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Teaching Problem-Solving Skills

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Teaching problem-solving skills is vital to fostering independence in your students. Without problem-solving skills, they will need your help with everything. You’ll never get anything done ever again. Plus, your students won’t possess a valuable life skill they need to survive outside of the classroom! That is why we’re devoting today to developing problem-solving skills in students. 

What does your independent work time sound like? 

Can you work with your small groups or get through your work time? Or are you being interrupted by small things your students struggle with every few minutes?

If that is what your independent work time sounds like, then we have a lot in common!

In my experience, students with disabilities often struggle with problem-solving skills and building independence. 

It can make working with a large number of them more challenging because all of them need different things, and sometimes you need them to be working independently so you can help others. 

However, if we don’t have independent problem-solving skills, then each issue your independent workers run into will require your assistance. 

More importantly, if they’re going to grow up and live on their own, then they need to be able to work things out without help.

So let’s work on teaching problem-solving skills so we can improve how well our students function in and out of the classroom.

If you are a special education teacher or a one-on-one service provider, make sure to join my email list! In addition to staying up to date on my posts, you also get access to my free resource library, which is full of a lot of great printable freebies!

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Children with disabilities need things explained to them explicitly, step by step. The things that others might pick up on intuitively don’t always come easily to them. 

That is why I always recommend teaching steps for tricky things to your students step by step, which makes the skill more accessible for everyone. 

To learn about teaching reading skills explicitly, click here!

So what are the steps to problem-solving?

  1. Figure out what the problem is.
  2. Think of ways to solve it. 
  3. Pick one.
  4. Try it out.
  5. Retry if it doesn’t work.

As simple as that sounds to adults, it’s a tricky process for kiddos. That is why I recommend not just teaching them the steps but also practicing them with them a few times.

The hardest step for kids beginning this process will be step two. They have to go slow and think.

Give them a few scenarios and brainstorm together as a group to help them begin working on those problem-solving muscles.

You are not wrong. 

Teaching something explicitly is a lot of prep work. That is why I made a problem-solving skill lesson for you, with interactive features, like clickable buttons and text boxes for typing smart ideas.

Click here to purchase and save time!

So you’ve already worked on them with problem-solving skills. The steps are posted for kids to refer back to, but you’re still dealing with a lot of interruptions.

Probably because they haven’t mastered it yet.

You can’t expect kids to learn this overnight, so in the meantime, as they’re building these skills, you can always go with the classic rule.

“Three before me.”

For those of you who have never heard it, it means you have to ask three people for help before going to the teacher. 

I don’t like keeping it at three because that would be a third of my resource room. So I just call it the “before me” rule. 

Insert the number of kiddos you want them to ask before coming to you. Chances are, if at least two kids don’t know the answer, you need to intervene anyway. 

At school, I’m the jolly rancher lady. There’s a big bag of them in my desk drawer, but I don’t just hand them out without cause.

To get a jolly rancher in my resource room, I need to see some real independence skills.

As a classic teacher problem, there are too many kids that need one-on-one attention with a bunch of kids who have big personalities. 

Sometimes there are arguments, side conversations, or just people asking me for help every three minutes.

So twice a day, when we have independent work, kids have a chance to earn jolly ranchers. If I make it through my groups with minimal interruptions, that means they followed the independent skills and protocol I’ve laid out with them.

If I make it through my groups, everyone gets a jolly rancher. 

For you, it doesn’t have to be jolly ranchers if you’re not into giving out sugar. 

Find something all your kids find motivating and offer it as an incentive for them to stick to their problem-solving strategies before coming to you! 

Making sure you’ve taught problem-solving skills is vital for your classroom management and your students’ independence. 

That is why I highly recommend teaching problem-solving skills explicitly! 

And to save on prep time, make sure to purchase my interactive, no-prep presentation! 

Click here to buy! 

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