Peer-to-peer relationships are an important part of classroom management. Just like we want to build positive relationships with students, we want them to have those same bonds with each other. There are many ways to ensure that students are kind and respectful to each other. However, there will be times when peers have conflicts with each other. Here are some tips on how to navigate those situations.
Set & teach expectations
Have a system in place for promoting pro-social skills with students. Here are some examples of setting your students up for success in dealing with peer to peer conflicts:
- Go over kindness: what it is, examples, role play & praise kindess in the classroom
- Set up classroom rules that support a positive classroom climate
- Teach students about respect and what it looks like in your classroom
- Model kindness and respect
Encourage peers to problem solve a solution
If it’s a minor problem and/or your students have the ability to solve it on their own … let them!! Learning how to negotiate and problem solve with others is a great life skill. Anytime you think the situation can be “fixed” without an adult intervening, encourage them to work it out on their own. The adult can be right there to guide and encourage them if they need a little help or input, just that you let them come up with the solution.
Help students establish new patterns
If peers are regularly having conflicts or recurring problems, try to find new ways to get them working, playing, and building positive experiences together. For example…
- Find something they both enjoy (work or play) and have them do it together.
- Have them be reading buddies.
- Give them a fun “job” to do together.
- Encourage them to play together during recess.
- You could put them in a small group with other students they both get along well with too, just find ways to get them to have positive interactions with each other.
role play through peer to peer social problems
If we are observing reoccurring conflicts or negative interactions, we will use these specific situations in our social language groups. These groups are the perfect time to pull your SLP and social worker in. During this group, we go over the rules, model how to apply pro-social skills in these particular situations, and then role-play with students.
Role-playing situations is a great way for students to really learn and remember the skills you are teaching. Have them practice things to do and say when a peer isn’t being kind to them or when they are having a conflict with a friend. The more opportunities they have to practice it, the better they will get at it, just like everything else they learn. This may be a time to work on social stories or scripts with students, as well.
communication for peer to peer conflicts
Many of our students struggle with learning and generalizing language concepts and communication skills. When students are frustrated or upset, communication & language skills may be even more difficult for them. Use visuals to help peers work through the peer-to-peer conflicts.
These visuals help my students express their feelings through the conflicts regardless of their language & communication abilities. This system of visuals for apologizing and helping peers work through what they could do differently next time is a great way for both students involved to work through what happened.
We also use visuals when students are just “bugging” each other. It limits the verbal prompting and distractions in the room and doesn’t allow for arguing or feeling like they need to explain themselves. Showing them a “quiet hands” picture or a “stop” picture can be more effective than you saying something like “stop bothering Johnny”. My students do well with visual directions and we have had a lot of success using them when students are bothering one another.
safety is the priority
Always try to build positive relationships and repair bonds between students whenever possible. There will be situations when the safety and wellbeing of a student will outweigh having peers near each other for conflict resolution. For example, if a student is being aggressive or seems to be targeting a specific student with aggression, then you need a plan to ensure that the targeted student is safe. Here are steps that we’ve taken to break the pattern while keeping peers safe:
- Rearrange the classroom so that these students are not near each other and their paths through the room don’t cross.
- Make detailed plans on how to limit interactions and keep students safe. For example, student A could transition a few minutes after the rest of the class if he is targeting another student during transitions.
- Eliminate opportunities for the student to target his peer. For example, have students in opposite centers, groups, etc.
Putting a plan in place, making sure everyone knows and understands the plan, and using it consistently is imperative to keep students safe in these situations.