2. Using role plays and problem-solving

People, especially children, usually feel happy and secure when they are part of a group. This is particularly true outside the family. In school, for example, friendship groups are very important to children. Friendship groups are often a positive experience, but sometimes they can have a negative impact on individual children who are left out or picked on by others. In this part, you are going to use role play and problem solving to help your pupils explore their friendship groups and the influence these have on their daily lives.

You will need to spend some time preparing appropriate role plays for the age of the children in your class. Some suggestions are made for you in Resource 3: Role plays for exploring school networks. This will help you start, but you can probably think of other relevant and real situations that you can use. Think carefully about the individuals in your class, consider any problems that have arisen and be careful how you set up the role plays.

With younger pupils, it is important to help them build up good relationships and friendships so that they find coming to school a positive experience. Using stories about different situations that might arise is one way to stimulate ideas about to how to help each other.

Case Study 2 shows what happened when one teacher used role play and problem solving in her class.

Case Study 2: Friendship groups

Miss Musonda wanted to help her Grade 5 class discuss the impact of friendship groups. She first prepared some cards with appropriate problems for the age of her pupils. She spent some time thinking about different problems that her pupils, who were mostly 11 or 12 years old, may face. She knew this is a difficult age for many children as their bodies are starting to change physically and they start to have hormone surges. She also particularly wanted to tackle a difficult problem she was having with a group of girls who were constantly being nasty to one girl.

Over three lessons, Miss Musonda asked three groups to present role plays to show the problems she had identified on the cards. The class had some interesting discussions after each role play. Sometimes things got a little heated when pupils had different ideas about solving the problem, but Miss Musonda encouraged them to listen to each other and respect differences.

For homework, she asked the class to work in twos and threes to think of situations that they would like to role-play for the class to discuss. This was quite a high-risk activity, because Miss Musonda did not know what situations they would come up with – so she could not prepare herself. The role plays included bullying, being hungry and having no friends in school. Miss Musonda was pleased with their presentations and glad that there were no problems or surprises.

Activity 2: Problem solving in classroom networks

Friendship groups are not the only groups to which children belong in school. Here is a good way to identify different groups when you have a large class. This method involves all the children moving around the class at the same time, so you will need to establish the rules for this if you are to keep control. You may find a whistle is helpful.

Start by asking about the different groups that pupils belong to in school. Each child writes the name of one group they belong to on a piece of paper and pins it to their clothes at the front. On your signal, they move around the class and find another person in the same group. Give them three minutes. Look out for anyone who is not in a club or group or who cannot find a ‘pair’ and help. Then blow the whistle again and each pair must find another pair – again, give them three minutes. Keep going like this until all the groups are formed. Ask the pupils to count the groups and write them on the chalkboard to establish the group with the most/least members, the most girls/boys etc.

Ask the pupils to sit back at their desks. Then ask them to write down what they found out, using the information recorded on the chalkboard. You can have a discussion about which groups are the most popular and why. Or which groups have very few members. Perhaps the members of this group can make a short presentation to tell the class about their activity. You could encourage some to join a new group.

With younger pupils, you may want to work with one group at a time and spread the activity over a week, with you recording their ideas.

You can read about some examples of school clubs in Resource 4: Zambian school clubs.

1. Exploring family networks with large classes

3. Working with the community