What Do You Do With a Problem by Kobi Yamada Activities

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

'What Do You Do With a Problem?' is an inspiring book by Kobi Yamada about a boy learning to face his problems head on and discovering, in the process, the opportunities that hide within. Help your students do the same with these activities.

What Do You Do With a Problem?

This is a great book to help students recognize that opportunities exist behind problems. Use the activities below to help elementary students apply the message in the book to their own problems and learn to look for the opportunities.

Problem and Opportunity Chart

Show students how to look for opportunities in their problems with this activity.

Materials: large pieces of construction paper (light colors are recommended), markers or colored pencils

  • Begin with a discussion about looking for opportunities that can be found in problems. Revisit the book and talk about how the boy discovered opportunity hidden behind his growing problem.
  • Ask students to think of and share some examples of opportunities that might be hiding in every day problems. Share a couple of examples to get them started. For example, you might discuss:
    • If I have the problem that my car has run out of gas, the hidden opportunity would be that I'll get some good exercise walking or biking to work.
    • If I run out of a certain ingredient I need to make what I planned for dinner, the hidden opportunity would be that I'll create something new and exciting to cook.
  • Next, put students into groups of 2-3.
  • Give each group a large piece of construction paper and some markers or colored pencils.
  • Show students how to divide the paper into eight equal sections by folding it three times.
  • Have students open their papers and, with papers turned with the longer side vertical, draw a line down the middle to divide it into two columns with four sections in each column.
  • Instruct each group to brainstorm some typical problems for kids their age. Have them choose four of them and write them on their papers (one per section going down the left side of the paper).
  • In the right column, have students write in the opportunities that might be hidden behind each of the problems.
  • Finally, have each group share and explain their work with the class. Allow for class discussion as needed.

Balloon Experiment

Use this activity to demonstrate how worry, which can grow a problem, can also hide an opportunity.

Materials: balloons (the kind that can be used to make balloon animals), writing paper, pencils

  • Begin with a brief review of the message in the story (that worrying will only grow our problems and that our problems provide us with opportunities).
  • Pull out a balloon and blow some air into it.
  • Show the balloon to students and explain that the balloon represents a problem.
  • Ask students what will happen to the balloon if you blow more air into it (it will get bigger).
  • Blow more air into the balloon and ask students what this larger balloon is representing (worry is growing).
  • Than ask students what it might mean if you blow too much air into the balloon (you're worrying too much). Explain that worrying too much could cause our problems to become so big they are out of our control.
  • Next, hold up the balloon, tie it off, and ask students what opportunity might be hiding within this problem.
  • Begin twisting the balloon into some sort of shape (you might want to practice this part ahead of time). Explain that this problem (the balloon) was hiding a great opportunity (the chance to create a shape by twisting the balloon).
  • Finally, give students paper and pencils and have them write two to three sentences explaining how the balloon was used to represent problems and opportunities.

Story Elements

Encourage students to think through the different elements of the story with this activity.

Materials: drawing paper, crayons or colored pencils

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