Consider this lesson as a very quick introduction to
social problem solving. If you are serious about nurturing courage
and heroism and children, these skills have to be emphasized in
all school behavior. We do not have the space here to do this issue
justice. The work of Myrna Shure is a great place to start to build
a comprehensive problem-solving curriculum.
Alternatives thinking means encouraging children
to generate as many possible ways of responding to a problem as
possible. The emphasis is on being creative and generating many
options before evaluating any of them. Think of it
as a sort of mental gymnastics. Once a list of alternatives has
been generated, then Consequences thinking can take
place. Each alternative can be examined and the consequences of
taking that action predicted. After all the consequences are determined,
then a choice of best solution can take place. The
next-best solution could also be determined as a backup response
if the first does not work. While this thinking takes place, the
child should be challenged to monitor the quality of the thinking.
By quality, I mean whether the ideas make sense and are based on
Elementary school children are likely to find this "thinking
about thinking" idea difficult to grasp. If you find puzzled
looks when you talk about this, use examples. For example, someone
sees a daddy longlegs on the wall and becomes afraid. Why? Because
he thinks the spider might hurt him. Is a daddy longlegs dangerous?
No. That's correct. He is afraid because he thinks the spider
might hurt him. But he is wrong. That spider is not a hurting spider.
Identify a social problem all the children can understand. Challenge
them to think through a response in terms of alternatives, consequences,
and solutions. As they generate ideas, constantly challenge them
to monitor the quality of their thinking. Are the ideas based on
false information. What is critical here is a dialogue in which
children think through and discover these things for themselves
instead of having an adult impose their own thinking. Such a dialogue
helps children begin to "think on their feet" and gain
confidence in their power to use their intelligence to solve problems.