“But It’s Not My Fault!” Companion Lesson on Problem Solving and Taking Responsibility

The kiddos learned about problems inside vs. outside of their control and now it’s time for them to start problem solving/taking responsibility for those inside/pipe cleaner problems! Last year I used the book But It’s Not My Fault! (Responsible Me!) (affiliate link) with my 3rd graders for this topic, but it was such a hit with the teachers that I included it in their SEL mini-libraries. Good for them…bad for me…because then I had to find a new mentor text (or a lesson plan so amazing and full that it didn’t need one).

But it's not my fault lesson

I’d seen What Do You Do With a Problem? pop up on some lists and was skeptical about its fit for my needs but I bit the bullet and ordered it anyway. It’s not perfect, but I like it enough to use it as an opener.

At this point in the year, almost all of my teachers have already read But It’s Not My Fault! to their classes so we began with a short discussion about that story (summary, Noodle’s problem, Noodle’s solution). Then we read What to do with a problem? I stop throughout and ask:

  • What do you think his problem is?
  • Why might he want to run from his problem?
  • What does it mean that a problem is an opportunity?

It worked so nicely that my first time with this lesson this year fell after our first (and only?) snowfall of the season…because our planned activity was to do a snowball fight to practice being problem solvers! Each student was given a piece of paper with a problem written on it and were asked to write just one solution to the problem – one thing someone could do to solve it. Then I ask them to stand up, crumple their paper into a snowball, and underhand throw it. I send them to go find a snowball, return to their desks, and provide a unique solution to their new problem. We did 3 rounds of this total so that each problem sheet has three ideas for solving it. It was loads of fun. Unfortunately…it was really, really hard for my students to generate solutions to (what I thought were simple) problems.

I realized I needed to bring it back down a little, at least for this cohort. And when in doubt… sorting/matching cards. I took the most major “problems” in the grade level and made cards for each problem and four possible solutions to each problem. Print/laminate/cut (you know the drill). In small groups, students sorted out the cards to examine which solutions would help solve which problems. This was much more successful!

problem solving lesson

There were some groups that needed the “taking responsibility” element of the lesson hit home even more. For them, we re-read “But It’s Not My Fault!” and added in one or both of these activities:

  1. I put them in small groups and assigned each group a color. Inside the group, they each gave themselves a number (1-4). I would read one of Noodle’s problems, and as a group, they talked about how he could take responsibility and fix the mistake. Then I called out a color and a number, and that student stood to share their answer.
  2. In small groups, students sorted responsibility-taking vs. blaming statements.

But it's not my fault lessonaccepting responsibility lesson

While each group still had their cards out on the floor and sorted, they completed exit tickets as a way of processing and reflecting. Didn’t snag any pics of them completed, but this is what I gave them:

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But it's not my fault lesson

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
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