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Conflict Escalator Lesson

While reading through the comments on this blog post, I discovered the book Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children’s Literature (Grades K-2) and the idea of the “conflict escalator”. Especially when conflict was a bigger problem at our school, it seemed like our students were constantly escalating their problems unknowingly! This seemed like a great lesson topic for 3rd grade’s conflict resolution unit.

conflict escalator lesson

*When I first did this lesson, I used The Butter Battle Book. I’ve since stopped using it because some of the references/plot line felt insensitive to use with my students, particularly regarding the wall. I think Too Tall Houses, Desmond and the Very Mean Word, or Horrible Bear would be great options! With any of them, you can talk about 1) how did the conflict start, 2) did it change or grow, and 3) could any characters have done something different to stop the conflict from getting bigger.

With the students at their desks, I introduce the concept of the conflict escalator using a PowerPoint. Not all of my students have been to big malls and most have not been to airports, so it was important I be able to give them a visual! We walked through the vocabulary of escalating vs. de-escalating.

conflict escalator lesson

The next step was to go through two story examples. First I read aloud while students acted it out. Then I read it aloud again and students motioned whenever a character said or did something that escalated the conflict and made it worse. I flashed these up the steps on the PPT as we went. After finishing the story, I asked them to come to the board point out one or two stars and give an example of how the character could have made a different choice to de-escalate the conflict at that spot.

Our final activity was for students to work in pairs or trios to sort words and actions that would escalate vs. de-escalate conflict, and then to personally identify 1 or 2 escalation cards that they were “guilty” of doing during conflict.

conflict escalator lesson

Closing questions (if time):

  • Which is easier to do, escalate or de-escalate conflict?
  • Why do people sometimes choose to escalate conflict?
  • Why should we choose to de-escalate conflict instead of escalate it?

Our next lesson starts a 3-part “unit within a theme” on conflict de-escalation strategies.

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conflict escalator lesson

One Response

  1. That’s awesome. I think I may alter the part where they think of a time they escalated a conflict and have them share with partners and talk of ways they could have deescalated the problem. So they can have shared ideas relate that we are all similar and have varying suggestion while promoting peer support for one another. Thank you for this post you got me thinking 🤔💝

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