safety and behavior problems on a regular basis. Refer to this data to identify playground issues. To aid discussion, make a playground chart young children will understand that highlights the issues you want to address. Even while focusing on problems, reinforce the positive direction you want to go: every students needs to feel safe at school.
Tap Prior Knowledge
Start out by discussing with students the concepts of friendship and getting along. Elicit student responses to what makes a friend. Lead the discussion to talking about problems friends might encounter. Pose the Essential Question, What pulls us apart and brings us together? Chart student responses. Ask students to use specific examples that take place on the playground.
To set a positive tone, instruct students to work individually or in small teams to draw pictures of themselves engaged in fun and appropriate activities on the playground. Pictures might show students engaging in a variety of activities, such as walking and talking in pairs, jumping rope alone or in groups, playing basketball, using recreation equipment, or waiting in line for a turn at a playground game. When students finish their drawings, have them present them to the class and describe the activities they depicted. As students dictate, write a caption on each picture, describing the activity. Captions might say: "We enjoy walking and talking", or "We play basketball." Post these on a bulletin board display titled "Getting Along”.
Read The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
Introduce students to a new group of friends called the Sneetches. Preface this story with a quick summary of the problems this group of friends is having. Next, read the story aloud to the students and hold a class discussion about the differences and similarities between Star Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches. Discuss the problems that the Sneetches were having and how they solved these problems and became a community of friends. Create a class T-Chart with problems listed on one side and solutions on the other. Fill in the chart as the discussion takes place.
Next, explain to students that one way they can solve problems is by being a good friend to others in their school community. Pose the question, What is a community? Use a cluster map to brainstorm a list of ways that they can be a responsible school citizen. For example: sharing recess equipment, taking turns, asking others to play, or playing fair. Students choose one example and draw a picture with a caption to show one of the ways they can be a good citizen in the school community. For those students who are able to, they can copy words from the cluster, otherwise students can dictate ideas to an adult. Collect these examples to create a class book.
Understand Cause and Effect
In the next few activities students use the Seeing Reason Tool which requires them to examine cause-and-effect relationships. To exemplify this higher-order thinking skill construct a class T-chart on chart paper. Populate the If I do this (Cause) side with four different possibilities like the example below, and then discuss with students what to fill in on the other half of the T-Chart, This will happen (Effect). For younger students draw pictures as well to illustrate each cause and effect. After discussing and charting the four examples, ask students to come up with a few examples on their own to check for understanding.
|If I do this… (Cause)||This will happen… (Effect)|
|If I touch the hot stove…
If I don’t do my homework…
If I go out in the rain…
If I share with my friends…
|I will burn my hand.
my parents will be upset.
I will get wet.
they will be happy.
To assess students’ understanding of cause and effect meet with students individually. Read two causes to each student and ask them to give effects in response. For an added challenge have students give their own cause-and-effect relationships in writing, in pictures, or orally. Take anecdotal notes and record responses.
Before proceeding with the next activity, click here to set up the Getting Along project in your workspace. Have students consider factors that influence their playground experience, and use the Seeing Reason Tool to help them organize and represent their thinking. Ask students to consider the Unit Question, What affects students getting along on the playground? Using a networked computer connected to presentation equipment, construct a map as a whole-class activity. Have students supply both positive and negative factors that influence playground problems. A sample discussion shows how you might guide thinking and discussion.
Continue the discussion, guiding exploration of these ideas:
- Add more factors that affect getting along in a positive way (understanding and agreeing on game and recess rules, making friends, having enough equipment)
- Add factors that cause problems such as fights or boredom (misunderstandings, bullying, too few resources, restrictions on certain activities)
Examine the Seeing Reason Activity
The Seeing Reason Tool space below represents the class’ investigation in this project. The map you see is functional. You can roll over the arrows to read relationships between factors, and double-click on factors and arrows to read the descriptions.
Project Name: Getting Along (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question: What affects students getting along on the playground?
Explore an interactive demo.
When the map is complete, ask students to review the map and identify problems they can change either directly or indirectly. As a class pick four of the top problems on the playground. To get a wide range of opinions, students poll ten other students in their grade-level.
To do this math activity, create a tally sheet ahead of time that contains words and pictures of each of the four problems chosen by the class. Pair students up and give each pair a tally sheet to poll ten other students. Model the activity by asking three or four students in the classroom their opinion and demonstrate how to tally their responses on the sheet.
After student pairs have asked and tallied the opinion of ten others, reconvene as a class to review their information. Orally ask the students the following questions:
- Which problem has the most tally marks by it? (Have them circle this.)
- Which problem has the least tally marks by it? (Have them put a star next to it.)
For older students you can pose questions such as:
- How many more students chose Not Using Kind Words over Not Sharing?
- How many students total chose Not Following the Rules and Not Sharing?
