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Solving the Four-Square Conflict

Solving the Four-Square Conflict

The Challenge

At the beginning of the school year, fifth grade co-teachers Ina Pannell-Saint Surin and Laura Burns heard about a conflict on the playground. Students were having a hard time transitioning from recess back into class, and the tension—from a popular game of four square—was creeping in. Together, both co-teaches shifted gears to cover Fly Five lessons on assertiveness, where students practiced developmentally appropriate strategies for how to seek help, problem-solve, and peer mediation skills.

Solving the Four-Square Conflict

From Four-Square to Four Strategies

Ina knew something had to change, and that implementing social-emotional learning strategies was the answer. Over the course of two months, students began to tackle the issue of four-square together. They were given opportunities to express themselves through new vocabulary, role-play how a fair four square game is played, and rewrite the rules in a way that not only benefits their classroom community—but all fifth graders in the school.

Solving the Four-Square Conflict Solving the Four-Square Conflict

A Brand New Court

Putting their Fly Five assertiveness skills into action and deepening their competence, students in Ina and Laura’s classroom wrote a pledge dedicated to making four-square more fair for all players. After getting signatures from students in each fifth-grade classroom, they began applying their conflict resolution techniques on the court and asking adults for help in the moment.

Solving the Four-Square Conflict

Ina and Laura saw that students were taking their skills beyond Fly Five lessons. Students began to feel like they had a voice and agency to navigate sticky situations, which resulted in their school adding a second—brand new —four-square court on the playground.


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