1.Using pairs and groups to discuss conflict

It is possible that your pupils will come across conflict within their families. They may have had disagreements with their brothers or sisters, or arguments with their parents. They may have witnessed arguments between other members of their family, including between their mother and father, and these may also be more than just arguments and have a physical aspect to them.

They may not be involved directly, but if pupils encounter conflict within the home, it can affect their schooling in several ways. It can damage their confidence and self-esteem, stop them from concentrating on their work and make them unhappy and depressed.

It is important for you to recognise this and offer support to your pupils. It might not always be appropriate for you to get involved in a family situation but, as their teacher, there are several things you can do to help the pupil cope in the classroom.

Firstly, you can make your classroom a conflict-free environment where pupils feel secure and confident. By establishing rules of behaviour to minimise conflict, pupils will feel happy and safe.

Secondly, you can provide emotional support to those pupils who come across conflict at home. This involves you being sensitive to their feelings and making sure they are surrounded by friends.

Thirdly, you can provide pupils with the skills to avoid conflict with each other, and to negotiate and stop conflicts between others. This can be a challenging task, but it is one that will help them in later life.

Case Study 1: Discussing family conflict

Mr Okitiki in South Africa decided to discuss the issue of family conflict with his pupils. He told a story similar to the one in Resource 1: A family conflict.

He asked his pupils to think about this story and identify what was the cause of the argument. He asked them to discuss, in groups, how the argument was resolved.

After a few minutes, they talked about it in class. The pupils said the causes were:

  • the habit of lending money being a problem;
  • that Dad didn’t have enough money;
  • that Mum wouldn’t listen to him;
  • that they were not communicating well with each other.

They decided that the solutions were found through:

  • the children mediating between the parents;
  • Mum listening to Dad and hearing his explanations;
  • Dad listening to Mum and hearing her concerns;
  • both hearing and understanding the other point of view.

After this, Mr Okitiki organised the children into groups of three to role-play negotiating in conflict situations. He was pleased with their role plays when each group presented them over the next week. Each role play was discussed by the class, and they learned a lot about ways to resolve conflicts.

Activity 1: Defining conflict

To find out what your pupils already know about conflict, brainstorm their ideas onto the board or a piece of newsprint. (See Key Resource: Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

Ask them to think of conflict situations they have found themselves in and, with a partner, think about the following questions:

  • What do people quarrel about?
  • What are the causes of quarrels?
  • Do you fight sometimes?
  • Who do you fight with?
  • What do you fight about? Why?
  • How does it make you feel? Why?
  • How do you resolve your quarrels?

Encourage them to think about their own situations and behaviour. Ask the pairs to list different things they could do to avoid conflicts with friends or family.

Ask each pair in turn for one of their ideas and write these on the board. Go round each pair until all answers have been recorded.

Ask them: Which are the best ideas? How could they use them to avoid or resolve conflict?

Section 5: Ways of managing conflict

2. Resolving conflicts