After examining their tally sheets pose the Unit Question, How can we use math to show what we have learned? Discuss with students different ways to share their information so people can understand it easily and quickly. Using the information from their tally sheets, students create graphs to share what they’ve learned with others in their class newsletter. Have students use a math manipulative, like different colored Unifix* Cubes first to help them visualize and represent tally marks. Next, model making their bar graph by creating one as a class. Show students how the unifix cubes represent each bar on their graph. Allow students time to create their individual graphs using one-inch graph paper or a teacher-created graph. Walk around as students are working to assess their progress and check for understanding. Once they are complete, ask students to analyze their graphs by posing the following questions:
- Which problem is the highest on the graph?
- Which problem is the lowest on the graph?
- What two problems happen the most on our playground?
Discuss with students what other information their graph tells them and why the graph can give them a lot of information quickly and easily.
Think About Solutions
Pose the Unit Question, What are the best ways to solve playground problems? Revisit The Sneetches and the chart created earlier. Discuss the Sneetches’ problems and solutions again, relating them to the problems on the playground. Have each pair of students explore the problem that received the most tally marks and propose a list of solutions. You might suggest they talk to adults and even survey other grades or schools.
Teach Conflict Resolution
Now that students have identified problems on the playground and thought of solutions, offer alternative ways to solve problems using the steps of conflict resolution. The following Web site offers a step-by-step procedure for conflict resolution*:
Students practice solving problems through role-playing following these six steps:
Step 1: Cool off.
Step 2: Tell what’s bothering you using “I messages.”
Step 3: Each person restates what they heard the other person say.
Step 4: Take responsibility.
Step 5: Brainstorm solutions and come up with one that satisfies both people.
Step 6: Affirm, forgive, or thank.
For this activity, write the problems used for the graphing activity, plus a few others on slips of paper. Place all the different scenarios into a container and randomly choose several for students to role-play. Students can role-play with puppets or as themselves. Encourage students to use these steps out on playground. Take anecdotal notes during this role-playing activity as well as on the playground to assess students’ understanding of conflict resolution. Create a poster with pictures to remind students of the steps and review them periodically throughout the year.
Now that students have discussed solutions and have learned about conflict resolution, they are now ready to create If/Then/So posters. Hand out the student checklist and review the expectations for this project. Have them write, dictate, or draw their problem (If), solution (Then), and effect (So) in draft form to create three-panel If/Then/So posters. If/Then/So posters might include statements such as:
If you see someone who looks lonely Then ask them to join in a game So they will have fun and you will make a new friend
If someone doesn't follow a game rule Then look at the game’s rules So you can agree on rules and keep playing
If someone doesn't follow a game rule Then decide to play another game So you can avoid a problem
Have students present these to the class for feedback. As students present and discuss, project the earlier causal map. Now map new ideas as students describe how their solutions connect to earlier factors and contribute to the ultimate goal of students getting along. Set teams to work making final, full-size If/Then/So posters using peer feedback. Give students the option to create their posters using draw tools on the computer. Hang posters in the class and around the school.
Students create a class newsletter to communicate to a broader audience what they have learned during this unit. This newsletter highlights the activities students have been involved in. It should include: an explanation of the class Seeing Reason map, a graph to display data they have collected, comparisons to The Sneetches story, solutions to playground problems, the steps to conflict resolution, and a reflections of the Essential Question.
Each group contributes to a part of the class newsletter. Meet with pairs of students separately and include work from each pair to compile into the newsletter. For example, one graph will be used to represent their class work. Make sure that each student is represented.
Revisit the Essential Question, What pulls us apart and brings us together? Lead a class discussion, asking students to reflect on what they have learned throughout the unit. Ask for specific examples that relate to their learning from The Sneetches, their graphing activity, and the conflict resolution role-playing.
- Practice social skills, including: initiating interactions, taking turns, and asking for help. To aid discussion, post key vocabulary with illustrations for easy reference.
- Supply recreational activities, new games, and equipment appropriate to students' social and intellectual development.
- Consider cross-age play periods where older students lead games and activities.
- Encourage students to introduce new games or pursue hobbies during recess.
- Encourage role-playing games, drama, and other creative exploration during recess.
- Encourage students to create their If/Then/So posters using computer software.
English Language Learner
- Seek support from common language speakers during recess to teach playground expectations and encourage participation.
- Ask students to introduce games that may be common from their culture, and new to most of your students.
A teacher contributed this idea for a classroom project. A team of educators expanded the plan into the example you see here.
At a Glance
Grade Level: K-2
Subjects: Social Studies, Math, Health
Topics: Community, Problem Solving, Graphing, Conflict Resolution
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Problem Solving, Cause and Effect
Key Learnings: Problem Solving, Conflict Resolution, Collecting Data, Graphing
Time Needed: 10 class periods, 30 minutes long