Kelso's Choice: Learning to Problem Solve

Posted by: Andrea Grafmiller, SCS School Counselor

As the school counselor, I think it is important to interact with students in the classroom and teach them skills for coping with problems at school or at home. This year, I visited each of the elementary classrooms to teach the students about Kelso’s Choices. Kelso is a frog puppet that helps me teach the students about how to solve their own small problems. First, I help students understand the difference between small problems and big problems. A big problem is when a student feels scared or there is a risk of someone getting hurt. They are instructed to tell a grown up if they have a big problem and the grown up will help. A small problem is something that a student is strong enough and smart enough to solve themselves. Examples of small problems are: someone cutting in line, someone taking a pencil without asking, someone refusing to share a ball at recess, or someone calling another person a name.

Once students have decided the problem is small, they can choose a Kelso solution to try. These solutions are: share and take turns, talk it out, wait and cool off, tell them to stop, go to another game, ignore it, make a deal, walk away, and apologize. If they try one solution and it doesn’t work, they should try another solution. If a student tries 2 solutions and the problem continues, then they are instructed to ask a grown up for help. The grown up can ask which solutions the student has tried and then help the students find a solution that works for the situation. Most of these solutions are self-explanatory, but I would like to highlight a few that I feel are important.

When using the “talk it out” solution, the students and I practice using “I messages”. An example of an “I message” is: “I feel angry when you take my ball; could you please stop?” This teaches students to focus on their feelings in the situation, not blaming the other person. When using the “wait and cool off” solution, I encourage students to go somewhere away from the problem and take some deep breaths to calm down. Sometimes we are so angry we can’t solve our problem immediately; we may need to calm down first and then go solve the problem. The last solution I want to highlight is “make a deal”. This one can be tricky for students to understand. When we make a deal with someone, it has to be fair to both people and it needs to be positive. We are offering the other person something in return for what we want. An example is if I wanted to go on the swing but someone was already on it, I could say: “I will make a deal with you. How about you go on the swing for 5 minutes and then I can go on the swing for 5 minutes”. Kelso’s solutions can take a little practice, but when students learn how to use them they are very effective.

Teaching in the classroom has been a joy for me. I love getting to know the students, practicing new skills with them, and watching them solve their own problems. I have seen Kelso’s Choices make a big difference in the way students interact in class and outside at recess. It is so exciting for me when the students run up to me at recess and tell me about a problem they solved all by themselves. I believe it empowers them to stand up for themselves, but also teaches them how to treat each other with kindness and as image bearers of God. My hope is that they can also practice using Kelso at home as well. If you would like to know more about the Kelso program or have any questions, please feel free to email me. Thank you for sharing your students with me.