Students taking an exam

Life Skills: Training Students to Become Problem Solvers

If there’s one thing about life that young students should embrace as early as now, it’s the fact that they’re going to encounter problems beyond fractions and decimals. They will have a flat bike tire in one of their rides to school. They will have to finish homework in too little time. They will fail at their soccer tryout. When you pupils encounter these dilemmas, do you think that they can handle them? If you want your students to succeed not just in their lessons but in life’s challenges, you should teach them the art of problem solving.

The First Step

Pinning down the problem is the first, crucial step. Note that for kids, realizing what’s wrong doesn’t come naturally. It’s then hard to move toward solutions as they feel stuck. So you’ll have to help them spell out what the problem is. This can be as easy as asking them quick questions like “What are you feeling?” or “What happened?” These questions force them to explore their thoughts about the situation they’re in.

You can further improve this life skill in your writing sessions. Let your students keep a journal and recount what happened throughout the day, encouraging them to focus on the challenges they’ve encountered. No problem is trivial. The goal of the exercise is to equip them to state problems. Plus, if you’ll pay attention to your students’ entries, you can find real-life dilemmas that aren’t superficial, like the death of their pet dog or the separation of their parents.

In these cases, identifying the problem is indeed crucial to healing and managing emotions. In case your students don’t want to keep a journal, you can use first-grade writing worksheets instead. Another exercise that you can do to help students identify problems is to read narratives. No short story is complete without conflict. So this will help your class be familiar with issues. This can be a jump-off point to the next step, which is to think of solutions.

The Action Plan

Math equations

Identifying the problem is just one half of the equation. Coming up with solutions is the other half. Just like the point mentioned above, you can facilitate this with questions. Your pupils should be able to ask themselves, “What should I do to overcome the problem?”

Lots of thinking exercises can help make this a reflex. One is a brainstorming session after a lesson. For instance, if you’re talking about a historical or fictional event that didn’t end up positively, ask the teams to list things that they would do if they were in the characters’  shoes. Have them discuss the pros and cons of each proposed solution. What you’re doing here is training their minds to think critically as well as creatively.

If you want problems that are realistic and relevant to your student’s life experiences, then have each of them write about an issue that they’ve recently been going through. Collect the papers and put them in a box. Pick one essay at a time, read it aloud to the class, and have someone suggest what the anonymous writer should do.

Are Your Students Problem Solvers?

The ability to solve problems is a valuable trait in this messy, chaotic world. As early as now, instill this vital skill in your young students. Raise problem solvers and not just math geeks in your class.