Social Problem Solving

Oral Language Teaching Strategy
Offer Prompts and Frameworks to Reluctant Talkers Offer encouragement, low-key prompts, and adequate thinking time to elicit conversation from shy students.

Time: 20–25 minutes
– two puppets (a girl and a boy)
– prop: small rubber ball or ping pong ball
Grouping: whole class and partners
Assessment: Use selected items from the Kindergarten Oral Language Assessment Scale for recording your observations.


  • I’ve noticed that some students are grabbing he playground equipment, like our class balls, and not letting others play with them. I’ve also noticed that some of you are trying to solve the problem by being rough and not using words to try to sort things out.

    Introduce an issue, for example, problems with students sharing the class equipment (e.g., balls and skipping ropes) at recess time. Some students have been claiming the equipment and others have been aggressive in their interactions.

Setting a Purpose

    I am going to show you what I’ve seen and I want you to tell me about it.

  • Establish the purpose for listening and watching and explain that you are going to show the students what you have seen.


  • Hello I’m Allie. I’m Jon and we are both in kindergarten.

    Introduce the class to the two puppets. Avoid using names of current class members.

  • Use the puppets to act out a script. A suggested script is offered below as a sample but you will need to change this script to meet your observations of the needs in your classroom.

Jon: (Grabs the ball)
Allie: You’ve got the ball. Are you going to play soccer?
Jon: NO! (with attitude). I’m just going to kick the ball around with Mohammed.
Allie: May I play too? I’d like to kick the ball around.
Jon: (Ignores her and rushes out to play, clutching the ball)
Allie: That’s mean! (Rushes after Jon and pushes him)

  • Revisit the purpose for listening and watching, and discuss the issue. Ask students to talk with a partner. Offer prompts to encourage the students to talk about the issues they observed. Share ideas as a class. Possible prompts include:

    • What did you hear and see?

    • What are the problems here? (You may need to be specific, e.g.,

    • Should Jon have grabbed the ball? Why or why not? Should he have invited Allie to play? Why or why not? Should Allie have pushed Jon? Why or why not?)

    • What do you think will happen next?

    • Can these problems be fixed? How?

  • If I start it off by saying ‘one of the problems was …., can you finish that idea Emma?

    Assist a student who finds it difficult to offer ideas orally by providing a sentence starter.

  • Use the puppets to demonstrate an alternate scenario. The following script is offered as an example, but it would be a good idea to use some of the suggestions offered by the students in your class.

Allie: You’ve got the ball. Are you going to play soccer?
Jon: I’m just going to kick the ball around with Mohammed.
Allie: Mr. Montefino said we should share the class balls, so can I kick the ball around with both of you?
Jon: Okay, but only if you won’t push me.
Allie: I won’t.

  • Discuss the new scenario. Ask students to talk with their partners and offer prompts. Share ideas as a class. Possible prompts include:
    • What’s different now? How did the children change what they said and what they did?

    • Do you think this will work out? Why or why not?

    • What else could the children do to solve the problem?

  • Can you think about how Jon changed, Luke, and I’ll come back and ask you in a minute

    Assist a student who is a reluctant talker by providing a prompt and allowing extra thinking time.


  • Apply this situation to your own classroom: Ask the students to think about sharing the classroom playground equipment in their own classroom. Students can talk with a partner and then share ideas as a class. Offer prompts to support discussion. Possible prompts include:

    • What are the problems with sharing playground equipment in our classroom?

    • How can we fix them?

  • Tell your idea to your puppet and then share it with us.

    Assist a student who is shy about sharing ideas publicly by offering a puppet and inviting the student to use the puppet for making a response.

  • You can use puppets with one or two friends to act out a play about the problem… and then you could act out another play and try to solve it.

    Suggest to students that they can use puppets to try to solve problems in centre time. Ask students what kinds of problems they could try to act out and solve.

Teaching Tip: You may wish to use puppets to aid classroom discussions focused on problem solving on other occasions during the year. Depending on the needs of your class, further modelling may be required before students are comfortable self-initiating problem solving with puppets in their centre-time play.