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Conflict Resolution Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Teaching middle school students strategies to resolve conflicts is an important life skill. This lesson will look at sample activities that can be used to teach students to resolve conflicts. They will include activities that are kinesthetic, auditory, and linguistic in nature.

Resolving Conflicts

If you have taught for a while in middle school, then you know that conflicts happen among students on a daily basis. They can range from small issues, such as the ''He touched my pencil!'' to more dramatic issues, such as ''She stole my boyfriend!'' Regardless of the scale of the conflict, students need to be taught how to handle themselves in these conflicts and resolve them. This is a skill that will carry them far in life, and is just as important as reading and math.

Role-Playing Conflicts

The first step in conflict resolution, especially with students, is to get people talking about the conflicts they experience in their lives. Start by having students stand in a circle around your classroom. Have students begin by passing a ball across or around the circle, and whenever they catch the ball have them complete the statement ''I get upset when … .'' You can even restrict it to things that make them upset at school or at home, if you wish. As they make their statements, keep a list on your whiteboard so you have it for the next part of the activity.

Next, form students into small groups, and have them discuss one of the examples of things that make them angry from the list on the board. You can assign them an example from the list or let the team choose. Give students 10-15 minutes to create a brief skit to demonstrate the conflict from the example the team chose. The skit also needs to include how the team members think they would resolve the issue at the heart of their skit. Each team then needs to present their skit to the class.

Role Playing Conflicts
Role Playing Conflicts

At the end of each skit, have the class identify the conflict in each skit and discuss how the team members chose to resolve the conflict. As a class, brainstorm other strategies they could, as students, have used to resolve the situation. Repeat this for each skit presented in the room.

Teaching Students to Identify Types of Conflict

When working with students to develop their conflict resolution skills, it helps them to be able to identify different types of conflicts. For example, one type of conflict is avoidance, where one simply avoids addressing the issue altogether. Another type of conflict is accommodating, where one person gives in to the others around him or her. Competing is a third type of conflict where the need to win is more important to the parties involved than actually resolving the conflict itself.

For the following activity, split your class into teams, and give each team the chart below. In their teams, have them brainstorm examples of conflicts they have seen that fall into one of the three types. Be sure to remind them that even if they have been involved in the conflict, they shouldn't use real names in their examples; we want to keep it anonymous for the purposes of this activity.

Types of Conflicts
Types of Conflict

Then, go around the room and have each team share their examples with the class. It is important to rotate between groups, so that each team only shares one example at a time. As students share their examples, remind the class that this isn't time for discussion. Once each group has shared, have students write reflectively on one example that particularly hit home with them. In particular, ask them to explain how they would handle that conflict.

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